Friday, April 30, 2004

Interaction design and airports

In the Herald and Tribune, Harvey Molotch ponders the design issues surrounding the design of airport security. There are many interacting factors at play here: design of artefacts (trays, detectors etc), protocols for behaviour (who goes where and what do they do), support for the user (do we needhelpers on hand to guide people unfamiliar with the procedures?) etc. This is a major design challenge. In fact, in terms of "designed spaces", I think airports probably come near the top of the list in terms of design needs. Think about it - there are large numbers of people that need to be guided into specific areas, supported in performing specific tasks before moving on to other areas for specific times, whilst at the same time all obeying specific security protocols to make sure there are no alarms raised. The design of airport interactions would make for a good case study in a HCI class, and improvements to specific interactions and areas could form the basis for a design project.

Internet Archive
This project is attempting to provide an archive of the internet by taking snapshots of the web at different times and storing them, allowing you to roll back the years and see what the web was like way back when..... Having found an era of interest, you can navigate it just as you would have done then, so you can see how your site has changed.

But it also means that the internet has altered: whilst it's always been a public medium, there has been an implicit feeling that the author has had some form of control over their web space. Sure, people could link to it (we like that) and people can pinch stuff and use it on their own sites (we like that sometimes, sometimes not, depending on the circumstances) - but if you decided to take down one part of your site, that was it, gone. But no longer - it may still exist, out there on the web, no longer under your control. Does this make you think twice about putting something up there? Should it?

CHI
By the way, CHI was good. Well, in a conferency sort of a way: great to meet colleagues, discuss research ideas, see who was doing what and why, who's moved to where, and get to grips with the state of the art. No paper proceedings made it a pain to decide which sessions to attend and so I made some poor choices, and saw a lot of incremental work, and some that looked distinctly familiar. Some nuggets in the goldpan, however, and worth the trip. Chocolate cake was good, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Signs of life in the dot com?
Interestingly, here at CHI, there are a remarkable number of companies recruiting: Microsoft, Yahoo!, Google, and so on. And if you are not interested in a full time job, most offer internships too (usually for MSc or PhD students who may be employable once they complete their studies). Now, this is clearly a fertile ground for finding new talent, but all seem very positive about the industry and how it is coming out of a tough time. Maybe not the full bloom of a recovery, but the green shoots are there.

Branding and the design of jumbo jets

From the Times (tabloid edition - so much easier to read on the train - great design!): Boeing's design for its new jet, the 7E7, has a distinctive streamlined nose and swept back tailfin - features that they admit are more to do with creating a brand image than aerodynamics, to the extent that they are willing to sacrifice some efficiency to maintain this look. In a time when there are calls from environmental groups and now the FAA for planes to use less fuel (the FAA wants planes that use 50% less), what does this tell us about the importance of creating and maintaining a distinctive brand image?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

BBC NEWS | Magazine | A life pictured online
Hot on the heels of us flagging up our concerns about the amount of personal information people are sharing with their mobile devices comes this story highlighting the amount of pics from photo phones that are finding their way on to weblogs and moblogs. Note the issue of copyright is mentioned here - some sites that provide hosting for these picture repositories retain copyright of anything posted. Is it about time we had a DRM system for personal pics?

Projects, interaction, and HCI
Today's the day that students see what projects are on offer for the next year (or over the summer, depending on their courses). Current projects are available on the website. These are suitable for both undergraduate and MSc projects (including Advanced MSc's). Most are trying to develop the boundaries of HCI and push things a little further - it's pretty good to be able to do research work in a project, and certainly fun.

In addition to all the projects outlined, I'm also interested in working with people on projects in augmented reality and tangible interfaces (basically, mixing real world surfaces and projected ones), on blogging and new uses of the internet in general. And feel free to suggest ones to me (as long as they are challenging and interesting - no more video jukeboxes on the web.....)


Specific new ideas


1st May: Now in the proper list



Whatever your perspective, I still believe that the most interesting, active and creative area of computing is at the interface, and a project is sufficient time to experience this properly. Email me about a specific project if you want to know more (ask targetted questions, ideally) or come and see me next week to discuss them in more detail).

