Blog Author: Tony Dunnigan

In Defense of the Skeuomorph, or Maybe Not…

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Hard drive iconJony Ive is a fantastic designer. As a rule, his vision for a device sets the trend for that entire class of devices. Apparently, Jony Ive hates skeuomorphic design elements. Skeuomorphs are those sometimes corny bits of realism some designers add to user interfaces. These design elements reference an application’s analog embodiment. Apple’s desktop and mobile interfaces are littered with them. Their notepad application looks like a notepad. Hell, the hard drive icon on my desktop is a very nice rendering of the hard drive that is actually in my desktop.

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Playbook

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“Hey Mike we’ve decided to develop a new product!”

“Hmm, I don’t know…”

“Don’t worry, it’s taken directly from Apple’s playbook.”

“Neat! what should we call it?”

The Wilderness Machine

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Tom Jennings in an interesting guy. He’s an artist, and activist, and an internet pioneer. Tom is probably best known as the creator of FidoNet. Currently he works with students at the University of California, Irvine’s Arts Computation Engineering graduate program, where he produces artwork under the name “World Power Systems.” The work is wide ranging but technology seems to be a fairly unifying theme.

Recently the band Arcade Fire worked with Chris Milk to produce an experimental music video of sorts. Called “The Wilderness Down Town,” it either combines information about the viewer into a cool multimedia music video or it crashes your web browser. It’s all done with HTML 5. Viewers are asked to provide the address of the house they grew up in and then to create a “postcard” to their younger selves. When it works it is really very cool. To be fair, if you use the browser they suggest (i.e., Google’s Chrome), it seems to work every time.

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Deus XLibris

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For about 20 years the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been entertaining science fiction fans with funny commentaries of bad movies. The concept is strangely simple: mad scientists (at various times: Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl) have launched a man (Joel Hodgeson and later Michael J. Nelson) into space and are forcing him to watch the worst movies ever made. To keep his sanity, the unfortunate spaceman and his robot friends (at various times: Beaulieu, Weinstein, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett and Jim Mallon) make fun of these movies. The original show was canceled about 10 years ago but most of the people involved are still riffing on cheesy movies – “the worst they can find”.

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In the Not Too Distant Future…

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Star Trek: the Next Generation featured the widespread use of small touchscreen devices known as PADDs. These were often depicted as being used in place of laptops or other portable computers. Even when aboard the Enterprise, characters were shown clicking or swiping at the little devices. The PADD was an evolution of an earlier prop that was used in the first iteration of Star Trek way back in the 1960’s. As is often the case, life has begun to imitate art.

Astronaut Leroy Chiao, who has flown into space four times and was the Commander of Expedition 10 on the International Space Station, wants to take PADDs into space for real. Continue Reading

Windows Phone 7

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I suppose I’m a Mac. I have an iPhone, a MacBook and an active iTunes account. Even though I’m not a PC, I do want Windows Phone 7 to be every bit as good as Microsoft claims it will be.

Since the launch of the iPhone, the iOS has really defined what a smartphone UI is. This leaves Apple in a unique position to dictate the evolution of a new class of consumer electronics. Apple does many things well, and those things tend to get refined over time. Like any company, they also tend to ignore or gloss over their weaknesses. Android phones have forced Apple to address various hardware deficiencies by introducing models with desirable features. Thus far, there have been very few challenges to the iOS itself. I suppose multi-tasking would be an obvious exception. But even then, the basic premise of an application centric UI remained unchanged. After all, “There’s an App for that”.

Windows Phone 7 might be just the competition that the iOS needs.

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