February 2012 Archives

Nixie Tubes

By Michael Mulvey on February 29, 2012 4:07 PM

Late last year, Apple announced a recall of 1st generation iPod Nanos due to a (potential) battery defect. If you qualified and sent them your old Nano, they would mail you a brand new one.

My wife had a 1st gen Nano, so I had it replaced. Upon getting the new Nano, I began to play with it more than my wife did, so she ended up giving it to me as a Valentine's Day present a few weeks ago, along with a watch strap.

Since using this Nano as a watch I love it. I would have never bought a Nano for myself otherwise. It comes loaded with 18 different watch faces. I use this one:


The style of the numbers reminds me of of the digital multimeter my father has in his basement laboratory and what I used to use to test batteries for my toys growing up. The number display looked exactly like my Nano's watch face.

I saw my dad this past weekend, and being gadget geek like me, inquired about my watch.

My Dad: Is that a new watch you're wearing?

Me: Yeah. Check out the watch face, remind you of anything?

My Dad: Sure, those are Nixie tubes.

I never knew the name for them, but that's what they are. Nixie tubes. Here's a bit from Wikipedia on them:

A nixie tube is an electronic device for displaying numerals or other information. The glass tube contains a wire-mesh anode and multiple cathodes, shaped like numerals or other symbols. Applying power to one cathode surrounds it with an orange glow discharge. The tube is filled with a gas at low pressure, usually mostly neon and often a little mercury or argon, in a Penning mixture.

Although it resembles a vacuum tube in appearance, its operation does not depend on thermionic emission of electrons from a heated cathode. It is therefore called a cold-cathode tube (a form of gas filled tube), or a variant of neon lamp. Such tubes rarely exceed 40 °C (104 °F) even under the most severe of operating conditions in a room at ambient temperature.

It's quite a beautiful piece of hardware:


If you scroll down the Wikipedia page for Nixie tube, there's a picture of Steve Wozniak wearing a real Nixie tube watch. Here's a picture:


Looks like you can buy one for around $400.

How much more awesomely nerdy can you get?


By Michael Mulvey on February 29, 2012 3:29 PM

After watching this video on Gizmodo, that was my reaction - Windows 8 actually looks fun to use.

Now I have no idea how many holes are in Microsoft's new OS and I hate that it goes back into classic, 'non-Metro' mode, but how awesome would it be if Microsoft wupped Google's ass in the tablet market? You know, created an operating system people wanted to use?

Because based on my first impressions of Windows 8, I'd pick it over an Android tablet without thinking twice.

Window Shopping

By Michael Mulvey on February 28, 2012 10:09 AM


via DesignTAXI

Luuuuuuuke. I am your charger.

By Michael Mulvey on February 28, 2012 9:10 AM

Joao Paulo Lammoglia created a concept design for an electronics charger which converts your breath into electricity:


The one he has pictured I can only assume is the Storm Trooper edition. I want to know when the black, *Vader* edition comes out.

via PSFK

Variegated Planes

By Michael Mulvey on February 27, 2012 11:51 AM

Oh snap. Feltron has a new biennal report for sale on his site.

Count me in.


via Kottke

Foxconn & Apple

By Michael Mulvey on February 27, 2012 9:39 AM

Mike Daisy reacts to David Pogue's response to ABC's Dateline special on the Foxconn factory producing Apple's iPads:

You can't get "informed consent" in a country without real personal freedom. These arguments are pathetic--they're structurally nearly identical to the ones made in the 19th century justifying slavery. The fact that workers take these jobs because they feel they have no economic, social, or political choice, and this is the only path, is not an endorsement of the current system--it's actually a condemnation.

It is cute how he makes a point of noting that there are no payroll taxes on your $2 an hour.

Do you think Mr. Pogue verified that, or that he's spent any time digging through Foxconn's history of deceptive paying practices--like how it pretended that it raised employee salaries 30% in 2010 by simply moving money around?

No, I don't think he did, either.

A New Home(screen)

By Michael Mulvey on February 24, 2012 4:45 PM

Shawn Blanc thinks about the possibilities of the next Home screen on iOS:

Not until recently have we felt much of a need for a revamped home screen. Since 2007 iOS has evolved significantly in both its functionality (i.e. multitasking and Notification Center) and in the amount of available apps (thus folders, and multiple Home screens). After five years the Home screen is feeling cramped and outdated.