Monday, April 26, 2004

CHI costs
The workshop was useful - a variety of issues realting to time presented; Mark´s video and media work was good, Andrew´s use of GOMs was good, and there may be hints towards a formalism I can use for my trigger work. An interesting observation from a review of SMS usage - all messages were to known people, almost all of those who were very close aquaintences; implication, SMS is a very personal, intimate medium - and therefore adverts from unknown sources on it are likely to be very annoying and poorly regarded by users. We knew this, but it's nice to see it confirmed by preliminary research. But the venue organisation was dire.

$150 to go to the workshop, and CHI didn't even provide a projector. There were 25 of us: you could buy one for that money! They ran out of coffee: they knew how many people were coming to the workshops, and yet couldn't provide even 1/3 of the cups of coffee needed, and that was for only one each. No lunch, no resturant in the venue open, and on the list of resturants we got from them, all were closed. And without an Austrian phone number, we even had trouble ordering pizza until a woman in a tabac took pity on us and rang her local delivery service and asked them to help us. Disgraceful: where does all that money go?

Grumble grumble :-) However, Vienna is pretty - sunny today so need to have a look around.

Want to do research?
The HCI group here will shortly be looking for new researchers to join it - and some scholarships are available: if you have a good background in HCI and a very good first degree or masters, keep an eye out both here and in UsabilityNews and jobs.ac.uk. I expect to be able to announce something properly by mid-May.....

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Wired News: This Ain't Woody Allen's Orb
Ambient intelligence is moving forwards (and there's a great quote in this article - ambience is the opposite of virtual reality, to paraphrase) - with this information tracker that people are actually buying. I don't think it's half as nice as our ambient art, of which we should be publishing more on soon. Open day demonstrations have created Mondrain-like pictures which are more segmented the more people walk across the foyer, with their tracks having some relationship to the vertical and horizontal lines in the image.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Going to CHI...
Next week I'm off to CHI in Vienna - we've got papers in the time design and ambient intelligence for scientific discovery workshops, some meetings with other EU colleagues, lots of sessions to attend, and some serious socialising to do (see notes on the important bits of conferences).

It's interesting to reflect on what I'm now expecting from a conference. For me, one of the great things about going away next week is that currently there are too many minor distractions at the Uni, and I keep on not getting anything done - I'm actually expecting to achieve more next week whilst at the conference than I did in the past two weeks whilst at Uni, despite the students still being away. This is partly because the usual interruptions cannot happen, and partly because ones options are more limited - I can write, or listen to sessions - either way I'm immersed in HCI, and not in sorting out admin, or deciding I'll re-arrange my files on the machine, or tackling the piles of paper that keep cascading off my desk and onto the floor.

However, I'm assuming a certain level of resources - I expect to be able to connect via a wireless LAN, for free, or at the very least to have access to machines with a permanent, fat internet connection. Without that, things will be steeply curtailed! Whether that is on offer, I have no idea, but it is interesting what we tend to expect now. I have no need to tell people my contact number out there as my mobile works, and I should be able to see email in any of my work or private accounts. For me, I'm as connected to the world as I need to be, and yet just sufficiently removed from it so that I'm less disturbed.

And this may be the work pattern of the future. Only yesterday we were discussing working from home; given that work now no longer offers us anything much better in the way of resources or access to information, it may be that we simply move to different physical locations depending on the nature of the interactions we wish to have: to be at work will be for social and management reasons - in the garden, beacuse we want to think - at a conference, because we want to write and collaborate on new grants.

A Better Social Networking Algorithm
The enemy of my enemy is my friend - a new way to make friends and influence people? This is a new take on the development of social networks, and provides an interesting perspective - rather than use the 'friend of my friend is my friend' which is often weak and tenuous - think about it in real life - it takes a somewhat stronger line.

GMail

I was offered the opportunity to test out Google's new email service, GMail, while it is still in beta. Given the controversy surrounding their new offering, I thought I'd give it a whirl, just out of curiosity.

The main point of contention with GMail is that they scan your mails to work out what kinds of adverts to show you at the side of the screen. Showing advertisements in itself is not something we can object to - this is a free service, they give you 1GB (1000MB) of storage (which is 500times as much as Hotmail's standard 1MB) and they need to make money somehow, just like Hotmail, which also displays ads. But Hotmail doesn't read your email to do this.

