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June 30, 2007

HTML Hex Color Code List

There are lots of these sorts of things around, but Colour Lover's Ultimate HTML Color HEX Code List looks useful enough to save for later use.

[via COLOURlovers]

Creative Workspaces

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designverb links to several cool collections in their post on creative workspaces, including nownow's weblog thread that pairs images of each contributor's virtual and physical desktops. (Image above from nownow's post on Gisueppe Demaio's workspace.)

Blur

Blur

June 29, 2007

Video Setup

A Geek Moment

I spent an hour troubleshooting the shotgun mic > audio adapter > camera interface in order to track down a missing AA battery. (Click the image to go to the Flickr page with tech specs.) Perhaps I should have opted for the PXL-2000 rig.

June 26, 2007

Mob Rule: Modeling Crowd Behavior in Urban Spaces

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Paul Torrens, among other interesting things, builds computer models of crowd behaviors in urban spaces. The images and video are creepy, in a cool way (at least if you're like me, and creepy in a way that you think of as sort of cool; YMMV).

Nowhere is this more relevant than at the micro-scale, on the streets, in and around our downtowns, and among the crowds of people that populate and energize the urban core. A new appreciation of urban geography is gathering steam, an urban geography of the micro-scale, where pedestrians swarm in social and anti-social networks; where innovative Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) are being deployed at street-level, digitally-enabling crowds through networked computing. Embedded in urban infrastructure and in the very products we consume, the same technology allows cities to think about—and process—the people that pulse through them.

The link above also has downloadable video of time-based simulations, PDFs of his research publications on the topic, and diagrams (showing things like chokepoints and jam formation). Torrens' main site lists other projects in modeling and analysis, including work on residential relocation, urban sprawl, and more.

[via Pruned]

Very Small Mosh Pit

Very Small Mosh Pit

From The Evens concert yesterday in Canton, NY. [More photos at Flickr.]

June 24, 2007

Judging a Book By Its Cover

Submarine Channel's Forget the Film, Watch the Titles is a collection of impressive main title sequences from movies. The collection is categorized by titles featuring animation, motion graphics, 3D, and mixed media. Not a huge number of examples (appears to be thirty or forty), but they're all worth watching. Lost Highway, Spider, Thank You for Smoking, Fistful of Dollars, Moog, and more.

[via metafilter.com]

MacBook Pro Battery Issue

MacBook Pro Battery

Not how I wanted to start my workday. I'd been concerned about how hot the computer had been running. This morning when I pulled the the MacBook out of my bag and placed it on my desk on campus, I could feel this little gap in the casing along the battery on the bottom.

Apple Tech Support was relatively painless, considering. I'm out of warranty on this and there are no official recalls open, but they offered to replace it free. For now, I just have to remember to put it to sleep before I unplug it. Could have been worse, I suppose. [Google search on "exploding laptop"]

June 20, 2007

Pay No Attention to That Kid Behind the Curtain

Clive Thompson at Wired discusses how voice chat in WoW can lead to some weird cognitive dissonance:

Recently I logged into World of Warcraft and I wound up questing alongside a mage and two dwarf warriors. I was the lowest-level newbie in the group, and the mage was the de-facto leader. He coached me on the details of each new quest, took the point position in dangerous fights and suggested tactics. He seemed like your classic virtual-world group leader: Confident, bold and streetsmart.

But after a few hours he said he was getting tired of using text chat -- and asked me to switch over to Ventrilo, an app that lets gamers chat using microphones and voice. I downloaded Ventrilo, logged in, dialed him up and ...

... realized he was an 11-year-old boy, complete with squeaky, prepubescent vocal chords. When he laughed, his voice shot up abruptly into an octave range that induced headaches and probably killed any dogs within earshot.

One of the tricks of successful fiction—even interactive, collaborative fictions—is constructing a coherent world. Users need to be able to build up expectations about how the world works, how things interact, and the symbolic meaning of objects and processes within the world.

This aspect—what Thompson calls "mood"—applies to nearly any user experience. An otherwise very useful website can suddenly seem wrong if an inappropriate font is used; a PowerPoint presentation suddenly seems less professional when you recognize the same over-used clipart you've seen in a hundred other slide decks; a dramatic movie suddenly gets unintentionally amusing when you see the boom mic drop down into the frame. And then there's Microsoft Office's (now defunct) Clippy: If I'm writing a memo, usually the last thing I want to interact with is a chatty, animated paperclip. (YMMV: Apparently a lot of people think eBay and MySpace have good interfaces.)

Exceptions abound, of course, especially in the hands of skilled designers. There's a place for surprise (and even incoherence), even in "serious" apps and worlds [1], but designers stumbling into surprise by accident, dragging you with them, is rarely that place.

