... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Logging with the Treo 650

(Posted to rec.arts.sf.written on 07-19-06)

> Anyone have good recommendations for decent book logging programs?

Not just a program for book logging, but a critical tool for lots of things!

I bought a Palm Pilot three days after they came out in 1996. I've used it in one form or another constantly since then.

Palm's secret advantage is it's record-level cross synchronization. This provides inherent backup at all times. If you lose a phone, you have the data on the computer. If your computer crashes, you have the data on the Palm. I still have stuff from ten years ago which I pulled off a Casio watch I used before that. And there have been LOTS of crashed computers, broken phones and lost PDAs since then.

The Treo's other strength is that if you make it a habit, it's with you when you need it. I can only guess how many ideas have spun off into space before I started using a Palm. The Casio was too clumsy to do real note taking. I even used a Palm before I bothered carrying a cell phone. So for me, the Treo is a Palm first, telephone second for me.

My current version is the Treo 650 but I also used the Samsung I300 for years before that as well as all the older Palm PDA versions. They have steadily improved but I won't go into all the other uses.

As far as how I use it for notes, most data entry happens at my desktop keyboard, but enough text is collected in the field to make the device critical to keep with me. I've collected nearly two megabytes of "notes" over the years NOT counting the stuff copied, pasted and expanded on the desktop for one reason or another.

When a memo is ready to be "developed", I simply cut and past it to Sudden View and hack away! From there it may end up on the blog or some other web post. If I'm getting fancy in physical form, I use Open Office. I'm not a fan of Billware.

"Books Read" is a meno that stays on the Treo. At least it has so far. I've been collecting book data since 1998 with title, author, date and rating. It's fun to read back through now and then as a title often places me in real time like when you hear a song you liked.

I also take notes on plots, ideas, quotes, what's new, technology, hiking and Burning Man as well as many other topics. And the powerful part is, I always have this data with me when a topic come up. It actually makes me smarter than I really am.

The Treo is a fantastic tool. It's my second brain, as my wet one fails me on a regular basis.

Hope you find a method that works for you.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Right Text Editing Tool for the Job

(Posted to some board re: Sudden View but it's a nice summary and I should have a copy here)

Believe it or not, most text in cyberspace is manipulated by this little web box I'm typing in right now, or a similar one from AOL, MS or Yahoo mail. Think about it. Most writers don't even bother with WordPad. So much for picking the proper tool.

But for the one tenth of one percent (about a million users) out there who spend more than an hour a day editing text the choice becomes important. That's where matching the tool to the job is not only important, it can be critical.

I see the choices as multiple lines reaching out from a common point which is notepad (or Yahoo mail). Each line had a primary purpose with the most complete tool for each purpose at the far end.

Programmers tend to Zeus, vim etc.

Writer tend to Open office, MS Word etc.

Web monkeys tend to Front Page or one of the HTML tools

Bloggers blog with blog things.

Each application (and line) has it's choices.

It's best to keep an open mind.

Cyberspace is a moving target.

Sudden Disruption

Friday, June 30, 2006

Dust Art

Talk about sculpting in butter!

The Dust Art of Scott Wade

Think what he could do on the playa!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Eat Your Heart Out, Icarus

You've probably already seen this, but I just HAVE to keep it for my archieve...

Gizmodo Details

Movie - no jet but VERY cool flight.

From BusinessWeek :

Humans have come a feather closer to soaring like birds. Aided by a set of 6-foot-wide carbon-fiber wings, paratroopers can now jump out of planes at 33,000 feet and glide as far as 120 miles before popping their chutes and floating to earth.

Recently designed for Germany's special operations forces, the Gryphon wing-and-chute system is made by a joint venture between ESG Elektroniksystem-und-Logistik and Dräger. The Gryphon's compact size and stealthy materials make it both silent and nearly invisible to radar. In battle, winged soldiers carrying up to 200 pounds of gear could jump from planes far from a danger zone and glide in undetected.

With production slated for late 2006, the wings' designers next hope to add compact turbo jets. The extra thrust would help parachutists travel even farther -- or let them jump from lower altitudes. No word yet on whether the U.S. military is interested.
By Adam Aston

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Does Butter Fly When Churned with Water?

