Category Archives: Uncategorized

Design neutrality and why Google Chrome rocks

Last week, I gave Microsoft’s new browser a shake, now it’s time to look at the competition. There is a lot else to like about Google’s new browser. But this, this is my favorite feature:

chrome.PNG

Why does (almost) every product google touches, feel so refreshingly natural to use? A significant part of their competitive advantage comes from an enormous, if invisible, effort of design restraint.

Not trying to make your product always the centre of attention, getting the hell out of the user’s way, is a product design decision that many of us could learn from. And it’s a lesson than certain OS makers, for example (here’s looking at you Redmond & Cupertino, can continue to ignore at their peril.

The design principle of neutrality doesn’t mean less features (Under the hood, Chrome is pretty feature rich for a first generation browser). Just not pestering users with popups they can’t understand, not painting window wrappers and task bars in garish and distracting colors is a good start.

Most of the products we build are tools, they are a means for the user not an end. In most ways good usability is all about reducing all sources of mechanical, perceptual and cognitive friction. If you can get a design to a point where users can instinctively ignore it, that probably means you are doing a good job.

For this an other reasons (also notable the wonderful built-in tab/task manager), Google chrome is now the main browser on our home pc.

You can get google chrome here. (windows only at this point)

previously on design neutrality on thomaspurves.com

link: Google Chrome explanatory cartoon (it’s a great read)

The puppy has landed

Somebody toss this ball for me?

Meet silver. More pics here and here. Regular updates to this and other blogs may be irregular as I’ve developed a new pastime of spending nearly every non working, waking moment chasing an 8 week old furry ball of terror around the house, when Michele isn’t doing the same. Ah… the joys of the impossibly cute puppy, gnawing “playfully” on my foot. Rawr.

Puppy visitations welcome, call ahead. Silver loves to meet new humans. Especially if they taste okay.

Reminder: DemoCamp18 on the way. July 15th Toronto

Tom Purves Democamp17

DemoCamp Details:

  • When: Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 from 17:30 to 21:00
  • Where: Supermarket, 268 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
  • Registration can be done here

Sponsor tickets and the first tranche of free tickets are sold out but there are still plenty of cheap supporter and community allstar tickets remaining (you know what to do). Get a ticket while you can, it’s a big space but will no doubt sell out.

Here is the link if you would like to present at democamp18.

enjoy!

photo of yours truly at democamp17,by Pema Hagan
Many more DemoCamp action shots here.

Back in town, almost recombobulated

DSC_0364

Sorry for the lack of posts and general lack of comments around here, I was in a better place. Just now getting caught up on emails, posts, ideas and a lot of work to catch up on. If I haven’t responded to you, I should by the end of the day.

As a side note, it turns out we noticed there’s wifi all about the British Virgin Islands. Tall mountains and long horizons being, as you might guess, fairly optimal for wireless signal propagation. So you can signal from the deck of your boat either through edge/3G/Wifi from the deck your boat.

But it’s really hard to want to turn it on. Which may (maybe?) explain why the hell it is we work from wherever we do, instead of someplace like this.

This photo by David Anders [more]

Trouble at the video store

I don’t think Michele will be taking me to the video store again. Just too much trouble. All stemming from incident a few weeks back. I hadn’t been to one in years, but an evening of unlikely desperation found us at the local blockbuster-esque corner video store. What surreal and bewildering experience. I recommend not visiting to a music or video store for 3-5 years then suddenly trying it again. Trippy.

One immediately strange thing you’ll notice is that some shelves would be taken up with 10 or twenty boxes containing the exact same movie. Meanwhile lots of other perfectly good movies that I seem to remember weren’t anywhere in the store at all. I don’t know why, but there didn’t seem to be any option to download or transfer in any of these movies from some central archive.

It was hard to choose a movie. First there was the limited selection problem, and then for some reason I wasn’t able to tell just from looking at the shelves if my friends had seen any of these movies, which ones they might recommend, get a tomatometer score, or even google-up some independent reviews of them. hmmm.

