Sunday, August 9, 2009

One Small Step

I know this post is about three weeks too late for the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing but I recently saw a news item showing how some animals use tools in unexpected ways and I thought to myself, "Amazing, they're so like us — hang on, we went to the Moon!" Sure some chimps use sticks to get ants out of anthills, and some birds will use stones to raise water level in a glass, but did any other species walk on the Moon? Huh? No? Didn't think so. In your face, stick-wielding chimpanzee!

My favorite moment of this video is seeing Walter Cronkite's relief when he says, "Whew", removes his glasses and gives a boyish chuckle as he announces that Neil Armstrong is standing on the surface of the Moon.

Sometimes I feel bad for the Rover team that send a robot to Mars, an incredible feat which nonetheless just doesn't stand up to the glamour of sending people to the Moon.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon

To some, Michael Jackson invented the Moon Walk. To others, it means a little more. I'm a child of the Space Age (also the Age of Aquarius, the Information Age, and apparently Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs). Growing up in a time when "They can put a man on the moon," sort of spoils you for anything else. The Concorde cut transatlantic flight times in half. So? Could it leave the atmosphere? Electric cars? Big whoop. Mapping the human genome. Not bad, I guess. The Internet? Meh. I can't really think of a greater achievement than landing on the Moon since flight itself. Unfortunately, it makes everything else seem lame.

So here's a hearty "hail fellow well met" to all the good folks at NASA as they celebrate the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's Moon Walk.


Friday, June 19, 2009

The Future Was Then

Yo, this is Ol' Skool y'all. This old Apple Knowledge Navigator video shows Apple's future looking design for a laptop/netbook concept. Thankfully our computers don't have nerdy avatar assistants.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Art + Culture = Stuff

Lately I've been experimenting with a link repository/bookmarking services and dug up an older link that I'd forgotten about but I'm glad it remained oddly fossilized in my browser bookmarks. A site that seemed dormant for many moons has recently come back to life. is a great reference for information about authors, artists, performers and designers, made even more valuable by it's visual-thesaurus-like network map. The shiny new bit of the site however appears to be its aggregation of relevant blogs and members' profiles. Yeah, okay, I know, the whole social networking thing might be getting old but it can also be tremendously valuable (unless you of course you're like a total MyFaceBookSpaceTwickr hater – and why wouldn't you be?)

To really dig into the site you are required to request an invitation but mine only took a day and registration was simple enough. I plan on finding fascinating things about Art Stuff so I can sound smarter. I'm hoping this will offset the fact I get my news by glancing at RSS feeds and making assumptions based on the headlines. Probably won't. Can't hurt though. Perhaps, like Liz Lemon, you will "want to go to there."

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Monday, April 20, 2009

See You on the Moon

Oracle acquires Sun for $7.4 Billion. I think I like the headline "Oracle acquires Sun" more than the actual story. It just sounds like something from antiquity, like "Soothsayer acquires Moon to better read bird entrails". For all I know the deal will be signed with chicken blood.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The New Equality

This plus this equals this.

As Mr. James Brown once said, "It's a man's world but it would be nothing without a woman or a girl."

I think we need to think "more" different (sic).

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Talk in Public. Sold in Private.

You know those people who are always yakking on their phone in public. Don't worry. They'll get what's coming to 'em. They'll get it good. Perhaps they'll get it on layaway or by ordering through the new J. Crew Catalog. Why? You know that feeling that you're being watched? Well, the good news is you're not a paranoid schizophrenic. The bad news is you're right. Funny thing is you're being watched on your cell phone. By advertisers. They know when you're sleeping. They know when you're awake. They also know what articles you've read and how long you looked at a certain Web page.

From The New York Times:

Advertisers Get a Trove of Clues in Smartphones

Cellphones have a high potential for personalized ads, and advertisers place great value on the possibility....

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Andrew Joyner via The Jacky Winter Group

Learning lots about eBook readers this week. More than I need to know really. I just had me a birthday and as is tradition 'round these parts I received several books — 4 to be exact. Real books:4, digital books:0.

Digital books are harder to wrap I guess.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Hurts So Good

"We were dinged for not having a friendly consumer interface,"
I was going to write a whole bunch of smart-ass stuff based on this article about the new Windows Mobile from the New York Times. But you know, I think repeating this quote is enough.

"We were dinged for not having a friendly consumer interface," said Scott D. Rockfeld, the director of Microsoft's mobile communication business. "This addresses that."

