Year: 2012

  • Designing for Granddad

    Slate’s recent article, “2011 Was a Terrible Year for Tech”, coins the term “mom-bomb” for the moment that technology journalists declare a gadget so easy-to-use that it is actually useful to people who aren’t technology journalists:

  • Progressiveness and the Tribe

    As a former supporter of the Liberal Democrats, I found my support leaning toward Labour due to the Lib Dems’ ongoing disastrous coalition with the Conservative party.  But in truth, the Labour party are just a convenient political marker for some of my opinions on economic and social policy.  What I really care about, I suppose, is progress – changing things that are broken, trying new ideas until we discover something that makes the country work better.

  • Towards a Simpler Desktop

    In one of my previous blog posts, “Designing for Granddad”, I examined some of the user interface features that cause my grandfather issues when using his computer, and left a few hanging questions as to how we software designers can make our apps less confusing to the novice computer user.

  • Whither the Facebook Purge?

    The other day, a bout of online drama made me wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to make my online activities a little more private – hide my Twitter feed, for example, and maybe un-friend some people on Facebook to restrict it to just my “core” friends.

  • Tiny Works of Design Genius: Food Colouring Bottles

    Food Colouring Bottles

  • Snow’s Return

    Snow drifts lazily to the ground outside, lit sodium orange in the glare of streetlights and the lit-up logo of the self-storage place across the dual carriageway.  It settles briefly, knowing all too well that the breeze off the ocean will melt it away before morning.

  • We, the Web Kids

    Occasionally, I read a piece of writing that sums up my thoughts so well, so exactly, that I sit and try to blog something comparable and just fail.  Try as I might, I can’t outdo the original.  I’m not sure what’s retention policy is, so just in case, here it is in full:

  • Gaming is Over

    Dear Sid Meier,

  • A Beginner’s Guide to Java Swing

    For those looking for a quick introduction to laying out Graphical User Interface components using Java’s Swing technology, this guide may prove helpful. (But probably not.)

  • Love / H8 (A Review of Windows 8 Consumer Preview)

    Microsoft’s next operating system, Windows 8, is now available in “Consumer Preview” form – a release designed to let potential customers know what to expect from it when it launches in around six months’ time. It’s probably a very good idea to give it six months to soak in, because just in case the tech media has entirely passed you by, it looks like this:

  • Skeuomorphism Must Die!

    There have been a lot of rants around the internet of late about “skeuomorphism” in software, largely targeted at the latest versions of Apple’s operating systems. They’ve almost all been negative, possibly because designers hating on the concept are the only ones who felt sufficiently incensed that they looked up the name for it. I’m afraid I’m going to do nothing to buck the trend.

  • Dawkins, meet 4chan

    When Richard Dawkins first coined the word “meme”, he described it as “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” The mental equivalent of a gene, it is something we pass from parent to child, though the mental rather than physical nature of the meme allows it to be passed from any person to any other person regardless of their parentage.

  • Don’t Call Yourself a Programmer

    As a twenty-six-year-old software engineer – I shan’t use the word “programmer”, for obvious reasons – who’s only ever really had one job, I probably ought to refrain from posting an opinion on this post:

  • My Son vs the Global Monoculture

    The other day I set to wondering what Joseph would make of his Spanish heritage – much more immediate for him with Spanish grandparents than my own distant Scottish and Irish relatives whom I was born too late to meet.  But I suspect the answer will be “not much” – that he will grow up like all children of the twenty-first century, considering national and regional cultures to be a thing of only historical significance.  Cheap travel and global communications are already merging cultures, and the pace of the change is only going to increase.

  • App Idea: CatchUp

    Here’s some initial design ideas for a location-aware chat app that, as far as I am aware, has significant new features over and above existing mobile chat apps (iMessage, WhatsApp, BBM etc.) and existing location-based functionality in apps (FourSquare, Facebook check-ins, Google Places).

