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

Computer Hardware

Trackballs: Ultimate On-screen Freedom and Off-screen Comfort

August 26, 2008

I'm a trackball man. I don't know how it happened or when exactly, but if I can avoid a mouse or a touch pad, I will. A lot of what I do for work and fun on a computer is graphics-related. There is nothing more annoying than running out of mouse pad and/or desk space when trying to finish a pen or brush stroke in Adobe Creative Suite, which is part of why I abandoned the mouse altogether.    Thumb- or finger-trackballs are all fine with me.

Dell Makes an Attempt at Style

October 7, 2008

Everyone I know used to owned a Dell.  I think I've owned 3 or 4 in the past 10 years.  But Dell took a tumble a few years back, and lost their commanding grasp on the market.   I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that they were the ugliest option on the market for a while.

In the computer world, features and performance should be the most important things to consider when purchasing a new machine...

Halloween, Jack O' Lanterns, and Robots?

October 30, 2008

It's almost Halloween and you need a Jack O' Lantern to greet the kid's.  You're terrible at carving and you have no design skills. So what to do?

I've found your solution.  For the meager price tag of $1,575.00 (plus shipping) you can own your very own robot that will do it for you in a bout 20 minutes time!

Lumenlab has found a new use for their DIY CNC RoGR Gantry Robot...



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.

3D is Making a Comeback

January 2, 2009

It's been over 50 years since the Golden Era of 3D in theaters that began in 1952 with the release of Bwana Devil, the first stereoscopic feature film. Since then the 3D industry has had a few revivals and lulls, and has been carried along as a novelty in IMAX theaters... but now it seems it may see a permanent place in the entertainment world, and soon our own homes.

On January 8th, college football fans will be able to view the 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship in 3D in select theaters. It will be the first time a sports show has been filmed in 3D.  The NBA All-Star Saturday Night will also be offered in 3D on February 14th.

Following the success of 3D versions of kid films over the past year,  four leading studios will be backing the conversion of 10,000 screens to digital, making 3D movie offerings more of a staple in the film industry.  With large HD televisions steadily dropping in price, and Blu-ray seeming to do well this holiday season, film studios are looking for anything to coax viewers out of their home and back into the theaters.

Regarding home use of 3D, European satelite TV provider Sky tested a new 3D television service in London on December 18th.  The 3D television service is said to be available through existing HD infrastructure next year and not require the purchase of new set-top boxes (you will need 3D glasses though).

We've also now seen the introduction of the world's first 3D webcam by Minoru.







GEDC Sets a New Wireless Standard

January 23, 2009

I personally get very excited when I read about new steps in wireless technology.  I own a lot of gadgets, a lot of media hardware, and a lot of computers. With all of that comes a large electric bill and worse yet... a lot of wires. They're everywhere, they're a pain to keep organized and to hide, and they keep my gadgets confined to restricted areas.  I dream of the day when every gadget I own is wireless.  According to a report from ScienceDaily, my dreams may be approaching reality.

The Georgia Electronic Design Center (GEDC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has developed a new chip design that promises wireless functionality for ultra-fast media applications.  The new Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) chip is capable of transmitting 60 GHz digital Radio Frequency (RF) signals.  The chip "represents the highest level of integration for 60GHz wireless single-chip solutions."

What does this mean?  Multi-gigabit wireless technology is the next step for new wireless applications.  Consumers and IT markets alike will benefit from this new technology.



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.