Monday, June 21, 2010

iOS4 — the Return of the Desktop Paradigm (partially)

On the desktop files have long been organized inside folders by content, date or project but rarely by file type. The transition to "apps" came slowly. Software packages like iPhoto and iTunes familiarized us with the concept of organizing files by file type. Instead of digging through contents inside deep folder hierarchies, photographs and media were now ALL in one and the same place, reliably organized in a database.

On the iPhone platform this concept was extended beyond file types to tasks. Instead of files and folders we got apps. While technically apps (programs) are still files, it doesn't seem like that to the user. Apps are perceived as small function clusters, not "files". Like precision tools they offer their services to complete a huge variety of tasks.

The overwhelming success of apps seems to have made it necessary to introduce folders in the new iOS4. In order to organize and make room for more, apps can now be collected inside folders.

A folder is created by dragging apps on top of each other, which creates a custom icon. If you tap on it, the home screen is being sliced open as if cut by a surgical instrument to reveal a sort of drawer underneath, — containing a cluster of apps. Meanwhile the rest of the screen becomes desaturated and semi transparent to create more focus. All of this is done beautifully and clearly. Apple really masters the soft part in "soft-ware".

And yet, once you start to put apps in folders, the desktop paradigm (thinking files in folders) creeps back. Until iOS4, one of the most arresting things about information display was the absence of hierarchy on the home screen and in apps like iPhoto. Like cards on a table, apps and images were displayed on the same "swipeable" 2D plane. Edward Tufte explains that beautifully in his video on "Information Resolution".

Email in iOS4

To be fair, adding a combined email box for all email addresses just decreased the level of complexity by eliminating tons of back and forth clicks and is a good thing..

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Adobe is gagging on Apple's exclusion of Flash on iPhone OS

During the development of CS 5 Adobe has spend tons of resources to allow Flash developers to export to the iPhone plattform. Apple's new terms and conditions on iPhone OS 4.0 state that all applications must be written in native code, and that software created using "an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool" are prohibited.

Today, Adobe's President and CEO Shantanu Narayen said in an interview with FOX Business reporter Shibani Joshi that Apple's decision wasn't a question of technology but rather a business decision.

I agree. It's a business decision - a good one! Here are some convincing reasons why iPhone OS doesn't need Flash:

  • it's resource-hogging and crash prone.
  • games perform better written in native code
  • nobody wants crappy Flash ads on websites. More importantly Apple is going to implement their new iAds format and eliminates the competition (that's the business part)
  • Flash video drains your batteries dead
  • Safari on iPhone OS runs HTML 5 and HTML 5 video doesn't require a plug-in

Friday, January 22, 2010

Apple Tablet Scratch Gestures

Super, super interesting and completely convincing! Yesterday's post on about called "Apple: The Tablet Prophecies – Future Twists" posted a video by Chris Henderson - a third year Ph.D. student at Carnegie Mellon University:

This could finally be an answer how Apple is going to solve the letter input problem on the tablet. The tablet's larger screen size would make it difficult to use just your thumbs to type on an iPhone-style QWERTY keyboard. Being a typist would almost be impossible because of the surface's sensitivity. Using a sophisticated sound sensor plus some incredible new software, anything could be your writing surface, as long as the tablet's sensor is resting on a surface. The solution would seem like magic even if you know how it is done. Using it would be so much fun and completely in line with Apple natural gesture computing approach.


  • How would slick surfaces work?

  • As with a mobile device, don't you want to use it just holding it in your hands? Putting it down on a surface would make it less private, since other people would be able to see your content.

  • Scratching sounds could also be annoying to others.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Augmented Reality based on FlarToolkit

A wonderful experiment in augmented reality.

FLARToolkit makes this possible. It will detect the marker from an input image and calculate the camera position in the three dimension space. Really fun!