I was out for my morning miles, just getting started actually, and totally lost in thought that shall now never be recalled. 

All of a sudden, I was distracted by a huge butterfly the color of it's namesake lying open on the path, not moving at all. Did it pick this very moment to die?

It stopped me in my tracks with it's rich yellow hues, as if it were freshly churned. And it stopped me in my train of thought to wonder, what is it doing here?  Spring ended yesterday. Why was this guy still hanging around? And why hadn't a bird snapped it up for breakfast? If the early bird gets the worm, does the late hiker get the butterfly?

This creature would bear further inspection. I needed to get it home where I have one of those magnifying lamps on my desk. But how could I best carry it? I had just started my walk and still had miles to go. I had no Ziplock or easy way to hold a butterfly.

As a student of Zen, THIS was a worthy challenge - even a bit poetic. Could I carry a dead butterfly for miles without breaking it?  Would this task bring enlightenment?

I pulled my shirt sleeve down over my right hand cupping it against my belly hoping the cloth would do less damage. Next I picked up the butterfly by the tip of the wing and put it on it's prepared shelf. I started out slowly then headed on up the path at a faster clip. This was easy I thought, keeping an eye on my passenger.

I was wrong. Carrying a butterfly is more difficult than you might think. Even the breeze from walking buffets it about. It fell off twice in the first mile. After that I got better with my balance. Or so it seemed. I carefully moved on.

There is this one steep hill just before the highway. As I went down carefully a serious breeze caught the butterfly's wings. But it held its position against the wind! It was holding on to the cotton with its feet!  Was this a death-spasm?  Or maybe just a contraction from the process of dying?  Well then, it would die in my arms, I laughed to myself as I cupped him with both hands and ran across the highway.

Back at the house I looked for something to set it on so I could check it out under the magnifying glass. There was a stiff advertising post card with the power bill. That would work for now. Later I would want something completely white as a background for photos. Its feet were definitely attached to the threads of my shirt. I could feel them pull away as I picked him up by the wings.

Under the glass it was even more beautiful than before. The color was amazing. Then his legs started moving. Was this another spasm? The butterfly had a spiral tongue, and it unwound - like a dog waking up from a nap. This creature was alive! Or was it?  I watched for minutes.  It didn't move any more.  This WAS becoming an exercise in Zen.  So was that another dying gasp?  Or just yawning? I turned off the light and went to work at the computer.

A while later I checked again. No movement. And there was no change by the time I left for breakfast. It was laid out flat on the post card - perfect for mounting.

When I returned a couple of hours later it had moved. It was now on its side with its wings closed. Damn, I thought, I didn't want it dying in that position. I needed it flat for display.

I gently pulled its wings apart. But back they went. Do butterflies get rigor mortis? Again I carefully pulled them apart. They flipped back.  I was curious.  I turned on the light for a closer look - no other movement. Maybe it had died and then dried out in that position. Water might relax it a bit. I took it to the sink and splashed it with a couple drops. No change.

I let it soak a few seconds then pulled the wings apart again. It flapped out of my fingers and into my face! It then flew across the room banging into my dining room window. That settled that. It was definitely alive. It just needed a drink of water.

I quickly moved to catch it but it went up high. I stepped on the chair. Still not high enough. I stepped up on the table and caught him cupping my hands over the window. He stopped flapping. Did it remember my smell? Or was it just scared?

I pulled the sliding glass door open with my elbow and took it out on the deck. As I opened my hands, it just sat there. Now it didn't want to leave. Go figure. I poked it and it took to the air. This was no timid departure. It went almost straight up about twenty feet landing on the top of a tree near my deck.

So does butter fly when churned with water? This one certainly did.

And did I find the path to Zen enlightenment?   Nope.  Not even close.

But I did learn not to make assumptions about life.

Or when it ends.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Did Greenspan fail us?

Alan Greenspan retired earlier this year garlanded with honors and accolades. One economist called him "the greatest central banker who ever lived." But one London fund manager begs to differ.

Tony Dye says Greenspan was a disaster.

Here's his contra view...

But then it's easy being a Monday morning quarterback.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scameras - Our Government at Work

This is an excellent example of what happens when our government sets out to fix something.

In this case it's ticket cameras at red lights.

It's a great read.

Follow the money.