Was that so hard? It's gotta hurt a little bit.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Your Next Great Read Will be a Short One

Whenever someone uses the phrase "that was a great read", I always think of Peter Gzowski who hated the expression saying, "the word 'read' is not a noun!" Unfortunately for curmudgeons such as the venerable Mr. Gzowski, language is a funny thing - it's a living, breathing, evolving thing. Thus it follows the way we read is also a living, breathing, evolving thing. The project I've been a part of for the last eight months is based on that premise. Despite those that claim the "end of print", we read more than ever. People read not just newspapers and magazines but on their cell phones, their smart phones, their desktops and laptops. Shortcovers is all about finding your next great read by letting you discover stories either on your desktop or you cell phone. The service allows you to get not just free chapters but also buy individual chapters or even order a hard copy of a book.

I've said enough. Watch the thing:

Shortcovers Intro from Shortcovers on Vimeo.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be Bold

President Obama will use e-mail. Does it follow, he'll have a Blackberry? An Obamaberry? A Barackberry?

President Obama's Blackberry

Or perhaps it would look like this.

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The Call is Coming from Inside the (White) House

On the surface of it, having a secure e-mail server for a world leader and a small list of acceptable recipients and senders seems simple enough. Here's a list of people that can be received at "" - everyone else is blocked. Every e-mail is securely stored on the Presidential e-mail server and is considered part of the public record.

If only it were that easy. The fact that RIM controls e-mail servers to the device helps but still cell phone calls can be intercepted and e-mail is, well - not entirely a cone of silence. Then there's the fact the recipients' e-mail servers may not be secure. Unless of course, the President and his correspondents log in to a closed system. Still? Add mobile GPS and that you can find the holder of the device pretty quickly (some tri-angulation is possible even without GPS) so the more you think about it the more I realize I'm glad I'm not the person trying to figure out how to plug all the security holes a mobile phone or e-mail use creates.

Agencies such as the CIA and FBI use secure e-mail so why can't the president. All of that said, Obama is right to say it's the 21st century - figure it out.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Beautiful White Space

This article in the Economist begins so tantalizingly:
HOW much would you pay for unlimited access to WiFi hotspots that stretched for miles instead of a few hundred feet, provided unbroken connections even deep inside buildings, and offered broadband speeds ten times faster than today’s wimpy connections found in coffee shops, hotel lobbies, airport lounges and homes?
How about nothing, or next to nothing? That could be on the cards within a couple of years, thanks to a decision taken this past week by America's Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

They're referring to the unused part of the broadcast spectrum known as "white spaces". To dream of such a dream. Can you imagine the possibilities of smartphones using a cheap, widely available network for data. Then you can probably imagine those same devices using the same network for VoIP as well. One also wonders if such a network would be easier to create thus knocking a hole in Canadian providers arguments of difficult high-cost cell networks and the resulting poor service and high prices.

He didn't see it coming, how could we?

Tonight, TVO is playing Soylent Green where in an imagined future a murder mystery plays out against a backdrop of an energy crisis, a population explosion, a seeming economic depression and widespread water and food shortages. Like Blade Runner or Children of Men, our cinematic visions of the future often turn out to be neither as shining nor as bleak as we envision so perhaps we should reserve judgement on "white-space" transmissions as well.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Shaking the Tree

Like Yussou N'Dour, Montreal artist Peter Flemming is shaking the tree in his kinetic art piece "Reject". Unlike N'Dour, Flemming's work "emphasizes the absurdity of the life cycle of an Xmas tree".

I think for many people who grew up enjoying Christmas, there's nothing quite as depressing as seeing a discarded pine or spruce tree, dying in a dirty January snow bank. The last sad shreds of tinsel clinging to the branches while reddened, dried needles pile below are all reminders of a post-holiday consumer hangover. It's been said the best way to avoid a hangover is to never sober up. Maybe instead, before the Christmas ads go into hyperdrive in a wild thrashing attempt to save our economy (like a drowning man), we could have a pre-holiday hangover. At the very least it will gird us against the painful crash to come.

With that in mind, it's only fitting that this piece which underscores our throw-away consumerism is being exhibited this November, merely weeks after the collapse of our credit-driven markets, and weeks before our annual orgy of spending.

Exhibition Details:
Harbourfront Centre,
235 Queens Quay West.

November 15 2008 to January 4 2009.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The End of the (old) Web

Whoa. Hold the mayo. When did Amazon get rid of their infamous tab navigation? Was I asleep? Was I in a coma and missed the press release? I'm not sure how IE 6 users see Amazon these days, but I'm seeing a vast improvement in this simple change. One of the most significant changes will be that people (clients?) won't be able to point to a major Web site and say, "they do it, so we can too." The tab metaphor is an extremely useful one, and as an interaction tool it is priceless. Yet, it is limited and Amazon was the clearest example of that (remember the stacked tabs?) despite that they may have been the primary reason for the popularity of tabs online (debatable I suppose).

It's a relief to see Amazon finally drop the tab navigation, but there's still plenty of work to do.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Carnegie Mellon-heads

What do you get when you mix a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D grad student with a Wii remote? A $50 multi-touch display, that's what. See what Johnny Lee is up to.

