go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

March, 2007

  • go ahead, mac my day

    product review - iFrog one-handed keyboard

    • 2 Comments

    On March 8th, I had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum in my right shoulder. I'm right-handed, and now I'm mostly without the use of my right arm until physical therapy can return me to using my dominant arm. To help maintain my sanity, not to mention keeping me from incurring further damage, I purchased an iFrog.

    The iFrog is a one-handed chording keyboard, and comes in left- and right-handed variants. It has a total of 20 keys, which give you roughly everything that you want out of a keyboard. 15 letters are usable without any kind of modification. The rest require you to press two keys at once. For example, to get that X back there, I had to hold down two keys.

    Learning to use this has mostly been a question of breaking my own habits. I learned how to touch-type on a standard QWERTY keyboard when I was 10. So switching to something where none of the keys are where I expect them to be has been challenging. I frequently type a D instead of an A because the D is below my left pinky finger. I'm not quite touch-typing yet, although I'm getting closer. Perhaps by the end of the week.

    I have a few complaints about my iFrog. Mine didn't ship with the documentation or tutorial CD, which has meant that I've had to puzzle out a lot of things (such as which key combination is the command key). In January, I emailed the company to ask for a replacement CD, but nothing has arrived. The cover is difficult to put on properly. The recharging cable is hard to plug into the device when you're one-handed. It doesn't sit flat, there's a very slight unevenness to the bottom. If it were a table in a restaurant, I'd put a matchbook under the wobbly leg.

    But it's making it possible for me to use my computer. Typing on it is faster than left-handed hunting-and-pecking on my QWERTY keyboards. Whether I continue to use it when I can use my right arm remains to be seen, but I've got a few weeks before that. I'm using the iFrog exclusively until then.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    pet peeve #1

    • 6 Comments

    I'm not the first to whinge about this, and I know that I won't be the last, but it really does grate on my nerves when someone writes MAC when referring to the computer.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    book review - 'Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colourful Company'

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    Book title: Apple Confidential 2.0: The Definitive History of the World's Most Colourful Company
    Author: Owen W. Linzmayer
    ISBN: 1593270100


    After reading the insufferable iWoz, I wanted a book about the early days of Apple that didn't suck. A friend gave me Apple Confidential 2.0 for my birthday, and it was just what the doctor ordered. It emphatically didn't suck.

    This is a well-written account of Apple, from the early pre-Apple blue box days through the book's 2004 publication. Instead of taking a traditional day-by-day walk through the company's history, Linzmayer arranges his chapters by topic. This makes following the individual threads of Apple much easier. Extra quotes and notes are included in the margins, which add colour and depth to the story. Jef Raskin, who unabashedly called himself the father of the Macintosh, said that this book was the most accurate depiction of how the original Mac was created.

    Each chapter mostly stands alone. Since each chapter covers only one topic (say, the development of the Newton), some of the chapters in the tumultuous 90s are a bit hard to follow if you're not already aware of certain pieces of Apple history. Many topics are referenced without a word of explanation, just an occasional pointer to the later chapter. The most glaring examples of this are the references to Be, the Star Trek project, and Copland.

    The chapter about the Star Trek project is a great example of another problem of the book. It's too early to talk about more recent developments. Star Trek was the project started in 1992 to bring the Mac OS to Intel. According to this book, the project was shelved in 1993. Typing on a MacTel today, it's obvious that the project was resurrected. I know that I'm not alone in wondering how this actually came about.

    Even with those complaints, I recommend the book. The early days of Apple are interesting indeed, and understanding them is critical to understanding Apple today.


    Related links:
    Amazon's page about this book
    author's website

  • go ahead, mac my day

    website security with cute widdle kittens

    • 7 Comments

    We've all seen websites with CAPTCHAs -- those image boxes with a random collection of squiggly letters and numbers, trying to keep bots from spamming websites or prevent brute-force attacks. There are variations, but the idea is the same. Now MS Research has entered the mix with Asirra. Instead of using squiggly letters, they use a collection of pictures of homeless cats and dogs from PetFinder.com. If one of them catches your eye, there's an 'adopt me!' link so that you can learn how to do so.

    This is in beta, so you can now have your own security provided by cute widdle kittens! I'm going to have a talk with my two cats (I just adopted a second cat, a flamepoint Balinese, a couple of weeks ago) to tell them that they're going to have to learn more about security so that they can keep my home server secure.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    article review - The Design of a GUI Paradigm Based on Tablets, Two-Hands, and Transparency

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    Article title: The Design of a GUI Paradigm Based on Tablets, Two-Hands, and Transparency
    Authors: Gordon Kurtenbach, George Fitzmaurice, Thomas Baudel, Bill Buxton
    Publication: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
    Year of publication: 1997


    In this CHI '97 paper, the authors discuss a two-handed GUI paradigm based on using two hands and transparency. Their goals for the new paradigm are to maximise the amount of screen real estate used for the user's task, avoid forcing the user to switch focus from their task, and increase the degrees of manipulation and comfort of input.

    The prototype system, named T3, allows the user to create and edit graphics. They use two digitising tablets and two rotation-sensitive pucks. They state that the two tablets were required for sensing rotation, but they would have preferred to use only one tablet. However, they wanted two pucks, each with one button. The user could substitute a stylus in their dominant hand, and thus use pressure on the stylus for a button-press action. Using this two-handed interaction method, the puck in the dominant hand generally worked with the task, whereas the puck in the non-dominant hand generally worked with the tool palette.

    Next, the authors describe applying the lessons learned from creating T3 to a commercial product named StudioPaint. Interestingly, they implemented a methodology for inferring the handedness of the user, instead of requiring the user to specify which is their dominant hand.

    This paper does not contain any concrete findings resulting from the creation of the prototype T3 system or from the implementation in StudioPaint. I think that this is a significant oversight; how much time did the user spend learning how to use the two-handed paradigm? Likewise, the use of transparency is mostly glossed over. How did users react to using a ToolGlass? Did they have any issues with transparency?


    Related links:
    ACM Digital Library page for this paper
    Gordon Kurtenbach's website (which includes PDFs of all of his papers, including this one)
    George Fitzmaurice's website (also has PDFs of all of his papers)
    Thomas Baudel's blog
    Bill Buxton's website

  • go ahead, mac my day

    iLaunching the iLaunch

    • 4 Comments

    The Onion has an informative article titled Apple Unveils New Product-Unveiling Product that discusses Apple's latest product, the iLaunch. Here's a quote:

    Described in its patent filing as a "hype-generating mechanism with fully integrated Mac compatibility," the iLaunch is powered by Intel dual-core processors optimized to calculate a product's gravitas. Apple claims the iLaunch can garner the same amount of press attention as a major scientific discovery, high court ruling, celebrity meltdown, or natural disaster at 200 times the speed of a traditional media-fostered launch.

    The article does say at the end that Microsoft will be releasing a product called the Launch-O in 2009. Here in MacBU, we're looking closely at both offerings to see which one better fits into our needs. We have a long history of supporting Apple technologies, so we're tracking this closely. We have the upcoming launch of Office:Mac 2008, so we're quite interested to see how this can help our launch.


    I hesitate to say this, because I dislike questioning the intelligence of you, dear reader, but I'll say this in case some random guy pops by (and I'm okay with questioning the intelligence of random guys who pop by): This is humour, folks. The Onion is satire.

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