As Far As I Can Tell

Hello 28

Today is the beginning of my 28th year here on spaceship earth. I think it’s going to be a big one for me.



I like the optimism

Posted by: Isaiah on September 29, 2006 4:17 PM

Happy birthday!

Posted by: Dan Saffer on September 30, 2006 2:25 AM

Happy birthday!!

Posted by: miguel on September 30, 2006 11:27 AM

Happy Birthday, Simon.

Posted by: mark on October 2, 2006 2:14 PM

happy belated birthday.

Posted by: emily on January 24, 2007 2:30 PM

Thesis Paper: Designing Adaptive Products

This year grad school takes on a different structure for me since two classes are devoted to thesis work. The thesis is split between a project and a paper, each with a different adviser and for me at least different topics. I make my own schedule and meet with my advisers only once a week; it’s much more self directed.

My paper is on a topic I’ve been interested in for a long time: designing adaptive products. I’m working with Richard Buchanan who has a particular structure to the way he wants the paper written, which is good since I’ve never written anything of this length before and need all the help I can get.

I started by choosing 3 words to guide my work: Product (what), Adaptation (how), and Autonomy (why). I am interested in how products mediate our relationship with the world and how designing for adaptation can increase people’s involvement in shaping their lives and lead to greater personal autonomy.

I’m reading three books, written from three different backgrounds and perspectives. Each one maps to one of those words though there are aspects of all three in each book. My readings are: How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built; by Stewart Brand, Democratizing Innovation; by Eric Von Hippel, and What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, And Design; by Peter-Paul Verbeek. You might have seen these hanging out in my new “Reading List” weblog sidebar.

I finished the reading last week so now I need to start making sense of them in light of my theme and finding some connections. I’ll post the paper when I finish, it’s due by the end of this semester. I’ll post info on my thesis project later.



iTunes 7 album art memory leak

I was excited to see Apple’s new iPod offerings the other day and after reading about the accompanying new version of iTunes it seemed like a good upgrade. The feature I wanted the most was browsing by album art since iTunes has previously always focused on individual tracks rather than managing complete albums. Other media players, like the new Windows Media 11, already have a mode that visually groups songs into albums and displays the cover art.

Unfortunately their implementation makes it unusable because of the performance hit on my computer. There’s a memory leak involving album art where every time you see an album cover it loads and holds it into RAM. Even after you’ve switched modes, scrolled off screen, or minimized the application it doesn’t release it. As a test I watched my RAM hold steady as I scrolled through my library in regular song-based text mode. When switching to album art view the usage steadily increased as I scrolled, and the cover flow mode was even worse.

I like to leave iTunes open for weeks at a time and this memory leak makes that next to impossible unless I stick with the old viewing options. Hopefully they’ll fix this leak soon since this technical problem is inhibiting what is ultimately a better way to interact with full albums. It sad to see that not only the concept of iTunes is getting bloated (music, movies, tv, and now games!?), but the software code along with it.



I’ve been waiting for ages for Apple to fix the memory leak in Safari. Seems Flash and Safari don’t play nice, and I’ve seen my virtual memory usage shoot up past 1.2 GB on more than one occasion. iTunes, while not as bad as Safari, is still a hog. But at least there’s a (lame) workaround: don’t use the new features!

Posted by: Dave Chiu on September 14, 2006 6:49 PM

I hate iTunes. I absolutely hate it but I have to use it. Not for the iPod but because it does something that I absolutely love. When I either import music by CD or by dragging nor dropping, it automatically creates folders based on id3 tags embedded within the mp3 file. This helps with file organization as well as file renaming. If it wasn’t for that, I would not use it at all. No. Winamp is a fine example of what a mp3 player should be. It shouldn’t take 5-25 seconds to open a mp3 player. And no mp3 player should stutter for any reason. Although I knew that these new features such as cover flow would eat up resources, I am sorely disappointed in how the features are poorly implemented (ipod updating) or not at all (automatically downloading album art). Apple has always been kinda flaky when it comes to PC software and I don’t blame them but I feel as though this will hinder their movement to get people to “switch” if they can’t roll out such an important piece of software.