Finally though, after some deliberation, I pick one out. No you can’t rent that she tells me. Why not? It’s out. What do mean it’s out? Somebody else has it, the disc has left the store. I don’t understand. How can’t you understand? Well I have money and I want to rent this one, why can’t the guy at the front just burn me another copy? [big sigh] Tom, you know it doesn’t work that way.

Perfectly digital media stuck on individual spinning discs. What a crazy business model. How would you ever explain it to your grandkids?

“The internet is always great, until the marketers come in and ruin everything”

Sometime in November 2007, facebook hit a wall. We know that traffic to the site took a dip in dec/jan as students delved into exams and headed home for Christmas break. But why aren’t they coming back? Searches for facebook have flatlined (note that many users use the google box like an address box).

Could facebook have done a better job of introducing apps and social adds with without flatlining what had been a lovely and long-running exponential growth curve? If so/not Did they pick the right point to cash in on their established audience?

Look at the last quarter of growth rather than the previous 3 years. That audience is worth something. But is that growth curve still worth 15 billion?

A warning signal for social network builders and would-be “lets get an audience first and worry about the revenue model later”. Does your grand monetization strategy fundamentally change the value proposition, feeling and experience that you built your audience on in the first place?

File under I Can’t Has Cake and Monetize it Too

Who doesn’t appreciate a delicious sandwich?

Jody Sugrue
My old friend and recent-torontonian Jody Sugrue (portfolio) has launched a new design blog Eating Sandwiches. You may now add it to your reader.

For an unusual project, she is also looking for people to contribute pictures taken at exactly 10:15 a.m. This is much harder than you think. I have thus far forgotten to take a picture at exactly 10:15am for approximately 17 consecutive days (and counting).

photo by Bary Choi

Joshua & Gwendolyn at eTech this year

I’m super excited that my friends Joshua Kauffman and Gwendolyn Floyd will be presenting presenting at ETech this year. And presenting something really cool too.

All the while, barely 1 in 1000 people have access to the Internet in a form recognizable to the average connected person. Mobile phones are nearly as absent from the technological mix. In Trinidad de Cuba, one hustler proudly showed off his mobile phone to us, though it didn’t even have a service provider…

… What will happen when a cultured, literate, hyper-social people get access to the Internet for the first time? How will their virgin experiences and experimentations impact the rest of the world? Cubans teach us to strip away layers of plastic, metal, and code to the root of what technology is, and what it has always been. From a people that have been greatly anticipating the future—any future—we’ll be left with clues for the promising technologies of our own near future by looking at recent progress and universal lessons in the Cuba of today. “

More on the official Etech pageOf Necessity and Humanity: What Cuba Can Teach Us About Ourselves and Our Own Technology.

Gwen and Joshua will also using the exposure from ETech to help

File under wonderfuly bright minds of our generation.

Thank you Air Canada (and Aeroplan)

It`s not so often you read a positive rant about anyone`s national airline on teh blogs. But, thank you Air Canada (and Aeroplan), for changing my ticket at the gate. I had a points ticket from Toronto to Munich to Geneva, and with very little notice, and no reason you had to, you found me a seat on the direct Toronto to Zurich instead so my girlfriend and I could share the same flight. So that was a different ticket on a different overseas flight to a different country even. And you gave me $80 back because fewer connections mean fewer taxes. How awesome is that?

Now two days, one scenic train ride, and a day hitting the slopes of Mont Blanc later, Michele and I are in Geneva, everybody’s gathering and Lift08 is about to begin.

Aside: There Will Be Blood. mini review

there will be bloodThere’s actually not that much blood, in there will be blood. But it’s awfully menacing nonetheless. I came out with this feeling as to why people *really* want this to be a Great Movie, to win an Oscar if not all of them. To give the film meaning. If you’ve seen it, you desperately want it to have some real meaning because, the consequences, otherwise, are troubling.

