Posts Tagged ‘design’

Windows Metro Maoist cadres reach the desktop, and pound it flat

Friday, June 15th, 2012

metro_hubris_450w

The revolutionary dogma of Metro is sweeping through the old Windows desktop, too, a new leak of Window 8 confirms. The leaked build, newer than the public release of a fortnight ago, abandons the 3D design elements introduced into Windows in 1990 for a resolutely two-dimensional world. The ‘legacy’ desktop in Windows 8 is denuded of anything that takes advantage of human depth perception, such as window shadows, gradients or sculpted controls.

It’s a flat, flat world.

(more…)

Compulsory coding in schools: The new Nerd Tourism

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

 

child_robot

The writer Toby Young tells a story about how the modern 100m race is run in primary schools. At the starting pistol, everyone runs like mad. At the 50m point, the fastest children stop and wait for the fatties to catch up. Then all the youngsters walk across the finishing line together, holding hands.

I have no idea if this is true – it may well be an urban myth. But the media class’s newly acquired enthusiasm for teaching all children computer programming is very similar.

Speaking as a former professional programmer myself, someone who twenty years ago was at the hairy arse end of the business working with C and Unix, I can say this sudden burst of interest is staggeringly ignorant and misplaced. It’s like wearing a charity ribbon to show how much you care. And it could actually end up doing far more harm than good. (more…)

Windows 8′s Metro means no gain for lots of pain

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012
By far the most ill-judged design decision I can remember – Andrew

The public preview of Windows 8 has won “rave reviews” according to the Daily Mail, the newspaper that claims to reflect Middle England and is proudly conservative in every sense of the word. The Mail, it’ll have you know, is a feisty opponent of “change for the sake of it”.

So not only do I fear that somebody has spiked the water supply at the Kensington HQ of Associated Newspapers, the Mail’s publisher, I’m puzzled about what it is in Windows 8 that merits a “rave”.

For, apart from an outbreak of violent electromagnetic storms that zap our PCs at random, nothing is going to disrupt ordinary users as much as the design changes Microsoft wants to introduce. So detached from reality has Microsoft become, it touts every one of these disruptions as a virtue.

(more…)

Don’t shoot the Blackberry Messenger

Thursday, February 9th, 2012
BBM does things no web social network can do… it mirrors the flexibility of real life

RIM’s fortunes have taken a catastrophic, Nokia-style nosedive in the past year – but it has a chance of pulling up. Admittedly, the odds are long, but this week the Canadian company began its fightback.

It’s certainly right up against it.

Fewer enterprise customers are dependent on RIM’s email servers. The trend to ‘bring your own’ device to work, one that works well enough with Exchange or IMAP, is accelerating.

There is now a range of consumer deals that offer large bundles of texts, so the BlackBerry no longer has the singular attraction for teenagers, and other chatty prepay customers, of incurring no incremental charges for messaging. That was an overlooked factor in the BlackBerry’s success. And qwerty keyboard devices just aren’t very fashionable any more – glitzy touch tablets appear to offer so much more. And because soft keyboards are considered to be “good enough”, that removes BlackBerry’s unique selling point, that it made the best physical keyboards you could find on a phone Some of this may change later this year – assuming RIM can finally ship some attractive devices with its QNX-based BlackBerry 10 OS.

But the reason I think it’ll return for one last bout is that RIM runs the only social network in the world that comes in hardware. And this social network has a flexibility than no web rival can match.

Don’t shoot the BlackBerry Messenger When I wrote, two years ago, that analysts, pundits and gadget fans overlooked this little thing called BBM at their peril, it was our most voted story ever. I thought then that BBM it was the best user interface ever put on a mobile communicator, something that made voice and messaging flow in a very natural way. Few agreed, but then very few had seen it in action – it was like trying to describe yodeling.

It’s probably fair to say BBM only really became noticed last August, and then for the wrong reasons, during the riots. This doesn’t say much for how well we mix, socially, or even geographically. But go to any major northern city and find me somebody under 21 who doesn’t use a BlackBerry. And almost all of these avid users are so devoted because of one application: BBM.

At some point, after the value of BBM became appreciated, the conventional wisdom developed that the value of RIM was almost entirely in BBM. RIM added a lot of developer options to the platform this week, including Qt, but none are as important as how well BBM can be ported over to the new platform.

Back to the future

BBM does things no web social network can do, but that online conferencing users were doing twenty years ago with systems such as the Cosy software on which Bix and Cix were based. On these systems you can create private ad hoc groups. Now trying doing that with Twitter or Facebook.

Twenty five years on from the zenith of BBS systems, we don’t have anything with the same flexibility. The imperative of the Web 2.0 companies is to make everything on their social networks public. It’s the only way they really know how to make money. The thought of users spending their time in private, closed groups horrifies them. But this isn’t a problem for RIM.