If I were a betting man, I would wager that the iOS Home screen as we know it today is not Apple's long-term plan. My hunch is that the Home screen is still the way it is because the long-term ramifications of what it could be are huge.

A reimagined springboard is a prime opportunity for significant innovation. And significant innovation takes time.

It's really exciting to think about what's next.

Not because it's a fantasy, but because for those of us who understand Apple, we know this is inevitable.

It's inevitable Apple is skating to where the puck is going to be (as they always have). It's inevitable they're re-imagining the Home screen. It's inevitable they'll make a lot of people happy with their next software paradigm. It's also inevitable they'll piss off a lot of people in the process.

It's also all very sad when you think about the opportunities that exist for Android and hardware manufacturers like Samsung who copy everything Apple does.

Comparisons like this stop being funny and just look pathetic.

This is why I'm so happy with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. It's a complete departure from everything that came before it. It's not stale, contrived, fussy or silly. It's clean, efficient and modern. Microsoft acknowledged a missed opportunity in mobile computing but still pushed forward and came to their own conclusion.

Mutliple futures exist for multiple UI paradigms in software. It's a painfully commonplace expression, but it's true - there's more than one way of doing something. It would be great if more leaders of more software companies realized this, strapped some sets of balls on and took some risks.

Before and After the iPhone

By Michael Mulvey on February 23, 2012 5:56 PM


via Cult of Mac via Co.Design

Life is talking with people.

By Michael Mulvey on February 23, 2012 12:28 PM

I lived at 100 East 7th Street in the East Village in NYC from 2000 until 2005 in my uncle-in-law's rent-controlled apartment (I'll make you cry a little - it was a 2 bedroom unit I paid $600 a month for).

It wasn't until I got married and moved and my brother took over the apartment did I ever see who lived behind the door of 102 East 7th Street (and what was in there).

His name is Anthony Pisano, and he's a wonderful old man:

Further validating the fact that the East Village is still the best neighborhood in New York.

via Dangerous Minds (thanks bro).

Catwalk Laser Beams

By Michael Mulvey on February 15, 2012 4:17 PM


Watched this about 20 times. Kept laughing. Had to share.


By Michael Mulvey on February 15, 2012 3:30 PM


Cute little bastard, isn't it.

Kind of reminds me of the Nissan Figaro.

via Motoriginal


By Michael Mulvey on February 15, 2012 9:43 AM

Abdel Ibrahim and Jon Dick's post about the Samsung Galaxy Note inspired me to put their words into an advertisement:


via The Brooks Review

The Response

By Michael Mulvey on February 14, 2012 2:37 PM

Last month marked 5 years since the iPhone was first introduced.

Research In Motion has had their research in motion for the last 5 years and they've finally responded to the smartphone challenge and the current leaders in this space, Google and Apple:


You've had 5 fucking years and this is your response?

Looks lovely, but I hope they don't count on this saving their company.

Image via The Verge

Work Sucks in China? Who Knew?

By Bryan Larrick on February 14, 2012 1:03 PM

Apple announced yesterday that a nonprofit group it partly finances, the Fair Labor Association, would begin inspections at supplier factories in China, most notably Foxconn. This follows a string of horrific stories coming out about Foxconn in recent months, some detailing suicides by workers protesting draconian working conditions. Apple's moves are an important first step, one that other technology companies that use Chinese labor are sure to follow. What is confounding is how any tale of woe involving China's labor force is a surprise at this point.

China has little more than token labor laws, and unions are outlawed. There is, and has been, little recourse for the worker to demand better working conditions, shorter hours, better pay, or benefits. The decades-long fight for workers' rights that took place here in the United States and other western nations beginning in the late 1800s has never taken place in China. Little things that American workers expect as a condition of employment, like the 40-hour work week, weekends, living wages, health and retirement plans, a ban on child labor, and workplace safety, are of little concern to the powers that be in China.

And this extends beyond electronics manufacturing. As another example, conditions are so horrendous in Chinese coal mines that thousands of miners die yearly in mining accidents, far and above the worst death rate for coal miners in the world.

Chinese laborers face some of the harshest working conditions on the planet, but it's not because they're Chinese.

Once upon a time, it was a risk to life and limb for American workers to simply get out of bed and go to work. Mills and mines exploited labor in ways just as terrible as in China today, but American workers began to fight back against their employers. Changes did not take place overnight. It took decades, and thousands of deaths (both work-related and protest-related) for American workers to get the protections that we have. This led to the costs of American labor rising for American companies. Their solution, in turn, was to shift that labor to countries where the long fight for fair labor practices had yet to be fought, and labor was cheap.

