Monthly Archives: February 2008

Make Photoshop sample colors outside the app

Thanks for all the feedback and suggestions about improving Photoshop’s color-picking tools.  I’ll reply to many of the comments once I get a few free cycles.

In the meantime, I notice that many people are asking for Photoshop to gain the ability to sample colors from outside the application.  That capability is there already: grab the Eyedropper Tool, then simply click and hold on a document, then drag elsewhere on the screen.  Notice that the foreground color on the toolbar keeps updating as you move your mouse.  When you let go, the sampled color will be your foreground color (or background color, if you were holding Opt/Alt when you clicked).  I’ve confirmed that this behavior works on the Mac, and I believe it’s the same on Windows, but I don’t have a machine handy on which to check.

Clearly this behavior isn’t very discoverable, but I’m not sure what would make it easier to find.  Some commenters noted that the color picker in Flash and other former Macromedia apps makes it easier to sample colors from outside the app: when you mouse away from the preset color swatches, it keeps sampling colors under the mouse.  That’s true, though I’ve often found that behavior annoying (i.e. I end up sampling things I didn’t intend to sample).

I’m glad the topic has come up, and I’ll bounce some ideas around with the UI and engineering folks.  Hopefully there’s a way to get the best of both worlds.

What color-picking tools do you like?

The Color palette in Photoshop (see screenshot) is, to be charitable, a bit long in the tooth. In particular, the little color ramp at the bottom is awfully small (occupying just 0.00072% of the screen real estate on at 30" monitor; yes, I did the math).

We certainly won’t break what’s working or force you to use a larger color picker than what’s there today.  Having said that, there’s clearly room for some innovation.

What kind of color-picking tools would you like to see in Photoshop?  Are there good examples you can share?  We’ve already batted around the idea of revealing kuler-like functionality in Photoshop (see very rough mockup).  What else would be cool/useful/powerful?


New AIR-powered Adobe kuler desktop

The crew behind Adobe’s kuler color harmony RIA has released a new version of the desktop color feed browser (screenshot).  You can check it out by installing Adobe AIR, then downloading the app.  New features include:

  • Browse color themes from the kuler website while offline (up to 100 themes cached per feed)
  • Drag and drop themes onto your own desktop as transparent "tear offs," which can be scaled and viewed over any application
  • Access themes from Mykuler (must be signed in)
  • Download themes as ASE (Adobe Swatch Exchange) files directly from the kuler desktop (must be signed in)
  • Browse the new RSS feed "Random"

Here’s the full feature list (PDF) in case you want all the details. [Via Sami Iwata]

Completely tangential but involving colors: Art Lebedev’s Optimus Tactus keyboard concept. [Via Scott Valentine]

Leather + multitouch = foxy

Ooh, now that’s nice: student Nedzad Mujcinovic has crafted “Livre,” a concept for a leather-wrapped, multitouch-aware electronic book.  Check out the photos as well as the overview.  Could a large e-ink screen, organic materials, gesture-based navigation, and a minimum of button clutter change the game and make e-books widespread?  It would be fun to find out. [Via]

In other cool device news:

  • Small format:
    • Like sketching ideas on cocktail napkins, but wish they were more expensive and susceptible to water damage?  Then perhaps you’d like the Napkin PC.  Naw, the concept is cooler than that–especially if you could combine multiple Napkin PCs into a single work area. [Via Jana Sedivy]
    • Inchworm brings sketching and painting to the Nintendo DS.  It was created by Bob Sabiston, the developer of the “Rotoshop” software used to create Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. [Via Greg Geisler]
    • Nokia envisions a future full of shape-shifting phones; peep the video for their Morph concept.
  • Multitouch:
  • CNET reports on startup company CeeLite (note: not the singer from Gnarls Barkley) creating flexible sheets of light, useful for wrapping on buses, poles, and other objects.
  • Researchers at Stanford have revealed details on their plenoptic camera work.
  • Alienware offers a cool, curved display for widescreen gaming.  I wonder how well it would work for design & photo editing.
  • Art Lebedev’s Photoshop-savvy Optimus Maximus OLED keyboard (mentioned previously) has started shipping.  You can see it being set up, or you can watch the droll Art himself work his geek-fu on a real live girl. :-)  [Via Jesse Zibble]

Fun with physics-based drawing

The great thing about computer-based drawing and painting tools is that they do exactly what you expect, over and over [reliability => productivity.]. That’s also what kind of sucks about them, though: happy accidents can be hard to come by.

