Tuesday, March 22, 2005

MobileHCI 05
The call for papers has just come to my attention, which is a bit of a disaster as I wanted to submit something and the deadline for full papers is Friday. But for those in the mobile space, it's a good conference; we had a blast last year in Glasgow and I'm sure this year will be great too. September is looking a little double-booked for conferences though - could be an issue for me at least.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lose friends And Disenfranchise People, The Apple Mac Way - Digital-Lifestyles.info

Despite having myself been a member of what is commonly referred to as the Cult of Mac even since I first used one (about 10 years ago now), as this article points out it is becoming harder and harder to justify Apple's current approach to expanding its hold on its own branding. No matter how much I love Apple products, I can't condone their recent actions with regard to securing the www.itunes.co.uk domain name. this domain was registered in good faith by a smaller company before iTunes itself was even launched, and way before Apple opened up the UK version. and yet Apple have won a ruling to say that the smaller company is being 'abusive' by wanting to hold on to the domain now that iTunes is out there. What gives Apple the right to trample on people like this? They offered $5000 for the domain, and the owner asked for $50,000. and why not? he registered in good faith, and was approached by a large company which now declared an interest in his domain. what it boils down to is whether or not people think itunes.co.uk, which points to an online music search engine, is doing basis off the back of Apple's 'good' name. well, maybe it is - *now*. all the more reason for the owner to ask a good price.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hurray for Google Desktop

After the morning I've had trying to recover lost files, I cannot sing the praises of Google Desktop enough. I sat down to work on an important report, only to find that the version that opened up from my Word history list was strangely devoid of content, and in fact resembled my very first outline sketch, not the half-completed document I saved last month. An hour's trawling through my folders and waiting for the abominal Windows search got me nowhere, so I typed a key phrase into Google Desktop and sighed as it returned only the same, empty version that I'd already found. But then I saw the magic words "cached copy"... not only does Google provide an extremely fast search of your hard drive, it maintains your own personal cache of different file versions. I was able to retrieve my lost file with one click. now that's what I call usability.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Design meetings and user-centered design
I've spent most of today in town, working with a major organisation on the design of their new IT system. It's a good project because we really are transforming their business processes and improving their approaches to getting new IT - I'm there to assist them and their contractors to develop a decent, user focussed design and successful implementation. There is an interesting dilemma faced by the contractors, however. Our strong emphasis on UCD has meant that they have really taken to heart the fact that users should be integrally involved in the design. But this has had the side-effect of reducing their design inputs, so that they are not presenting decisions or suggestions, but instead saying "anything is possible, ask the users and tell us". It's a difficult balance for a team to get right, and this is the first time I've encountered it as a problem in a real-world situation. It's partly a problem of the experience of the contractors, but it reflects an integral tension in the UCD approach.

It's a common human trait - and I'm not sure why. Many people leave things, put them off, delay, and then you have to rush like crazy (or stay up to one in the morning) doing things you should have done ages ago. I know, I'm just doing my expenses. I realised the other day, cos it was pointed out to me, that I've not claimed any of my trips since I've been back at the Uni. I can't afford not to, but I simply detest doing my claims. The don't take long, but I delay doing them. Why?

For me, part of it is perfectionism. If I do them I want to do them completely - I want to have every single receipt so I claim everything I ought to. And I may not, or I have to check, and so I don't actually do it. And then it's a week, month, season, year later - and I certainly don't have the receipts then..... I'm sure it's also inherent human laziness - if I don't have to do it immediately, then I'll wait. And partly it's cos we're all so busy, we become demand driven - urgent beats important everytime - and it gets delayed and delayed because there isn't a deadline. Is there some decent psychology out there on it that anyone can point me to?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Phishing - easy to be caught out

I got an email this morning that may or may not be someone phishing for my ebay account details. apparently my account has been suspended due to incomplete or false information. this is news to me, and obviously being a law-abiding citizen I want to make sure I'm not breaking any rules. so I go to click on the link in the email that promises to take me to a verification page. but wait a minute. why does this email come from ebay.com, and not ebay.co.uk, where I do my buying & selling? why does it not refer to me by name, which obviously ebay know? why does it not tell me exactly what the problem is? how come, when I log in to ebay (not using the link in the email) I don't have any messages waiting for me to tell me of the same problem?

if this is a genuine email from eBay, it's sloppy, and they need to work on their own trust and safety policies before commenting on mine. if it's an attempt to phish for my account details, it nearly worked. worrying.

I'm waiting for a response from ebay to tell me if this email is genuine or not.

UPDATE: eBay tell me it's a spoof email, which really worries me because it does look very genuine, and I can't see that the links take me anywhere other than to the official eBay page. so either it's a VERY good phish, or a very bad one...

Monday, March 07, 2005

Kaleidoscope | News | March 2005
A taster of some of the research activities I'm involved in: I'm working on the design patterns stuff, and am on the review committee for MLearn, and colleagues here are participating in the Conditions for Productive learning ERT as well. The aim of Kaleidoscope is to network interested researchers, and it certainly seems to be achieving that quite effectively - I've met more new people in the past 12 months than ever before, mainly becasue this is on the edge of my usual comfort zone, focussing more on educational issues than usability or HCI ones (though they clearly have some relationship).