Sudden Disruption

Friday, June 09, 2006

Lights, camera, ACTION!

Anyone ever notice how so many stories on writing sites start out like the narrator is from a Disney movie talking to the gods of nature?

OK, Bullfrog. I'm not picking on you. I'm just using you as an example for something I've noticed a lot. The narrators seem SO disconnected from the audience.

How about starting from narration, then drop into your character's skin? Or at least something a bit more active? Especially when it's an action story?

"For just a second he stopped to rest. He let his breath catch up with his lungs. He started to notice things that had been a blur. The sky was not as black as it was when he started. This would make it harder to hide. He was far off course. He would have to fix that. He noticed how the wet ground pulled the sand up between his toes. At least his feet didn't hurt much yet. That would change if he stopped here too long. He needed the adrenalin.

He picked a direction and pushed off hard. Why had he become the hunted? Why had all his options ran out? He needed answers. But he had to get them moving."

Am I the only one that thinks a story should connect quickly?

And don't be afraid to drop out of lurk mode now and then Bullfrog.

It's only mild rejection.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


For years I owned and managed a retail computer store. We had Apple Macintosh, Atari and of course IBM PCs displayed at our demo stations. We also had lots of software to show off on these constantly advancing machines.

One of my pet peeves at the time was a lack of animated demos. It amazed me that other industries spent millions of dollars creating cardboard mobiles to hang from the ceiling trying to sell
soap or automobiles, while the software industry didn't even bother to animate a screen when they had such beautiful resources at hand.

As you might guess, I found the rare software that DID provide animated demos and left them running most of the time. These titles garnered a disproportionate mind share which I think helped
them prosper.

Now computers are available at Walmart and BestBuy, but much of retailing has moved to the internet. Google gives us a major search advantage, but we still under-utilize the magic of movement in
keeping the customer's attention once the page is displayed. This is a missed opportunity.

Even as software developers focus on the design of their user-interface, they often miss the most critical point of contact - it's your home page. You only have a few seconds to keep the user
from bouncing off to the next website. Animation is the key, but only if effectively used.

I've spent the last couple of weeks animating a demo of my text editor, Sudden View. I started with a free trial of Camtasia Studio 3 from TechSmith. It works as advertised though I'm sure I've
only tapped about 10% of it's features.

I'm still learning the editing process but I have a first cut on the website. Check it out. As you can see, the whole site is still a work in progress, but it's now doing a better job of
expressing just how strange yet effective Sudden View can be.

Since I was going for small file size to improve load speed, I produced in animated GIF format. I kept the screen shot at 640 by 480 and limited the loop to 125 seconds. Screen size seems to be more important than length of animation. The Cut-Outs didn't add much at all.

Running an animated GIF is also a great demonstration of the difference between Explorer and Firefox. If you have both loaded, do an A-B comparison and you'll never go back to Gatesware.
Which brings me to my second pet peeve about animation - too much of it.

The worst animations are the big Flash files that take forever to load. I'm amazed at how many of the big money sites still use them. One day they'll get a clue. Maybe.

Almost as bad are those little ads that constantly flash with absolutely NOTHING to say. Do we REALLY need to see lots of different product banners in the same little rectangle?

And they never give us a break. It's a maddening distraction while you're trying to read the content. To add insult to injury, they don't let us scroll off either. There's another copy flashing somewhere down the page. I don't stay long on these sites either.

So if you have a "moving" story to tell on your website, dive in and give it a shot, but only if it's worth telling in animation. There's no need for bouncing coffins or vibrating lake front

And remember, keep it small and short. And let the user scroll it off the screen after they've watched it. You DO want them to read the rest of your content, don't you?

Any one else have any animated web experiences?

Let me know.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Who is the Forced Perspective Artist? - Julian Beever

I first saw this guy's work about a year ago. Like everyone who takes the time to understand what they are looking at, I was very impressed.

It's AMAZING work and bends your brain just to imagine about how he does it. And to think it's all done with chalk on sidewalks.

This would be fun to see out at Burning Man. Maybe done on large sheets of paper which could then be rolled out on the playa.

I still don't know who this guy is.

I got these photos from a friend's email.

Does anyone know the artist?

He needs credit for his work.

So who IS this guy?

