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

Computer Software

Verizon Redeems Itself with 4.7.0.148

June 5, 2009

If you read this blog semi-frequently, you know about my love / hate relationship with my BlackBerry Storm.  I'm normally fairly quick at announcing my reaction to the latest releases regarding this phone, but I purposely did not announce the release of BlackBerry Storm OS 4.7.0.148 last Sunday.

Why you ask?  Because I don't trust Verizon anymore, and I didn't want to suggest downloading anything that could drive a BlackBerry Storm user closer to launching this phone off a cliff.  I wanted to put in a few days of testing and see if this really is the update we were all waiting for. 

Time to Abandon the BlackBerry Storm?

May 15, 2009

I've been a strong supporter of  the BlackBerry Storm since it's announcement last year, but it may be time for me to cut my loses.  I expected a buggy phone with it being the first generation model.  But... I also expected RIM and Verizon to fix said bugs with OS updates. 

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. 











Google Latitude is Just a Bad Idea

February 19, 2009

For those of you not on the up and up with Google Latitude, it's a free application that works with Google Maps and basically allows mobile users with GPS to upload their exact location to friends, family, and anyone else they allow.

Google has recently released a new version of Google Maps that now supports GPS for BlackBerry which includes the Google Latitude application.  I decided to try it out with my Verizon BlackBerry Storm and after about 30 seconds of letting everyone know where I was, I freaked out and turned it back off.

I'm addicted to my BlackBerry now, but it took a lot for me to finally upgrade to a smartphone.  I like being accommodating but not instantly and entirely accessible.  Even with those feelings, I can currently be found with my BlackBerry Storm by calling, text, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, BlackBerry Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook, and E-mail me at 4 different accounts.  I admit, it's a bit much, and I find myself living in this phone.

The times I don't want to be found... I ignore that flashing red LED.  But, with Google Latitude I won't have that luxury.  If I don't pick up, I could potentially find that persistent (and now forever creepy) person tapping me on the shoulder minutes later.  I've got enough common sense to not allow questionable people to have my GPS fix in the first place, but sometimes you don't realize who the creeps are until they do something pretty creepy.  What's that quote you always hear on the news from the old lady who lived next to the mass murderer?  Something like, "He was such a nice man. Very normal...





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.



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.







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.







Songbird 1.0 puts media playing innovation in your hands

December 2, 2008

Songbird is a highly customizable alternative to traditional desktop media players.  This open source application is powered by Mozilla, and launched today with "dozens of integrated services, hundreds of add-ons, and a growing developer platform."

Although I was just fine using iTunes, I have to admit that Songbird has some interesting features that add a lot more to the functionality of a desktop media player.  The new mashTape service allows you to discover Flickr photos, YouTube videos, last.fm biographies, Google news, and more for the artist currently playing.  It also provides SHOUTcast radio for streaming music, and event listings powered by Songkick  that shows you when your bands are on tour while you listen to them.

The initial layout is very similar to iTunes (at least to me), but with all of the customizable add-ons I could see how this application could become a very personal extension of ones self, much like my Firefox browser.

Although this app certainly has potential, I don't think iTunes has anything to worry about just yet.





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".

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...



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