Archive for March, 2009

On Square Miles

I’d argue that “square miles” and “square kilometers” really have no place in popular journalism, because we have little connection to what they mean.

I am not really getting this one, mentioning popular journalism in a post about the use of hyphens and correct word order. Moreover, while it is true that most people don’t instinctively judge area size in square miles or kilometers, how else would you express the same concept? There is no way I am aware of to provide a rough indication of how large a very large area is other than using an international system that most people should have a grasp of. Using any other parallelism such as “1/6th the size of Rome” may work for a few but not the majority. One far from perfect solution, would be to use Los Angeles as a comparison metric, since the article refers to the LA Times. But this article appears online, not just on a local paper. Oh, I know. We should say 1/ the area of the Internet. That may work; everyone knows how big the Internet is.

It Only Took Adobe More Than Ten Years

John Nack, highlighting a comment from brushing engineer Jerry Harris on CS4 and the new Wacom Intuos 4 tablets:

PS now preserves pressure beyond 8-bit throughout the painting code, whereas before CS4, only 256 levels (8-bits) made its way to this code.

For as much as I could find out in a two minute search on Google, the Wacom Intuos from 1998 already supported 1024 pressure levels. Photoshop supported 16bit colour to a certain extent since version 2.5. God only knows how many people bought professional Wacoms in the last ten years, convinced that their tablets were actually doing something more than moving the cursor around. What took so long to actually pass those 1024 levels on to the PS brushing engine?

This is from an Intuos datasheet; it’s quite puzzling or maybe I just misunderstood the whole thing:

Intuos 2, 1998

The Mad Men of Modern Design

Not sure why the title says “mad”, but still worth a quick look to refresh your basic design museum skillz. More points if you can tell the names of each one of the designers pictured below without flipping your screen. Don’t cheat, you L4M3rZ.

Names anyone?

The solution: ɯosıɹ suǝɾ puɐ sǝɯɐǝ sǝlɹɐɥɔ 'ɐıoʇɹǝq ʎɹɹɐɥ 'uǝuıɹɐɐs oɹǝǝ 'ʎǝlɯɹoʍ pɹɐʍpǝ 'uoslǝu ǝƃɹoǝƃ

Ansel Adams On Visualization

[…] I merely go out into the world, I wanna make a photograph, I come across something that excites me, I see the picture in my mind’s eye and I make the photograph; then I give it you as the equivalent of what I saw and felt. The whole key lies very specifically in seeing into the mind’s eye which we call visualization and the picture has to be there clearly and decisively and if you have enough craft in your work and in your practice you can then make a photograph to desire.

Far from trying to trace a parallel between me and a giant like Adams, this interview – which is more of a quote – summarises perfectly the process I instinctively applied to my Playgrounds project.

Variable Curvature Origami


Next to-do/to-learn in Rhinoceros, at least for me. It seems like Grasshopper might be of some help here.

IO2Technology: Heliodisplay/ Interactive Free-Space Display

I think I saw this one far back in 2005 when it was not yet in production. Now it is, albeit I would guess each one is built to order as the prices range from 16K to over 30K dollars. Wouldn’t it be nice to play around with one of these?


Compatibility View in Internet Explorer 8

When users install Windows Internet Explorer 8, they have a choice about opting in to a list of sites that will be displayed in Compatibility View. Compatibility View helps make Web sites that are designed for older browsers1 look better in Internet Explorer 8.

True, it sounds like such an elegant solution. I am sure The Average User will have a lot of fun deciding whether to browse in compatible mode or not. They could have labeled the button as “Sorry, We Messed it All Up Mode”. Can some leading web expert explain Microsoft the meaning of the word “standard”?

  1. I would guess they mean just older versions of Internet Explorer. 

Another Case of Coffee Rape

Sorry Dan, please don’t take it personally – I read you blog and I dig your stuff, but this one doesn’t pass it for me. At the cost of sounding like a broken Italian vinyl I hereby state that Starbucks is one of the worst coffee experiences one could think of. Leaving aside all the corporate hate that surrounds it, which I don’t care much about, it’s a natural reaction for me to oppose any positive comment about SB.