I want my Wii TV!

From the Wired Blog, "Think of it as a poor man's Wacom Cintiq." I will and I must!

Check out Johnny Lee's project page.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

Resistance is Useless

Douglas Adams U/X

Recently, I saw The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on television. Not the BBC series, but the feature film. I have to say, I really enjoyed it more the second time than when I first saw it. I don't know why. Lately, I've been referring to the Guide in my work. I just love the whimsy of the animations and well, the "flatness" of the interface. Say a word, get a description (even if the description is only two words; "Mostly harmless"). In any case I've decided to collect fun movie application interfaces for handy reference. This scene shows Guide entries for both the Vogons and the Babelfish:

This 9.1 MB QT movie may take a moment to load
aka H2G2

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Mind the Gap

Is Yahoo going to get got by M$? Doesn't matter really. They're both sucking wind – according to Brian Milner of the Globe & Mail. Of course, with revenues in the billions of dollars, when you suck wind, you suck all the air out of the room. What Milner is talking about is what Francis McInerney calls the Edison Gap. Which, as anyone who has worked for a tech company would recognize, is the common and natural habit of spending far too much on R&D compared to revenues. But what's a company to do? As a designer, I want every company to spend all their cash flow on R&D. Isn't that a good thing? Apparently not. Turns out, you should only spend as much on R&D as you can afford.

"The Edison Gap is a related performance measure that refers to the financial hole technology companies dig for themselves when they allow spending on research and development to outstrip operating profits. That's likely to happen when cash velocity is low and the flow of information slow."

This nugget of information coincided with reading that Yahoo! has folded up their Yahoo! Design Innovation team and had laid off everyone working there. Unfortunately, we were the benefactors of their innovative work rather than their bottom line. I guess if your profits are thinning and you keep spending on fancy stuff you can't use, then, you're in trouble. In short, Yahoo! is trying to decrease their "Edison Gap". I remember when Nortel tried to decrease their Edison Gap by laying waste to their design group. It didn't work out so well for Nortel which is still floundering after years of attempting a turnaround. Is that Yahoo's fate?

I guess this wouldn't easily happen to Google Labs because they would have to spend a bloody great heap of money on anything before they close in on their incredible revenues. Oddly, McInerney gives Apple full marks for getting the formula right. It seems Apple's R&D costs are proportionately half that of Microsoft's. Quality vs Quantity?

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Some Yahoo

Just one morning — just one morning, I'd like to wake up and hear that one of America's top companies wanted to buy Creative Leap for $44.6 Billion. Of course, CL doesn't employ over 11,000 people with $6.4 Billion in ad revenue. Maybe I should re-consider putting AdSense on this blog.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If Gore Were in da' House

I've noticed Bush's White House desk seems fairly clear of paper. Perhaps this is indicative of a clear and focussed mind. I do know Bush rarely uses email. Perhaps having a computer on the White House desk would be unseemly. Yet, after seeing a photo of Al Gore's (rather incredible) computer set up, here's what I imagine a Gore White House might look like.

See a larger image here.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's the Bill and Steve Show

I read about it - I heard about it - now I finally stumbled across the video evidence. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates together at the D5 Conference. You can see more videos at All Things Digital.

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Friday, June 15, 2007


Last autumn, some friends of ours gave a public presentation of one of their projects using Apple's Keynote. For whatever reason, they couldn't find how to see their on-screen presentation notes. They wound up using a second laptop in Keynote's edit mode just to see their notes, while the first one ran the presentation. Recently, my own version of Powerpoint had decided to by unruly and collapse every few minutes, so out of necessity, I converted to Keynote. Thankfully, Keynote exports effortlessly to Powerpoint, which is what I primarily do to send files to clients, but eventually came the day when I used it for a presentation and had no problems finding how to display my presentation notes to my laptop screen while the external projector/monitor hid them. I suspect for our friends, it was in a moment of panic or lack of familiarity or preparedness that they couldn't discern this functionality (it certainly wasn't obvious). Yet, watching Steve Jobs' latest Keynote address, I did wonder, how Apple produces these marvelous demonstrations that Jobs conducts with such aplomb? He's obviously using a remote device to prompt changes in the Nuremburg-scaled screen, thus not having a laptop to work from, how does he see any notes? Surely, he hasn't committed his routine to memory like some Roman Senator, has he? Of course not. He slyly uses a small, ultra-thin, infinitely powered, super-tech gadget called, "Notepad". From the picture below, you can see this amazing new device in action. Incroyable! Formibable! Or maybe Mr. Jobs just hasn't figured out how to see his presentation notes in Keynote yet.

PS. Ultimate geek alert. He could just use a Bluetooth enabled phone to run the presentation AND see his notes, but that might be asking a bit much.

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