Ding-dong the Patent's Dead!
Friday, Jun 20, 2003
After 20 years, the has expired. Now freeware image manipulation tools can once again encode in teh GIF format without infringing on copyright and opening themselves up to lawsuits!

If this matters to you, you're a geek.

The Home Mainframe
Thursday, Jun 19, 2003
There's been a lot of speculation about Mac OS X 10.3, 'Panther' that Steve jobs will be demoing on Monday at the WWDC keynote speech. even though the update isn't due to come out until September, it's being unveiled to get developers on the bandwagon to support 10.3 features on launch day.

One of the features with the biggest potential for impact is 'multiple GUI logins' which basically means that more than one user can be logged in at once. The conventional wisdom has been that this would let Bob stay logged in while Jane logs in to work on her paper as Bob is temporarily away, so each user doesn't have to shut down everything they're doing just so someone else can access their files and use the computer. I think this could be a lot bigger, though.

Ever since the iMac came out with two headphone jacks on the front of the computer, it's been clear that Apple realized that educational computers are shared computers. The ability to log in to a computer has been tremendously important in educational environments, because students can take their workspaces with them.

but what I haven't seen mentioned is the possibility for simultaneously shared computers. Pop in a second video card, plug in another keyboard and a second mouse, and suddenly you have the usefulness of two computers where before you had one. And when you only need one, you have one computer with two screens!

True, there's the obvious argument that this could cost Apple sales, but I really wonder how many two-mac homes there are right now. It seems to me that the ability to buy one computer that the kids and parents could use at the same time would be a strong reason to buy Mac over PC, and when you only have a 3% market share, coming out with a feature that could lure a fraction of the remaining 97% is worth losing a fraction of the 3%.

Now that assignments are required to be typewritten at earlier and earlier ages, two or more kids having to share one computer at home is turning into a big problem. Wouldn't it be nice if the mantras on the value of sharing weren't halted by the digital divide?

And wouldn't it be nice if Apple came out with a 2lb thin client wireless tablet so you could use your computer anywhere around the house, even as your wife does the same?

New Treo everythingPhone this Fall
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2003
Handspring has posted a sneak preview of the Treo 600, a palm-based phone with a keyboard, color screen, color camera, and SD slot in a small package (and no flip cover!)

I'm realizing more and more that my Sidekick isn't very good at being a phone, though it rocks on email and instant messaging. I've got to figure out what my long term plan is: getting a phone and using the new data-only option for my sidekick? Ditching my email dependence and dropping the sidekick altogether? or maybe a different hybrid, like this Treo.

Luckily, the Treo 600 doesn't come out until this Fall, so I've got plenty of time to mull it over.

I'm younger than I am.
Wednesday, Jun 18, 2003
Look! I'm a Young Adult! I should savor this moment. After all, it's only two weeks before my 30th birthday, when I get my 'establishment' membership pin.

The other funny part is that the guy on the left, the example of "High School" is George Chen, known in some circles as "The Internet Guy," a former co-worker of mine and, while younger than me, pretty far past the high school phase...

Physical Opt-Out
Tuesday, Jun 17, 2003
I got a really interesting piece of mail the other day, offering a kind of opt-out I hadn't seen before.

Though I've been in Pittsburgh for the last year, I still have my FasTrak transponder to pay my Bay Area bridge tolls, and so they still send me monthly statements, politely informing me that I haven't actually crossed any SF bridges since the last statement. This time though, they wrote to tell me about a new service that I'd be helping build, just by driving around., run by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, is a realtime traffic information aggregator, to help drivers estimate how long a given trip will take, accounting for realtime traffic conditions.

The idea isn't new. Seattle has a similar system, that uses inductive loops built in to the highway to measure traffic speeds, and facilitates some nifty gadgets for using that information. The Bay Area currently uses a system of video cameras, along with some very slick computer vision software (nifty video) developed by my former artificial intelligence professor at Berkeley, to video a stretch of highway, count the cars that pass by, and measure their speed. Nevertheless, I'm guessing FasTrak readers are cheap, and allow for unique identification of cars, so you can put up more datapoints quickly and easily (build them into the overpasses, probably) and understand not just how fast traffic is moving at a given point, but know how fast it's moving between those points, since you know how long it takes a particular vehicle to go from point A to point B.