It Just Plain Sucks

While coffee quality may be a nano-notch above similar chains, the way they serve coffee is sad. I mean it. Queuing up at the till, looking up that abomination of a menu with those uber-silly names, dealing with a depressed “barista”, waiting for your paper cup at the end of the counter sucks. Sucks if you have experienced coffee in a wholly different way, fast served at a banged-up steel counter, in smoking hot thick and chipped ceramic cups in a real no-name family ran bar. Sure these no-name places are the standard in Italy, but I found great coffee bars elsewhere, including the US, and I am sure you know what I am talking about.

True, your post is not much about Starbucks and more about instant coffee (which makes me think of it as drug assumption rather than an experience)… But I had to let the SB rant go, I had to let my fingers drop on the keyboard for this one. It’s a twitch I got, or maybe a natural reflex, ∞ may know. It’s coffee my friend, you don’t do bad things to coffee, coffee likes you.

Hope you understand,


With That I Say Good-bye And Good Luck

I am content with my rewards. Moreover, I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck. Appointments back to back, booked solid for the next three months, they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway. Steve Balmer, Steven Cohen, and Larry Ellison will all be forgotten.

Andrew Lahde farewell letter is a must read. Either see the original linked from the title of this post or fetch this loosely re-typeset version which is a bit easier on the eye. At any rate, read it.

I’m Just a Designer

Has product design become a commodity?

The Butterfly

Adobe CS4 Installer Sucks Beyond The Edges of The Universe

So yesterday I went through the Major Pain of installing CS4 on Windows, which is in no way a worse experience than doing it on OS X. Fair enough for the pre-certified and approved crappiness of the whole process and related UI, already mentioned by a number (Adobe UI Gripes, Betalogue, DF) of reasonable people. This time it was my turn. I was installing Photoshop and Illustrator from the CS4 Master Fuckup disc paying great attention to deselect any component I did not need, as I was doing so on a forcibly space-restricted Bootcamp partition. After painfully un-checking every box, I felt my selection was small enough to warrant a click on the install button. Still, Adobe sw “engineers” thought they may as well preserve some creative install action. Ladies and gents, here is what I found in my Program Files folder (not to mention what gets dropped in the Common Files folder) at the end of the process:


Aehm… After Effects? Encore? Media Encoder? Premiere Pro? Soundbooth? The folders are full of “recommended” files (watch your language there Adobe!). They do not actually contain the executables or full installs of the aforementioned. Dirty, dirty, cheeky mess. So hard to figure out what components are shared and place them in a Shared components folder? Oh, and Mocha. Mocha for After Effects, I will surely need it for some hardcore planar tracking in Illustrator, thanks for thinking about that, I would have surely missed it otherwise.

UPDATE: To make things clearer, this is the contents of the CS4 package I was trying to install.


  1. Photoshop
  2. Illustrator
  3. After Effects
  4. Premiere
  5. InDesign
  6. Fireworks
  7. Flash

Skrepkus paper clip, Art. Lebedev

clip Maybe it’s because I have a thing for paperclips – although I don’t use them too often – but intervening on an archetypical object as this one, without completely messing it up is Très Cool. The whole Art. Lebedev studio is cool; for one I totally dig the way they credit every single person involved in a project; it is a very elegant act of humility and respect which is rarely seen in the design world. Then they work on anything, with no topic restriction. Be it furniture or electronics the approach is always very relaxed. It is a “doist” approach to design that seems not to ask too many questions aside for those within a 2m radius from the project itself, all the rest can go. For this reason everything they do feels beautifully open, they don’t feel detached from us. This is very different than most other design practices which tend to push projects out only when they are “perfect”; true, that’s where their beauty lies sometimes, but perfection is not for humans, isn’t it?

spEak You’re bRanes

Making me laugh loud and alone in front a my computer at 2.30 in the night is an achievement only few can claim (whether they care or not). If you don’t know this blog and you live in the UK, you only thought you were living in the UK. If you don’t live in the UK, 90% of it still applies globally. So, for real, if you can read go and read.


Massively uncanny. More than 2000 people’s voices singing along Daisy Bell; another beautiful example of Amazon Mechanical Turk’s potential, this time by Aaron Koblin and Daniel Massey.

From the project’s website:

Bicycle Built For 2,000 is comprised of 2,088 voice recordings collected via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk web service. Workers were prompted to listen to a short sound clip, then record themselves imitating what they heard.


