Drew Rattray : Design vs. Functionality
Drew Rattray
| News and views on design vs. functionality balance across the communications and technology space.


New Nano Impression

September 9, 2008

Today the new iPod Nano was introduced to the world by Mr. Steve Jobs and I'm mildly impressed.  It's smaller, somewhat thinner, and comes in every color of the rainbow (actually it only comes in 9, but that's good enough for me).

It has that curved surface, tapered edge, slick-aluminum look that Apple seems to be taking their latest designs in the direction of.  It's actually as thick as the old model of the Nano at its thickest point, but it tapers off greatly and accompanied with its length, it gives an overall "thinner" feel.

It also features an accelerometer like the iPhone and iTouch, so a user can turn their Nano and view in landscape.

So far the only criticism I have is this whole "shake-to-shuffle" feature.  Neat idea, but I sense a flaw.

MacBooks Get a Facelift

October 17, 2008

MacBook is Apple's most popular Mac, and for some reason, Apple decided to start over with their new versions.

The first order of business... out with the polycarbonate and in with the aluminum case design.  The key to the new enclosure is it's unibody, which is machined from a single piece of aluminum.  This allows the new MacBook to be thinner and lighter by not having to accommodate multiple parts.

Mac based web developers may want to check out Coda before Dreamweaver

November 7, 2008

I didn't learn web development the best way and I know it.  My first real job was a typesetting and page layout position for a publishing company.  One day the boss asked me if I had any interest in web development.  I had zero experience, but said "Sure".

The new MacBook vs. the Economy

November 25, 2008

On November 10th, Digitimes reported that Apple and Asustek were reducing notebook outsourcing by 20-30% for the fourth quarter of this year.  This came less than a month after the October 14th launch of the Unibody MacBook and MacBook Pro.  It's not very surprising in these economic times, and it also may be that they are bringing production levels down to a normal level after trying to meet the demands of the first month after launch.

Recent reports say that Apple saw a 28% increase in sales over last October following the launch of the new MacBooks and HP has reported that their Q3 notebook revenue grew 26%. But in the long run, I think Apple might be pricing itself out of the competition with how tight money is this holiday season.

The new MacBooks haven't reduced in price at all as far as I can tell, while Windows notebooks have seen about a 20% price drop in the past 2 years.  I'm a Mac fan, but you have to wonder how it is all adding up?

The computer mouse goes over the hill

December 10, 2008

The computer mouse had its 40th anniversary on Tuesday.  It's come a long way since it was first displayed to the public in 1968, but personally I think it may go the way of the Dodo in the coming years due to the increased implementation of touch screens and speech recognition.

While it is currently an indispensable tool for most computer users, I still feel all instances available out there are poorly designed for my purposes and lack the type of functionality I need on a daily basis.  I'm still a trackball fan.

Read more about notable moments in mouse history here.

Even Santa needs Tech

December 22, 2008

On a recent trip to the local shopping mall I caught a glimpse of technology helping out Ole Kris Kringle himself.  During a lull in the line of children waiting to tell the big man what they wanted this year, Santa got up from his chair to take a call (from Mrs. Claus I'm sure) on what looked to be an iPhone.

While I wasn't quick enough to snap a photo of Santa on an iPhone, I was able to catch him returning to the electric back massage upgrade he had installed on his chair for the long days of posing for pictures with the children of Connecticut.

It's nice to know that even Santa appreciates technology.

Bloggers dream of a perfect iPhone

December 29, 2008

Earlier this week Gizmodo posted a concept design of what they vision should be the next generation of the popular iPhone.  The design was originally developed by blogger Matt Brady and named the iPhone Elite.  Gizmodo took his concept and tweaked it with some added features of their own and named it the iPhone Pro.

Their basic complaints about the current iPhone follows that of many in the blogosphere.  No physical keyboard, lack of storage, and a sub-par camera.  The iPhone Pro concept features 60 GB of storage, a slide-out keyboard, true 16:9 aspect ratio, and a better all around camera.

While Matt's original concept is incredible, I think Gizmodo made one very impressive addition.  A D-Pad and two buttons.  iPhone games are becoming increasingly popular and by adding easier and more recognizable controls, I think it could really begin to compete with handhelds like the Nintendo DS and the Sony PSP.

