Digital Pens and Pads for Vector Scribbling

As part of my ongoing fascination with alternate input devices and especially as a tactile/visual thinker, I’ve been researching digital pens. I’m also intrigued as a designer by the core problems of this kind of device and the range of solutions. Ultimately, I want something I can sketch smart UML and UI diagrams with and have them convert to running software ūüėČ

As a side-inspiration, Sarah Zettel’s excellent novel The Fool’s War includes pen-based UI in the spaceships where a special pen is used to access information and sign the log as an authentication device. Continue reading

Great Macs

Giving in to nostalgia and reading Best and Worst Macs on The Register, I was somewhat gratified to realise I have owned 4 out of the 5 of their best, or their near-cousins.

  • ¬†The SE/30 was a true workhorse – I know many that ended up tucked in the back of computer rooms running servers. I had an aftermarket accelerator for mine and vaguely recall a memory expansion kit as well.
  • I owned a IIci and still have the Quadra 700 it morphed into. A fast, accessible little box. Booting it up in a blink and running Digitalk’s Smalltalk/V on it can bring tears to a modern eye at the sheer speed of a sophisticated development environment.
  • I have a Powerbook 190 tucked away somewhere, sans external power supply. It was a great little portable especially after adding the external video connector.
  • My (aluminium) Powerbook 12″ G4 is my travelling laptop. It succeeded a plastic iBook G3 which I think deserved an honorable mention for battery life and wi-fi connectivity.

I haven’t the need for a desktop Mac nowadays. My Macbook Pro 17″ sits up on an arm next to a 21″ monitor and serves very well as a development machine that I can also take outside or downstairs if I need. I’m not into games or video production to the extent that I need anything bigger and I appreciate using far less electrical power than a desktop. It’s also a lot easier to lock away when on holiday.¬†

Nokia Maps Loader UI Design Blown Away by Stupid Gotcha

We’re off to New Zealand for three weeks touring the South Island. In my last-minute rush, one thing that occurred¬† might be worth trying is to take a cheap headless GPS receiver to use with the Nokia Maps application on my 6120 Classic. A few minute searching disclosed that I can download the maps in advance (12MB for NZ, 107.4MB for Australia, guess they didn’t think people might just want one state of Australia).

So I grabbed the Maps Downloader v2 application, installed it on my Vista 64 box, followed the splash screen instructions to connect my phone and…..

waiting for device 

Quite an attractive GUI, you understand, with enough subtle animation to make me think it hasn’t actually frozen yet not annoy. Someone spent some time on the appearance, the text is readable and there was an option to skip the warning splash screen in future and it is still waiting for the bloody device that is plainly physically connected and showing up in Nokia PC Suite as connected!

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iPhone Advertising Fakes Performance

A great video comparing the suggested performance in an advert vs the real-world iPhone performance. I’m sure the ad is perfectly legal as the voice-over mentions only twice the performance and whilst the video clip suggests much faster performance, it is a legitimate illustration to show stills or short videos blending into a sequence. The suggestion, of course, is that the elapsed time of the ad is all it will take for the illustrated tasks.

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Why I don’t want an iPhone

This posting is inspired by a recent comment on a local MacGeeks mailing list assuming anyone on that list would be thinking about or already own an iPhone. The iPhone 3G has recently been released in Australia with the expected fanfare, advertising blitz and stock shortages. It was even a topic of iconic reference and conversation at the excellent Readify .Net course I attended last week!

If I had genuinely been hanging out for an iPhone I might be feeling a bit stupid right now about my decision to jump ship to Telstra and get the 6120C but, frankly, I wasn’t. I want a small phone and a better, eyes-off PDA than an iPhone. Continue reading

Podcasts ain’t Music – UI Idiocies of the Nokia 6120 Classic

Amongst the ongoing discovery process of what minor features are missing on the 6120Classic is the quirky UI of the the media player particularly for playing podcasts. A blog discussing the built-in media player suggests that whilst other S60 phones have been updated to add Pause, this feature is not available on the 6120C. That’s not actually true but there are many other problems with the player.

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6120 Classic – my first Symbian Phone

Due to being supremely p*d-off by my phone provider (failure to turn on roaming whilst travelling, despite multiple contacts, finally admitted as a problem when I pointed out it wasn’t local but had failed to work in two countries) I was ripe for plucking by the next Telstra salesperson to cold-call.

So, along with reducing the phone contract to a lesser contract (few calls made), I opted to switch to Telstra from my previous Vodafone-downstream provider. Part of the attraction was the need to replace an aging, battered Sony-Ericsson K750i which I loved feature-wise but it was becoming increasingly inclined to turn itself off with the slightest jolt.

The contract I was offered included a Nokia 6120 Classic which is the smallest 3G Symbian phone available – something of instant appeal as I looked forward to having 3G data capabilities at least via my phone. It’s also a quad-band phone, again something of appeal whilst traveling.

A brief skim of reviews whilst talking to the salesperson seemed to confirm the phone as of reasonable quality, battery-life being the only complaint. One major difference appealed – a D-pad rather than the more flimsy joystick of the K750i and I knew from being a previous Nokia user that more use is made of buttons than the joystick-obsessed UI of the K750i. That should translate into avoiding the joystick-related problems the K750i developed within 3 years.

Another minor goody was that I can get officially-supported Python on my phone (geek cheering)!

According to the tech specs, the phone runs S60 3rd Edition Feature Pack 1 based on Symbian OS v9.

Software Portals

Just a side-note, comparing prices on MP3 players, there appears to be a hefty markup Рprices in Euros on  Nokia Software Market being a lot higher than the US$ prices on All About Symbian.