Monday, June 25, 2007

Kids and Sticks

Originally uploaded by SquidgeyFlint
We went to an appreciation picnic this past weekend for my boy's second grade teacher. Even knowing how much kids like sticks, we parents were surprized when we saw them drag this branch out of the bushes. Normally I'd be worried about this but the branch was heavy enough that they needed at least 4 kids to carry the thing. They were so slow with it that they couldn't chase anybody down. They tried of course but were too slow and uncoordinated. Once they figured out how how to up-end the thing -- like a flagpole -- then we had to intervene. That would hurt, getting squished by that big branch falling down.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Cell phones are technolgoy that we take for granted. Yet 15 years ago they were still very expensive and rare. Once the prices came down on both the hardware and the service, the super-fast adoption rate is a key indicator of the chell phone's "just right" technology. In case you remember what cell phones used to look like, here's a nice retrospective image set from It was only about 10 - 12 years ago that phones got to the order of small that we know them today and that was still bigger than what we'd consider average today.

I would go a step farther to say that cell phones really turned out to be an enabling technology. The wide-ranging wireless network that cell phones are based on has grown and expanded to support an increasing volume of data transaction as well. This trend will clearly continue and cell phone like personal devices -- will be everywhere had by everyone.

They clearly still have a ways to go with the interface but they are getting better. I think the Apple iPhone is the start of the next generation of personal devices. I do have to say however that I like the current form factor of the small flip-phone and don't like the form-factor of the iPhone for being a phone. As a UMPC, the form factor is interesting and the multi-touch display is definitely trend setting.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Add-on GPS units are another example of technology that just makes sense and provides such a valuable service that it's easy to become dependant upon it.

Earlier this week I went up to Redmond for an after work Microsoft Playtest. Since traffic can be highly variable I choose to potentially be hungry instead of late. I got there with enough time to spare to find food. Fortunately, I had my trusty GPS with me and asked it to tell me what food was nearby. It couldn't've been easier to get food and get back in far less time than had I just started driving around looking for stuff. I'd've definitely got lost. After the Playtest was over, I needed some fuel, so score another one for the GPS.

While GPS units are still pricey, these are definitely going to go the route of power windows and anti-lock brakes -- eventually coming standard on every car. The touch screens are easy to use and while the quality of the user interfaces can vary, they're all easy enough to use. The real value here (besides the core functionality) is the built-in database of businesses. That are many other pluses but being able to do things like hit the button for 'GAS' and have it show you all the gas stations near by, closest ones first, is an awesome use of personal technology.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Good design and good technology

I'm a generally old dude and in my lifespan I've seen a lot of change in technology... maybe not as much as my parents but it's still pretty impressive. Compare 4 VHF channels with an audio signal remote control to 500 channels of Satellite TV via an integrated Tivo (DirecTivo).

Tivo is a great example of a technology so well placed and well designed that once you have it, you can't imagine life without it. The MrsSquidgeyFlint thought I was buying some techy gadget / stereo equipment kind of thing. It didn't take her long to become so comfortable with the concept that she couldn't imagine life without it -- like when we'd go visit her parents in CT.

Tivo's greatness hits on two fronts:
  1. It's such a simple and obvious idea that you can't believe you didn't think of it.
  2. The interface design was easy enough to figure out and remember.

While bungling either of these elements can sink an idea, I'd say that if you can only have one, you need the first option - the simple, obvious idea. "What if you could record TV without having to mess around with tapes. What if you didn't have to worry about what time your show was coming on? What if you could pause live TV. What if you could rewind to hear that last little bit again?

You could already do most of this with a VCR except that it was a lot of work... and hard to do. And then you had to mess around with all those tapes... and you had to get the times right. And then you had to swap tapes to make sure you didn't record over shows you hadn't watched yet. Tivo took that all and made it super easy to do with a simple set-top box, virtually no setup, no maintenance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fun stuff on

I work @ amazon and it seems like every week I find something new and interesting that we sell. Take this Hello Kitty Bowling Ball for example. It looks like it comes in 2 sizes. 6 lb and 16 lb. I thought 8 lb was the lightest ball made. What I really find amusing is the 16 lb ball. That's the heaviest "size" of bowling ball and at least back when I was bowling regularly, you didn't see many women throwing 16 lb balls.

Then there's this dummy hand grenade that I found last week while looking into an issue in the Sporting Goods store.

The creme de la creme of course is the well known JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank. You should definitely check out the customer reviews. Who knew that the JL421 would be so popular?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Goodbye, hello

I originally setup a space over at b/c MSN Messenger assumed I had one there and there were some built-in widgets to pull xbox live stuff like my GamerCard and my last played games.

Recently I decided that I want to start actively blogging (again really -- the first time was way back in 1995 before the term was coined) and in trying to get the MS place set up nicely was hard.

To me it looks like they want to be more like MySpace and less of a blog spot. That makes them heavy and hard to use. Too many widgets. Too much dynamic in browser stuff for editing. It's hard to find a simple html widget to try and hook in things like a