Fewer than 500 words...

Old tech beats new tech

Sometimes it's the old tech that works best. After an incident a client called me to their home to export video from their security system for the police. I don't normally do that kind of work, but they hoped not to have to give the police their DVR and they didn't want to call the security company back in.

I spent a few minutes looking over the control software (PC only, of course) and the manual and began an export of the relevant time period. I gave the parameters in 24 hour time as the entire system used it, but the resulting footage was nighttime and the incident was daytime. I switched to 12 hour time and got daylight, but it wasn't the period I was looking for. Since the first error had shown that time was not properly registering, I wondered about days and exported the time period from the days before and after the incident, but still didn't get what I was looking for.

Finally, I noticed a lamppost... Sure, at night it provides illumination, but by day it just sits there, acting for the all world like...

The value of user interface design

Designing a user interface is something most people who use devices in general and computers specifically don't usually consider, so before we look at what I'm hoping to show, a quick word about how user interface impacts your life.

Think for a second about driving your car on a familiar road. Directly ahead of you a parked car begins to move into traffic! Without needing to think about it, you slam your hand on the center of the steering wheel to honk the horn and alert the driver.

So let's think about honking the horn. I don't know of a car sold in this country today that doesn't have its horn on the steering wheel, and I'll bet you don't either, because that's where the horn is, right? You know the interface of your car very well, and it probably feels natural, normal, and as it should be to find the horn right there.

Good thing you weren't driving a European car. Many European cars have the horn on the turn signal stalk! I'm not suggesting that this represents good or bad user interface design, I'm saying that interface design can become almost invisible to the end user. When you rent a car in another city in the US you have a very reasonable expectation that you'll rent a car that has its horn right where you expect it, this isn't information you'll need to re-learn.

What is the iPad?

So much media attention and fuss has been generated over the introduction of Apple's iPad that it's hard to focus on what the device really is. Many pundits make comparisons with existing computers, and then draw a connection to the price point of the iPad to suggest that the iPad competes with Netbooks in the market. My opinion is that kind of thinking misses the mark.

The iPad is not a traditional computer. It does some traditional computer things, sure, but mostly its about defining a new way of doing the things a computer does, while making the computer part of the equation fade into the background. The iPad doesn't want to be another computer in your life, it wants to be the life in your computer.

Forget about any of the traditional concepts of maintenance on the computer, forget about backups, forget about endless patches and upgrades, forget about incompatibilities, forget about synchronizing data, forget about all those computer things and instead focus on the work and play you use a computer for.

Solutions Consulting - 310-838-5224 or benlevy@rockinbeat.com