Common sense analysis of this, that and the other

Archive for September 2010

Rave: Example of outstanding user interface design

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The new Daily Telegraph app for iPad sets a new benchmark for how to implement an electronic newspaper:

  • Gorgeous clean pages
  • Slick intuitive content navigation system
  • Ingenious auto formatting ensures the content looks great in either orientation
  • Advertisements (currently Audi only) blend in, look great and are easy to skip once read

BTW, I tried to author this twice from the WordPress iOS app, but as usual, it lost all my work, a bug that many have reported, yet whoever owns WordPress have failed to fix. I am in a minority here, but as a human factors guy and software designer/end user, I find WordPress to be the most frustrating, slow, appallingly designed and unreliable product I have ever used – in ALL it’s incarnations. WordPress desperately needs a major competitor. Apple could create something wonderful that blends the excellent GUI of Pages with cloud based features. Like VHS, the horse and carriage and other popular but flawed products, people don’t tend to realise how bad something is until a revolutionary alternative comes along. What was it that Steve Jobs said about the latter?, “If you asked people what improvements they would like to the horse and carriage, they would say, ‘I would like a faster horse’.” Exactly!


Written by Oflife

September 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

Knees-on iPad review

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Those who have known me since childhood will be aware I have been designing tablet devices for quite a while, even being asked to create a simulation of my employers conceptual PaperBeta™ device for Bitstream Corp, back in 1992. For like Alan Kay and others, I believe the form factor is how digital content should have been created and consumed from the start. So the somewhat karmic acquisition of an iPad recently has provided an opportunity to validate first hand the reasons why this ‘magical’ device is so important – (i)warts and all.

Review iPad spec: 64GB Wi-Fi + 3G with Apple case + Three 3G wireless broadband connection

iPad is a rigid single piece aluminium frame approximately 11″ in the diagonal. Firmly mounted within the frame is an ultra tough glass multitouch display that acts as an interactive window onto the world or your world – adapting to your every need and desire. Responding instantaneously to one or more of your fingers, iPad is naturally Grandparent proof, allowing you and yours to focus on the task at hand with no concern for the technology within.

The included Safari web browser quits often due to the memory limitations of iPad, and is also fairly limited. The latter is probably intentional so that you are deterred from using web services (IE, but rather, download (and hopefully purchase) custom written apps that reside locally on the iPad, therefore not only profiting Apple, but, in fairness, providing a more robust experience. These local apps poll the Internet only when required, rather than relying on a live (Ajax/HTML5/Canvas etc) browser environment, something that people (including this blogger) once believed/believe was/is the future of the Internet.

Some highly original, visually stunning well written games including Pinball HD and Meteor Blitz take advantage of iPad’s power and unique multi-sensory versatility, whilst others turn iPad into an excellent (place it on the pub bar or coffee table) social device, including MultiPong and Conquist – a characteristic gadgets equipped with smaller displays cannot offer.

Unfortunately, the few office apps available, whilst fairly reliable on their own, fail to reliably handle files that have been saved from other similar apps due to the multiple versions of Microsoft Word and Excel that exist – leading to corrupt or damaged files if you try to use several apps on the same file. So, despite the superb usability of iPad itself and the awesome ever reliable DropBox, relying on ‘old paradigm’ standards and formats cripples the power user from replacing a desktop office suite with iPad, unless sticking to just one app. However, chances are, someone somewhere is coding away on something new and magical that will render the old way obsolete turning iPad into the ultimate mobile office. Either way, if you are prepared to mess around and experiment with the various office apps, the other benefits offered by iPad make it worthwhile.

So why is iPad devastating sales of netbooks?

Knees, it’s all about the knees.

It starts the minute you first engage iPad at your local Apple dealer and become instantly engrossed in the slick responsive interface – never tiring of the experience either, because you are leaning over the workspace, not trying to become comfortable with it.

And that latter matter is the key to it all: Ergonomics.

The old way involved sitting at right angles to the display in front of you, with your hands below and detached from the work area. An unfortunately large percentage of your effort and energy would (mainly subconciously) be expended keeping your back straight, moving windows around, zeroing in on icons to click, looking for files – along with other hindrances to your productivity bought about by the stillborn computing experience of yesteryear.

