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

Computer Software

Is Flash really the best option for web advertising?

September 11, 2008

 Flash technology provides a much richer experience than an animated .gif or static image for the user when utilized in web advertising.  It contains in it the technology to enable multiple functionalities, which can bring the experience of an entire website to the user with just one impression.  Forms, games, product features, etc. can all be experienced without leaving the current website.

Big is Small with On2 VP8

September 16, 2008

On2 Technologies, a leading provider in video compression solutions, has just introduced it's latest generation proprietary video compression format, VP8.

VP8 has been designed with 40 new innovations to the well established technologies used in previous generations. It provides the functionality to lower the cost of encoding by enabling greater throughput through its computational efficiency.  VP8 encodes in realtime on low end machines, and takes fewer cycles to decode than other leading algorithms.

Using VP8 as your web-video compression codec, you can potentially experience huge savings in bandwidth and storage costs without jeapordizing video quality. VP8 can deliver the same video-quality in 1/2 the bandwidth of existing implementations of H.264 advanced video compression.

Read more about the release of VP8 here.

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.

Nine Inch Nails Melds Music, Technology, and Design

October 24, 2008

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails wanted to get into the use of visuals to frame his music on stage to create an "organic" performance.  He calls it an interactive way to "use video as an instrument."

The Lights and Sky Tour features Trent and 4 band members on an elaborate stage where they control video loops and computer effects at will.  The company that brought this all of this together is the Moment Factory based in Montreal.  The company, which is mostly know for its work with Cirque du Soleil, was founded in 2001 to create "visual environments, mixed media entertainment, and multi-platform content".

During approximately half of the concert, the work of the Moment Factory is on display,  and half of that is interactive.

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...

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".

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.

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.

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.

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.

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