Taking a different spin on things, Umeå University’s Phun is “an educational, entertaining and somewhat addictive piece of software for designing and exploring 2D multi-physics simulations in a cartoony fashion.”  Although it’s not a drawing tool per se, Phun mixes literalness with a measure of unpredictability.  Check out this video of it in action. [Via Jerry Harris & Jim Geduldick]

If that’s up your alley, take a look at Nelson Chu’s amazing MoXi watercolor simulation (details).  Computer power (GPU power in particular) is starting to enable sophisticated simulations on every desktop.  Look at the way an app like Little Big Planet leverages a great physics engine and redefines the process of computer-based creation (in this case using a PlayStation, but so what?).

It seems like every other day I read about some app or other using the Flash platform to partially emulate old versions of Photoshop.  That’s all fine, but I’m much more excited about harnessing the platform to build much richer, more immersive, and (optionally) less predictable creation experiences.  We can have the best of both worlds, and that’s what keeps me amped & in the game.

Poster Flava: eBoy on AIR & more

Naked saunas, 3D Flash globes, and other infographic goodness

  • My wife and I are nervously quizzing each other on these expert (and very funny) baby care instructions (boosted wholesale, it would seem, from David Sopp’s Safe Baby Handling Tips). [Via]
  • Wable is “a coffee table that displays a user’s web activity via physical bar graphing.”  Yes, I remember pining for such a thing not ever. (Are Venn-diagram kiddie pools next?)
  • Maps:
  • Signage:
  • Blogging software has made self-publishing seem simple, but beneath the covers, a whole lot’s going on.  Wired has a Flash-based diagram showing what all happens when one hits “Publish.” [Via]

Lightroom Podcasts #50 & 51: Photoshop integration & color correction

George Jardine has posted a pair of new video tutorials for Lightroom:

Three Options, Unlimited Possibilities (9:28)

In this tutorial I outline the basics of using Lightroom’s Edit in Photoshop command, specifically as it pertains to RGB files. You’ll learn what your three basic options are, and how they are best used to begin taking advantage of the incredible variety of workflows available, when using Lightroom and Photoshop together.

Subjective Color Correction (6:04)

In this tutorial I outline the basics of color correction, in a situation where the color and density of the photograph are wide open to interpretation. Make sure you start with a calibrated and profiled monitor, and then learn to trust your eyes to bring out the very best in your photographs, using the Adobe Lightroom Develop Module.

Both podcasts can be downloaded from George’s iDisk, and can be found on iTunes by searching under Podcasts for "Lightroom." [Via]

Of Eyeballs & iHoles

Apparently Canon is developing an Iris Registration Mode that will enable photographers to use their eyeballs to form a kind of digital fingerprint for their images.  Hmm… the tech sounds cool (well, provided it works better than the fingerprint scanner on my ThinkPad), but I’m not sure how it helps secure photographers’ rights.

What people want–and can’t have, as I’ve noted previously–is the ability to embed copyright data in images that are both easily readable and secure.  Iris scanning doesn’t address the fact that if you can edit the pixels of an image, you can get around copyright data in the image (through copy and paste to a new file, if nothing else).  And for all the talk of wanting secure metadata, I don’t see much use of the Digimarc technology that’s been bundled in Photoshop for ~10 years (allowing copyright to be subtly encoded into the pixels themselves), nor do I hear of many photographers passing around their images as secure PDFs (which offer 128-bit encryption, among other things).  So, unless I’m missing something (and please shout out some enlightenment if so), iris scanning doesn’t seem to change the game too much, at least as regards downstream image protection.  [Via Steve Weiss]

On a lighter eye-related note, check out Scot Hampton’s iHole–the camera made from an iPhone box.