Posted by: jake on September 15, 2006 1:40 AM

The bloatedness is a bit dissapointing. You could see it coming though, just from the half assed video integration they added last year. I haven’t noticed the memory leak, but I’m going to check it out when I get my office.. The thing that I think kind of sucks, is that there’s not any intelligence built into finding the album art.. 90% of the stuff in my library has been ripped by iTunes, over 120 gigs worth of music. iTunes found artwork for maybe 25% of it, I think a little less.. Then again I guess if they don’t sell it in the ITMS then they won’t have the cover..

Posted by: Adam on September 18, 2006 2:34 PM

I just upgraded the memory in my G4 powerbook, and just for kicks tried to kill it with iTunes. If you remember the notification from iTunes before it began importing album artwork, information about missing artwork is sent to them…I assume they’ll be updating their databases.

Posted by: Dave Chiu on September 18, 2006 7:52 PM

Furthermore, What I’m waiting for is for Songbird to be done. In case you don’t know, it’s a cross-platform music player built on Firefox. This means that extensions can be written for it allowing for some exciting optimization and personalization possibilities. It also allows you to go to music blogs and it immediately finds .mp3 links and allows you to play them in the player. That’s pretty handy. There is always the threat of bloated software showing up but we’ll see… Right now, it’s in a very loose beta and I’m just waiting for them to tighten things up but I’m looking forward to being able to use that instead of iTunes.

Posted by: jake on September 18, 2006 9:31 PM

Wow, that really shows the problem Dave. I can’t believe they haven’t come out with a 7.01 to fix that issue yet. Hey Adam, I use a program called Album Art Cover Downloader to add artwork to my MP3s. It pulls from Amazon and lets you drag files in from the web too. Windows only unfortunately.

Posted by: Simon on September 18, 2006 9:34 PM

Hey Jake, Songbird looks pretty cool. Any word on if it will support syncing to the iPod? Right now that integration is what’s keeping me in iTunes. Over the summer I took scores of hours and went through my entire collection to correct all the ID3 tags including genre. My collection is so much more usable now, and since the data is in the files themselves it’s not that hard to switch players. I try not to get too attached to the usage data and other iTunes specific info.

Posted by: Simon on September 18, 2006 9:55 PM

I downloaded that widget that I believe you were referring to, the Amazon album cover art tool. It works really well as a one-click application that goes onto and finds the cover art image for any song playing. I usually play one song off an album but highlight the whole album. when I click the widget again it adds that cover art image to all the selected songs. I haven’t had any problems with it yet.

Posted by: DougoBlue on September 20, 2006 11:40 AM

Emergence: Service Design

This morning I’m headed downtown to Emergence, the first design conference hosted and run by students at Carnegie Mellon. This year’s theme is focused on service design and my colleagues on the conference committee have done a really great job of pulling this together.

I’ll be taking photos today and tomorrow but hope to sit through some sessions as well. In particular I want to make sure I catch Jennine Winhall from the UK Design Council’s RED group and Tamara Giltsoff from live|work.

The conference was great, and the website will soon have links to blog posts, podcasts, and presentations. In the meantime here are my photos. You’ll find lots more under the emergence06 tag on Flickr.



Thanks so much for taking photos! I hope got to enjoy the conference – outside of the view through your camera lens. The conference could not have happened without all of the grad students pulling together!!! Everyone really pulled together - we truly have a remarkable class.

Posted by: Susan Dybbs on September 9, 2006 10:26 PM

Dear Boo Boo

I’ve been a big fan of Found Magazine since the first issue years ago. It’s influenced me to pick up discarded notes whenever I see them, though I’ve only run across a few gems. This morning on my walk to school I found this one:

Dear Boo Boo

That was all, the beginning of an unwritten letter to “Boo Boo”. I like thinking about who Boo Boo is and what this letter might have been about. Any ideas? Do you want to try finishing the letter?