Now, Google make it clear that no 'human' will ever read your email, and that the process is automated, and is performed only for the purposes of showing you relevant ads. Does this constitute a violation of privacy, if no other person sees my data? Well, I'm not sure what I think about this. I don't think I mind Google's machines scanning my mail, but if a machine can scan it, then it means my mail is potentially available for other machines to scan, and it will probably be easier for people to scan it too. And Sergey Brin, one of Google's founders, has refused to rule out the possibility of tying together GMail's email scanning with Google's search cookies, so that in the future ads could be targeted according to what I say in my emails and what I search on the web.

I'm all for a service that will help me out by tying these things together and suggesting links that will help me do what I'm trying to do, but GMail only does ads, not unbiased searching. This gets me thinking about the future of context aware computing, where devices are smart enough to realise what we're trying to do, and suggest options accordingly. I don't what that kind of help to be sponsored, I want it to be useful. The big players in the market are not necessarily the best providers, and this kind of thing might just exacerbate the problem of the minnows forced out by the big fish.

I don't think it's good that GMail hides the details of what they do with your emails in a service agreement several pages long that initially appears in a text box that only shows 5 lines at a time. Most people just click "Yes, I agree" to these things without reading them - I know I usually do. But this time I read the whole thing and found the details in there, but I think with the current furore GMail ought to make their operating policies even more clear. A section headed "Why we're different" in their welcome email doesn't even mention their ad-targeting mechanism.

In the end, it's up to the user to decide whether they accept the operating policies of a particular provider, but it's up to the provider to make sure the user knows exactly what they're signing up for, and I think in this case Google could make it clearer.

Holes appear in Bluetooth security
It seems we are right to be worried about the amount of personal information we store and share using personal devices - this week I have read about 2 security problems with the popular Bluetooth system that lets devices such as mobile phones, PDAs, headsets etc talk to each other using short-wave radio.

Adam Laurie has software that can pluck your contacts, appointments, and other files associated with these items, straight from your Bluetooth enabled phone, without you even being aware of it (see BBC NEWS | Technology | Taking a peek inside your mobile)

And this week's NewScientist (story in print only so far) reports on findings that Bluetooth headsets are vulnerable to snooping by hacking the PIN code used to establish a secure connection with the phone. (Security problems with Bluetooth devices have been reported before, but it's back in the news recently following the UK making it illegal to use mobile phones whilst driving, unless you have a proper handsfree headset, hence increased attention [and marketing] for Bluetooth devices)

There will always be problems with data security, and the more devices we have, carrying more and more personal information about, with the devices all talking to each other, the more we are at risk of people gaining unauthorised access to this data. Is it illegal to grab someone's calendar items from their phone and them use them to send them text message adverts related to their appointments?

Forlizzi: Theories of Experience
Customer experience, user experience, experiences on experience - everything you wanted to know about experience and were too experienced to ask about. Quite an experience reading it too, though I'm bound to ask whether it really adds anything to a design theory in a constructive rather than simply a descriptive way. Nothing wrong with description, it's just better if it has abstraction and hence wider applicability in it too. Description + abstraction = construction, perhaps?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Tucows Acquires BlogRolling.com
There's still money to be made in dot com's, even for the guy in the bedroom scenario. Good on you, blogroll. I shouldn't be here so late but have been hammering away trying to fix the IE/CSS bug, with no success. Time to go home.

Postscript: I should threaten to go home more often. It was, as expected, the IE Box bug, and is now fixed, at least for IE 6. Probably means it's broken for other IE's and for the Mac, but I'm not looking into it now. And all it took were 2 words, in the right place. And all of the day, the evening, and half the night. Who says blogging doesn't use up time?

Research Blogs/Self-Organizing Directory Development
Sébastien Paquet has a wiki on how to create a decent directory of blogs - ideas are solicited, add yourself to the wiki if you like. My 2p worth is that no fully manual or fully automatic system will work - we need to use both user submissions and intelligent guesses to track down categorise and classify things usefully. (Interestingly enough, Seb is using his OpenMind wiki in exactly the way I talk about it in this months UsabilityNews column).

The joys of CSS
Apologies if you have a few problems with the site- the slight redesign has thrown up a problem with CSS and the blogrolling javascript. We're working on it, but you may need to resize your browser window in order to see all the blog.

