From idea to product, no need to think small

We all heard about the possibilities the internet gives us. Power to the people, right? Well the story of the Glif is a perfect example of this.

Two guys, Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost came up with an idea for an iPhone 4 tripod mount. The final result does a little bit more that just being a tripod mount but you can judge that for yourself.

The basic thing that struck me was how they used the means at hand to it’s full capacity. They had an idea, worked it out as a computer model with free software (beta version of Rhinoceros 3D for Mac).
The model was sent to Shapeways in the Netherlands. Shapeways “printed” the 3D prototype and shipped it to New York. This process continues until the prototype was ready.

With a completed prototype they turned to Protomold, a manufacturing company, for an estimation of the cost and the number of products to break even in the manufacturing costs.
They did not got to a bank for the $10,000 they needed. Instead they turned to Kickstarter. Kickstarter provides means to get a creative idea funded without risk for either party. It’s all-or-nothing funding via crowdsourcing. To participate in the Glif project you donate your money and depending on the amount you donate you will get an honorable mention, the product when it’s fully funded or a 3D prototype. So for the two designers this meant that they would get funding and customers.
They needed $10,000 but the last time I checked they already collected $98,000.

This project might be exceptional but it does show how far you can get nowadays with a good idea and some ingenuity. You do not need the manpower just be inventive!

Resources used:
Glif – iPhone 4 Tripod Mount & Stand project on Kickstarter.com
An atom-based product, developed in bits article in The Economist
TheGlif.com

Posted in CrowdSourcing, Innovative | Comments Off

Blind film makers and a dialogue

It’s incredible what some companies do to get attention for their products. In 2009 Philips amazed everyone with the Carousel Commercial, the slow-motion clownesque heist. This year Philips is back with six short films with one shared piece of dialogue:

[lightbox|unicorn_dialogue]


What is that?
It’s a Unicorn
Never seen one up close before
Beautiful
Get away, Get away
I’m sorry.

Six lines of text, six times differently interpreted in six beautiful stories:

  • The Hunt, by Jake Scott
  • Darkroom, by Johnny Hardstaff
  • The Gift, by Carl Erik Rinsch
  • El Secreto de Mateo, Greg Fay
  • Jun and the Hidden Skies, by Hi-Sim
  • The Foundling by Barney Cokeliss

Each story can be watched by itself but to me it was like a visualization of the “Blind men and an elephant”. The story of six blind men who are asked to describe the “big picture” while feeling only part of it. The film makers in this case “felt” the dialogue and created a film based on that.
Each film maker created an astonishing piece of work. All in all beautiful interpretations.
You can watch them at Parallel Lines: A Cinema 21:9 production.
It didn’t stop at six stories. There is even more, a competition “Tell it your way” resulted in two prizewinning films at PhilipsCinema on Youtube.
BabyTime by Cedric Petitcollin and
Porcelain Unicorn by Keegan Wilcox

The whole story is of course that Philips again created a very smart ad-campaign. I’m aware that even I am becoming part of it but in return we can see some very interesting, beautifully made, short films.

[lightbox|unicorn_dialogue]

Posted in Commercials, fun | Comments Off

Safari mismatches color in CSS and background image

While working on my new blog theme I ran into some color rendering issues with Safari. The background color set with CSS did not match the color used in the background image.ImageRenderingBugInSafariThe background color was set in CSS as #333333, the color in the .gif was shown as #424242. The problem only occurs in Safari not in Firefox and not in Internet Explorer. The problem is also not .gif related it also occurs with .png or .jpg images.

At first I thought it was a bug in Safari but it actually turned out that Safari is one of the browsers that is somewhat ahead of its “competitors”. It reads and renders images according to the color profile stored in the image. How the color profiles are rendered is described with a ICC level indicator.

After reading several articles and being pointed in the direction of the color profile it was time to examine the images. It turned out that the image was saved with a "Generic RGB Profile".

There are several ways to solve this problem so far I found three:

  • Use an image for the background instead of the CSS style
  • Set the color profile to sRGB
  • Remove the color profile

The first solution uses a background image instead of the background color in the CSS. It works but it feels more like a workaround than a solution. The color is defined in images, not really flexible. On top of that it looks different across browsers.

