Thinkertry
“5-Hour Energy is Focus” Ad
Feb 19, 2014
Fun · Rant · Video

I’ve heard the audio version of this ad probably close to 100 times on Spotify, and I’m still dumbfounded by it.

What does this mean?

How to beat Flappy Bird
Feb 8, 2014

If this technique doesn’t work, try focusing your vision 1/2 inch in front of the bird rather than directly at the bird itself. I also tend to get farther when I think about something entirely different and don’t concentrate too much.

Also, despite making 50k/day, the game’s developer Dong Nguyen says that he’s taking the game down tomorrow because people are over-playing it. We’ll see how that goes.

How to fix your Razer Orochi’s mouse switches
Jan 9, 2014
DIY · Fun · Gaming
Orochi Repair Intro

Don’t be intimidated. It’s surprisingly easy.

I’ve been using a Razer Orochi mouse for the past two years with very little to complain about. The size is just right, the side buttons are great for switching between spaces in OS X, the sensitivity is perfect for Windows gaming, it doesn’t need a wireless USB dongle, and its Mac/Windows-compatible driver allows me to switch between “gaming” and “work” modes with a click of a side button. It’s a nice little mouse, despite its intimidating looks.

This post is really long, read the rest here »

It’s always 10:10 in watch ads
Dec 8, 2013
Design · Fun · Link · Tech · Video

Good observation by Brady Haran.

Rationalizing it:

  • Neither hand should be pointing downward (because down is just a bad thing psychologically)
  • The longer minute hand should be on the right (again, just psychological, it’s like we’re reading the watch’s face)
  • The hands should be mostly symmetrical to look clean
  • The hands should be readily discernible, which means they can’t be in a line (9:15 is out)
  • The hands should frame rather than cramp the logo near the top of the watch face (11:05 is out)
  • The thin and less important second hand can go wherever, so long as it doesn’t overlap one of the other hands (below 6 and 9 is common because it slightly balances out the long minute hand and doesn’t further crowd the top half of the watch face)

And that leaves 10:10, or somewhere thereabouts. Neat.

Google+ auto-awesome’d my first few weeks in college
Nov 14, 2013

As I was setting up my newly-repaired Nexus 7 today, Google+ informed me that it had gone ahead and made an Auto Awesome video compilation of some photos and video clips I took during my first few weeks in college. The result was too magical for me not to share.

The perfectly-timed drumming, the bull-riding, the seizure-inducing light show, the dramatic reappearance of the bull rider, the drunken first-person view of the laser party – all of it is gold, and probably funny only to me.

Thanks for the memories Google+.

Note: Please pardon the quality. All of this was taken on a 5 MP iPhone 4 camera back in 2011 which was only capable of 720p. Google also stabilized portions of the video (which explains the psychedelic waves) and it’s all compressed as well. Not the best video ever, but certainly the best one I’ve (kinda-sorta) made.

A big blob of blue dots
Oct 29, 2013

This incredibly cheesy video came up in one of my classes recently. It’s awkward and funny, yes, but it also proves a point.

Bad design choices (like making every moving object on a map blue) often seem painfully obvious, but they continue to be extremely common – especially in the world outside of consumer technology.

If good design principles & human factors aren’t taken into consideration when designing systems, well, the next thing you know a Cobra could be barreling in on you.

Windows 8.1: Get Your Google Back
Oct 23, 2013
Design · Fun · Future · News · Tech · Video

This is pretty funny, but (unfortunately) not at all surprising.

In Windows 8, any newly-installed app would automatically be pinned to the Start screen, just like Android and iOS.

In Windows 8.1, new apps are no longer pinned automatically – instead they’re placed in the “All Apps” section below the Start screen and given a little “NEW” indicator.

I admit that I’ve waited for a currently-installing app to appear on my Start screen on a few occasions since the upgrade, so I suspect this is tripping plenty of other people up as well.

I know “power users” quickly became sick of the behavior in Windows 8, but honestly I don’t think this should’ve been changed for their sake (they’re cranky no matter what happens). When you install an app, you typically want to try it right away; you don’t want to swipe down to “All Apps” and then pin it to Start from there – you want it to be pinned to Start automatically so you can just tap once and start playing around.