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Light Bulb

Saw this beautiful artwork on Back in June 2007 I wrote a post on wireless power conduction. The levitation of the lightbulb is new and magical.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Apologies to Adobe

I have ranted and raved on this blog about Adobe CS3. Then recently I my computer acted like it wanted to die on me. Turns out my hard drive was fried and had been for a while. After installing a new hard drive my laptop feels like new. All issues with CS3 have since disappeared. I am little ashamed of my emotional outbursts. My deepest apologies to Adobe, CS3 is a fine product!

Trash Recycling

German's are holier than thou when it comes to separating trash for recycling. Their trash bins exhibit labels such as "Glass", "Paper", "Bio", "Packaging" (metal, plastic packaging) and "Restmüll" (remaining trash that can't be recycled). While this is descriptive for the content, it doesn't conjure up a larger conceptual model. Adaptive Path's Information Architect Leah Buley's trip to the California Academy of Sciences prompted the essay of the company's current newletter issue.
In the article she showed a picture of trash bins at the academy and came to the conclusion that labels matter after all! I couldn't agree more. The image in Leah's essay inspired me to do a little Google Image research on trash recycling.

trash bins at the California Academy: Image by Leah Buley

Spanish trash bins

German trash bins

Maltese trash bins

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Thursday, June 5, 2008


Life is truly immitating art. Would Senator Obama been able to win the democratic nomination without TV's "24"? It seems like a ridiculous question and yet, other blogs have been wondering about the same thing ("markmeynell", TV Blog "Remote Access").

In this article Dennis Haysbert says his role paved the way Barack Obama.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Photoshop CS 3 - worst Photoshop version ever!

Ok, ok, ok... I bitched about it before...

Adobe CS Blues
Abobe CS3, OS X Installation Problems
Adobe Flash CS3 Unstable Crapware

... but I can't get over it because as a designer Photoshop effects my life every single day. I am miserable, angry and frustrated. If you actually use many layers and organize them folders - be warned! Even though my work is screen based with file sizes around 20 MB PS crashes and hangs and f***s up daily. You WILL restart your computer often. You WILL lose work and waste time.

I used to run PS on a Mac Quadra 605 with 20 MG of ram and "Ram Doubler" installed. I expected to sit and watch progress bars. Get used to it again.

I should have never updated to CS 3. This suite is a sham. It's a memory hog (MBP, 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of ram).

If you would like to avoid a lot of this....

... and haven't bought CS 3 - save your nerves and don't buy it! It's not worth the money.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

That was fast!

Wasn't it not only a few months back that we first heard of multi touch technology, the iPhone and Jeff Han? I recently gave a lecture on touch technology at the University of Salzburg, Austria. I wanted to start my talk by going back to the roots. So I (image-)googled the word "touch" expecting to find images of mothers with babies or perhaps pornography. Instead my search returned pictures of devices equipped with touch technology - over 58,000,000.00 of them!! Has the word "touch" become synonomous with "touch technology"?

I am surprised how fast it trickled into the public conciousness, especially since touch technology only uses a small fraction of our actual sense of touch. The abilities to sense temperature, shape, degrees of softness, texture, pain or the position of your muscles and joints are not playing any part in touch technology so far. A slick surface provides little haptic feedback which for example makes typing difficult.

At this year's Cebit convention, T-Mobile had an multi-touch installation, that was part Minority Report, part Jeff Han Screen and part vertical MS Surface "wall". In this video people seem so bored with the content itself. In fact they are not dealing with the data at all. How long will it take for the novelty of scaling and turning objects to wear off? What kind of interesting public application could this offer?

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Service Efficienista

I've been buying my coffee at Starbucks for 15 years. I think that outs me as a fan of the company. Yesterday I strolled into Starbucks at Astor Place and was greeted by a member of the staff wearing a "Janet Jackson Mic". He asked for my order. I was bothered by the experience, because instead of looking at the face of the person greeting me, I stared at his microphone and wondered who he was talking to when he dispatched my caffein craving. I couldn't see his collegue at the receiving end. Instead of talking to me, his attention was with somebody "out there". Headphones indicate privacy, because we usually listen to something like music or a phone conversation.