[1] Like John Reid's defense of Salman Rushdie in this Reuter's article, which used Monty Python's Life of Brian as an example of religious tolerance. Of course, the headline for the Reuters' article had a grammatical error in it, but I won't blame Reid for that.

[via Kotaku]

Captain Beefheart: Ten Rules for Guitarists

Ten rules for guitarists from Captain Beefheart.

9. KEEP YOUR GUITAR IN A DARK PLACE When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure to put a saucer of water in with it.

[via metafilter.com]

June 18, 2007

Ted Nelson: 70

Mark Bernstein notes that Ted Nelson recently turned 70. Nelson was the visionary who gave us the word "hypertext" and was a major player in the 1960s-70s community that worked out some of the fundamental concepts and techniques that lead to the World Wide Web. (As Nelson and others have pointed out, the Web is cool and all, but it's a pretty weak version, both philosophically and functionally, of some of the early ideas.)

Bernstein's post has links to one of Nelson's recent lectures, including a podcast version.

[via Mark Bernstein]

More Video Tutorials on Video Production

I've been looking for good tutorials on video production in order to figure out what the hell I'm doing with a new camcorder, and this site has among the best free video tutorials I've found: Izzy Video. Created by Israel Hymman, the videos are short (3 - 5 minute), filled with examples, workarounds, tech tips, and (on occasion) even screencasts of Final Cut Pro techniques. Topics range from basic issues such as the rule of thirds and camera angles through continuity, interview tips, time remapping, and shooting video for small screens.

Izzy uses his own children as talent in many of the tutorials, to demonstrate things like positioning subjects on thirds in the frame, panning the camera across a moving subject, and how to hold a boom mic out of the frame (a technique that eventually provides its own counter example, when his son brings the boom mic down onto the daughter's head). Aside from the cute factor, using your kids as demo subjects is a great strategy, because child labor laws have a lot of loopholes in relation to offspring-as-worker-drone. I used to use Underdog for a lot of my research, until she got wise to the practice and began demanding half of my royalties. Tip to Izzy: If you start to generate an income stream with this, don't let the kids get hold of your tax returns.

Besides being useful, interesting, and free, the video tutorials are available as low or (relatively) high-resolution via the Web, RSS feed, or iTunes podcast.

June 16, 2007

Things I Don't Want to See on a Web Page That's Loading

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June 15, 2007

Mike Gravel: A Visual Koan

There are, I'm sure, deep political reasons behind this Senator Mike Gravel presidential campaign clip. Maybe it's not even legit; I don't know. But I don't care, either: The video is very soothing. Or creepy. I can't decide. (Daily Show apparently ran this as their Moment of Zen.)

Yelp, Wail, Windup, or Hi-Lo: NYPD Siren Options

Here's some source material for an interesting usability class project: The NYT has a list of siren options available to NYPD officers (with audio links).

[via The Morning News]

June 14, 2007

Red Truck

Red Truck

(Yeah, I know it's a cliche: rusted old vehicle, weeds, wide angle. I still like it.)

Film, Animation, Design Works: Motionographer.com

Motionographer hosts short article and samples of work from creative design agencies:

Motionographer (pronounced like “oceanographer”) seeks to be a source of inspiration for filmmakers, animators and designers by sharing:

  • outstanding work from studios, freelancers and students
  • feature stories that give readers a closer look at influential studios and individuals
  • commentary that sparks discussion or introspection about the creative process miscellaneous items that Motionographer contributors find interesting

Very many very cool things there.

[via Cool Hunting]

June 13, 2007

Theremin Cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy

I couldn't come up with anything to add to that basic title. But I like it (the cover; my title, not so much).

[via createdigitalmusic.com]

Pop Culture Infoviz

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Early Boykins' eponymous weblog consists mainly of information graphics describing pop culture phenomena: fever graphics on waxing and waning enthusiasm for Lil Wayne's new release, content analysis of NYT's coverage of Summer Jam, 3D bar charts documenting expectation versus reality of recent Ladyhawk + Children shows, and an extensive and varied set of graphs on Bright Eyes' recent run at Town Hall (the graphs of which NYT covered).

[via anne w]

June 11, 2007

Novelists and Software

The New York Times covers novelists who rely on software (beyond word processors) for their writing.

For “The Echo Maker,” which won the National Book Award last year and is about a man who emerges from a coma without an emotional connection to his intimates, [Richard] Powers created a visual outline for each character. It included material on his or her “life history, personality traits, physical characteristics, verbal tics, professional and educational background, choices and actions, attitudes and relations to the other characters,” he said. “As the material grew, I created topical sub-branches and sub-sub-branches. ... After many months, at the very tips of these increasingly articulated branches, I sometimes ended up with sketches that plugged right into the draft.”