The only problem that I can see with all of this is the risk of adding too much size.  With an added keyboard and a better camera with zoom capabilities, you could potentially get close to doubling the 4.7 ounces that the iPhone 3G currently weighs.  There's also the potential that the depth would increase to well over a half inch (currently at 0.48 inches).  Features are great, but no one wants to talk to a brick.

iTunes abandons DRM

January 6, 2009

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is an access control technology designed to limit the functionality of digital media.  By functionality, I mean the ability of a consumer to copy songs or move them to multiple computers.  Most of the music inventory that can be downloaded from iTunes to date has DRM embedded into it.  It's frustrating, and it drives music lovers from around the world to bypass paying for their music all together just so they can have full access to their music, a.k.a. illegal downloading.

At the Macworld Expo trade show today (Tuesday 1/6), Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President, gave the first keynote delivered at Macworld since 1997 that was not given by Steve Jobs.  He announced that iTunes will be offering songs in three pricing tiers beginning in April: $0.69, $0.99, and $1.29.  Which price you get all depends on the recording company the song came from.

The pricing tier is a result of a flexibility offering Apple gave record labels to convince them to agree to sell all of their songs DRM free.  Apple began offering 8 million of their 10 million songs today DRM free, and plan to have the other 2 million available by the end of the quarter.

I understand the plight of many music lovers.  Today's music is saturated and often bland.  Many do not want to pay $10-20 dollars for a full album from the music store, only to get 1 or 2 quality tracks.  Most of us have figured out the wonders of paying a dollar or two to download the tracks we want from iTunes instantly, and bypassing the crap.  But DRM is infuriating, and although I understand why it has been implemented in the past, it can drive a person to look elsewhere for their music.  By dropping prices on some songs and offering everything DRM free, Apple may be able to coax some of the illegal music downloader's back into a legit music lifestyle, and cashing in on the response.

The PerfectStorm?

January 18, 2009

Got an iPhone?  Want a BB Storm?  Well before you go changing carriers and investing in a couple hundred dollars of hardware, there's a new iPhone theme you may want to check out first.

The self proclaimed PerfectStorm brings the look and feel of the BlackBerry Storm to your Apple iPhone.  Once installed, most of the user interface resembels the Storm including icons, lock-screen, calculator, media player, camera, dialer, sounds, browser, and keyboard.

Personally, I think it's silly, but I guess if you are really having that much trouble choosing between the top touchscreen phones, it's a middle ground of some kind.

New iPod Shuffle Might Just Be Too Small

March 13, 2009

Apple has been following a trend of going smaller and sleeker with their designs, and continue to push the envelope with the introduction of the new iPod Shuffle this week.  Even though it now has 4GB of memory (1,000 songs), it's about half the volume of the last version...which was already just slightly bigger than a quarter.  The unit now basically looks like a stick of Orbit gum in an aluminum wrapper with a headphone jack and a clip.  It still has no screen.  It also has no controls on the unit itself other than the on/off switch, there's no room.  Instead, they moved them to the wire of the custom Apple headphones.

New features include something called VoiceOver, where for the first time on an iPod Shuffle you can identify what or who you are listening to from a soothing male voice that comes directly from the iPod.

Yes...your iPod can now talk to you.

Personally, I'm not sold on this feature.  I make the playlists that load onto my old Shuffle, so I know it's music that I enjoy and can already identify on my own.  The name of the iPod is the "Shuffle", so you can conclude pretty quickly that its entire purpose is to randomly shuffle through what you loaded into it.  The whole thing just seems unnecessary.  It's a weak attempt at trying to give some kind of playlist control, without a display, to a unit that really doesn't require it.

Anyways, I'm harping on a feature that in my eyes (or ears) doesn't really matter.

What's the biggest reason for me not upgrading my old iPod Shuffle?  The controls being moved to the earbuds.  Currently, in order for this new iPod to work, you MUST use the custom Apple earbuds for this iPod.  It's the only way to get it to work, because they are the only ones with the controls.  Apple has said it is working with headphone makers to develop compatible earphones for the shuffle, but nothing else is on the market so far.  I don't know about most people, but Apple earbuds destroy my ears, and the quality isn't anything to brag about.  I'm in pain by the 3rd or 4th song, and want them out immediately.  I'm pretty particular about sound quality and comfort and have invested in Bose Tri-Port In-Ear Headphones for my mobile listening pleasure.  CNET doesn't give them the greatest review, but I think the sound from them is amazing and they are probably the most comfortable headphones I have ever used. 

I'm not very keen on the idea of replacing my favorite headphones (which cost more than the new $80 shuffle to begin with) with something sub-par just because Apple decided smaller is better. 

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