Take iPad home, on the train, to a sofa equipped coffee shop or pub, to a friend or relatives house – or any other location with a comfy seating arrangement, and you will realise almost immediately iPad is how we should have always interacted with our digital media. Rest it just above the opposite knee to your preferred one fingered typing hand, and iPad not only feels just right, with no adjustments to your seating position or body posture required, but you can sit there all day and never feel fatigued – even if cuddly iCat decides to curl up on warm tum.

Most importantly, by interacting with your iPad or other tablet device with just one hand, your creative ‘right brain’ is re-liberated to a level only previously offered by the humble notepad and pencil.

And that Sir/Maam/Kitteh, is why the tablet is the future of reading, creating, producing and purring.


Oh, and there is just one more thing: The forthcoming 22″ (approx) ‘iMac Touch’, whose auto-adaptive ergonomic wonders will do for the office or studio what iPad does for the nomadic.

Pros: Naturally ergonomic form factor. Exceptional lasts as long as you do battery life. Gorgeous ultra responsive multitouch display. 100% solid state storage offers an instant on reliable improvement over magnetic media based devices. Somehow, you never lose files or active web pages when iPad apps crash. Robust construction, although a folio case is highly reccommended to protect iPad and angle it at 30% when resting it on your desk. A select few outstanding apps.

Cons: On screen keyboard lacks [Delete] and arrow keys, hindering efficient text navigation and selection. Limited RAM (256MB, whilst iPhone 4 has 512MB) causes some apps to quit without warning, although you never lose any data. No SD card slot, making importing content a nightmare unless expending further white tax for the Apple photo kit. No way to view metadata (title etc) in photo browser. No (resistive display resolution) stylus input makes precision operation or drawing frustratingly fiddly for the fat fingered.

So: Even without it’s outstanding media playback abilities well covered in other reviews, iPad blows away all netbooks and those dubious low cost notebooks offered with mobile broadband contracts, so this user would never go back. The hype is deserved.

9 years late
Thanks to iPad, your foodpad can now surplant your mousepad

Many thanks to the helpful lads at Apple dealers Western Computer (Oxford)

Written by Oflife

September 17, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Publish – and damn you?

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The events today concerning one of the most decent, honest and likeable UK politicians (who should have become PM), his family and a colleague are so appalling that I have re-activated VA just to post this. (During important work deadlines I de-activate the blog so I am not distracted by the urge to write.)

Beyond the behaviour of the print media who need the sales and advertising revenue so will ‘print anything’ to get eyeballs, we have the issue of blogs and forums where people are today free to literally say anything about anyone with no due process. An established newspaper (say, the New York Times or Daily Telegraph) will be comprised of considerate trained journalists who subscribe to specific codes of conduct: Discover a story, research it, double check the facts, ask the editor – and publish. (Or something like that.) And the reason for publishing is normally to uphold the public good by revealing something that may threaten our way of life or be illegal. In the case of disclosing something about the government, such revelations keep democracy in check by providing a counterbalance to overeaching power.

However, where we have a problem is in accepting and allowing (often self serving) rumor or voyeuristic behavior by just about anyone to be used to ‘generate’ a news story – without any concrete evidence, or more importantly, a viable reason to bring such rumours to the public attention. Beyond today’s appalling events, on certain technology blogs – and in direct contrast to how things were during the far more honorable 1980s, fairly successful entrepreneurs are sometimes insulted by random (envious?) individuals on public forums, with little chance of the targets being able to defend themselves prior to the publishing of the comments – which in most cases, are not moderated.


Fight back club: Surely it is time for the law (national, International?) to be changed so that anything published on a public forum that may cause unjustified distress to an innocent until proven guilty individual or individuals must be examined and validated by a qualified superior.

Update (2 Jan 2011): The boy friend of a recently murdered young lady appears to agree. See last few paragraphs here.

Written by Oflife

September 1, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Posted in Journalism, Law

Tagged with , , , , ,

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