the ‘Brain Man’

Brain Man - Daniel Tammet
60 Minutes is one of the few TV shows I make it a point to watch. Last night’s episode had a great profile on Daniel Tammet, the ‘Brain Man’.

“I see numbers in my head as colors and shapes and textures. So when I see a long sequence, the sequence forms landscapes in my mind,” Tammet explains. “Every number up to 10,000, I can visualize in this way, has it’s own color, has it’s own shape, has it’s own texture.”

For example, when Daniel says he sees Pi, he does those instant computations, he is not calculating, but says the answer simply appears to him as a landscape of colorful shapes.”

Gates Proclaims Internet to Revolutionize TV in 5 Years – thanks Captain Obvious.
Shaun Inman releases Mint 2. I’ve upgraded, but still waiting for my Activation Key.

Links For Today 23.01.2007

Hot nuggets for today:
– once again, top notch interactive from Nike.
Thinking Machine 4: Play the Game – amazing, it shows you what moves the computer is thinking of by drawing lines over the chess board. Dope!
Rip DVD’s with VLC – thanks LifeHacker
The web is dead, says co-founder of Flickr – why so glum? I can understand her point, but I’m not sure I agree with it.
Sitepoint discusses Microsoft Breaking HTML Email Rendering in Outlook 2007 and Campaign Monitor has some reactions here and here. It’s de ja vĂș all over again.

Mac Utility of the Day: Safari’s Activity Window

*Note to Firefox users – I know Firefox has a similar activity utilities you can install, but so far I haven’t found them nearly as easy to use as Safari’s.
Ever need to know what a web page is comprised of? What kinds of SWF’s, JPG’s and CSS files it’s using? In Safari, simply go to Window>Activity to see what’s going on behind-the-scenes on web pages.
This window comes in handy particularly when troubleshooting why certain elements aren’t loading a page, such as cross domain issues with Flash or simply to find out you gave an image the wrong filename.
The Activity window is also great on giving you insight into how someone else built their site, or how something works.
I’ve been using this built-in utility since Safari was released with OS X and I figured it I should give it an entry.

iPhone user rating?

I’m really tired of seeing legitimate news sites posting articles that are gossip, hearsay, speculation – whatever you’d like to call it. Technology sites such as Gizmodo and Engadget are notorious for it (some would argue that this is what their specialty is) as well as 500% of all celebrity entertainment sites.
I ran across something today that I think ventures into new bullshit territory – a user rating on a non-existent product. Today is January 19th, 2007 and almost 300 users have rated the iPhone on Yahoo.
Pretty amazing.
Pretty meaningless.
Yahoo, DWMMFT.

Sony MDR-EX71SLA/B: Good headphones for your iPod

It shouldn’t bother me when I see dozens of people every morning on the subway listening to their iPods through the terrible white earbuds included when you purchase the player …. but I do get bothered.
The situation is understandable – if you’ve never used great headphones, you’re below average ones seem to be doing the job fine (or if we can jump ahead 6 months – if you’ve never used an iPhone, your Palm Treo 650 seems perfect.)
If you wanted to, you could spend up to $500 dollars on headphones, but I’m not CNET and I’m not going to break down all your options – Shure, etc. I’m just going to tell you that for about $50, the Sony MDR-EX71SLA/B headphones are a great upgrade from your default iPod earbuds. They fit in your ear like earplugs, they don’t rest in your ear like the iPod earbuds. By plugging into your ear, they accomplish 2 things: a) they block out a lot of ambient noise (subway cars, people, important alerts at the airport…) and b) by ‘plugging’ into your ear they achieve better bass – the bass doesn’t escape into the open air around your ears. I’m not a physicist, but trust me, it’s a scientific fact.
Apple should include better headphones with their iPods – it’s like Ferrari deciding to include factory tires on all their cars and then making you upgrade to high performance tires.
Yes, $50 might be more than you’d like to pay for headphones, but you’ll realize it was money well spent.
Sony MDR-EX71SLA/B headphones at Amazon

Netflix to offer movie downloads – this was the next logical step for them. Interesting that the service is proposing to be streaming not downloadable video. They allows them to nicely step around DRM issues, but it also doesn’t let people burn their movie to disc…
David Pogue’s iPhone review – I’m really starting to dig what this guy has to stay. He’s smart and doesn’t take himself too seriously – two very good qualities to have.

Why Interactive Design is the Best Field

I made the decision over 7 years ago that I was strictly ‘RGB’. What I mean by this was that despite my 4 years of print design training as an undergraduate, I was going to focus on web design. It proved to be good move because, aside from a slight bump in ’02 after the Dotcom Bubble burst, I’ve always had projects to work on.
What is it about interactive design that makes it so good?
Its Interactive
It’s right there in the name! Interactive design is not a one-way street. You click a button on a website and it responds. You type on your keyboard and click ‘Submit’ to update your site. You visit a film site and are immersed in a cinema-like experience. You can view content, create it, change it, download it, or send it on to a friend. As an interactive designer, you create the environments people will interact with. You decide how controlled or free the project is. It’s a lot of hard work and responsibility, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Open Source Community Love
This is an aspect of interactive design that truly sets itself apart from other industries. The fact that you have the ability to view code on other sites and learn hands-on from other people’s expertise is indispensable. This is particularly helpful when working out issues in XHTML and CSS.
When you’re designing and building your project, you’re never alone. If you hit a wall, either creatively or technically, you have forums and blogs where people just like you are dealing with the same issues, and most of the time there’s going to be people out there who know more than you and and can provide you with some direction or even post sample files to download.
valuable resources I’ve used:
Sitepoint – great for CSS, PHP/MySQL
Ultrashock – great Flash resource
AListApart – focused on web standards, HTML & CSS
Flashkit – all about Flash
StyleGala – CSS-focused portal
Prototype – Actionscript-licious
Do It Yourself
The final reason I’d like to mention on why interactive design is so great is best exemplified by Andy Rutledge in a recent article he wrote on his site. He concludes that is a poorly designed site. His next steps are:
a) explain why the site is poorly designed
b) redesign the homepage to reflect a better design and thus, communicate better.
This is why interactive designers should NEVER complain they don’t have anything in their portfolio worth showing. If you need portfolio pieces, make them up. Find a site that sucks and make it work! Have you always wanted to redo Craigslist? Then just do it. What are you waiting for? I’m not suggesting redesigning complete sites for free for companies that aren’t your clients, but focus on a key area – the homepage, the video player interface, the navigation bar. You decide what needs the most help.
From a career standpoint it’s important for potential employers to know that just because you’re not technically ‘working’ doesn’t mean you’re not working. Don’t make 6 months of unemployment a reason to be embarrassed. Make it a reason a employer didn’t find you sooner! You’d be surprised how much work you could get if you decided to send one of your drop-dead, amazing comps to the company in question.
This is also important for your growth as a designer. Just like your body, you mind needs exercise too. You ever go away on a 1 or 2 week vacation and sit back at your computer and have to thing for a second what those key commands were? So keep lifting those Photoshop weights. Keep running laps around the CSS track.
Enough reading. Go be interactive. Enjoy it.