Mama don't take my Polaroids away

News about the demise of Polaroid film production has pulled a number of interesting items out of the woodwork:

  • Eames + Cramps + Cams: Check out this demo film of the Polaroid SX-70 made by famous furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames, but inexplicably set the music of The Cramps.  Weirder still, it all kind of works. [Via]
  • "The late cinematographer Jamie Livingston, who died at age 41 in 1997," writes Mike Johnston, "left an archive of almost 6,000 Polaroid SX-70 shots, taken one per day (with only minor lapses) for 18 years."  You can browse the archive here.
  • David Friedman would like to see a Polaroid-style digital picture frame, complete with dry-erase area for jotting notes.  [Via]
  • "Polaroid made me the photographer I am today": Photographer Ctein reminisces about the format’s importance in his artistic development.
  • We recently met with some photogs doing a great project using large-format Polaroids.  Once they post images publicly I’ll pass along the news.

One more photo-nostagia tip–this time for Kodak–this clip from Mad Men shows a pitch for the original slide carousel.

Lightroom Podcast #49: Gregory Heisler

Photographer Gregory Heisler is one of the most interesting guys I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in my job.  He’s shot numerous covers for Time Magazine, and his work really shines in large-format printing.  Now Gregory has sat down with Adobe photography evangelist George Jardine to record a podcast.  George writes:

“Maybe you want to do a Brett Weston, and you don’t want anyone to open your files. Maybe you want your files to just die a peaceful death, and you want to pull the plug on them, and send them on to eternity. And what you want are these finished prints; they are the realization of your vision. And everything else was just a way to get there. Like you don’t actually want somebody, in a sense, reprinting from your negatives. You’re done. It’s fine. Even though with photography the temptation is that it’s always an open door, it’s fine to lock the door and throw away the key. That’s OK.” – Gregory Heisler

This podcast was recorded on Wednesday February 6th, 2008 at the National Arts Club in New York City. Gregory sits down with George to have a conversation about working with Arnold Newman, his love of portraiture, and some of his thinking on a wide range of subjects including the value of the print, and the difficulties of developing a personal style.

The 1:20:49 podcast, labeled “20080206 Podcast – Gregory Heisler” is in George’s iDisk. It can also be found on iTunes by searching under Podcasts for “Lightroom,” or via the Lightroom podcasts RSS feed.

Happy birthday, Photoshop and Lightroom

Is today, February 19th, "The Most Important Date In Digital Imaging History"?  That’s the case Jeff Schewe makes on Photoshop News.  On this date in 1990, the first version of Photoshop shipped to the world; exactly five years ago we saw the debut of Photoshop’s Camera Raw plug-in; and one year ago today, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.0 made its official bow.  Jeff posts all kinds of good info on the site, and in a sidebar he asks "Where were you on 2-19-1990?"  (I thank goodness that no digital cams were on hand there to capture my hairdo.)  For a bit more info and color, see Lightroom PM Tom Hogarty’s post on the occasion.

A history of logos, great desktops, and more

Meet Adobe Illustrator (1987)

As promised a couple of weeks ago, I’ve uploaded a copy of the VHS tape that shipped in the box with Illustrator 1.0, hosted by company co-founder/president/Illustrator developer John Warnock:

Many thanks to Andrew Keith Strauss for digitizing the tape. Of the video Dr. Warnock writes, “That video demo tape was shot live, with no editing. We didn’t have video production tools at that time, and we didn’t want to pay for a professional to do it, so I did the demonstration.” It’s fun to contrast this tape with the Illustrator 88 video made just a year later.

Enable commenting in Adobe Reader, more

The Adobe Design Center crew is back on stage for a new year, posting all sorts of good content.

New Galleries

New Think Tank

New Tutorials

As always, Adobe training mavens Luanne Seymour and Jen deHaan are kicking out the jams, so check out their sites for fresh material. And as always, check out some of the 1000+ Adobe links on Info on how to contribute links is here. [Via Luanne]

Digital imaging in, and of, space

New $20,000 Adobe design challenge

Adobe has teamed up with Cut&Paste for the "See What’s Possible" challenge:

Compose an engaging 15-second or less animation or motion graphic video of the Photoshop brand logo that illustrates the theme of “See What’s Possible.” The winning work must incorporate and close with the Adobe Photoshop logo and will be used by Adobe as part of an upcoming Photoshop marketing campaigns.

