Situational Design — The gadget fits the setting

Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Cell Phone – Products – MSN Tech & Gadgets

“One reason Asians and Europeans have high expectations for innovation and sexy designs when it comes to cell phones is that they live in densely populated countries and must rely on public transportation.

“If you spend an hour on the train every day, then you will want a cell phone with the latest functions,” says Franklin Chang, a research scientist who has worked in Germany and Japan. “If you are in your car, you aren’t going to be spending your time playing a game on your cell phone.”

This is an interesting notion from the point of view of product design. The degree of attention a user gives to the product determines the appeal of functionality, user interface and design. The iPod, which is held up as a classic example of design innovation and simplicity, spends most of its time in the user’s pocket. You don’t have to look at it to use it. A Treo, with its multiple functions, email, and browser, is designed to be stared and poked at. Great for a train rider, useless for an auto driver unless they have a death wish. Notebooks are generally touched all the time. One doesn’t play much off of them other than an occasional DVD on a plane trip. The rest of the time it’s mouse-mouse-mouse/type-type-type.

Anyway, interesting article on why European and Asian cultures tend to get more sophisticated and innovative gadgetry before Americans. Blame it on the car.

Rolling access – EVDO on the Accela

Four months with the X60s and I’m falling deeper in love with the Verizon EVDO service that comes bundled with the ultra-portable.

I write this on the 5:50 am Accela out of Providence. I commuted to NYC post-9/11 on the Accela and always rued the lack of access, wondering why some smart person didn’t figure out a way to offer Wi-Fi for a fee. Last week’s news that Boeing was dropping its airborne Connexion service (which I had one chance to try in July on SAS, but declined because the bandits wanted $20 for the privilege) is proof that no one has cracked the code for providing rolling connectivity.

In 1995, when officially launched, a press event on the Forbes yacht the Highlander was planned, replete with tons of demo machines running the website so the press could play around with it. I spent over a month looking for a way to get live data onboard, but alas, there was nothing short of a military satellite system that would have set the company back $100,000. So we ran the site on local caches.

It’s nice to be able to keep up a running IM conversation with a colleague, catch up on my Bloglines reading, run my usual Blogistan filters for Lenovo+Thinkpad, work on a big presentation for the week after next. My book (David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again) is going untouched. The newspaper is unneeded. And even the normally awesome coastal scenery is going ignored.

My colleague, Glen Gilbert, says always-on connectivity is a good-thing/bad-thing. I put it in the mostly good-category.

So, NYC today, RTP tonight, Washington on Wed. or Thursday — back to Cape Thursday night.

Everybody needs a hummingbird feeder

Hummingbird 1

Originally uploaded by gray coast.

I’ve been feeding the hummingbirds for three
summers and it is hands down the coolest thing going on in the flower garden. Most evenings, right before sunset, I have a steady procession of them lined up at the feeder (I have two), putting on a show that is unbeatable.

Best $20 you can spend.

Open Sores: The Dementia of Blogs

Open Sores

“The Adventures of Hans-Olaf Gutmansdottir, Iceland’s #1 Hacker and President of Free Software Foundation Scandinavia”

In the 90s Internet humor was defined by The Onion. Then came the usual crop of forwarded pictures, videos, and jokes that began to clog my inbox as badly as spam. But up until now there hasn’t really be a nasty, Spy Magazine level of geek humor as funny as the Fake Steve Jobs Blog and now “Open Sores“, the blog of Hans-Olaf, Iceland’s #1 Hacker.

Someone out there is having a very fun time, doing to the Valley what Valleywag wishes it could do.

CSS evil strikes

The nastiest thing about WordPress and Cascading Style Sheets is their relative impenetrability to anyone other than a dedicated web monkey/producer. If you don’t work in this stuff for a living, then all you can hope for is a stable template, easy management and no bugs like the one that hit me this morning which is putting everything into italics. My patience wears thin. Sure, I can go into the admin console, hit “presentation” and do to myself what I did last winter when I took the entire blog down for a week and had to spend cash to get the coders at my ISP to un-befukticate me.

[Update: Ryan from the c-c-c-comments delivered the solution.]

Piano tuning

I started a book two days ago. Just dove in and started writing. Most of the research is finished, heavens knows I’ve done enough procrastination, and at the urging of Jim Forbes I just opened a doc and started banging away.