Unless I’m missing something, this behavior is pretty clearly wrong and should be changed back.

The one possible upside to this change is that certain desktop programs that pin a whole bunch of useless stuff when installed (i.e. Microsoft Office) don’t clutter things up anymore. This isn’t really an excuse for changing the behavior of “Metro” Windows Store apps, though, because those apps were restricted to placing only one tile in Windows 8 anyway.

I know personalization is an important thing in Windows 8/8.1 and the design team didn’t want to let ill-intentioned apps force their way into the Start Screen, but I don’t think Google made this video for (justified) laughs - something needs to change here.

iPhone 5S Ad: “Metal Mastered”
Oct 21, 2013
Fun · Link · News · Tech · Video

I liked the “Plastic Perfected” iPhone 5C ad, and I like this one too.

Well, two-thirds of it at least.

1) “slide to unlock” isn’t present on the iPhone’s screen starting at 0:19. I presume they did this to avoid distracting the viewer from the cool Touch ID feature they’re tying to show off, but I feel like they failed to properly demonstrate how Touch ID works anyway – an index finger seems to press the Home button (which is atypical), the screen unlocks, and that’s it. The typical viewer isn’t going to recognize what just happened.

*Update: iOS 7.0.3 released 10/22/2013 delays the display of “slide to unlock” when Touch ID is in use, so this is actually correct now.

2) Contributing to the ad’s failure to advertise Touch ID, the computer-chip-looking layer of the home button is only shown for a fraction of a second at 0:19. The casual viewer will just think the traditional Home button is sliding into place – not that there’s some serious tech behind the iPhone 5S’s button that makes it special.

The introductory trailer for the iPhone 5S from the Apple event showed off the significance of the new Home button a lot better. Multiple layers of computer chip-looking pieces fly into the hole, and that’s how you know there’s something smart about it – otherwise, nobody will know.

iPhone 5S Keynote Touch ID Sensor

I’m sure this ad’s target audience will read all about Touch ID in their magazines, but if this ad’s format couldn’t adequately advertise Touch ID then it shouldn’t have attempted to do so at all. Focus on the liquid gold and the clean hardware, just like the iPhone 5C ad did. Save Touch ID for another time.

3) The index finger that appears at 0:22 is way too wiggly – it moves around uncomfortably the entire time. When the scene cuts at 0:22:50 the finger also moves up closer to the screen than it was in the previous shot. It even goes over the bezel and on top of the screen for a moment. Isn’t that kinda weird? Apple fingers are typically perfect.

4) The icons that fly in at 0:23 are also way too jittery. It looks like frames are being skipped or something – the animation in this ad isn’t representative of the better reality. Why that’s the case? I don’t know, I’m just disappointed.

Anyway… I like it on the whole. The new gold iPhone is beautiful, premium, and lust-worthy: that message comes through loud and clear.

I expect a future iPhone 5S ad to demonstrate Touch ID more clearly than this ad does – not all hope is lost.

iPhone 5C Ads
Sep 21, 2013
Design · Fun · Future · News · Rant · Tech · Video

“Plastic Perfected” is great. Laffy Taffy-like goo calmly, slowly and patiently swirls into iPhone-shaped eye candy as the song perfectly concludes with “pick up the phone and ring ring, call ‘em up, tell ‘em ’bout the new trends.” Really nice and clean – particularly the banana purée. I’d really like to hold an iPhone 5C after seeing this ad, and that’s the whole point.

The 60-second “Designed Together” spot is a slightly tougher sell. Clearly the animators at Apple are very talented (see also: “Designed By Apple”) and they’ve succeeded in making a very fun and flashy promo for iOS 7 and the iPhone 5C. I like it, and I get it, but I’m not sure what the average TV viewer will get out of this (particularly without its subtitle).

The intended message seems to be that everything about the iPhone 5C and iOS 7, from the rounded corners to the color of each icon, seamlessly blend together because they were designed together. That’s great, but to me the combination of futuristic electro-pop, psychedelic colors, transforming shapes and fancy animations make me feel like I’m peering deep into the soul of Dribbble – where everything new is automatically great, and whoever disagrees obviously can’t recognize “good design” when they see it.