The grand prize is $20,000 (USD) and Adobe Creative Suite 3 Master Collection (BYO forklift & Brinks truck).  "But this challenge isn’t just about winning," says John Fiorelli, executive director of Cut&Paste.  "All submissions will be publicly showcased on where contestants can share their skills with not only fellow designers, but fans, recruiters, and potential clients."

You’ve got until the Ides of March (specifically, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on March 15, 2008) to submit your work, and it needs to be created predominantly with Photoshop, Flash, and/or After Effects.  Full details are on the site.  Rock out!  [Via]

Some days it's not even worth chewing through the restraints…

…at least, not with a ridiculously persistent head cold.  Then, however, the Interwebs kick up some crazy little gem that makes it all good.  I got this piece of spam today and was unreasonably amused (names omitted to protect the guilty):

Dear John, I am a recruiter for the xxxx Casket Company and I am interested in networking with you.  I am currently seeking a 2 Product Managers (Wood Product Line, Accessories Product Line). Our headquarters is located in [BFE], Indiana, which is commutable from both [cold places where you no longer live]. xxxx Casket Company is more than the world’s leading producer of premium caskets and cremation products, we set the standard for success and productivity. […] I am hoping that you might know of other Product Managers that I could network with that might be interested in exploring these exciting job opportunities!  If you are interested in this position, I also welcome that conversation.  Here are a couple of websites that might be helpful when passing along my contact information: [xxxx]. I appreciate your help in advance and look forward to hearing from you!  Sincerely, [xxxx]

Man, what am I still doing here typing?  Who in his right mind wouldn’t give up Photoshop for Wood Casket Accessories Product Line Manager?  It’s the job of a lifetime–specifically, the end of many other people’s lifetimes.  My ship has finally come in–woo hoo!  Adios, suckkaz!! 😉

Fun & clever recent infographics

I’m endlessly fascinated with how people display information visually.  Here are some cool recent examples:

  • JamPhat features a hilarious (and huge!) collection of hip hop-inspired infographics.  Images are helpfully linked to YouTube vids of the related songs. It was a good day…
  • Fun with Venn diagrams: I love the simplicity of this clever music elitism t-shirt. (Compare to Wu-Tang Clan.) [Via]
  • What if we regarded flags as info visualizations?  That’s what Brazilian designer Icaro Doria did for the magazine Grande Reportagem.  [Via]
  • Call it "Most Inscrutable. Karaoke Interface. Ever."  Or just call it pretty.  Robert from Flight404 (see previous) has used Processing to create the lovely video Solar, incorporating lyrics from Goldfrapp. [Via]
  • HistoryShots sells prints of really cool infographics
  • ArmsFlow presents global arms transactions, visualized in an interactive map.  Clicking individual countries shows their import/export flow for a given year.  Interesting concept, but the lines overlap so densely that it’s hard to see what’s happening.  I’d love to see the whole thing taken further.  [Via]
  • Knowing things Biblically:
  • Virtual China features a Chinese diagram on how to cook chicken with beer.  [Via]

New Adobe Magazine available

Volume 2, Issue 1 of Adobe Magazine, the company’s quarterly design and technology mag, is available for download.  The new issue features Photoshop being used for concept art, architectural illustration, and scientific imaging.  Other highlights:

  • Talent for Good - Poster power: Listen to seven diverse designers talk about the power of a poster and how they can be used to inquire, compel, and provoke while maintaining a civic responsibility.
  • New Interactive Spaces: Watch New York-based FeedTank encourage people to think creatively by building public interactive experiences.
  • Awakening the Web: Explore the new UNIQLOCK site, and see how the creativity of Tokyo based Projector thrives in a world of technological restrictions.
  • Digital Imaging Wonders: See how the imagination can take on an infinite variety of shapes, from landscape illustrations to hyper-real scientific images.   

A wealth of Lightroom tutorials

Digital photography experts Rob Sheppard and Tim Grey have created a wide range of Lightroom tutorials for the Adobe Design Center.