These informal, easily created and easily dissolved groups actually mirror real life much more closely than Twitter or Facebook can. RIM has also been extremely clever in how it has integrated music into its social network – again, geared towards promiscuous users whose tastes shift. You can grab anything from millions of songs, but freely cross-play 50 songs in your group. And BBM is proving far stickier than most web social networks. Once you’re in, you want to stay in. No rival can quite offer anything like it. There’s no doubt RIM knows what an asset it has. But is it wise to be the sole provider of the BBM social network to the market – or to license it judiciously to, say, Sony – or even Apple itself, in cutdown form? ®

Five ways to rescue Windows Phone

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

 

Windows Phone might be the most impressive bit of software Microsoft has produced – but it isn’t setting the world on fire. The iPhone and Android go from strength to strength – the latter proliferating so widely even Google doesn’t know how many Android systems are out there. (It can’t count the Chinese forks which don’t use any Google services and don’t phone home.)

This discrepancy puzzles people. Reviewers like WinPho a lot – it’s clean, fast, functional and forward-looking. The social media integration is very clever. Operators have a soft spot for Nokia and WP7 too, because – if for no other reason – they dislike and distrust Google and Apple even more. So what’s the problem?

Three weeks ago I raised the prospect that there may never be a third smartphone ecosystem – something upon which Nokia has bet the company. Many markets only have room for two leading players – and in the technology platform world, many have only one. On the margins the niche players are little islands. No matter how impressive WP is, if the needle doesn’t move, then it too becomes a marginal player. Ecosystems can perish more rapidly than they arise. If Windows Phone is to avoid the same fate as WebOS then the dynamic has to change.

But what might this be?

(more…)

The fabulous Muvizu

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

Digimania Muvizu animation suite

Tech startups that can truly be considered game-changers are rare – especially in Shoreditch. The more hype that the Silicon Roundabout “leisure startup” scene receives, the more painfully apparent it is that the emperor has no clothes – see these comments for example. Which is a pity, for less attention is paid to genuinely creative British tech startups.

I’ve rarely seen something as startling as Muvizu, the PC software from Digimania which allows a seven-year-old to start creating something a lot like Toy Story. The startup emerged from the ashes of the DA Group, which was previously Digital Animations. New investors took over the ashes and had an idea.

Perhaps the 3D power of games engines such as Unreal could be put to make a genuinely easy-to-use, consumer-level animation software. The development team had the chops for this; it was the team behind animated newsreader Anna Nova, for those of you who remember the first dot.com boom. And so Muvizu was unveiled two years ago.

You can get a glimpse of what you can do with it from this video – our sister site Reg Hardware reviewed it recently here.

It’s still a tiny startup in Glasgow, with a core team of half a dozen developers, but since then it has added a clutch of features: you can build your own models and characters, edit timelines, move cameras, create custom textures, and introduce anti-aliasing. Huge libraries of animations and art assets are now available. You can’t import your own characters – but you can customise with textures.

It has notched up 138,000 downloads since August 2010, CEO Vince Ryan tells us. Muvizu took a community approach – and it is a lively place for users to share and swap assets and collaborate. It’s useful for anything from 30 second funnies to in-house training videos.

But with no visible revenue, I was curious to see how Muvizu was paying the rent. Long-term it makes an enviable acquisition target for an Adobe or a Google – but for now it’s looking to collaborate with animation companies, toy-makers or TV companies that want to extend their brand to their fanbase, allowing them to knock together their own stories and content.

A new version is due on 19 December.

A week with the new MacBook Air 11″

Monday, September 19th, 2011


Very impressive. Shame about OS X Lion, though.

Read the full review here.

The Cube: Apple’s daftest, strangest romance

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Ten years ago on Sunday, Apple called it quits on one of its oddest products ever, the G4 Cube. The Cube was a strange and wonderful machine that continues to fascinate today – but it was widely perceived to have failed. Some people thoroughly enjoyed the failure, thinking it served Apple right.

Dull people will always cheer a bold experiment that goes wrong. After July 2001, Apple’s design team never again attempted anything as daring or distinctive. It has produced beautiful designs, and unarguably influenced consumer technology design more than any one else.

But essentially, its computer designs are variations on the same theme. The professional laptops have continued in their rectangular, razor-like way. Even the iPad looks very much like how you’d expect a media slate to look like, for example.

But the Cube was different. The Cube looked like Buckminster Fuller talked; the Cube looked like it might have fallen to earth from an advanced civilisation, eager to escape orbit and looking to throw some ballast overboard. Or like a millionaire had given a mad bloke on a bus an unlimited budget.

“Hello. You look like you’ve done a lot of LSD. Well, here’s several million dollars – go and design a computer, any shape you want. Just make sure it hangs upside down.”
(more…)

The next mobile UI (why nobody has a clue)

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

How things have changed. Fifteen years ago attendees at a select mobile conference might have been found sparring over spectrum allocation and control channels. Back then, 3G loomed large, and huge geo-political battles were being fought. Today the talk is – how do you make it all work nicely?
(more…)

Three things to improve Nokia Design

Friday, October 8th, 2010
Rather like the old Soviet Politburo, the goal is internal conformity, rather than exciting and surprising the punter.

Read more at The Register