In addition to Powers (a well-known tech-head novelist) (I mean that in a good way), the article discusses the work of Vikram Chandra, Marisha Pessl, and Debra Galant.

[via Fimoculous.com]

June 08, 2007

Audio Transcriptions with QuickTime

If you've ever had to transcribe audio interviews, you know what a pain it is, especially if you're using a traditional digital or analog recorder: unless you're an extremely fast and accurate typist, you end up hitting stop/pause, rewind/play over and over again to catch bits you've missed.

Peter Kirn at Create Digital Music has some tips on using QuickTime (the free version) for doing transcriptions of audio. The jog shuttle control apparently aids the process quite a bit. (For even more power, you might want to invest $50 in an M-Audio PowerMate—a dedicated, USB jog shuttle that you can customize for most applications. I just got one, and it's great for scrubbing audio and video back and forth, as well as scrolling through lists in NetNewsWire, controlling volume of iTunes, etc.)

OS X + Windows + Linux

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I justify spending an hour on this today since the setup makes it more convenient to test web pages in different browsers on different operating systems: Parallels 3.0 running Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux within OS X. Windows XP is also good for downloading endless Windows updates and Ubuntu is good for making me afraid to install any updates whatsoever. (Probably not actually an issue for Ubuntu, but when I ran Red Hat linux several years ago, every fifth or six package install or update would give me a kernel panic that ended up with me wiping the hard drive and reinstalling.)

Parallels 3.0 is here ($79.99 or free, two-week trial); Ubuntu is here; you need to scavenge your own copy of Windows. Installing Win is covered in the Parallels documentation; Ubuntu installation to Parallels is covered, more or less, in a tutorial by Simplehelp here (Ubuntu install kept hanging, but after four or five tries it suddenly worked. No idea why. Which more or less summarizes my level of linux expertise.)

IxD Inspiration: No Ideas But In Things

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Dan Saffer is the curator of No Ideas But In Things, "a library of controls, animations, layouts, and displays that might be a source of inspiration for interaction designers."

[via anne]

June 07, 2007

Take Zer0: Filmmaking Tutorials

Take Zer0 is a new weblog that's running twice-weekly video tutorials on filmmaking, aimed at novices. (That is, the videos have good tips for novices; they're not really about how to make movies that novices will want to watch. I'll stop before this gets more convoluted.)

You can watch the clips online or download them. They're informal, funny, and useful. (The latter is only speculation; I've never made an actual narrative-type video.) Topics range from widescreen and 24fps to lighting to basic composition. How to Make a Movie in 10 Easy Steps is a good starting point.

Take Zer0: Everything you need to know before take one: "

‘Hosted by the guys over at Out of Focus Studio, Take Zer0 is a weekly videocast on the subject of filmmaking that gives you everything you need to know before take one.’

"

[via xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

World's Rarest Rock Instrument: The Birotron

At The Believer, Paul Collins covers the history of the wildly-ahead-of-its-time-and-therefore-doomed-to-brilliant-failure Birotron. After listening to the Yes prog masterpiece Tales from Topographic Oceans over and over again on 8-track in 1974, recently unemployed (all Yes fans were unemployed, I think) Dave Biro wanted to recreate a Mellotron, the tape-loop-based keyboard instrument featured at the opening of The Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever, Bowie's Space Oddity, and huge swaths of the Yes album in question.

Biro didn't have access to a Mellotron, but he had some steampunk tech smarts, an old piano, and the funds needed to purchase nineteen automobile 8-track decks.

The Birotron's short lifecycle featured financial backing from Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, interest from the Mellotron people, a Japanese collector, technical issues with mounting 8-track decks vertically [tip: not a good idea], a renegade Seals and Croft song, and Eleni Mandell's Wishbone. You sort of have to read the whole article for any of this to make any sense.

Aside from technical issues, the Birotron's development was eventually eclipsed by the development and rapid spread of cheap computer chips that powered sampling keyboards.

A rare audio clip of the Birotron is available at Streetly Electronics' website, which has a Birotron in its collection; the site also features some other very cool Mellotron clips.

Finding Something Sort of Like a Specific, Unnamed Font

MyFont's web utility WhatTheFont? takes an interesting approach to selling type: If you want to use a font that you've seen in another publication but can't identify, you can upload a screenshot, scan, or URL (GIF, JPG, etc.) of a bit of text and MyFont will try to match it to one of the fonts they sell.