Sudden Disruption

> His name is Julian Beever. He's an English artist.

Thanks Michelle.

Here are a couple of Wiki links on the topic...

Julian Beever

Kurt Wenner

Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Feds Finally "Get" Burning Man

Burning Man is all about radical artistic expression with an imperative that everyone participate. It now appears the Federal Government (as the BLM) has finally gotten the message and decided to express itself the way it knows best - instant taxation.

As most people know, Burning Man has set the standard in using public lands without negative impact. Their "Leave No Trace" performance has set examples for the entire world to follow. And considering the size of the crowds and the activities involved, there are very few problems.

So what's the government to do with such a success?

Create some art!

Yes, the BLM decided to respond to a problem that doesn't exist (rampent crime at Black Rock City?) by dramatically increasing law enforcement and associated fees. As a final touch, they sent the bill to Burning Man.

How's THAT for creative artistic expression reflecting your core values? After all, isn't solving non-extistent problems with someone else's money what government does best?

I'd say it's a beautifully executed "piece of work".

But who's the "Man"?

And who gets burned?

Here are the details...

Express yourself!

Sudden Disruption

Sudden View...
the radical option for editing text

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Strange Significance of Sudden View

Sudden View has been described as strange. And it is. But it used to be MUCH stranger. And that's significant. Here's why.

The whole point of Sudden View's design was to start with a clean sheet of paper and try to find the VERY best methods to edit text. I think I found some.

When I started there were fewer standards between programs. Editing was a toss up between Insert and Replace mode. Menus were just starting to drop down, and the mouse was a fresh toy. The entire Graphical User Interface (GUI) was a new idea, one I thought needed challenging.

For this reason, I assumed almost nothing. Each element of Sudden View's design was considered. From the shape of the mouse cursor, to the way the menus worked, I created what I believed (and
still believe) are better alternatives.

Over the years, things have changed a bit. GUI won out over almost everything that came before. Insert became the editing mode of choice. And "Properties" evolved to exploit the right mouse button. Sudden View evolved too.

When I did the Windows port, once again I reviewed each design element to see if I needed to conform. Or not.

The test I applied is something I call "Significantly Better". There's no point if you can't make it significantly better. Yes, I realize that's a bit subjective, but most people know it when they see it. "Significantly Better" is well this side of "Why Bother?".

And if I HAD converted all of Sudden View's features to the Windows GUI standard, I would have produced just another Windows editor. This would have definitely been in the "Why Bother" territory. See how this works? What would have been the point? No, Sudden View still has the unique features that make a difference. But I did make SOME changes in favor of the Windows standard.

The Insert Editing Mode was probably the biggest concession. Still, I preserve a bit of Implied Editing Action with a right click placement of the text cursor to invoke the Replace mode. Try it, you'll see what I mean.

Another obvious change from the original was conforming to the Windows Clipboard. Here, there was no downside, and it provided a critical way to communicate with the rest of the world. There are some minor differences, but in general Sudden View also conforms to the standard Control X, C & V keys for using the Clipboard.

And I DID reversed mouse button use. They used to be opposite. Again, there was no downside in conforming to the Windows block selection using a left drag. But that's where familiar
ground ends. Just about everything else using the mouse is unique. And better. In my opinion.

From Variant Block Selection, Block Move & Paste Buffer to the toggling of mouse button functions, this is still vintage Sudden View. I did add cursor key activation to Block Moves. It's a fun
feature and helps learning about Dynamic Arrangement.

I also used some Windows Dialogs where it didn't matter much. But not in the Find function. This was in the Status Bar WAY before it became popular. The original Find remains. The world caught up with Sudden View in this regard.

Power Menus are still easier to learn, and faster to use than drop down, even when using the mouse. With hands on the keyboard, it's no contest at all. Power Menus stayed.

The view Bar and Abstraction were added after the original design, but this approach is still a more visual way to navigate a file. It too violates the Windows standard. Oh well.

There are lots of other subtleties to be discovered in Sudden View. Most won't be found in a Windows program. From the way the text cursor blinks to Control key selection, there are significant
advantages for each feature. I'll explain why as this blog continues.

Yes, I realize there's a bit of a learning curve for Sudden View.

Some things ARE worth what they cost.

Let me know what you think.