Setting the color profile to sRGB did solve my problem but it depends on the color profile of the local system. If the system uses a different color profile it could again cause color mismatches.

Removing the color profile seems to be the best out of the three options. No need to change the CSS and no system dependency. The only extra work you have is to save the images without the default color profile or strip it afterwards. Another advantage is that he size of the image is also reduced.bg_color.gif InfoRelevant links:
How to Avoid Background Color Matching Problems with Safari
Color Rendering Difference: Firefox vs. Safari
Fixing JPG And PNG Colour Matching In Safari
This is your Mac on drugs
Color Spaces
Why your Web content will look darker on Snow Leopard
Is your system ICC Version 4 ready?

Posted in Web development | Comments Off

32-bit color in Windows 2008 Remote Desktop Connection

Connecting to a Remote Desktop can be a rude awakening when you are confronted with jagged edges on the otherwise smooth icons. If you use it remote administration this is not a problem. On the other hand if you want to use it for developing software or as a regular desktop, you really want 32-bit color on your remote desktop.

Without the 32-bit color depth you do not have Clear Type fonts you do not see the icons as they were meant and Aero is also out of the question. What you do get is extra strain on the eyes while reading the screen.

When I first encountered the 16-bit limitation I was looking at the client-side to bypass the limitation. No luck there. Until I ran into an blog post that talked about enabling Aero in a remote Windows 2008 session. The solution was not on the client but was on the server.

The 16-bit limitation is set on the server side and can be changed in the Terminal Server Configuration:

  • Open the Terminal Server Configuration on the remote host.
  • Select the RDP-Tcp connection, right click on it and select “Properties”.
  • Select the “Client Settings” tab.

The screen below shows the default 16-bit limitation.TerminalServicesConfiguration2

  • Select the “32 bits per pixel” option in the dropdown menu.
  • Click on OK and close the Terminal Services Configuration.

The only thing left to do is to set the color depth in the Remote Desktop Connection. RDP_display_settingsIf you want to set this up for Windows 2008 R2 you first have to add the “Remote Desktop Services” role and enable option “Desktop composition”. Read the previously mentioned post “Aero Glass Remoting in Windows Server 2008 R2” for more detailed instructions.

Posted in Remote Desktop, Windows 2008 | Comments Off

How to survive password hell

Keeping track of your passwords can be a real pain. Passwords for your email, your account at work or for that website where you want to leave a comment. Unless you can use one password for all of these different accounts you have to keep a list of passwords. Some store them in their head resulting in the obvious password restore options after a long holiday other store them on paper.

KeePassKeePassXI use KeePass for storing my passwords on my PC and KeePassX on my Mac (the X indicates it also works on Linux). Both applications are free and store their data in heavily encrypted local databases. I used to sync the databases with a USB stick for several years between my PC at work and at home. The solution was workable but not flawless. Busy, busy busy, forgetting to update the USB stick and then the trouble starts.

Dropbox Until a few months ago when I signed up for a Dropbox account. Dropbox is an online storage service that syncs your data and even lets you share your data with others if you choose to. The Dropbox client is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

My passwords are no longer saved on a USB stick but are now stored in the synchronized Dropbox folder. So on any of my workstations I just open KeePass(X) and automatically my password database is opened. After adding or changing a password entry the database is updated and synchronized with the version in the cloud. If any of the other workstations is running the database file is synced to the other workstations as well. 

Syncing the keepass database

KeePass(X) has an option to remember and open the last file used.You might want to check the option "Limit to single instance". This option makes sure you can not change the database at two locations at the same time. It creates a lock file so the other instance (local or other workstation) knows it is in use.

 KeePass settings screen

The combination of KeePass(X) and the online store and sync of dropbox works great for me. If you do no need to sync between different platforms there are other alternatives for the store and sync part:

This solution works great for me, I stopped carrying my USB stick around and I know my passwords are available from any of my workstations. An extra backup of the files? Why? Stored in the "cloud" on my workstation at home and at my workstation at work. The risk is spread across multiple machines and it’s even online available. I love it.

After using the Dropbox for a while I’m even considering to use it as my default "documents folder".

Update: Version 1.16 of KeePass has an option that is specific for Windows Vista and higher. Be sure to uncheck the CNG/BCrypt option.