The experience became technical and distancing, rather then personal. Since I associate Starbucks with hours of hanging out over a cup of coffee (and maybe a refill..). I wonder if other customers felt rushed as well. And what happens if you don't know which coffee drink you're in the mood for today?

A few years ago I helped creating the technical service scenario at the Prada Epicenter Store on Prince and Broadway in New York. My Job was building the user interface for the store's "staff device", a hand held computer that could do everything from reading RFID tags to pulling up stock information and customer history. In my opinion it was a gigantic flop, because nobody researched the experience of what it would actually feel like to use the device in a customer/sales rep relationship. I walked into the store many times over the years and talked to the people working there about the staff device. I watched them and not once did I see an employee using one.

We have to be very careful when adding technology to a sales scenario. The experience can be off-putting - at least to the customer.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

No Flash Player for iPhone Anytime Soon!

(Sound of expelled breath...)

At the shareholder meeting two days ago Steve Jobs spelled it out: no Flashplayer for the iPhone! The reasons? Flash Lite, Adobe's Flash Player for the mobile platform is too weak, the desktop version too slow on the iPhone. The iPhone, in other words, needs a new Flash Player!

(not holding my breath here...)

Since Safari on the iPhone is the real thing, a Flash Lite version of the player wouldn't help anybody. Most Flash sites for the internet simply can't be transported to the lite player. More then ever it is best practices to have an html version of your Flash sites to avoid user frustration.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

User Driven Design is NOT User Centered Design!

Today I participated in a study conducted by the University of Basel –

It asked to wireframe a typical online shop, online newspaper and company web site by dragging and dropping UI elements like "main navigation" , "company logo", "contact link" onto a screen. What exactly does this study hope to accomplish?

If you want to improve usability on websites you need to look at each specific case. There is no generic online-shop which works for *all* situations, products and users. Leave the improvement of usability to designers who will apply user research results and combine them with their own skills and creativity. This kind of study does not lead to more usable web sites. Just to innovation-free same ol'-same ol'.

I believe in a designer's work experience, the knowledge of what works and what doesn't. I believe in creativity, breakthroughs and revolution. I believe in the intricate knowledge of human behavior and desire. Stop praying at the altar of the-user-knows-best!

Two days ago the Mac Book Air came out. If it will turn out to be a visionary product remains to be seen, but the omission of an optical drive, driven by the goal to create a truly wireless machine, is bold. It wouldn't have happened if you had ask typical laptop users if they wanted that.

It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.
Steve Jobs May 25, 1998

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Friday, September 7, 2007


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wal-Mart Sells Universal MP3s without DRM Restrictions. No Mac Support!

Wether Universal is truly interested in selling DRM free music online remains to be seen. Starting yesterday, they made a selection of albums and song available at until January 31st. Each song can be purchased for 94 cents. Other vendors, including Inc. (AMZN), Google Inc., Best Buy Co., RealNetworks Inc.'s Rhapsody,..., were chosen for this test-run. Interestingly Apple‘s Musicstore was excluded, despite the fact that it is the largest platform for music downloads. Although MP3s are completely compatible with any music playing device – including the iPod and iPhone platforms, Mac Users are not welcome on Walmart‘s site. Instead they presented with this message:

We‘re sorry, your operating system is incompatible. .....visit again after you upgrade to Windows 2000 or XP.

Incompatible with DRM free music downloads?? Somebody willing to upgrade their system to download some crappy MP3s?

Then I asked a collegue with Parallels and WIN XP installed to load the site, I was curious to see the interface Walmart came up with:

Why is all type on the page so tiny?

Songs can be previewed, but there is no „player“ functionality. You have to listen to a song to the bitter end, even when you don‘t like it. Sad...

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