BBC NEWS | Business | Working from home trend gathers pace
(Peter) As one of the reader comments on this piece suggests, even with advances in technology there will always be a large number of workers who simply cannot do their job from home (one of the examples given is a bin-man). I wouldn't go so far as to agree that any job you can do from home is pointless (I work from home 2 days a week), but there needs to be some recognition that teleworking isn't for everyone. Being able to maintain a presence at the office is a real concern for many, and leaving a coat over the back of a chair often isn't enough to re-assure the more conscientious amongst us. As another comment remarks, there can be a feeling that instant responses to emails are the only way to prove that you're there at your PC, and any 'reflective' time (for me spent walking the dog) can leave you feeling guilty about what you should have been doing instead.

(Russell) One of the problems with work is that when you're there you can be interrupted - I have spent all this week with three things to do, I have done about three hundred, but I still have the same 3 left on my list....

Blogs as reflective learning
On my way in to work this morning, I was wondering what actual use my blog is, and, more to the point, why it has continued after the course it was originally designed to support has stopped. There are a number of reasons: one of the more useful ones is that it has expanded the range of things I look at and am aware of in the world of interaction, design, users, technology and so on than I was before - all these can offer useful material for the blog and so I tend to have a reason for looking.

Introspecting further, I also think that the blog a an excellent learning tool - particularly for reflective practice.
(after Klob 1984).

Blogging supports reflective learning on action - evaluating what you are doing and have done, and how it fits into a greater whole. Not all of blogging slots into this category, however, which is probably why doing a blog is easier than keeping a learning diary or whatever. There's not a vast amount of literature on this - Sebastien Fiedler is one of the few to produce much output on it. For me, it sometimes serves to concentrate my thoughts on what I have been doing. Trouble is, it often serves to distract me from what I should be doing as well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

"Wanted: Support for Dynamic Connectivity"
(or "Why is GPRS so difficult?")


I used to have a Nokia 6310 and an iPaq, and I could dial up the internet from the train, using Bluetooth and GPRS. it wasn't that easy to set up, but I found a configuration guide on the internet, and plugged in the relevant settings. it then worked fine, except when I was in a tunnel.

now, I still have a Nokia 6310 and an iPaq, and I can't get it to work. what's changed?

well, the phone is slightly newer (I drowned the last one) and it has a new firmware version. the iPaq is also new, but I tried this new phone with the old iPaq as well and that didn't work either. I had just about learned how to navigate through the different screens under Pocket PC 2000 to change between Bluetooth, WLAN at work, and WLAN at home. now, under Pocket PC 2003, I'm still struggling, and I can't get GPRS to work (several google searches related to my problem suggest it's to do with the modem initialisation string used by the iPaq, but no solution has worked for me so far - GPRSManager has been recommended).

But my intention is not simply to moan. There are some real problems to do with supporting users as they move from one method of connecting to another - taking my iPaq from the office WLAN to my network at home really isn't such an odd thing to do, but the process of telling the iPaq what's happened is far from intuitive. I'm sure there are 3rd party solutions that help with this kind of thing, but it shouldn't be this hard - if the device has built-in support for WLAN then it should support roaming between networks. To get to the relevant choices, I have to go into the 'Advanced' menu - but this really isn't an advanced thing to want to do. as we move into the Connected Age, connectivity is not about static settings and configurations - supporting the user and keeping the device online is a dynamic process. Current interfaces don't support this kind of working.

Time to stop moaning and head for the train - sadly without GPRS internet. But AvantGo helps, and it's cheaper.

Wired News: Cash Cow or Spam Sow?
Whenever something sounds too good to be true, that's because it is. A spam company (in actions, if not in name) will pay to use your computer to send out spam, so that it doesn't get cut off itself. Nice of them. The soober spam becomes seen as a problem activity and not a legitimate business one, the better. How can such unwarranted intrusion into the privacy of a mailbox be anything other than an intrisuion into my rights to use the internet free from harrasement?

Will anyone appreciate the key layout on the new Siemens SX-1?
There's a reason that this...

Nokia 3650

became this:

Nokia 3660

so what do you make of this?

Siemens SX1

(click images to see full size versions)

The keypad layout on the Nokia 3650 was truly awful - yes, it was a stylistic, retro design statement, but it was terrible to use. This isn't just an opinion from afar - I used one and struggled. Nokia saw the error of their ways and updated the design to feature a more traditional layout.