The out of sight, out of mind attitude of American companies, including Apple, followed by their shock once overseas working conditions come to light, is wholly disingenuous. It costs money to be fair to your workers. Sending work to a place where labor is not costly is more than mere indication that workers are being exploited. Rather, it is a virtual guarantee.

Nina Leen

By Bryan Larrick on February 13, 2012 1:19 PM


via Life


By Michael Mulvey on February 13, 2012 12:59 PM

Instrument (via Dan Mall)

#11 Blade

By Michael Mulvey on February 13, 2012 11:22 AM

Before I graduated college and became a web designer, I was honing my skills as a print designer.

And the accident scene depicted on this cover of Print magazine is something I experienced on more than one occasion:


via Still Life

-Webkit Winning

By Bryan Larrick on February 13, 2012 11:11 AM

Scott Gilbertson, over at webmonkey, has an interesting piece on developers preferring the -webkit prefix in their CSS, and how this could be bad for the web.

...at the CSS Working Group meeting, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera announced that each are planning to add support for some -webkit prefixed CSS properties. In other words, because web developers are using only the -webkit prefix, other browsers must either add support for -webkit or risk being seen as less capable browsers even when they aren't.

via webmonkey


By Michael Mulvey on February 13, 2012 8:49 AM

Josh Halliday, reporting for The Guardian:

Sony Music has come under fire after it increased the price of a Whitney Houston album on Apple's iTunes Store hours after the singer was found dead.

The music giant is understood to have lifted the wholesale price of Houston's greatest hits album, The Ultimate Collection, at about 4am California time on Sunday. This meant that the iTunes retail price of the album automatically increased from £4.99 to £7.99.

Classy move, Sony. Classy move.

via The Loop

Pinterest is...

By Michael Mulvey on February 9, 2012 1:45 PM


Quote taken from Drewbot

New York Times? We Need to Talk.

By Bryan Larrick on February 8, 2012 2:16 PM

I come from a family of journalists. My mother is an editor, has been at the Akron Beacon Journal in one capacity or another for 40 years, and has taught journalism at Kent State University. Before he died, my father also worked at the Beacon, also taught journalism at Kent, and spent the last 20 years of his life editing on the foreign/national desk at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Needless to say, I respect and appreciate the newspaper business. This respect leads me to support the business in its decline.

Every day when I go out to lunch, I pick up a copy of the Daily News here in New York. They have a fantastic sports section, but more often than not, I don't have the time to more than skim the paper. (I don't buy the Post. That paper is a rag.) On the weekends, I have the New York Times delivered to the doorstep of my apartment building.

I buy these papers even though content is available online for free because these two papers are struggling to survive. The newspaper industry is in big trouble, from the lowliest paper in the country, to the hugely circulated Daily News, to the indispensable Times. I buy these papers because I believe in the product. I believe it is essential for organizations to investigate and report the news, and they need cash to do this.

Reporters cost money. Putting a reporter in an overseas bureau is downright expensive. Editorial staff are generally experienced journalists, demanding premium salaries for their skills. The overhead on a paper is huge, encompassing ink, paper, mechanical and computerized infrastructure, and the staff that uses and maintains them. Printing a paper every day is a mammoth job that makes the reportage look easy. It's worth thinking about how much effort goes into a paper that costs 75 cents or a buck, then think about how many copies have to sell, how many ads need to be run, just to break even.

And the work newspapers do is important. The Times may be the most important news organization in the country. They are the original source for much of the national and international news that is reported on by television news networks, the blogosphere, and other newspapers. A Times byline lends legitimacy to a story, lends it the air of quality and accuracy, because that company has been building its reputation for decades. It's not perfect, but it is, without a doubt, the best newspaper available today.

I bring this up because when I wrote above that I have the Times delivered to me on the weekends, I should have written 'had.'