From Rob:

From Tim:

Helmut Newton, the death of Polaroid, and more

  • Mike Johnston shares a number of interesting thoughts on recent photographic news.  Talking about those huge zoom lenses, he says, “[W]hat people are really interested in is who can buy the biggest, baddest, most expensive status symbol in the form of massive glass. Plus, the narrowed field of view of the smaller sensor has now come into direct conflict with the preferred status symbol in sensors, so-called “full-frame” (i.e., 35mm size). We’re back to the best of both worlds in terms of one-upsmanship: the people with the biggest sensors also need the biggest lenses. Perfect.”
  • James Danziger has posted a short, funny, and salty interview with the late Helmut Newton:
    • Q: Your about to be published autobiography stops in 1982. What have the readers missed?
    • A: Nothing! People who reach their goals are very uninteresting. What could I have written about the last 20 years? I met a lot of awfully boring Hollywood bimbos. I earned a lot of money. I fly only first class. [Via]
  • You’ve probably heard that Polaroid film production is reaching its end.  One can, however, convert a Polaroid cam to digital [Via], and while the film stocks last they lend themselves to painterly manipulation. [Via
    Ashish Mukharji]
  • I’m sure my folks in Illinois can relate to this beautiful ice.  Certain things I’m happy to observe from afar. [Via]
  • Storm chaser Jim Reed risks life, limb, and gear to get some amazing shots, cataloged in his book. [Via]
  • Image database Covering Photography is billed as “a web-based archive and resource for the study of the relationship between the history of photography and book cover design.” [Via]
  • I’m late in posting it, but I enjoyed this unusual photo of Sen. John Edwards on the campaign trail. [Via]
  • Dan Heller’s blog covers the business of photography.

Leopard 10.5.2 improves Photoshop, LR compatibility

I’m happy to see that Apple has released the 10.5.2 update to Mac OS X Leopard (check Software Update under the Apple menu).  The update addresses some snags reported in using Photoshop CS3 and Lightroom on the new OS:

  • Typing values into the options bar in Photoshop (e.g. to set brush size or crop dimension) is no longer problematic.
  • Prior to 10.5.2, some Apple apps (Finder, Aperture, iPhoto, Preview) could crash or fail to read some complex XMP metadata, such as Lightroom develop snapshots.  That problem has been fixed.

I’ve just installed the update, so I don’t have more detailed notes to share right now.  That said, Macworld’s Dan Frakes enumerates some of the user-friendly tweaks featured in this rev.

Moments in time: Frozen Grand Central & more

Playing with our sense of time:

New video shows GridIron Flow in action

Last month I waxed the car of GridIron Flow, a new workflow management technology designed to work with Photoshop, the Creative Suite, and other tools.  Since then the product picked up a Best in Show nod at Macworld, and now you can see it in action in a video on their site.  In it company CEO Steve Forde shows Flow managing a workflow spreading across Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and InDesign.

Flow isn’t yet shipping, but GridIron is accepting sign-ups for beta testing.

New Filter Forge Freepack for Photoshop

The guys behind Filter Forge, the visual node-based filter creation tool, have released "Filter Forge Freepack 2 – Photo Effects," meanwhile announcing a 20% discount for their flagship product.  According to the folks at, "The theme of the second Filter Forge freepack is photo effects and enhancements. The free plugin comes with seven filters, each capable of giving any photo a unique look and feel."

Filter Forge is presently Windows-only (Mac version promised), so I haven’t yet given it a spin.  I’d fire up my copy of Vista via VMWare, but now it’s telling me that because I haven’t run it in a while, "You may be the victim of software counterfeiting!”–and thus refusing to function. Ah, good ol’ copy protection…

Wine offers improved Photoshop-on-Linux support

Wine, the open-source compatibility layer for running Windows programs on top of Unix-style operating systems, has been updated to offer improved support of Photoshop CS2.  Using the latest updates (of which another has been posted today), it should be possible to run PSCS2 for Windows on top of Linux.

Wine release manager Dan Kegel reports, "As of wine-0.9.54,
Wine is able to install, activate, and run the retail version of
Photoshop CS2 well enough for the average early adopter to use
(with caveats, e.g. you have to install the Times32 font first,
and ImageReady and Bridge aren’t supported yet)."  Check out WineHQ’s Photoshop page for more details.