To me the ad seems to scream “NEW!” and “LOOK!” and “WE’RE DESIGNERS!” instead of respectfully demonstrating that iOS 7 has new look and feel to enjoy. Maybe if this were a shorter, 30-second spot with just the best parts included (no Game Center) then I would like it better, but for now it doesn’t sit quite right with me. It’s a little too… design snobbish.

The public’s awareness of what design is and why it’s important has never been greater. My fear is that by continuing to hit the public over the head with overly design-oriented ads like this, designers will (once again) be written off as hipster-like artists who’re obsessed with patting themselves on the back.

“Design” is increasingly being exploited as a whiz-bang marketing term when it’s actually a humble practice. If designers don’t fight to stop this trend, the public’s new-found respect for the field will be replaced with dismissive ire, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.

Looking back at CES 2012
Aug 27, 2013

This being the 8th month of 2013 and all, now seems like a great time to share what my experience was like on show floor of CES 2012. Sure, I could have published this back in February of last year like I had originally planned, but then it would’ve been swept up in all the post-CES noise and be quickly forgotten. That’s why I’m putting this up so late…

Here’s the video I uploaded on January 20th, 2012 (recorded on an iPhone 4 without any stabilization, sorry, I’m not The Verge) that I think does a decent job of conveying the feeling of being at CES:

Humongous hallways, rows and rows of shiny booths, screens everywhere, 3D stuff flying around, people dancing, robots – that’s the kind of stuff you see everywhere at CES, and if you ever find yourself going to Best Buy just to “see what’s new”, then you’d definitely enjoy attending sometime.

A few extra things to note that weren’t totally covered in the video:

1) The buildings are absolutely enormous

The booths and showrooms are sprawled across three enormous conference halls connected with similarly large hallways that share an equally big parking lot. According to Wikipedia it’s one of, if not the largest convention centers in the world with 8,000 m² of floor space (3,200,000 sq ft). That’s a lot of carpet to traverse, and by the end of the second day of nonstop standing your legs get pretty darn tired. Many booths start packing their things up by the middle of the third day – nobody feels like walking around at that point, and people have typically either already heard about or seen everything they came for.

2) It’s very flashy, but engineers are actually there

I saw more engineers than booth babes at the show, and that was actually a nice surprise. Walking among all the flashing lights and blaring speakers were the people who actually built the devices that would become available later in the year. A cool fellow I know over at the suspiciously similarly-named TinkerTry.com took full advantage of such a rare opportunity, and it’s definitely a great place to network and work on partnerships.

3) Everybody loves the press

Walking around CES with a “Press” badge around your neck is kinda like going to Six Flags with a Flash Pass. When you want to see or try something, you get to see or try the heck out of that something, especially if you brought a camera along with you. The event may be about “consumer” electronics, but the press are what attract so many vendors to Vegas each year (although the cheap iPhone case-makers in the back are usually just there to get purchased by sun glass-wearing Chinese manufacturing agents, who walk around looking for the most valuable pickups).

4) A lot of interesting presentations and talks happen

I didn’t expect to see anything other than a bunch of booths at CES, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that a lot of interesting talks and sessions go on in the rooms upstairs. One of the panels I attended was all about batteries and how we’ll charge them up in the future, which I mentioned in my wireless charging post a while back.

It’s neat being able to see and talk to so many people in the consumer tech industry in-person at one event, and I think that’s another reason why it’s so popular. At one point I was able to ask an OnLive employee why their iPad app was so delayed and watch him get frustrated as he hinted at Apple’s in-app purchase policies.

Here’s some video commentary if you’d like to read along while you watch:

00:00 – Looking at everything from a standing position doesn’t really do the size of this place justice. And yes, Beats Audio was there, although I don’t know what compelled me to point that out.

00:21 - Microsoft’s area was right next to Intel’s and looked very neat. It was kind of hard to care about the Windows 7 laptops they had on display with Windows 8 right around the corner, though.

00:43 – Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt did a few interviews at the event, defending the fragmentation of Android soon after the launch of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Those were the days when he was still saying a new creepy thing each month.

00:54 – Sometimes things go wrong during live demos, but when your latest unreleased product gets lost in the extremely high rafters it’s particularly funny.