Gamers get greater access to pizza The Register

ah, now this is my idea of mixed reality! you can order pizza right from inside the game you're playing. as this article ponders, imagine the possibilities for marketing within popular games...
more significantly, this is evidence of further blurring of the boundaries of physical and virtual realities. if we can order pizza from inside a game, what else might we be able to do?

Keystroke logging software
One of my students is doing a project on people's typing habits and patterns and needs to collect data - if you are willing to use his Java application can you email me asap and I'll send it to you. It opens up a window on your screen; you choose a file where the data is to be stored, and then get typing. It acts like a notepad window - for example, I'm typing this into it right now, and will then cut and paste the text into the blog afterwards. It records the keys pressed, when down and when up, and saves all that timing info in the file. All data collected will be anonymised, but I'd suggest you didn't use it for entering your banking details or other more private info. The main aim is to collect data off and on over the course of a few days, longer if possible, to see what habits people have.

There are no questions or typing tests to answer - simply use it as a scratchpad and cut and paste into your usual applications - it would really help us if you could volunteer! Thanks.

When a broadcast isn't a broadcast

The BBC report today that Virgin radio are to broadcast on 3G and 2G networks. How do you broadcast on a network that doesn't support broadcasting? You don't - you offer a download service so that people can download the content and listen at their leisure. This has been called pod-casting, because of the popularity of iPods and services that provide downloadable, broadcast-type content for them and similar devices. Virgin cite the high costs of data over mobile networks as a reason for such services being popular only with people with unlimited download deals (somebody tell me how I get one of those).

What this really says to me is that we need a new model of paying for data on mobile networks. When I got my first data capable mobile, about 4 years ago, high data costs were kind of understandable - it was a new thang, not many users, mostly businesses who could afford to pay. but these days I'm still paying out a lot of money just to use GPRS to read my email on the train. this won't change while data is still so profitable for the networks, but the rise of broadcast-type services might just shift the priority towards charging for quality of service and services themselves (eg subscriptions) and not data itself, which ought to be cheap if we're ever to achieve the always-on panacea we keep hearing about.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

How to build a better web browser - UIWEB.COM
If you're at all interested in the web, this is interesting. But my laptop'sspacebarhas stopped workingproperly,and so I'mgoing to go to bed.

Strangely Familiar, Unusual Objects for Everyday Life
From the "cool" parts of the web.....

SIRC Guide to flirting
Social Issues Research Centre's guide: who says research isn't fun? Not thatany of us need this guide, of course, but it's interesting reading. Human-human interaction is deeply interesting.....

The SIRC's website has some other interesting articles;one on the death of boredom andone on our attitudes to new technologies.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Blog meets wiki. Just as we have been discussing internally, and as my student as been working, here's the blog re-mapped concept. Blogs are chronological, wikis are semantic, but they can relatively easily be combined (for another example, look here). If this does what I want one to do, then it'll be invaluable. When I get my new Mac, I'll let you know. Incidentally, the screen arrived today, but the mac is delayed. C'est la vie.

Repurposing the Powerbook Motion Sensor : Gizmodo
This is just so cool I had to mention it here - I'll try and talk more about it later this week, but the possibilities are endless. Tilt your Mac to navigate.....

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Broadband rollout hit
Hit has two meanings - hit, as in 'badly hit' - a bad thing, as silicon.com reports, when BT don't enable as many exchanges as they should have.

But it also means hit, as in 'what a great hit' - cos they have enabled our exchange for broadband, and I now have wireless access at home. We have waited two years for this - my line was enabled at 2pm today (when I was at work), and witin an hour of being home we had a wireless network set up and were browsing the web at speeds unrecognisable for previous home use. This truely will improve my life. And, if tonight's bedtime is to become the norm, it'll wreck my days too. But it's soooo exciting!

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Brussels 'will kill off online BBC'
We write about this about a year ago, I think - the EU is concerned that the BBC is receiving too much state aid and is in unfair competition with commercial providers in the online space, and so may curtail its activites. What a disaster that will be. Why an independent voice is not allowed to use the internet as a broadcast mediaum as much as using t.v. I have no idea. It is a very regressive, opressive and retrograde step, and I hope that all people, British and EU citizens alike, fight it all the way. I only hope that the UK government supports the BBC too.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

New Scientist Breaking News - The touchy-feely side of telecoms
Samsung's new phone can allow you to hold hands with someone a long way away - by using haptics, i.e. touch. All very interesting, but is it actually useful and more than just a gimmick? Hard to tell at this stage - it'll be fun and trendy for a short while, but unless it really catches on it's not much use - I mean, if no-one else has one, yours is pretty useless..... Sile O'Modhrain (from the now-defunct MLE) says that this is just scratching the surface (no pun intended, I'm sure) - she's a smart cookie who happens to be blind, and has an interest in this area, and also in musictechnology and the potential use of haptics there.

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