As I was reading this, thinking "nifty!" I noticed the static-proof bag that came along with the letter. At first I assumed it was for sending my current transponder back to trade in for a new one, better equipped to work with their system (a traditional 'opt-in' service). As I read on, understanding that I didn't have to do anything for the system to work, I thought it was for sending my transponder back if I wanted one that wouldn't work with their tracking system, and would only pay tolls (a traditional 'opt-out' system).

Despite their absolute assurance that "no personal information will be collected or stored," and that they will "never know the location of any particular vehicle or person" or "collect information on individual driving patterns" I understand that many people value their privacy too much. After all, nothing in those platitudes prevents the highway patrol from knowing that there are one or more vehicles traveling above the speed limit, and where they are, so they could then be found and identified.

Still, as much as I value the concept of privacy, I personally don't care about whether they can see how fast I'm going, and I'm trusting (as I am with TiVo) that it won't turn out badly.

So what about the anti-static bag? "If you prefer not to participate in this program, but still want the convenience of using FasTrak, place your toll tag in the enclosed Mylar bag after you have passed through the toll plaza; then it cannot be detected by the roadside readers. To function at the toll plazas, the toll tag must be removed from the Mylar bag." Thus it's an 'opt-out' system, but of a physical nature. at least when you're opting out, you know you're actually opting out, and aren't just trusting the service to respect your wishes (unless the bag's a fake, of course).

It's like the Hokey-Pokey. Opt-in, Opt-out, Opt-in, then out. that's what it's all about!

Google Escher
Tuesday, Jun 17, 2003
I love today's Google logo. It's my favorite yet. [archived copy]
Putting the 3D in Dada...
Sunday, Jun 15, 2003
Explodingdog finally has a 3-D contender to the throne: Boring3D.

Warning: A good hour might be spent reading the beautiful and odd archives.

Off Playing
Saturday, Jun 14, 2003
Gone to Kennywood! Be back later!
Isn't this Design by Committee?
Thursday, Jun 12, 2003
Though nobody's brought it up, I can see how someone would look at this process and say "Yeah, I suppose it could be called participatory design, but isn't this design by committee?" My answer to that would be yes and no. What's happening with the user base ("yinz") is more like screening. I get feedback, and redesign, using my discretion on which things are perceived as rough, which are difficult to understand, overly obvious, and aesthetically pleasing or not.

Nearly all the stuff we've been doing here is visual design. At the same time, talking about the visual design, which is more justifiable to do in a participatory process, I'm getting a better idea of your individual workflows. How do you use Fury? How might the interactive design suit that better? These are questions I'm learning about while we dicker over highlight colors.

The actual interaction flows are being worked on in a more structured process. They'll also have their time to be put forward, but in a front-end user-experience form, not the back-end flows and such. This sort of thing is better done in ones and twos, so I need to find and test some local fury readers. Hey, any HCII brethren care to submit to a low-fi test or two?

Anyhow, just trying to say that giving you links and talking about impressions isn't my whole HCI process, but when dealing with expert users of the intended system, as you all are, interviews like these, even en masse in comments, have their place. you can already see the difference when you go back and look at the first mocks to now.

Fury 4.0d8: Quick opinions
Thursday, Jun 12, 2003
Like Ali, I still feel that the comment count on the OTP navbox is clunky and jarring. I'm looking for better solutions. I'm not sure how important it is to indicate the number of comments for a given post, just how new the latest one is, and if it's new to you. Basically the same functionality that's already in the timeline bar, but more explicit.

In the meantime, I'm playing with replacing salmon with a dark blue and reversed type. Fury 4.0d7 vs. Fury 4.0d8.

Considering how the OTP box would actually be used, and that it should exist on every individual entry page, I've renamed it to 'new this week' (NTW).

Oh, and in case I didn't mention, the comment popup window will go away completely. Now, lookig at comments will take you to that entry's individual page, with the comments appended to the end of the entry. Following a comments link will jump you down to those comments in that page. I don't have a quick example of that. Davezilla used to do that, but recently redesigned his site and has now gone the popup route.

Anyhow, comment away. Work continues...


Hi, I'm Kevin Fox.
I've been blogging at since 1998.
I can be reached at .

I also have a resume.


I'm co-founder in
a fantastic startup fulfilling the promise of the Internet of Things.

The Imp is a computer and wi-fi connection smaller and cheaper than a memory card.

Find out more.

We're also hiring.


I post most frequently on Twitter as @kfury and on Google Plus.


I've led design at Mozilla Labs, designed Gmail 1.0, Google Reader 2.0, FriendFeed, and a few special projects at Facebook.

©2012 Kevin Fox