01:24 – Ford’s booth was definitely a futuristic looker. The techno-bloop ambiance and robotic car were pretty nice, but then the annoyingly generic video started blaring on about “BLUETOOTH AUDIO!” and the car’s passenger side view mirror bounced like cheap rubbery plastic. I left soon after that.

02:14 – Engadget was there debating whether or not Windows Phone users would feel more more comfortable with Windows 8 (the “halo” effect that’s often noted about Apple products). The only person I recognized was Tim Stevens (who looked bored, and is now gone).

02:30 – A Kinect-powered skateboard was there. I never actually got to watch someone use it, but Engadget did.

02:44 – 3D, 4K and OLED were the big buzzwords of the event, and screens were absolutely everywhere.

03:01 – LG’s Magic Remote was a terrible piece of junk. This is probably the last time you’ll see a company attempt motion-based controls like this.

03:27 – Slicing 3D fruit with your hands is mildly interesting. I never saw the booth attendant again after Day 1 – she must have been ridiculously bored by Day 3.

04:01Gakai was still its own company back then, and honestly their demo was pretty impressive.

04:18 – You see a lot of random and weird stuff like this at CES. A mouse that doubles as an image scanner is neat, but with the desktop fading away I don’t think many people are interested in upgrading to a new and improved scanner mouse.

04:28 –  The demos of Windows 8 that Microsoft gave were pretty good and well-rehearsed, but they didn’t show off anything the press didn’t already know about.

04:53 – Nokia actually took the time to create fake demo content for their Windows Phones, and I loved that. Apple has been doing that in their stores for many years, and it was nice to see another company do the same. Nothing at Best Buy ever gives you as good idea of what the device would be like to actually use, and they’re only connected to the internet if you’re lucky. This was great, and it made the phone more fun to try out.

Also, listen to the Nokia guy in the background. Android devices were kinda like PCs at that time – it wasn’t until very recently that they’ve become even close to as fast and fluid as iOS (or Windows Phone) devices. The battery issues he notes are true of basically every phone out there, though – in my experience Windows Phones aren’t significantly better in that regard.

05:34 – I saw Josh Topolsky and Nilay Patel in-person at their ‘Arguing the Future’ supersession and sat next to Vlad Savov while he took photos. That was pretty neat.

06:19 – Intel’s booth was one of the first booths people saw when they entered the venue, and I have to say the glowing lights and screens overhead were pretty impressive. Their ultrabooks were all running Windows 7 though, which was kind of a bummer.

06:35 - Samsung’s marketing guy represented his company well…

06:49 – You see a lot of weird stuff in Vegas at night. During the day things are pretty normal (although everything looks fake and poorly-constructed) but at night the buildings all light up and people hand you dirty handouts at every corner.

07:05 – Let’s see if Frank Sinatra’s label decides to put an ad on my video. They haven’t so far.

07:38 – The Lumia 900 looked fully functional but the Nokia rep wouldn’t let anyone else hold it.

07:55 – The AR Drone 2.0 booth was very well-done, and demonstrated its product well.

08:21 – My town’s annual Corn Fest has a similar foot-powered guy, except he’s an obese cookie who tries to grab your hand.

08:28 – The MakerBot and 3D printing in general was an up-and-coming movement at that point, though I can’t say their booth was particularly exciting to look at.

08:40Ubuntu’s Unity television UI was actually pretty decent and seemingly faster than the Apple TV. The video-scrubbing UI was a noticeable improvement but not quite perfect. I suspect the next Apple TV’s scrubbing UI will look similar.

09:28 –  Liquipel’s competitor NeverWet ended up falling a bit short of expectations.

09:37 – Yup, a guy in a robot suit making people laugh. Lots of stuff like that.

10:01 – The nearly imperceptible screen lag of 3M’s multitouch display felt way better than any tablet I’ve used. Taking notes with a stylus will feel a whole lot better whenever this makes its way into the iPad.

10:45 – I don’t know.

11:05 – The Fulton Innovations booth is what got me so excited about Qi. The magazine idea isn’t a good one (think of all the wasted copper) but I like the possibilities of Qi and similar tech. There are still many benefits of wired options like Lightning, though.

13:03 – By the end of Day 2 you feel a lot like that Sphero ball falling off the ramp.

13:13 – LG’s enormous 3D show was pretty cool to watch (but their Magic Remote was still crap).

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