Now Siemens have released a new phone, pitched squarely at the business market, that would appear to suffer from exactly the same mistakes...

Yes, it looks nice and neat and tidy, but I'm sure any basic usability study would show that this phone is harder to use than one with a traditional keypad, and it's not just about having to learn a new layout: the keys are spaced further apart, which means more finger movement is required to type, and it looks like you're going to obscure the screen most of the time when reaching for the keys on the left (or the right, if you're doing it left-handed).

Maybe this phone will sell enough on looks alone to keep Siemens happy, but I doubt it.



Tuesday, April 20, 2004

BBC NEWS | Magazine | Do babyblogs violate children's privacy?
An issue of pressing importance, Peter and I have been considering this in the context of digital photographs over the past few months too. When is sharing a picture between friends good fun and acceptable and when does it become an invasion of your privacy, especially if the picture is less than flattering, or compromising, or whatever?

There are massive social, legal and technical questions to be addressed, and as we move towards a more digital society, with increasing abilities to capture, publish and view our own and other peoples lives, these issues will become increasingly important.

Or, they may just fade away, since hardly anyone does anything with their digital images anyway.....

Monday, April 19, 2004

BBC NEWS | Technology | Apple goes after notebook sales
After months of rumours, Apple finally released their new notebooks today - still slim, neat and desirable, they are now faster than before with built-in networking, and slightly cheaper. ZDNet reviews them here too. This makes them an even better choice for the mobile or semi-mobile person, but it does little to resolve my dilemma - 12" lighter weight and more portable, or 15" for not too much of a size-weight hit but a larger and higher resolution screen? The Apple OS, lovely though it is, is quite hungry for screen estate (at least, empirically) and so I am going to have to play some more. In the past I've been strongly in the "light is right" camp, mainly as I've been highly mobile, but this machine, whilst it will travel, will mostly be in the car with me or on a train, and so as long as it fits into a bag it's portable.

Friday, April 16, 2004

New PDAs that take advantage of built-in phone gubbins

For some time now, we've seen that the mobile phone manufacturers have been trying to get into the PDA market with 'smart' phones, and some PDA manufacturers have been successful in geeting into the phone market (the notable example being Handspring's Treo).

Now, however, there is real evidence that the big PDA makers (namely HP) are really interested in releasing convergent devices, ie a PDA that is as good at being a phone as it is at being a phone. For a device like this, the benefits are more that the sum of its parts - a PDA with built-in phone capabilities can offer data connectivity outside of wireless lan range by using whatever means its phone bit supports (maybe EDGE, GPRS, HSCSD, or plain old GSM).

the specs of the new hp device, leaked here, suggest a truly convergent device that does exactly what i've just mentioned, and to top it off HP are even claiming (I say claiming, cos this is hard to do) to offer seamless roaming between, say, GPRSand wireless LAN. now, if my experiences are anything to go by, just getting a seamless GPRS connection in the first will be hard enough, especially when you're on the move (why is GSM/GPRS coverage so bad between stafford and birmingham?), so i'll be surprised to see this working. but very pleased and suitably impressed if it does.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I'm currently at a Microsoft Academic event - some deep hands-on .net training - more relevant for those that like assembler for breakfast and their pizza with added compilers, it at least shows there is real thought and depth in this technology. Also, the pedagogical approach of interactive teaching with 2 students to a computer working through some set up examples, and the instructor doing live coding at the front is a good one, but one which I doubt scales to large classes. Next couple of days promise to be more on the activities of MSR, the research labs, though recent grant application deadlines have meant that I've been missing out on certain parts as I read final drafts, make changes, and rush off to email them back.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Why Mobile Phones are Annoying (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

This is a summary of some research done at the University of York by Andrew Monk and colleagues - they conducted some experiments involving unsuspecting bystanders who were subjected to a conversation nearby involving either 2 people nearby or just 1 person talking on a mobile phone.

Some interesting findings, which I have seen wondered about before, and have wondered about myself. The most interesting thing is that people find phone conversations louder and more annoying than face-to-face conversations of the same volume. The major problem seems to be that we can't tune out of 'half' conversations as easily as we can wih whole ones, ie when we only hear one person's part we find it harder to ignore. my feeling is that there is some work to be done here looking at how people respond to problems - to me half a conversation is a problem waiting to be solved: what *is* the other person saying that means this person is saying *that*?

will there ever be a solution to the problem of annoying mobile phones? well, maybe, but only if NASA get their subvocal speech thing working.

