The blog formerly known as The Dobbs Method

Operation: UI

Posted in Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 02/02/2010
Sci-Fi computer interface shown in the movie Minority Report

Gesture-based interfacing as shown in the movie Minority Report. I wish...

My newest project, and one I will probably never complete, is to set up all of my technology (MacBook Pro, iPhone, PS3, displays) so that it works perfectly to my needs and I don’t have to think about interfacing. The goal is to never have a “How do I…?” moment.

So far, I haven’t done much beyond tweaking preferences on various devices and a little AppleScripting. The big letdown I’ve had is a program called AirLock, which should make it so that my MacBook and iPhone interact similarly to a Toyota Prius and its keyfob. When I’m in the room, my mac can tell based on my iPhone’s proximity and unlocks, opening any specified programs. When I leave the room, my computer loses touch with the phone and locks up, only to be unlocked by a password or reestablished iPhone contact. Cool right? I thought so too. Unfortunately, like most bluetooth interactions, it’s extremely glitchy. This is especially true when using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse (as is my situation) with the computer. Airlock is currently switched off, but I have hope for an update.

Obviously, I’m stuck with classic forms of interface. I can’t reinvent language input or improve upon Apple’s mousing. I’ve looked into using the iPhone to interface with the Mac, and that may work as well (more later). Apple’s Remote app allows iTunes to be remotely controlled by the iPhone as long as my computer and iPhone are on the same Wifi network. That’s awesome for when I’m laying in bed and my ambient tunes are a bit too loud for shuteye or if I lock the door and realize I’ve forgotten to turn the music off.

Lastly, my two biggest time-savers: Quicksilver and Ejector. Quicksilver is well-known to most Mac enthusiasts & heavy users, and rightfully so. For those who don’t know, it’s Spotlight on steroids. It launches apps, can be programmed to run any Applescript off of any hotkeys you give it, and it can control iTunes; those are just the functions I use. Quicksilver is run completely from the keyboard (though you can mouse if you want) and does a great job of keeping you working your Mac as fast as you can think, which is generally the goal.

Ejector is simple. It’s a menu-bar icon that allows me to eject one or all mounted drives, digital or external, without having to go to the desktop and select a box then drag the icons to the trash. It’s a life-saver when I’m late to class and need to eject both my externals as quickly as possible. It’s not for everyone (I’m pretty sure that I’m the only kid on my floor with more than one external), but for those few who do need it, it’s a godsend.

That’s about all the progress I’ve made so far towards perfecting the interface, but there’s still much room for improvement.

To be continued…

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iPad

Posted in Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 01/28/2010

Apple iPadAs a blog with any sort of tech leanings at all, it’d be an oversight not to throw in my say about Apple’s big announcement today. The iPad. I must say, I was waiting for the bombshell for the entire presentation, and it didn’t come. Maybe the real “wow” moment with this product will come when a new OS is released (possibly iPhone OS 4.0 this summer), but I still would have expected to have a moment within that presentation that really sold me on it.

That said, I’d be kidding myself if I said I don’t want one. I just don’t want one yet. A widely-held disappointment with the iPad (aside from the name) was that it lacked a camera. When I first saw the device, all I could think of was how nice it would be to be able to curl up in bed with in bed with it and Skype. All the other things I long for in the iPad are attainable by software updates (multi-tasking, sexier home screen, etc.), but a built-in camera seems like a necessity to me. Personally, I’d like two. One back-mounted camera (as is on the iPhone) that could do live streaming, photo, etc. and another mounted on the face of the device for things like Skype or webcasting.

I’ve heard the argument already that the iPad is not as capable as PC tablets and as a result isn’t as cost effective. What I say to that is that the iPad, whether Apple likes it or not, is just not a primary device. It would not be able to replace my MacBook in my life. I don’t think they want it to – why sell me one device when you can make me want two? They want me to have both and love it. I think I would. I would love for getting in bed with my laptop to watch a movie to read an article or watch a video to feel natural for me, but it’s just not. The weight and awkwardness don’t make it easy. That’s not to say I wouldn’t get by without one; clearly I can function just fine without the iPad. It is not a necessity, but would be an incredible convenience. It’s a device that fills a gap in Apple’s continuum that goes from iPod shuffle to Mac Pro.

All in all, I’m excited about the iPad. It will definitely help steer the rest of the market and bring on some innovative and exciting products from other companies. It’s a device of convenience and leisure, which I don’t need, but would obviously be nice to have. Reading, watching, and listening may all shift over to the iPad, while laptops and desktops focus on more UI-intensive efforts such as composing, design, video editing, etc.

It’s the beginning of a new chapter of Apple’s history, and only time will tell if it’s a successful one. Based on Apple’s history with products that start with “i” it’s probably got a decent shot.

Image Credit: Apple

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Operation Chokehold

Posted in Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 12/15/2009

Sometimes I forget what service bars look like...

I just found this article, which explains that iPhone users are launching an attack on AT&T this Friday December 18 at 12 PM PST, 3 PM east coast, to try to bring down the data network. This comes in the wake of a blog post by angry iPhone user and popular Apple blogger “Fake Steve Jobs.”¬†After already having experienced plenty of my own AT&T fail, I will very enthusiastically partake in this campaign against the big blue (and orange) beast.

It’s simple. iPhone users are all going to heavily use data-hogging apps on the network for an hour starting at noon pacific time in an attempt to “bring it to its knees.” I see a long hour of slowly-loading YouTube videos in my future.

The only problem now is that I’m not sure if I’ll notice if the network slows down as a result of Operation: Chokehold. I also wouldn’t mind getting a T-shirt out of it.

AT&T Sucks. Also, Water is Wet.

Posted in Rants, Technology by Taylor Dobbs on 08/10/2009

AT&T recently expanded its coverage into Vermont, where I live. Being a complete geek, I quickly got myself an iPhone. Of couse, I was excited. Over time, the splendor has faded. Here’s why:

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