I paid the Times over twenty bucks a month for two papers a week. A reasonable price. I was glad to give them the money. I was glad to support John F. Burns in London. I remember, and I was rewarding, his and others' incredible reporting from Iraq during the war. I was glad to support an inexplicably bad sports section and an ambitious business section. I was glad to support the Week in Review (now the less polished Sunday Review), where reporters could take a step back from the news hole and contribute thoughts and opinions on the stories they followed. I was glad to support everything in the paper, even this awful op-ed published in 2007 (I can't believe this piece of elitist snobbery made it past the editors. It's one of the most useless op-ed pieces I've ever read, and deliberately insulting. A particular gem from the piece: "In any event, nothing about cricket seems suited to the American national character: its rich complexity, the infinite possibilities that could occur with each delivery of the ball, the dozen different ways of getting out, are all patterned for a society of endless forms and varieties, not of a homogenized McWorld." Fuck you very much.).

For all of this, I paid. All the Times had to do was make sure the paper made it to my doorstep every Saturday and Sunday. Yet for weeks, ever since Christmas, nothing. Every weekend morning I opened the front door to the building and was greeted with naught but cold concrete. It's happened before. Having a paper delivered in this city is a risk, what with all the folks out there with sticky fingers. But for seven weeks? No thief would dedicate the time necessary to catch all those papers. This was a logistical fuckup, and I was caught in the middle. After trying to fix the problem, I decided it was time to end my subscription. From now on, the Times and I would have a web only relationship.

What surprised me was that there were negative feelings on my part when I cancelled. I genuinely felt bad about denying the Times much-needed cash flow, even if it was an infinitesimal part of their revenue. I knew that by going all digital, I was now among the millions of readers that put pressure on the Times and all news organizations by taking in content for free. (The Times does have a digital pay model, but it has two things wrong with it. One: a full digital subscription costs more than having the actual paper delivered to me on weekends, which comes with full digital access. Two: the article cap before a reader has to pay is too high, ensuring only real Times junkies will pay.)

Right now, reader loyalty from paid customers is about all that's holding up the Times. It's what they base their ad rates on. They cannot survive with a digital-only model yet. If that organization has to step up its cutbacks like other papers in the country, it could have a cascading effect on information coast to coast. Less stories will be reported, and what is out there will be less accurate. And that is why I felt bad when I called it off. Because a Times that has to half-ass it's information gathering and distribution is bad for the country.


By Michael Mulvey on February 8, 2012 1:53 PM

From Roberta Cowan at Reuters:

Next-generation software for BlackBerry's smartphones is "ready to compete", Research In Motion's new chief executive, Thorsten Heins, told more than 2,000 technical developers on Tuesday, expressing confidence in RIM's long-term future.

This reminds of those Japanese holdouts who continued to fight even after World War II ended.

via The Loop


By Michael Mulvey on February 8, 2012 9:06 AM


What a remarkable photo (actually, remarkable series) of Lucien Freud, grandson of Sigmund Freud.

This photo reminds me of the fact that when you're lucky enough to be making a living doing what you love, you never really retire. Look at the wall behind him next to his canvas. Awesome.

This photo was taken in 2005. Lucien died in July of 2011.

*I also love this photo of him shaving with a (clean) paintbrush. Seems reasonable to me. Seriously, it does.


By Michael Mulvey on February 7, 2012 11:05 AM


Hinoki Wooden iPhone and iPad accessories (via The Verge)


By Michael Mulvey on February 7, 2012 10:48 AM



Scrambled video game characters by Laura Vidal (via Shane's Blog)

Bad Girls

By Michael Mulvey on February 6, 2012 8:22 AM


By Michael Mulvey on February 3, 2012 8:53 AM


via Le Container

Blinded By The Light

By Michael Mulvey on February 3, 2012 8:32 AM


via Michael Surtees

Jammy Dodger

By Michael Mulvey on February 2, 2012 12:43 PM

via Alex Rainert

Upside Down, Left to Right

By Michael Mulvey on February 2, 2012 12:34 PM

via Co.Design


By Michael Mulvey on February 2, 2012 10:39 AM

So Microsoft now thinks the Web is better without plug-ins (via CNet):

"Metro-style IE runs plug-in free to improve battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers," said John Hrvatin, Internet Explorer program manager lead, in a blog post. "A plug-in free Web benefits consumers and developers and we all take part in the transition."

How convenient. I guess that whole push with Silverlight to de-throne Flash is over, eh?

For the record, I was wondering Silverlight's relevance way back in 2007.

The Chair

By Bryan Larrick on February 1, 2012 11:41 AM


Found this chair all by its lonesome underneath the Manhattan Bridge a few weeks back. Shot this on an old Minolta Autocord I picked up on eBay. Analog is dead. Long live analog.

Daily Exhaust is hosted by DreamHost, powered by Movable Type with Minted statistics.