KeePass v1.16

Posted in HowTo, lifehack | 1 Comment

WalletCards on my iPhone

snap_WalletCards

Recently I read a post on slimming down your wallet (via Lifehacker). As many of you I had my wallet filed with membership and other reward cards from the local hardware store the grocery shop and the rest of it. Some cards used regularly some used only once a year.

As mentioned in the post from the unclutterer most of the companies only need the number from the card. The magnetic strips are hardly used and the barcode is just a store for the number. So instead of writing down the numbers I scanned in the cards -front and back side- and stored them as images on my iPhone.

To test it out I went to the local hardware store and asked the girl behind the counter if she could scan the barcode from my phone. The first look I got was pure amazement. To her the physical card was transformed into a picture on a shiny device. On top of that the barcode was scanned successfully. The result; a slightly confused girl and a happy me.

The cards are stored as images in an iPhoto album that is synced with my iPhone through iTunes. Newly scanned cards are stored in the album and are automatically synced. When asked for the card I pull out my phone and open the “card” in full screen mode.

swimcard

For iPhone Touch the same routine should work and it probably also works for an iPod with photo capabilities.

In my case I used my Mac to sync but this should also work on a Windows situation.  

Now my wallet only contains three cards, credit card, debit card and the donor registration.

Posted in iPhone, lifehack | 15 Comments

Picasa template for Slide.Show

Slide.Show Slide.Show is an open source Silverlight 1.0 control. You can use it for publishing very customizable photo slideshows on the Web. It was initially created by Vertigo but it is now hosted as a project on CodePlex.


Although it is highly customizable it does not provide a way to add photos easily. Manually editing an XML file is not for everyone. There are tools available like the “Data & Image Generator for Slide.Show“. But this still has the problem that it you have to add a collection of photos.


In the past I figured out how the whole templating stuff in Picasa works and worked on the Picasa templates for SimpleViewer and PostcardViewer. So I thought wouldn’t it be nice to have an option “export as webpage” that would generate the “data.xml” file for Slide.Show.


The Picasa plugin generates not only the “data.xml” file but a full Slide.Show slideshow. It is only a sample slideshow and you can use it as it is or customize it however you want. The main goal of this plugin was to provide an easy way to generate the  “data.xml” file from the place where I manage my photos. You can donwload the plugin here.

Posted in Picasa templates | 1 Comment

Cross platform RSS solution for free

Newsgator free products

RSS readers FeedDemon (Windows) and NetNewsWire (MacOSX) are now freeware! On my PC I have been using FeedDemon (the paid version) for several years now and recently bought NetNewsWire for my MacBook. Stupid me I should have waited a month ;-(

The feeds I read at home and at work are synchronized through the online Newsgator synchronization service. So I have the same feeds on my MacBook, my PC at work and my PC at home. You only have to create an account at Newsgator to get it working. A simple solution for those who use use multiple workstations and want more from an RSS reader then what the web based readers have to offer.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My Podcast List

Since we moved to Haren a small village just south of Groningen my travel-by-bike-time increased from 10 to 30 minutes.


The route is completely without trafficlights I only have to cross the railroad tracks twice. So for a couple of attention-points it’s almost to do in autopilot-mode. Great opportunity to listen to some podcasts.


Podcasts are a relatively new way of online media delivery. It’s like a talkshow or radio program that is published via the internet. You can download individual podcasts or subscribe to an RSS feed to automatically receive new files.


My list of podcast subscriptions:



I still have the feeling that very few of you are actually listening to podcasts. Please tell me I’m wrong !?

Posted in podcast | 2 Comments

Web Trend Map 2007 Version 2.0

The Information Architects did it again. A successor to the Web Trend Map. This time they have more websites more lines and more inside jokes that I don’t get. But also another great feature; a clickable version of the map.


webtrends_v2_2007.gif

To add some buzz a web generation number is added. For instance FaceBook is categorized as Web 2.5 while our  usabillity friend Jakob Nielsen scores a meager Web 0.5.


 Altough it’s getting a bit commercial with the selling of sponsor spaces and A2 versions it’s again a fascinating map.

Posted in Web 2.0 | Comments Off