… You are still sticky and moist. I wish a scab would form faster. I do not like the greenish-puss wound state that you’re currently in. Love, Jimmy-John

Posted by: e_prime on September 8, 2006 11:39 PM

Dear Boo Boo, Why did you have to close the bait shop? How will I catch any bluefish this year without your help? I suppose that I could dig for my own nightcrawlers but realistically it’s too much work. You were so conveniently located between the tire repair and the Christian book stores. I could drop off the car, pick up the latest installment of “Left Behind” and grab a size large styrofoam box of slightly chilled ‘crawlers. End of an era. You will be missed. Clive Johnstone p.s. — You were also the one who opened my eyes to selling bait through modified soda machines. Genius!

Posted by: Simon on September 10, 2006 8:04 AM

What’s up with you and Ranger Smith? Last night I saw you two at the club. All I can say is that I am crushed. Don’t call me any more, and you can forget about your cut of the picinic baskets. Yogi

Posted by: mark on September 10, 2006 10:03 AM

Dear Boo Boo, Yo, this class is stale. Mr. Nubels breathe sho does stank. I will be rollin out in ‘bout 2 minutes. When U comin over? My grams said it was straight so U betta be bouncin by soon. So U still go wit Latifa? I mean she’s straight but U know I will treet U right…U know U know! U need to write me back 3rd block. holla atacha gurl!

Posted by: emily on September 12, 2006 11:12 AM

i stumbled upon your blog via e_prime’s blog. i will return. i can’t say that i’ve been a fan of “Found” since the beginning, but i did pick up a copy of the “best of” book version after hearing about it several years ago on NPR. love it. i wish i walked more. not too many notes to notice and accumulate driving 85 MPH on 696… =(

Posted by: j.scott on September 18, 2006 11:19 PM

Dear Boo Boo, Simon King is on my trail. He knows too much. If he finds this note, we’re all doomed. I’ve written this in disappearing ink so hopefully all is not lost. Just remember: 9-44-13 NW Fremont and find Lola. Sincerely, Ranch Hand

Posted by: rr on September 19, 2006 2:55 PM

Rediscovering the morning

It’s not that I have a problem with mornings, just the waking up part. I’ve tried various alarms from radio, CD, computer controlled, beeping, and buzzing. Eventually I learned that the type was unimportant as long as there was more than one. I put the second one across the room at first, I used to keep a third in the kitchen, and my current strategy places it in the bathroom. By the time I shut if off I’m already next to the shower; I might as well get in.

One summer when I was too young to be employed in any other way I worked on a detasseling crew. I would wake up at 5 so my mom (bless her) could take me to the bus full of other grumpy, sleepy, 14 year olds. We would stop at a field before the sun had fully risen and wet with morning due I would slosh through the mud, stinging my forearms on the corn leaves as I used them to shield my face. I was unusually small for my age so I would often have to jump for the tassel, cutting my chin on the rough leaves as I landed.

The memory of being cold and wet, halfway down a row of corn at 6 a.m. has frozen in my mind as what “morning” means. What could be more opposite then a warm blanket, soft pillow, and a cat curled up by my legs. Regardless, I do need to wake up and I’ve devised other tricks besides alarms over the years. I’ve scheduled morning classes, met friends for breakfast, and currently I’m waking up before Meredith to force myself to get going. If I don’t wake up I’ll make her late and it seems that responsibility is my best alarm clock.

I actually really like the morning once I’m out of bed, the quiet and calm being just right for a hot cup of coffee and an update from NPR. Getting up early means my first emotion of the day isn’t stress and I can ease into my schedule rather than jumpstarting it. I still don’t want to get dirty, wet, and cut-up in a corn field first thing after waking up, but I might used this extra time to start blogging more regularly.



As far as who can tell?

Chicago, IL

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