On the surface, There Will be Blood is a movie about the evils of capitalism vs the evils of evangelicalism (no third options are presented). Great liberal hot buttons to be sure, but there’s no actual debate as to the actual merits/demerits of these ideas as this is a movie about characters (two monstrous, screen chewing characters) not about ideas. This is debating by critiquing the person rather than the idea. The notion of this movie as constructive social commentary falls through.

What’s more PT seems to be saying that should you fall in to one camp you may be pleasant on the surface but, fundamentally, you are creepy, maniacal and flawed human being. Should you fall in to the other camp, you may be pleasant on the surface but, fundamentally, you are creepy, maniacal and flawed human being. Not second option is presented.

There is only one character in this movie, Plainview and the preacher are the same. All other characters are little more than scenery in There Will be Blood, consistently represented with no effective free will of their own.

In PT’s world, all people are either evil, or inconsequential. Pick one.

This is why the movie cries out for validation on some/any other basis. Critics want it to represent a valid and relevant social allegory, or failing than to stand as solely a Great example of acting and film-making craft

Because if, in your mind, you can’t safely compartmentalize it as a Great Film then you’d have to consider this film, like the character of Plainview himself, as nothing more than an adept but otherwise sad –if not crazed- extended, bitter embodiment of the patheticism of you and me every other ordinary human.

And that could get under your skin.

For the record, I liked No Country for Old Men a little better.

Link: theatrical trailer

AMD reports tonight, how bad will it be?

Poor AMD, I’ve been following and trading in this company for nearly a decade. If there’s one thing that always (has) been true about this company it’s that they always come back – and then blow it all away again.

AMD is down a staggering %85 from their highs two years ago when the Athlon64 was king of the world and INTC couldn’t seem to do anything right. Since then it’s been all the reverse. Intel finally took the worst CPU architecture they ever designed, the Pentium4 off the street and shot it.

In the last 2 years Intel has been executing like clockwork with a blitzkrieg of “Core” architectural releases, tick, tock every six months frequencies go up a notch, power comes down, performance per cycle goes up, cache and number of cores is doubled and so on.

AMD meanwhile has gotten the wrong end of almost every single strategic decision they have made in the meantime. AMD switched sockets to AM2 and new memory type DDR2 in a move that offered no performance increase and orphaned the upgrade path of millions of installed machines (2 years later, enthusiasts with the old s349 socket are upgrading en mass to intel machines as they have to replace their motherboards or the whole system anyway).

AMD’s process engineers failed on the transition to 65nm designs, yielding chips that were slower and with little power advantages. To this day, AMD’s fasted chips are still built on their venerable, but ancient, 90nm process while Intel’s latest are build on 45nm a full two process generations ahead (as with the venerable Moore’s law, each process generation allows roughly a doubling of transistor density at the same cost of production so you can see AMD’s disadvantage here).

Then AMD paid waaaay too much for an acquisition of Canada’s ATI, paying 5 billion, in cash, at a time when AMD’s balance sheet was already strained. Stockholders are waiting for massive writedowns on this purchase to be announced today. Unfortunately the crippling interest charges on the outstanding debt AMD wrote to finance the purchase is not so easily swept away.

Then AMD screwed up Barcelona/Phenom. Phenom was to AMD’s coup de grace for Intel for late 2006, a truly native quad-core processor with an architecture Intel couldn’t match. It turns out, they gambled on an architecture more advanced than was within their reach. And then it was delayed 6 months. and expectations for launch frequencies were managed downwards. And then it was delayed again and frequencies were going to be a little lower. And then it was launched in Sept 2007. in limited quantities. Then the mainstream parts were delayed another quarter. Then the fasted chip was withdrawn the night before the launch. Then a bug was found in the silicon. Manufacturing cycles being what they are, AMD expects fully working 65nm to be back out sometime midway through this year at 2.5GHz, with faster 45nm parts sometime by 2009.

