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…