I can't vouch for the quality of the fonts, but I uploaded some samples and was able to find relatively close matches for around $30 apiece. Not as good, obviously, as locating the actual font you're attempting to duplicate, but a useful option in some circumstances, like when that clients gives you a copy of a magazine ad and says, "I want the text to look like this.

Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants

I get the basic premise of the Digital Native project (coordinated by the Berkman Center at Harvard and the Research Center for Information Law at U of St. Gallen).

"Digital Natives" are those people for whom the internet and related technologies are givens, whereas "Digital Immigrants" migrated to these technologies later in life (Prensky, 2001). Digital Immigrants know how life existed in the pre-networked society, whereas Digital Natives take networked communication as the foundation of their lives.

The metaphor—if it's even a metaphor—plays out in interesting ways: social mores, communities and all their processes of inclusion and exclusion, processes of acculturation and discrimination, etc. And I haven't read Prensky's work, which the term is taken from. But I can't read the overview page of the project without thinking that "digital" is now the new "civilized" and "non-digital" is the new "primitive," an implied hierarchy that tends to rehearse the same status issues that "immigrant" scenarios invariably play out in (pun intended) black and white/us and them ways. Perhaps the work will be more nuanced and sensitive than that, but the overview page makes claims such as, "Most digital natives (DNs) live online, 24/7" and "The digital world is inherently more vulnerable to malicious intent via badware, viruses, hackers." Who, really, lives online 24/7? Is the digital world really more dangerous than the realworld? (Or is the distinction just in terms of being open to attacks by digital means? That only begs the question.)

Or maybe we just need to turn this on its head and embrace the positive connotations of "immigrant" rather than see it as something to be gotten beyond.

[via Alice Robison's Twitter feed]

June 06, 2007

McJobs & the OED

The OED introduced the common (and witty) coinage, "McJob" into the OED in 2001. McDonald's complained, and the OED (rightly) pointed out that they merely document usage rather than condoned it. What's news, though, is this Time.com article that suggests the OED may be backpedaling:

At first the OED, Britain's dictionary of record, explained that it merely recorded words according to their popular usage. A statement from a company official said it was not their role to redefine meanings assigned those words according to the preferences of interest groups.

Representatives of McDonald's responded by arguing that the OED's definition was "outdated" and "insulting."

So, the OED is turning to the public, inviting people to submit opinions on the definition of a McJob: "We're analysing the situation at the moment and evidence for the usage of the word," OED representative John Simpson told TIME. "It's a continuing process."

Is it accurate for the OED to define "McJob" as, "an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, especially one created by the expansion of the service sector"? I think the vast majority of people who have worked in the food service industry (including me) would have to agree. Let's hope that the OED is merely using this opportunity to highlight the descriptive nature of dictionary definitions and isn't taking seriously the possibility of dropping the word due to McDonald's complaints.

[via The Morning News]

June 05, 2007

The Revolution Will Be Databased

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Revolutionary Left hosts Outlines of a Revolution, an online database of highrez political stencils for DIY t-shirts, posters, tagging (not that I'm promoting such activity), bath towels, etc. Comes in a wide range of political leanings, provided you're the sort of person who already gets the Syracuse Cultural Worker's catalog in your mailbox.

[via Art Threat]

Participatory Design and Inmates

Community Arts Network has an article on artist Peggy Diggs' participatory design projects with prisoners. The projects range from anti-violence t-shirt designs that benefit children's charities to furniture designed to accommodate the particular needs of people in prison cells. Here's a brief description of a project she worked on with women convicted of murdering abusive husbands:

One of her best-known works originated in interviews with women in prison who had been convicted of murdering their abusing husbands. One of the women she interviewed said her activities were so limited that the only public place she was allowed to go was the grocery store. Diggs saw a need to connect with women unable to reach out for help. The result was the "Domestic Violence Milk Carton Project," in which a graphic message was printed on the sides of 1.5 million milk cartons and distributed across New York and New Jersey. The image was the silhouette of a hand superimposed with these words:

WHEN YOU ARGUE AT HOME DOES IT ALWAYS GET OUT OF HAND? If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call: 1-800-333-SAFE.

[via Art Threat]

June 01, 2007

Visual Thinking Intro

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Ryan Coleman's (slide-based) brief intro to visual thinking. It's pretty basic (explaining nodes, links, systems, models, and stories), but probably very useful if you're still stuck in the text-only, linear mode. I do most of my complex work like this, on paper (or pieces of wood) (long story) or online in apps like Tinderbox.

[via xBlog: The visual thinking weblog | XPLANE]

The Evens Concert Flyer [Draft]

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[Still working on the final version, which will be posted at http://people.clarkson.edu/evens/ soon.]