Sunday, February 25, 2007


No matter how I say this I'm going to come off as a pompous prick and an Apple zealot. This really has nothing to do about Apple and all to do about product design so here goes.

The link is to an article about a new laptop design by Samsung for their Aurora model. Before I go on let me give kudos to Samsung for a great effort. This is a very nice laptop design; right up there with the Toshiba Qosmio series. If anything I find the Qosmio even sexier than the Aurora. I tend not to bash a company that is at least trying to embrace industrial design; especially when they're in the learning stages.

The author of this article though I think needs a lesson in aesthetics.

But now the Samsung design team has pushed the boat out and created the new Aura series of notebooks, which look set to go head to head with Apple’s ultra-stylish MacBooks.
The first Aura out of the gates will be the R20, which Samsung will be officially announcing next week. The R20 really does look the business with its glossy black finish and minimalist styling.


I would say the R20 is the epitome of Rocotechno design*. There are numerous conflicting lines and curves ornamenting** the laptop's profile. There is a very prominent latch mechanism. There is no attempt to conceal the various ports to blend with the ID (Industrial Design) of the laptop. Rather, each port is prominently displayed in a way that pronounces its unique shape and distinguishes it from all the other ports. Samsung felt that people were comfortable enough to understand that USB ports where still USB ports even though they were black. By the same nature, why are the consumers of this laptop NOT smart enough to know that the D-Sub 15 port is for an external monitor; why the PC '97 blue colour coding when there aren't even any serial ports.

ASSIDE: I like to use the example of when I was a kind I used to play with this toy that had you stick pieces of a certain shape (square, star, moon, circle) into holes that matched that shape. Toddlers are doing this with PC peripherals now. When you remove the element of fear of technology you allow the natural mechanisms of learning by interacting with our environment to kick in. Consumers are slowly coming more an more from the generation of digital natives so why no embrace that in our designs.

I'm not necessarily saying there's anything wrong with ID that is not minimalist (though in many cases it tends to be my preference simply because I am a romantic modernist at heart). Just don't call something minimalist when it isn't

In fact, if you placed it next to a black MacBook you’d be forgiven for thinking that they share the same DNA. That said, you could say the same about a Nintendo DS Lite!

Come again? If you don't know anything about art, art history, aesthetics, or product design then please don't talk about it as if you do! The article would have had much more merit if the author would have left it at the nice technical specs and a note that he thought the laptop was pretty and stylish and given a kudos to Samsung for joining the growing number of manufacturers that are concerned with the aesthetics of their products.

*As far as I know I just invented the term Rocotechno (Rococo + Techno) and I think I like it.
** I use ornamenting in the pejorative sense here. Added visual complexity but useless in function.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reflections; cybernetics and augmented living

I was just browsing some of the products offered by Jabra and it hit me; cybernetics is going to be one of those quick and quiet revolutions. Ten to fifteen years from now we won't know what hit us and our value systems won't have adapted at all because we won't have seen it coming. It reminds me of the frog swimming in boiling water analogy.

In particular I was looking at the Flash promo for one of their new headsets: the JX10. It starts out like a nice piece of promotional techno-fetishism although I don't particularly like the design of this piece for a few reasons that I won't get into.

Right about when they show the man and woman both wearing the headset I'm assuming the goal was to invoke feelings of a sexual nature to make the desire for the headset stronger (a rather common practice). The image invoked a completely different emotion in me; a glimpse of how we will embrace being cyborgs without ever realizing what we are getting into until it's too late.

I suppose to put things into perspective there are a few really good TED talks:

I'm at odds with my feelings on this one. I'm morally against full blown human cyborg augmentation for similar reasons that I'm against doping in sports; it's a slippery slope and then if you even want to stand a fighting chance you need to jump on board to. At the same time I'm more than OK and probably would be an early adopter of most of the products and social phases that would form the stepping stones to that possible future.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Longing for the end of University


This post won't have much techno-design content but bear with me.

If a day like yesterday can't help me break out of a SAD cycle I don't know what can.

Waterloo this time of year can be really hard on the soul. It's my first Canadian winter in 2 years; I was in California at the VMware head office all of last winter. Let me tell you can get used to a winter in Silicon Valley really fast. To make matters worse Waterloo had a crappy warm month of January. It was really grey and raining without an inch of snow and a miserable 10 degrees (that's about 50 for the other fraction of the world). Then my birthday comes along at the end of January and the temperature drops to -30 (-22 Fahrenheit) WTF mate! Since then Waterloo has been having a record cold streak. I've been stuck with too much school work to help out my team in any meaningful way; not to mention that most of what I have left to learn in class is pretty insignificant compared to what I'm able to learn on my own at this point.

So back to yesterday. I wake up feeling a little more energy than I have had in the last couple days and decide to finally tackle that essay that's due later that afternoon. I'd been mulling it over for about 5 days on and off in my head but in about 2 hours time I put out a pretty kick-ass 5 pager on the impact of electronic forms of communication on the value systems of youth and how academia should change the way it evaluates how youth are impacted by technology. Then I have a bunch of really good interactions with people all day, guitar lesson, finished off with an amazing yoga session (Ashtanga is my medicine of choice for the curious).

I was ready to come home, cook myself a really good meal, shower and take it easy checking up on email etc.

So I start checking work email when what do see. People are talking about this Youtube video of a leak of a really sweet feature we have lined up for Fusion: that's right 3D acceleration in a VM. Since I've been working remotely on my own little features and bogged down with school I hadn't had a chance to see 3D in action on my own computer yet; I was seeing it for the first time like most of you. My jaw literally dropped!

Then I thought my day was really done... NO! I continue checking email and see that they had a synopsis of our quarterly all hands meeting. VMware is going IPO!!! Here's the link to the press release.

I want to be done with school... last week!