In the old days the poets would begin by invoking the creative muses. Milton kicked off Paradise Lost with the usual call for help:

"Sing Heav'nly Muse, that on the secret top
Of OREB, or of SINAI, didst inspire
That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,
In the Beginning how the Heav'ns and Earth
Rose out of CHAOS: Or if SION Hill
Delight thee more, and SILOA'S Brook that flow'd
Fast by the Oracle of God; I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous Song"

John Barth, in the short novel, The Floating Opera, has his narrator, Todd Andrews, limber up his writing skills in a chapter entitled, “Tuning My Piano”.

Coleridge ate some opium. Hemingway pounded a bottle of rum. Me, I limber up with some good reading to get the old narrative voice locked in, put aside any mental overhangs and clutter, and then dive in at a steady forced march of 1,000 words a day with no re-reading or drafting. I am fully outlined, and I know enough not to stop to find a fact — marking holes with the old “TK” mark that means: “to come.”

So, a major project is underway. It feels good.

Delusions of Adequacy » David Hill – Chief Lenovo Designer, a Man Who has Created Much, and Touched Millions

John Simonds blogs on my buddy David Hill, the man behind Lenovo’s first “official blog” Design Matters and the heart and soul of the Thinkpad:
Delusions of Adequacy » David Hill – Chief Lenovo Designer, a Man Who has Created Much, and Touched Millions

:If you’ve ever touched a Lenovo or IBM Personal Computer or Server product, David has touched your life, I’m guessing many hundreds of millions here. As you’ll read below, his design reaches out to you rather than you looking at it.”I always try to bloggerview interesting people, and this is as interesting as any I’ve done. While being quiet spoken, his thoughts and creativeness speak loudly. Go to David’s Blog to be informed. That was what I did and why I asked him to be a guest here.”

Would you check your laptop?

Hmm. Appears I have started, or joined a meme. What if you couldn’t bring your laptop on the plane anymore?

Marc Orchant says we’re all going to move our stuff into the cloud. Which is right, if you are looking at the world from Foldera’s point of view. Where Marc is the man.

“This may be an external catalyst to a migration of data to the cloud – one I should have seem coming but frankly did not. I don’t know about you, but the notion of putting my laptop through the ordeal of the commercial carriers’ baggage handling gymnasium is not terribly comforting.  I can see my ideas about the value of a laptop loaded with all of my “stuff” changing dramatically if we get to the point here in the US that we can not bring a laptop onto a plane as carry on luggage or if the time penalty associated with carrying personal electronics becomes too costly.”

Incremental Blogger: Would you check your Tablet PC or laptop? Loren Heiny writes:

“My second concern is with theft. Over the last couple years I’ve met two people that have “lost” their checked laptops. All of their luggage made the trip except what do you know, but the laptop. This makes me a little reluctant to play checked baggage roulette. (By the way, in both cases the airlines did not compensate the travelers for their loss in any way.) I’d rather leave my Tablet behind if there’s even a 2% chance of it being stolen. With the amount of travel I do, that might mean I’d lose a Tablet once every two or three years. Ouch. Yes, laptops can be stolen at any time, but I do my best to keep mine at my side as much as possible.”

The LATimes talked about the separation anxiety faced by travellers on their way to Heathrow.

And buddies Jim Leonard, Mark Hopkins and Mark Cahill comment in my post about this morning’s slog that predict the rise of USB keys, high volume phones, and Web OS’s with ubiquitous devices at your destination.

A bad morning in AirWorld

On my way to RTP this morning and the lines at T.F. Green airport in Providence, RI were the longest I’ve ever seen — snaking out the doors onto the sidewalk when I arrived at 6:45 a.m.

Big bins set up along the aisles and aisles of shuffling passengers, people dropping in bottles of water, me contributing a lost set of Nyquil gel tabs. I cleared the line and the scan in 45 minutes, which was pretty surprising. It had the look and feel of a 90 minute wait.
The screening was no different than any other trip. I was asked if I had any liquids and that was it. I don’t believe they can screen for liquids per se, and I was very paranoid that my four pacls of spare contact lenses would get confiscated due to the little bit of saline solution they float in.

I simply didn’t bring any shaving gear. No razor, no comb, no nothing. The pharmacies and convenience stores are going to have a rush of business I think.

The mood is grim. People are seriously bummed out to have to go through this. The air of resignation is high among me and my fellow Willy Lomans. This is going to be the norm for a very, very long time. This morning’s news of a massive laptop battery recall by one of our competitors and the the “Snakes on a Plane” effect makes me worried that we could see notebooks next on the list of banned devices — or anything with a Li-Ion battery. These things apparently cook off at 600 centigrade and after yesterday’s piece in the WSJ, I think it is a matter of time before we all pack our lives onto USB keys and plug them into desktops at the other end of the journey.

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