This Week in Design

There was much sadness.

It was the absent shoes that finally broke me down. She loved her shoes almost as much as she loved complaining about having to wear them.

As a father of two beautiful daughters, I can’t bear to read Eric’s posts. But he’s living it. #663399Becca - The Color Purple.

But there was awesomeness as well. 

Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

Elon Musk encourages companies to use their patented technologies in his post, All Our Patent Belong To You. That’s brave, enlightened, altruistic, and awesome.

And then there was this:

A warp ship such as the IXS Enterprise could allow travel to interstellar space in a matter of weeks rather than, say, centuries. And the science behind why it might be possible is truly mind-boggling. - Washington Post

Physicist Harold White has a completely different understanding of reality than I do. He works at NASA where he is actually trying to build a faster-than-light warp drive.

"We’re utilizing a modified Michelson-Morley interferometer — that allows us to measure microscopic perturbations in space time," he said. "In our case, we’re attempting to make one of the legs of the interferometer appear to be a different length when we energize our test devices."  - io9

Yep. Awesome.

Round Screen

Fourteen years ago, I was doing some freelance work for Ericsson Corp. They asked me to come up with new concepts for phones, and I did a bunch of sketches of different form factors and crazy things like writing pen phones. One of the concepts had a round screen—I was going for an amorphous shape. They liked the concept overall, but I was told that they couldn’t do a round screen, so I would have to square it off.

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I was reminded of it when I saw the Android Wear video, and realized that there are a number of devices (e.g., Nest) that now use round screens. I wonder how they would have responded if I had suggested that the screens on the phone were touch sensitive. 

Five monitors. Three, sir!

You can never have too much screen real estate. While I was a graduate student, back in 1997, I ordered a second video card for my PowerMac 9600. At the time, it was an expensive investment for me, but it allowed me to plug in both my 16” Sony Trinitron display, and the old 12” Apple display that I had left over from the LCII I had as a college freshman. It sounds like an insignificant thing now, but let me tell you, when working in Macromedia Director, the ability to put the score on the 16” and have the stage on the 12” was a big deal! Windows wasn’t even capable of extending its desktop to multiple monitors. From that point, there was no turning back. I eventually got a 17” Apple Studio Display and then a second. I used those two matching CRTs for years. Eventually, they wore out, and I replaced them with Apple’s 20” LCD Cinema Displays. I’ve been using them for many years now.

I got myself a 27” iMac for Christmas. It’s a beautiful thing. The display is absolutely gorgeous, and it’s enormous. And it just happens to have two Thunderbolt ports on the back. You might guess where this is going. I purchased two adapters, and I now have the two 20-inchers straddling the iMac. Perhaps it is a bit decadent, but I’m loving it. You can never have too much screen real estate.

It is Time

My Verizon Triple Play 2-year contract has expired, and I’m cutting the cord. My plan is to retain a subscription to their Fios internet service with as high a bit rate as I’m willing to pay for while dropping the television and landline phone services. Instead, I’ll be hooking up antennas to pick up local HD channels and subscribing to Netflix, which I’ll play through my Apple TV. I’ll also consider Hulu Plus, but that won’t likely be necessary. Between Netflix and iTunes, I expect to have everything covered.

As part of this move, I’ll be replacing the old CRT in my bedroom with an HD LCD that I’ll get a good deal on this Friday. I’ll likely also purchase a second AppleTV to attach to it.

The biggest question is what hoops Verizon will make me jump through. I know they’ll charge more for the internet service without it being bundled, but it surely can’t be an outrageous increase. Of course, while their website provides many ways to renew or upgrade my service, it doesn’t provide any information on downgrading. And since I already have service, I can’t get pricing on internet service alone.

We’ve already explained what we’re planning to the girls, and they seem to be on board. As soon as we’re back from our holiday visits, we’re diving in.

EASy come, EASy go

Dave Malouf made a perspicacious observation in his recent blog post about the Emergency Announcement System (EAS) and its first national test.

EAS has a huge flaw. It requires being attached to a radio or TV. However, a growing critical mass of people are never on a major broadcast system and thus EAS will never get its very important message to a core unit of the population.

He’s right. Case in point, I had no knowledge of said test until I read Dave’s post, nearly two weeks after the test had been conducted. I never watch live TV. The few shows that I do watch, I record on my DVR and view when I have the time, often weeks later. Nor do I listen to the radio on a regular basis. When I’m at home, I play music from my iTunes library. When I’m in the car, or doing chores, I listen to podcasts, audio books, or music on my iPhone. I occasionally have the radio on in the car when I’m chauffeuring my kids around town. I get my news from RSS feeds, podcasts, and Twitter.

I think Dave’s suggestion for expanding the EAS to contemporary, digital media channels, such as SMS, is important. And while his suggestions for pushing messages to platforms like set top boxes and gaming consoles isn’t a bad idea, an easier first step would be to harness social media, getting the word out on Twitter, Facebook, and so forth. As is typical, the government is lagging behind the technology, designing solutions for where the puck is (or was), rather than where it will be.