Update: BBC News now has a piece on this, which shows that the researchers have had similar thoughts to my own.

Monday, April 12, 2004

The 'Pervasive Computing' Community
Remarkably relevant to current research projects here, this initiative shows we are at least timely in the proposals coming out of the preliminary research work.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Navigation and Information Architecture
Interesting commentary, review and representation of the current research (summary here courtesy of UsabilityNews) which is good reading for anyone interested in this. He presents an alternative perspective:

  • Summarise Research
  • Create Intended Experience
  • Gather Content
  • Navigation & Interaction Design
  • Classify Information


'This allows me to focus only on the guidelines I need at a particular step in the design process. This order may not work for you, but the idea of ordering your guidelines may work for you.

'Personally, I think there is too much guessing involved in current methods, with an over-reliance on testing. Given a more systematic method, we could design with more confidence. To the paranoid among us I say we are far from the point where navigation design can be automated; there are still many decisions for which we have no research and at which designers must use their experience to improvise a solution. At the very least, this becomes a better way to use guidelines, which otherwise are hard to remember and use.

'It's common to collect the information, classify it, and turn the category and facet labels into navigation elements. If the information is classified so early in the method, the information organization determines the user's experience. If the goal is simply information seeking or usability this approach may be fine. I prefer the goal of a great product and a beneficial experience for users above mere usability, so I place classification later in my method.' This, he says, is perhaps the biggest difference between his method and how information architecture is often done.


Friday, April 09, 2004

Nine Rules for Good Technology
A perspective on how educational technology ought to be. Nine rules (mostly obvious, but still worth saying) that define good technology and direct us towards its effective use.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

tech ronin: Academic Blogging is a Must
Useful piece on why blogging is a useful academic tool (summary - it creates a community, develops ideas and gets you out there). Within the comments is an interesting academic course that uses blogging as both a teaching and learning tool, in a similar (but more involved) way to the approach that we used. In our course, Peter and I blogged about HCI issues of relevance, providing a current, fresh view of how to think about HCI and design and usability issues. Students had a discussion area for their discussions which sometimes developed from the blog topics and sometimes went in otehr directions. This is slightly easier to manage as the communities are clearer - but the combined approach may be more inclusive for students. However, check out the number of students - much smaller than the 180 we have!

However, this gives me some decent ideas for teaching to the MSc course next year - and since we need comments, we'll have to set up a MoveableType system not a blogger one..... Comments work fine for internal communities, where access can be somewhat controlled and where spam, flame and abuse is much less likely to occur. For more public blogs, I'm still not sure of their value. Getting comments on your postings is great, and users are far more likely to respond straight away than even switching to email, but the downsides are great.

Wired News: Turning Search Into a Science
Scirus is a search engine specifically targetted at scientists - a specialist group who use the web a lot and want targetted results. I've used it a bit, but it's not on my list of favourties. However, it is in my plans to build a meta engine to both search this as well as Google, and to combine both approaches to ranking the documents so that I get both a comprehensive and better ranked search. I'd also looking into Google's personalised search but without much idea of the technology it uses for it's approach it becomes a behaviourist evaluation which is not ideal. A project for a student, methinks.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Research on Blogs
Just in case you thought blogging was fun, or at least a displacement activity, here's a summary of research papers on blogs, typically on their ability to mediate scientific communications.

fresh styles for web designers

Cool stuff. Web design as new-form art - if you want to be different and not boring, check this out for ideas and concepts. And read and digest the bottom bits of the page...

Some take-aways: Avoid sterility. The best solution might not always be the standard solution. And finally, contrary to popular belief, beauty enhances usability.

Linux everywhere
When I first came across the port of Linux to an iPod I thought it was an April Fool, but it appears to be real. Let's get this correct. You take on perfectly good iPod, and because it's a Mac you remove the OS and replace it with Linux. This is therefore better as it shows the Linux logo. The only downside, and this is really minor, is that it won't actually play music properly, and doesn't do anything else, but hey, you've got Linux on an iPod.

If you have actually got this far and are thinking it's me that is mad, then you'll like the headline link, which talks about installing Linux as well.....

