28 January 2008

Ponoko visits Art Center

A tired but good-humored Derek Elley (on the right), co-founder of ponoko.com, dropped by briefly at Art Center today in between his 12-hour flight from New Zealand and a meeting in Palm Springs. I asked him if he had a good flight and he looked at me like I was nuts - and I realized that "good" and "12 hour flight" don't belong in the same sentence.

In the photo, Derek is visiting with David Cawley, manager of our digital fabrication shop. We had fun showing Derek around and letting him see what our students are capable of creating.

If you haven't had a chance to check out ponoko.com, take a look - it's a very cool concept!

Google celebrates Lego's 50th anniversary

Wow, I'm older than Lego! But not by much :)

23 January 2008

Lights. Camera. Oops!

I've been struggling to come up with the right words to respond to the report at the MPAA grossly overstated the impact of college campuses on movie piracy due to a "data entry error". A data entry error? Too bizarre.

The MPAA and RIAA have been incredibly focused on trying to control the exchange of copyrighted information on campuses. As best as I can understand their thinking, this stems from a belief that campuses are the leaders in bandwidth, and because of their perception that this is where students learn to swap materials online. Both these assumptions are now just wrong. There's a million times more bandwidth out there going into homes than there is on college campuses, and by the time students get to our campuses, they've been swapping online for years.

I do have sympathy for content creators who are watching the monetary value of their intellectual property erode. And it's not easy to know how to manage what comes next - I heard the erudite and entertaining Jack Valenti a couple of years before his death opine that "Yes, we know we need a new business model, but it's hard to come up with one that competes with 'FREE'." But this latest incident just seems to highlight the ineptitude and general ineffectiveness of the MPAA. A data entry error? Give me a break.

22 January 2008

Good Morning Pasadena!

The reflection on my office window this morning, captured by my iPhone camera.

21 January 2008

MacWorld: One Thing I Didn't See

I know there wasn't enough time between CES and MacWorld to expect much of a response to the apparent end of the format war, but you had to search hard at MacWorld to find any mention of Blu-ray. It may be that Sony won the next-gen disk contest only to find out that physical media is on an inevitable downslope and nobody really cares. First of all, unless you have a very big screen, say bigger than 42", a DVD played on an "up-resing" player like you can get for $99 at Costco looks really, really good. Second, you can rent or buy 720p high def images from iTunes and others, and very few people are going to notice the difference between 720p and 1080p images. The kind of people who care about the difference betwen 720p and 1080p are the kind of people who bought ... BetaMax players because they were better than VHS. And we know how that turned out. The kind of people who buy Blu-ray players are the kind of people who bought ... videodiscs! And how many videodisc players are there around now? For most of us, good enough is good enough. Consequently, nearly zero interest in the Mac community in producing Blu-ray disks. It's all about putting content online.

20 January 2008


Cloverfield is a wonderful awful movie. The script and acting are pretty hokey and predictable, but it's so much a movie of its time that it will be studied in years to come. In some ways it's not unlike a classic such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers which is immersed in the ethos of the 1950's. Cloverfield is the first great classic B-movie of the post-9/11, highly connected mobile media world. It's no accident that the most interesting character is Hud - and he's literally a Heads-Up Display. And the execution - special effects, editing, sound - are near perfect. It would never be my favorite movie, but the target demographic will want to see it more than once and buy the DVD. It's going to make a lot of money for many years to come.

Report from MacWorld: the ModBook

While there was surprisingly little at MacWorld that was really new, I did enjoy spending some time in the Axiotron booth playing with the ModBook, which is now available.

When the ModBook was announced last year, I was skeptical. Would it be possible to modify an Apple laptop without coming up with something odd and ugly like a Kustom Van? Are there really enough people who are willing to pay a premium for a computer that you can write on? My answer to the first question is yes - it's a nice looking machine that seems very sturdy. My answer to the second is maybe.

The ModBook feels like quality as soon as you see it and pick it up. The frame is magnesium, the class is extra thick and sturdy, the entire frame is rigid. It feels much sturdier than any other tablet I've held, but it's not that heavy, because of the lightweight materials used. While I'm sure Jonny Ive and his team can't stand to look at it, it's really not that bad and manages to NOT look like an Apple product, which is a good thing - if they had tried to copy Apple's design language they would surely have failed. It looks like something different and not half-bad.

One smart choice was to license Wacom's technology so writing on a ModBook should be just like working with a Wacom Cintiq. In my brief test, it was responsive and accurate.

A few caveats - the ModBook is based on the MacBook, not the MacBook Pro, so it's going to be somewhat lacking in horsepower for many creative users. It's also got the 13.3" screen, great for casual use but small for designs and layouts. However, you can imagine setting it up with an external keyboard (it's a fixed configuration, there's no swingout keyboard access) and a larger monitor and using it much like one of the smaller Cintiq's. It will also set you back for about $2500 in the faster configuration, about what you'd pay for a more powerful MacBook Pro plus a Wacom tablet.