Sudden Disruption

Sudden View...
the radical option for editing text

Beta test now in progress...

Monday, March 27, 2006

Damned Quarter-Moon Ice Cubes

Now for something completely different...

Yep. You read it here first. I've been waiting a long time to bring up this up and since I now have this shiny new blog, NOW is that time.

I HATE quarter-moon ice cubes (and by inference) the machines that create them.

What? What is this guy talking about?

If you remember back when ice makers became common, you may recall there were two competing designs. One made ice in the shape of small cylinders. Technically, they weren't cubes but they worked as well in that they allowed the drink to move easily around and provided a decent cooling surface.

The OTHER design is the flakey one. These are the ones that look like a quarter moon and they have the nasty habit of taking up residence oriented like a smile in your glass.

Don't let appearances fool you. That's no smile. It's really an evil grin. As soon as you take a drink, you'll understand why. For some strange reason (easier to eject?), this design seems to have won out. It's become so prevalent, I'm sure you already know where this is going.

KER-SPLASH! That's your drink all over the front of your shirt. Those little grins form a dam holding back the liquid until that magic moment. When the pressure becomes too great, the dam breaks and the damn cube slams against your nose. It's happened to me so many times I've lost count. It's a challenge trying to get the drink without moving the cubes. I often lose.

My father told me don't bother bitching unless you can offer a better solution, so here it is. There are two reasonable defences against these icy critters. The one that's most satisfying is simply to change the setting to crush on the ice maker and listen to them die a horrible death. That seems to be what most people do. I've check quite a few ice makers and I think this is at least a factor in the "crush" settings I find.

But if you don't like your drink watered down that fast, here's another trick - think outside the smile. Go out and buy some of those square glasses or even hex ones - any shape but round. It should take care of the problem. Isn't design fun?

If anyone else has any other good solutions, I'd like to hear them.

Sudden Disruption

Sudden View...
the radical option for editing text

Beta test now in progress...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why is Sudden View so radical?

If you've tried Sudden View, you may be startled by how different it is. This may lead you to wonder why. But if you spend enough time to get a FEEL for it's methods, it will begin to make more sense.

Sudden View is a tool that puts the actual editing first by focusing on the primitives. My objective was to re-explore the very nature of the editing process, then create a UI (User Interface) that reflected these actions.

If you take an honest look at most text editors you'll see they are steeped in their own history. GUI editors are simply screen editors with menus. Screen editors were simply line editors for a glass Teletype. Navigating and altering text still uses the command / response model of ancient TECO. This creates a barrier between the user and his content.

When the Apple MacIntosh came along, Steve Jobs touted Direct Manipulation as a new method to make the user a part of the process. His paint program demonstrated this with impressive results. Unfortunately, he didn't apply the concept to his text editor. The only thing it Directly Mannipulated was the mouse cursor itself. That's when and why I decided to try something new.

With Sudden View I focused on what we do most with a text editor - enter, navigate and alter text. As with all good design, the most direct and effective controls should activate the most common functions. This means the mouse should be reserved for navigation and text manipulation.

I applied the right mouse button to do Direct Scrolling and I made it work ANYwhere in the text window, not just on the scroll bar. I replaced the scroll bar with a ViewBar so the user could simply point and click at where he wanted to go.

Next I applied Direct Manipulation to actually moving text around the screen. Finally I promoted Copy, Cut and Paste to mouse activation. All of this takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do, you tend to forget about HOW you are editing and focus on WHAT you are editing. Sudden View removes the barrier between the user and his content.

There are lots of other challenges to the standard GUI in Sudden Veiw. I'll discuss them in future posts. The point I want to make here is, Sudden View wasn't designed this way just to be different. It was done in order to find a better, faster and more natural way to edit text.
Let me know what you think.

Sudden Disruption

Sudden View...
the radical option for editing text

Beta test now in progress...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why This Blog?

The reason for this blog is Sudden View.
The reason for Sudden View is this blog.
More specifically...

The primary reason for the creation of this blog is to support the text editor Sudden View, and to explain the why of it's design.

The second reason for this blog is that I like to write; and I like to write about all kinds of things, which is the primary reason for the creation of Sudden View.

Sudden Disruption

Sudden View - for the art of editing text