Thinking about product design

I had an interesting discussion this weekend about computers and devices and Internet of Things. I’m still sorting out how exactly to articulate this, and then this morning this great example from Marco Arment came to my news feed:

From Redesigning Overcast’s Apple Watch app –

It’s unwise and futile to try to shove iPhone interfaces and paradigms into the Apple Watch. Instead, design for what the Watch really is.

All these devices are testing the creativity and interaction concepts of designers and developers. Whether it’s the Apple Watch, some new “Internet of Things” device, or even something as straightforward, but polarizing, as the new Apple MacBook, Thinking about what the thing is for, and understanding the subtle ways that people will use the new thing — that’s where the magic happens.

Read Marco’s post about his app. The specific are interesting, and the more general lessons essential.

Turntable Repair Project Update

My old turntable may be back in action soon.

I roped my friend Cliff into giving me a hand figuring out how to repair the cracked and wobbling plastic drive belt pulley. It doubles as a strobe indicator, so repairing it is best. This turntable is a somewhat rare thing from the 70’s. Some parts are still available, but not this strobe pulley.

I think Cliff’s repair job is going to work. Here are a couple photos…

IMG_0882 IMG_0883

You can see the cracked plastic in the close-up picture above. Cliff cut a copper tube for the inner post sleeve, glued in the shards of the original part, and then packed it all in a special epoxy modeling clay. the larger outercopper tube then adds structure and also cut away a bit of excess clay.

Here is what it will look like in position, shown here with the drive belt pulled aside, since the strobe pulley repair is not yet set. it spins freely with no discernible wobble. I think this is going to work!

Pulley in position

The Internet and the FCC

On the eve of an important ruling vote at the FCC, Brad Feld has written a great piece on the subject. As he says:

There has been an enormous amount of bombastic rhetoric in the past few months about the issue that has recently become especially politicized in the same way the debate about SOPA/PIPA unfolded.


Indeed. And Feld continues on to debunk a few of the most ridiculous ideas and provides links to several other articles going into details. A worthy read.

Are your tools working for you?

Apple has released the Public Beta of Mac OS X Yosemite, and  I’m getting a lot of questions about whether one should jump in. My advice is to wait. Most of the non-developer user features I find really great in Yosemite are in the integration with iOS, all of which requires iOS 8, which you don’t have (or you wouldn’t be asking me whether to try Yosemite! Ha ha!)

But whether you’re taking my advice or not, now is a good time to think about the Apps that you use and how you work. Anytime you are considering making a major upgrade it’s a good idea to check everything that’s essential to your work (and play) and ensure that it’s going to work right. It’s also a reasonable trigger for doing some thinking about what you use and maybe trying something new.

Yosemite and iOS 8 will give you plenty of opportunity to improve your workflow and try something new. There are a lot of new capabilities in both, especially in how Apps on both platforms can work together. It will be fun to see what creative developers come up with.

But first you need to know where you are. What are your most important tools? How do you spend your time on your computer? What works well and what doesn’t? It’s a fun exercise just to make a quick list, decide what’s essential and then ask yourself what works and what doesn’t.

In my short list: 1Password works great; Dropbox works well, but there are some privacy concerns so I might look at alternatives; my combination of Scrivener, Byword, Sublime Text 3, and Pages are excellent for writing projects and other text; TextExpander, Omnifocus, Fantastical, and BusyCal all work great for me. My tools for working with Audio are great; My Python and Objective-C/Swift development environments work great.

But I’m going to have to ruminate on this a bit. I’m sure there is some blind-spot — something that’s broken, but I’m just used to it. So I’ll jot a few things down over the coming days and weeks and then consider making a few changes.