Tablet PC's of all kinds have struggled to find a market, so it remains to be seen whether this machine will be any different. But Axiotron have done a lot of things right here, and what they've created is arguably the most attractive and capable Tablet PC out there - you can even use Bookcamp and run Vista on it, if you want. I'm hoping we'll get a couple into the hands of our designers soon so we can see how they operate in the real world.

19 January 2008

MacBook Air: Has Design Innovation trumped Tech Innovation?

The MacBook Air is beautiful. And it's really really thin. And I know a lot of people that will want one right away. And in many cases these will be the same people who didn't want a MacBook. But that's basically what a MacBook Air is - a MacBook in a beautiful case.

17 January 2008

My Hero From Wham-O

Despite the depressing fact that the ability to use a Hula-Hoop seems to have been completely bred out of my genetic makeup, I am in awe of Richard Knerr, who passed away Monday. (LA Times obituary) He and his partner "Spud" Melin built Wham-O out of pure creativity and audacity. In a world of one-hit wonders, it's hard to believe that one company (from Pasadena no less) launched the Hula-Hoop, the Frisbee, the Super Ball, the Slip-N-Slide, and the Wacky Wiggle. Yes, the instant fall-out shelter was a failure, but nobody's perfect! Building your career on helping people have fun - and having fun yourself - how cool is that.

15 January 2008

A Perfect Pasadena Day

Beautiful crystal weather, the second day of classes - second term photography students learning to use view cameras.

14 January 2008

Reduced Carbon Footprint Souvenirs, via 3D Printing

I saw a link to this on the Ponoko blog - conceptual design from designer H├ęctor Serrano - someday when you travel, say, to London, instead of buying a worthless trinket there that was imported from China, and taking it back to Los Angeles, you might email a customized souvenir to be printed locally. You can do it today with Ponoko for laser-cut parts. However, you wouldn't want an SLA printer in your house, even if you could afford it. Maybe in the garage.

Joining the Fab@Home club

I'm pleased to report that the parts for our "Fab@Home" DIY fabber have been ordered and are on the way. Of course, ours is going to be orange instead of blue. I'm really looking forward to putting this together with the team here and seeing what it can do.

13 January 2008

Ten Trends From CES 2008 | Gadget Lab from Wired.com

I had thought about going, but it looks like it was the most amazing crazy zoo so I'm probably glad I missed it. But next week... MacWorld!
Ten Trends From CES 2008 | Gadget Lab from Wired.com

12 January 2008

How to recognise a good programmer

I found this in a link from Slashdot and it rang pretty true to me. Actually, most of this characteristics would apply to anyone who is good at what they do.

Inter-Sections » Blog Archive » How to recognise a good programmer

10 January 2008

A little late... but Happy New Year!

Click on the image to view Art Center's holiday card.

07 January 2008

Snow Day

The view from my office this morning... Los Angeles is beautiful after it rains!

05 January 2008

Backing Up to the Cloud

One of the downsides of digital media is that if you're not careful it's easy to lose what you have. With traditional photos, that shoebox might be disorganized but it will never crash and erase its contents. I've worried for a while that I might lose my family's photos, and on irregular occasions I've made backups to various media. Until recently, I used a spare USB drive and kept it at work.

But new services make it so easy and cheap to back up your data online, there's really no excuse not to. Amazon S3 is a collection of online storage that's remarkably inexpensive. It's designed for software developers so most of us won't use it "raw" - instead, you need client software that works as a front end of Amazon S3. I chose a program called Jungle Disk - it's currently just $20 for a life-time license, as many machines as you want and free updates. I works with Windows, Macintosh, and Linux, and I've tried it with success on the first two platforms.

Jungle Disk creates an online storage drive similar to a local file server. You drag and drop your files to and from the "JungleDisk". Once you've set up your account with Amazon, that's all there is to it. Of course if you have big files, it takes awhile especially to upload from a home connection, since those are usually provide a pitifully slow upload speed.

The cost of storage? Amazingly cheap. Fifteen cents per month per gigabyte to store, plus ten cents a gig to upload and eighteen to download. It's going to cost me less than $30/year to upload my entire collection of digital photos and keep them online - about what I used to pay to buy and process a couple of rolls of prints. I love it!

04 January 2008

No Complaints

I received the card above in the mail when I got back from my holiday break, and I love it because it so beautifully illustrates IT management at its worst. Would you complain to this guy? No, because he'd either bite your head off or shrug and close his door.

In my experience, "no complaints" means "everyone's given up". When you bring an IT organization back from the dead, you start getting lots more complaints, because you raise hopes that something can be done.

Here's the text on the reverse side of the card: "I'm the CIO. I like things that work well and do exactly what they are supposed to do.... Everything is up. Everything is working together. Everyone is on the same calendar. And, most importantly, nobody is complaining."

Those aren't bad things and this isn't a bad product. But the focus is all wrong. The only way to get everyone on the same anything is via coercion. The only way to get no complaints is to ignore them. Coercion is an admission of failure.