Periodic Table of Typefaces

Need to say anything else? Pushed in my email by a friend.

USB Prosthetic Finger

Guy has bike accident and replaces lost finger with USB prosthetic. Surprised that the folks at NextNature seem to have missed this one. With no doubt this is the ultimate and definitive USB gizmo; not that weird-shaped USB keys have ever been particularly noteworthy anyway.

Charlie Foxrot

clusterfuck |ˈkləstərfək|

Military term for an operation in which multiple things have gone wrong. Related to “SNAFU” (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”) and “FUBAR” (Fucked Up Beyond All Repair).
In radio communication or polite conversation (i.e. with a very senior officer with whom you have no prior experience) the term “clusterfuck” will often be replaced by the NATO phonetic acronym “Charlie Foxtrot.”

And 53 more definitions on reports the etymology of the term.

The Secret to Happiness

Thanks Christian!

Reminds me of this great one from the Dopludo Collective.

Practice. Take one sentence — any sentence — and Wallacize it.

1. Begin with an idea, a string of ideas.

Ex: Mario had help with his movie. He did a lot of the work himself.

[1 to 8]

9. Give it that Wallace shine. Replace common words with their oddly specific, scientific-y counterparts. (Ex: ‘curved fingers’ into ‘falcate digits’). If you can turn a noun into a brand name, do it. (Ex: ‘shoes’ into ‘Hush Puppies,’ ‘camera’ into ‘Bolex’). Finally, go crazy with the possessives. Who wants a tripod when they could have a ‘tunnel’s locked lab’s tripod’? Ahem:

It’s obvious someone else had a hand in the screenplay, but Mario did the choreography and most of the puppet-work personally — his little S-shaped arms and falcate digits are perfect for the forward curve from body to snout of a standard big-headed political puppet — and it was, without question, Mario’s little square Hush Puppies on the H^4’s operant foot-treadle, the Bolex itself mounted on one of the tunnel’s locked lab’s Husky-VI TL tripods across the over lit closet, mops and dull-gray janitorial buckets carefully moved out past the frame’s borders on either side of the little velvet stage.

10. Practice. Take one sentence — any sentence — and Wallacize it. Turn ten boring words into a hundred good ones.

Worth a study, linked from

The Birth of Indiana Jones and why Lucas’s Cinema Is What It Is (…)

The Script

The other thing we’ve added to him, which may be fun, is a bull whip. That’s really his trade mark. That’s really what he’s good at. He has a pistol, and he’s probably very good at that, but at the same time he happens to be very good with a bull whip. It’s really more of a hobby than anything else. Maybe he came from Montana, someplace, and he… There are freaks who love bull whips. They just do it all the time. It’s a device that hasn’t been used in a long time.

I am speechless.

Backup copy of the transcript here, just in case it vanishes in a puff.

The Big Picture – Festival of Colors


Sony Bravia adverts, this is the real thing, get it?

The Untold Story of the World’s Biggest Diamond Heist

[…]the Genius climbed up to a small terrace on the second floor. A heat-sensing infrared detector monitored the terrace, but he approached it slowly from behind a large, homemade polyester shield. The low thermal conductivity of the polyester blocked his body heat from reaching the sensor.

The Mafia, The Monster, The Genius, The King of Keys, Notarbartolo and Speedy. Is this the best story ever published by W I R E D ? A great narration, by Joshua Davis of what happened before, during and after the Great Heist worth $100 million in diamonds against the Diamond Center in Antwerp, Belgium; the safest deposit in Europe. The thieves were all Italians; this is the kind of stuff that makes me proud of being Italian.

The Periodic Table of Form, on Core 77

Periodic Table of Form

Like the Periodic Table of the Elements, this system holds ample opportunity for mixing proportions, creating alloys, and adding impurities. We propose that this visual paradigm has room to house all the things that have been, and the things yet to be.

It might be a bit premature to propose the above as an all-encompassing system, as it feels more like a good starting point for a PhD proposal than a mature piece of research. Nonetheless it is a nice article to read with some sharp parallels between CAD and natural forms.