[Pre-emptive, comment-saving non-disclosure: No, I don’t have other info/plans to share concerning Photoshop on Linux, and yes, we know that Linux folks would like a fully native PS on Linux implementation.  Just thought I’d spare you some typing. ;-)]

Friday photography: Old Hollywood & New Cams

Shat Shat Revolution, car cutaways, and more

“Some creators love a great sunset; some have in mind my bloodshot eyes…”  So says William Shatner of The Shatner Show, a gallery presentation and now book of artwork inspired by the man, rendered in every conceivable medium (including Lego).  B to the zzare.  The project reminds me a bit of Naoki Mitsuse’s Elvis Paintings.  (I have a particular soft spot for Tiny Elvis.)

In other illustration news:

Get your wet floor on in Lightroom

SlideShowPro developer Todd Dominey reports that he’s issued a free update to this Flash gallery component for Lightroom.  Changes include:

  • New "Header" area to display a logo (with link), gallery title and gallery description
  • New "Wet Floor" effect (see example)
  • 4 template groups, each containing 8 variations for landscape/portrait, dimension and aspect ratio (32 options total).
  • New inputs to directly assign an audio file and caption
  • New Director formatting panel

Todd notes, "The templates are also a great way to get a "fitted" look really quickly, as it calculates all the dimensions for handling 3:2 / 4:3 imagery
without gaps."  SlideShowPro for Lightroom is $25.

Note: It’s also possible to use SlideShowPro together with Photoshop; see previous.

Adobe Stock Photos to be discontinued

Adobe has announced Adobe Stock Photos, the service integrated into Adobe Bridge, will be discontinued as of April 1, 2008.  An FAQ is posted to address common questions (especially if you’re an ASP user), and there are uninstallers for Mac and Windows that let you remove ASP from Bridge if you’d like.

The FAQ is very light on the rationale for the decision, but in an interview with StockAsylum’s Ron Rovtar (subscription required for part of it), Adobe director James Alexander says, "We thought we went to market with a set of features and functionality that were going to improve workflow.  It was just not as compelling as we thought it was going to be."

I don’t have a lot of additional context to offer, other than to say that we’re working hard to make Photoshop, Bridge, and the other Creative Suite apps much more easily extensible so that they can support whatever services customers find useful–whether from Adobe or from third parties.

Recent Flash goodness in 3D & beyond

  • When is a shopping site… something else?  When it’s this viral site for Dutch chain Hema*.  "It’s like an IKEA catalog was sliced up and fed to a Rube Goldberg machine," says Motionographer. "The magnifying glass bit is brilliant." [Via]
  • Who doesn’t like "secret interactive frivolity"?  Design firm Baker and Hill lavishes attention on the details of their fun-to-navigate company site.
  • 3D action:
    • Don’t let the ultra-retro intro fool you: Electric Oyster’s demo features the beginnings of a nifty Flash-based flight simulator. [Via]
    • National Geographic offers a 3D Atlas of Human History.  Developer g.wygonik from the always-interesting Terra Incognita provides background on the project.
    • This Adobe Japan page features 3D balls gone mad. [Via]
    • The Volvo XC70 site features a fully rotatable rendering of the car, festooned wih interactive touch points.  Stick around through the intro, then hit the arrows to continue.  (Yes, we have kid-haulers on the brain, and I’ll always have a thing for Volvo wagons.)
  • ASLuv busts out the fairy dust with this little particle sprayer.  (Don’t break the glowsticks ’til you feel the beats hit.) [Via]
  • In a sorta related vein, see Lee Brimelow’s YTMND-style Billy Mays tributePuzzling; I can dig it.
  • The Air Pocket Symphony (no relation to Adobe AIR, MacBook Air, wayward heiresses, etc.) features photorealistic objects and a nice, simple sliding animation.  [Via]
  • MyFlashFetish offers SWF bits (particularly music players, it seems) that can be embedded in your site. [Via]

* Tangential: It’s not Flash, but on the innovative shopping front, software maker Panic lets you drag and drop items into your shopping cart.  Slickness.