AMD’s market cap is now near 3.8B, the whole company now worth much less than it paid for ATI just a year and half ago. Though, ironically, the ATI component could be the one brightspot in the results tonight.

Somehow though, they will bounce back. Without AMD, INTC has a total monopoly on the chip business, and no one, not even INTC (for the regulatory scrutiny it might attract) wants that. I predict that someone will come to the rescue.

And when they do, replacing the CEO would be a good start. Shareholders should be braying for Hector’s head. Meanwhile as far as solving for the macro strategy ahead, a simple rubrick WWHD-LDWTEO (what would hector do, lets do whatever the exact opposite) wouldn’t be a bad way to start.

disclosure: I am currently long Intel and neither long nor short AMD. Both stocks are trading near 52-week lows.

Technologies to look forward to in 2008

  1. A truly portable subnotebook from apple.
  2. SSD flash storage in laptops, for portables with lighter weight, longer battery and fewer fragile moving parts (see also #1)
  3. 9000 series blackberries (because the 8000 series were already really nice
  4. 3G iphones
  5. A service pack for Vista (short of something involving and axe and a woodshed, SP1 will have to do for now)
  6. Intel’s silverthorn, montevina and menlow platforms and all the powerful and connected goodness of devices that might bring. These could be as big as Centrino was for the laptop market 4 years ago
  7. GPS in everything
  8. Google’s Android phones
  9. Affordable mobile broadband in Canada (one can always dream)

Which gadgets and technologies are you looking forward to?

Your Indie-Punk-Ass Christmas Mix is back up [edit/repost/fixed** etc.]

It is with some pride that I can tell you that my famous indie-punk-ass christmas mix is back up*. Just this time of year, you want that festive joy, but maybe you’re a little sick of the classic versions and need to shake up christmas a little. Each of these tunes are certified awesome. You can check it out over on the podcast page. Scroll down just a bit, originally posted last Christmas.

enjoy!

*I had to take down my hosted music for a few weeks as I was getting hammered on bandwidth from mp3 blogs and other leechers. Long story. But as of today, the links are all back live again.

** sigh, this note originally posted before Christmas but posted as a wordpress “page” instead of a “post” by some kind of accident. Anyway fixed for posterity in case you’d like some Christmas music after Christmas is already done with but for the fading light of boxing day over the pine trees. Amazingly a few hundred of you managed to find the tunes anyway in a seasonal fashion if my bulging server logs are anything to go by.

A Clever Disguise

Rawr

We’re changing our appearance over here at thomaspurves.com. Those (most) of you on rss haven’t even noticed, but anyone browsing the old fashioned way will be noticing a lot of visual and layout changes. Please bear with and forgive intermittent ugliness other wierdness. Still a lot of work to do on different blocks of this theme over the next few days. Or weeks.

Photo by Michele Perras. Rawr.

Flight

I love the French word for liftoff décollage – literally to unglue the aircraft from the tarmac.
As though this whole matter of gravity had just been an issue of so much children’s glue stuck to the bottoms of our shoes all this time.

To land the recollage.

Ladies and gentlemen, patiently return your tray tables and seatbacks to their regular position while our captain carefully re-glues the aircraft to the ground.

As Douglas Adams once said, flying is simple, it’s just a matter of throwing yourself at the ground and missing.

Need a job?

Everyone seems to hiring these days. A few posting that have crossed my inbox this week:

# Online Banking/Retail Banking Senior Analyst & Consultant, Aite Group (They do good work), Boston or virtual

# Web/eMarketing Specialist and Webmaster at Infoway which is a Canadian Heath Records/Info sort of company thanks Jyotika

# Meanwhile Navantis is hiring a Project Manager and so is Kaboose

See also David Crow’s Exhaustive TechJobs feed