  • Union Meetings are Broken

    Today’s union meeting, the latest in a series that have been held every few weeks since January, was more than I could face. I skipped it to eat lunch and tackle an interesting software problem instead. It’s not that I don’t want my voice to be heard; to take part in the democratic process inside the union – it’s just the inefficiency of it all that I can’t stand.

  • On Very Small PCs

    With my recent acquisition of a Bluetooth keyboard added to the PowerSkin, my phone has completed its transition from thin, attractive polycarbonate slate to the monstrous assault on product design you see before you.

  • The Need for Mobile General Computation (aka, why I’m stuck with Android)

    My mobile phone contract has well and truly hit the “18-month itch” stage – although I still have six months until an upgrade is due, I can’t help but look at adverts and scan gadget blogs and think “ooh, I want one of those”.

  • "Goddamnit, PHP", Episode 587

    If any of my readers are also SuccessWhale users, you may have noticed that for the last few days, clicking the “Conversation View” button for a tweet has resulted in a message declaring that you have tried to look at a “protected or deleted tweet” even though that is plainly not the case.

  • Nine Princes and Three Walls

    I think I recall reading Roger Zelazny’s book Nine Princes in Amber as a kid, and enjoying it. Now the rest of the series sit atop my metaphorical reading list – not a real pile of books, but a prioritised list of regrets at all the renowned works of fiction that I have not yet read. I am making my way through them, but with the critical eyes of an adult, I am sure that I am not enjoying them as much as I once would have.

  • On the NATO Protests

    So apparently, a lot of people are gathering in Chicago right now to protest at the NATO Summit taking place there this week.

  • The Problem with Phone Upgrades

    I am due to upgrade my mobile phone in a couple of months, so yet again it’s time to pick the best of a generally bad bunch that I will be lumbered with for the next two years. Roughly speaking, my choice is:

  • Anti-SEO Spam from iProspect (for British Gas)?

    Today, I received a rather unusual e-mail.  Or more precisely, nine rather unusual e-mails within about a second of each other.  They were of the following form, altering only the link in the middle to use another WordPress tag (always ending with /feed):

  • Looking Stupid — For Charity!

    It’s nearly November again, and that means two things. Firstly, my glum acceptance for the tenth year in a row that I cannot write a novel given a whole lifetime to do it in, let alone a single month. It also means I have the wonderful opportunity to look silly for charity. (More silly than normal, anyway.) Yes indeed, I have been coerced into growing a ridiculous moustache for the duration of November, in order to raise money for the charities Prostate Cancer UK and the Institute of Cancer Research. Yep, it’s ‘Mo’vember.

  • Rainy Evening Statistics: When to Harvest Sloes?

    This morning I half-heartedly posted on Facebook:

  • Political Manifesto for the "Adults Suck" Party

    There is serious ongoing consideration of whether young people aged 16 and 17 should be allowed to vote in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum, and politicians and news outlets alike are wondering if the same could happen for our General Elections too. I find it a little confusing and very inconsistent, for one simple reason: it seems logical to me that before we can trust someone to make good decisions for an entire country, we must first be able to trust them to make good decisions for themselves.

  • Lament for Web 0.1

    With every passing day, my Facebook feed is spending more and more time informing me that old school friends “like Amazon”. (No shit, really?) In the background, it’s fiddling our feeds, showing and hiding entries according to what it thinks is relevancy, and also what it thinks is profit for itself. Game spam is constant. On the other side of the fence, Twitter is trying to force out the third-party clients that made it great, so that it can monetise its users more easily.

  • The Ego, the Social Graph, and the Great Unfriending

    Long ago, in the early years of Facebook’s rise to power, it became apparent that it had another key feature alongside feeds and wall posts – the friends list. Not only was it a good way to keep in touch with friends after University, it also became a good way of declaring who those friends were. This aspect was emphasized more and more as the site’s user base increased; you could now keep a quite exhaustive catalogue of who you knew. There were even apps on Facebook’s fledgling platform that allowed to to map those friends, and see interesting groups and connections form.