NYT, Bikes, NYC

Next comes another species of biker, which I call the Really Cool Biker, because they are really cool — usually younger than the Lance Armstrong types, wearing skinny jeans and a windbreaker imprinted with, say, the name of a bar or a bowling alley, and riding a sleek, fixed-gear frame bike that I myself am too uncool to even adequately describe.

ahem… Worst thing of the article is that he’s actually right and not just about the above, which sort of regards me, as I do ride fixed, but with no skinny jeans.

New Adobe Illustrator CS4 Feature!


Best post so far, from the previously linked Adobe UI Gripes.

Infographic Accidents

How a simple bug can transform infographics into casual art. From the New York Times graphic editor, Matthew Bloch.



So J.G. Ballard. By Teruhiro Yanagihara.



Dieter…♥ Or as Gunnar says, Detail Rams. Awards 2009

Kindercrasher by RGBA Above, one of my favourites, Kindercrasher by Rgba in the 4k (yes, four kilobytes) category.

Insert floppy. Mind you, you are going to need Windows for this. And I would not be too confident running this stuff in emulation as it is all real time graphics and GPU squeezing to the max. If you dig around, there are some demos for “older” systems as well: VIC20 and C64. Hearts to the demoscene.

Mediatemple Moves On

Last night I could not access my email for about 2 hours, at least judging from when I came back to my computer until I went to bed. I wrote a quick support request to my host.

[…] This problems are relatively frequent, I usually ignore them as they don’t last very long, but frankly this time it’s just not what I needed. Please let me know what’s going on, as mail service needs to be more reliable than it currently is. BTW, Google “says” that your Grid is in fact still giving problems to a number of customers…

Mediatemple service had been a bit scatty for me in the past year. I didn’t care much about it, as running this website can’t really be defined a critical operation and the rest of the service is awesome. Sure enough though, the rest cannot make up for long for a core hosting server that is acting weird. The problems I found and did not care to report each time they happened – blame my laziness or praise my patience – mostly ranged between the following:

  • Very slow response times from the server.
  • Seemingly slow execution time of some PHP scripts (this one is based on gut feelings and may be simply caused by the first).
  • Interrupted mail service via POP/IMAP. This one has been quite frequent lately, hence the support request.

Here is a link to the System Status weblog, acknowledging the issue.

What happened after my grumpy support request? They replied super quick as usual, as I found out this morning. I had three emails in my inbox. Two were from the support team, acknowledging the problem and kindly asking to perform some simple troubleshooting tests; the third one was from the CEO of Mediatemple. It was addressed to all customers – only those reporting the problems? – and mentioned something about a downtime on the 28th of February, which I didn’t even notice, but apparently serious enough to trigger that response in the first place. I’ll leave the good PR bit out as Mediatemple does that already quite well on their own, but at the end of the email there was this link. It took about two years to publish that, but at long last we now have a decent half technical, half PR-y, four screen long (maximised at 1080px vertical) explanation of what happened inside The Grid. For now I think this will keep me reassured and going for a little while longer. In the long term (months, not years), it just has to happen as soon as (super)humanly possible.

Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation sets up its own bittorrent tracker

Sweet. One step further than the already excellent BBC iPlayer.

Adobe UI Gripes

I might have already linked to this one, however while re-reading some of the posts on Adobe UI Gripes I started wondering how effective a similar approach could be as a bug tracking solution. Maybe not an official tracking system, but boy sometimes I really wish I could properly swear at someone when I stumble on some major software fuckup. Would it be more convincing? Maybe not, but at least it would provide a fairly accurate representation of the bug itself and how annoying it is by simply evaluating the amount and quality of the associated swearing. Oh, and I guess it would work better if it allowed anonymous entries.

The Tao of War Photography

It is not common to see such stunning war photography pieces. Bruce Haley’s portfolio is a must-see. His Tao of War Photography is a very dark humored and eye opening gem.

Group Rope Jumping and Train Scare

Rope Jump

I can feel the wind, the screams, the vibrations of the train passing above from these stunning pictures and story. More pictures also on the original Russian blog.

A Graphical Report on the State of the World (in progress)

I didn’t know the UN released tons of statistical information for free on UNdata (involuntarily cool name, isn’t it?). I found about it from the ever interesting FlowingData where Nathan shows off some Illustrator scripting skillz. Interesting data, by the way.