You Suck at Photoshop 5, Russell Brown, and more

  • Depresso-guru Donny is back with Episode 5 of You Suck At Photoshop, offering some sarcastic advice: "You know, if you want to use your Magic Wand, that is awesome.  You can go grab a juice box and a Fruit Roll-Up and we’ll see you in about six hours…"  It naturally all ends in (very funny) tears.
  • Original Demo Gangsta Russell Brown really doesn’t suck at Photoshop and has dropped a whole crop of new videos.  PhotoshopNews has the details, and the vids themselves start about halfway down this page (look for the "New" flag).
  • And hey, big news from the crew at Photoshop User TV: the show is moving to real, big screen TV via Fox Business News Channel.  Scott Kelby has the details.  Quite a milestone, guys–congrats!

Saturday Type: Lip tats to Woody Allen

New alphabets have emerged:

Elsewhere in the world of type…

Terrible UI o' the day

Ah, Vegas: It’s like the whole town just coughs into your mouth.  Everything about this place makes me feel dirty, strung-out, and used.

I mention it because just now I was impressed to find a Coke machine that featured a credit card swipe-strip for payment.  Kind of convenient, I thought–though of course it means that the prices have been jacked out of the range of the small bills you’re likely to be carrying.

Speaking of price… It’s displayed only intermittently, when the words “Coca-Cola” aren’t crawling by.  (I’m sure that text is very helpful to the people confused about the nature of this giant red machine that sells only Coca-Cola.)  Terrible info presentation, but whatever, I’m thirsty.

Swipe, pause… card authorized, press soda button.  Wait several seconds… nothing.  Did it hear me?  I press again.  Wait… [rumble] Coke arrives.  And then another.  And then a third.  Suddenly I’ve paid nearly eight bucks for 60oz. of sugar water–about 10x more than I actually wanted.

Genius!  I’m serious, actually: by tossing out the most basic interface principle of providing prompt user feedback, these guys just tripled their income.  How many times a day must this happen, and who’s going to spend time sweating these guys for $5?  The house wins again.

PS–I know that in posting this little bit of whining I’m really unleashing the power of the blog, so to speak.  Maybe the anti-consumer UI beatings that happen in Vegas should, in fact, stay in Vegas.

Random greatness: Slingbox & NetNewsWire

Even at my most, random er, eclectic, I try to keep this blog focused on Adobe-related things (photography, illustration, scientific imaging, typography, and so on).  I love great design wherever I find it, so in this case I thought it would be worth giving props to a couple of excellent non-‘Dobe-related tools I’ve found recently.  Read on if you’re interested.

Slingbox is a little contraption that connects to your TV and converts the signal to streaming video.  That enables you to watch live TV, recordings on a TiVo or other DVR, or even (apparently) Apple TV content via your computer, whether you’re in your house or on the road.

Why is that a good thing?  In our case, instead of buying an additional TV to go upstairs for use while working out, my wife scored us a Slingbox AV.  Now any of our laptops can get plopped onto a stand and used to control the TV.  The streaming quality is good, to the point that a standard-def signal arguably looks better on my 17" laptop screen than on the 40" LCD TV.  We’re glad not to have an additional TV (and cable box, and wiring, and remotes) clogging up the scene when they’re not needed.

The only downside is that what you stream is the same as what’s on your TV, meaning that two people can’t watch different shows on different devices.  On the upside, I’ve confirmed that it’s possible to connect to the box from the road, then quietly pop up on-screen menus in front of one’s spouse’s episode of What Not to Wear.  Well, at least I thought it was funny…

NetNewsWire is a killer RSS feed reader for the Mac.  I know, I know–what rock have I been living under, right?  And yet RSS reading remains a niche behavior, so it’s worth evangelizing tools that make it a pleasure.

I’ve been subsisting on RSS reading in Safari for the last couple of years, and I can’t believe how much better NetNewsWire makes things.  Listing all the feeds & being able to browse them without leaving the app is solid, but God is in the details, and developer Brent Simmons really sweats the small stuff.  The app is chock full of handy little shortcuts for popping links open in Safari, shooting links via email, and more.  It’s also fastidious about respecting behaviors that have become second nature in Safari (putting focus on search, popping new tabs, and so on).

I won’t claim the app saves me time, as my saved cycles get rolled into more browsing, but it’s certainly far more efficient than my previous methods.  So, get ready for even more tangential ephemera (oh boy).

PS–See Adobe evangelist Terry White’s detailed Slingbox review if you’re hungry for more insights into that system.