Blogging and (Google) bombing for a good cause
I've recently received a lot of email on the subject of improving people's page rankings within Google - for those who emailed me, and for whom it is an interest, read this article to get some insights into how Google works and how you can improve your ranking. Oh, and the rest of the page is interesting, too, especially if you're looking to search Google for weapons of mass destruction

In Photos: New Navy Vessel's Revolutionary IT - Computerworld
Interface issues are at the top of the priority list in the US Navy's newest high-tech ship. Less sailors and more computers makes for an interesting combination, but the systems are, according to the article, mainly commercial, the shelf (COTS) systems that have been integrated. Not sure where you buy a tactical battle computer from, as my local PCWorld seems to have run out, however.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

The End-All Guide to Small-Screen Web-Dev
All mobile designers and developers must read this - a fun set of guidelines for designing for the small screen (and I don't mean television). Guidelines are meant to be broken, but good ones at least give you the common sense to break them in the right places, and this is a good place to start. Be prepared to overlook the horribly distracting adverts on the main page, however.

Web Page Design for Designers
This probably needs moving into the HCI links, but it's simplest to blog it - and that way, you all get to see it more easily. Of most interest to web designers, it's a good resource for others too.

UK firms must monitor staff IMs | The Register
More pervasive data archiving... it would appear that as instant messaging becomes more popular in the workplace, there is a growing need to make sure these kinds of exchanges are archived along with other forms of electronic communications such as email. privacy is perhaps more of an issue with IM than with email - most people have a sense that email has a kind of permanence - even if you don't store copies of the mail you send, the recipient probably will, and firms are required to archive mail for accountability. but how 'permanent' do people think instant messages are? I'd wager not very permanent at all - for most people instant means transitory, and many will probably say things in an IM session that they would not dare say in an email.

BBC NEWS | Business | Google's Gmail sparks privacy row
Plenty of people are unhappy with Google's plans for a new free email system to rival the likes of Hotmail. The main objection is to Google's plan to store all email sent & received for an indefinite amount of time, and to use the contents of that email to decide what advertisements to send your way. This is worrying stuff, and people should be concerned.

This is just one example of how pervasive and ubiquitious technology, which tries to help us out with our everyday tasks, has to know a lot about us and what we're up. Who is responsible for that data once it has been generated? How can we keep tabs on what different systems know about us? if we want technology to be more helpful and useful, we have to sacrifice some of our privacy, but there are important questions to be asked about how best to manage that process. I for one had signed up Google's email, eager to test it out. But I won't bother now, since I strongly object to their blanket opt-out approach. Will they still offer a service to people who don't want their email to be kept on file and scrutinised for advertising purposes? maybe Google will find that its ad filtering system is recommending a lot of banners for "alternative email providers"...

Extortionists take out UK gambling site | The Register
New styles of criminal activity are starting to affect the internet with greater regularity. From spam adverts through to email scams, we are now moving to extortion and relatively simple to set up, hard to defend against attacks that use infected PCs to launch DoS attacks against other sites.

It is clear that "policing" the internet is going to become a more important role, and that all organisations are likely to have to invest heavily in approaches to defeat these sorts of malicious acts. Interaction will never be the same again.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Macworld UK - Apple logo found on Mars
One of the better ones.....

Yahoo! News - Japanese researchers dream of mobile phones that use senses: " Future envisigaing at DoCoMo in Japan has some neat ideas - all usability ones, except for the 100MBPS download speed target for 4G in 2010 - doesn't leave Vodafone long to recoup their 3G licence costs, really - maybe 5 years?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

LCD Viewability (MacInTouch Reader Report)
A usability issue close to my heart at the moment - this is just one of many discussions of this issue available on the web.

The problem is this: having installed ADSL + wireless network + patio, I would very much like to be able to use my laptop whilst relaxing out on said patio. The wireless network takes care of connectivity, and I even have an external socket for power. But what's the use of all that connectivity when I can't see the screen in the sunshine?

my iPaq, as mentioned in the link, has a 'transflective' screen that means it actually works well in sunlight, using the ambient light instead of a backlight for the display. But you don't get these kinds of screens on laptops (see link for one possible reason: colour fidelity). So, if we really to make the most of our always on, available anywhere internet connections, we're going to need screens that don't mean you have to pop inside to check your email.

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