Monthly Archives: May 2010

To the River and Back Again, in One Day

Diet Coke pit stop at the Seal Beach Carl's Jr in the early morn We have my Dad and are driving east on the 91 fwy The 91 & 15 interchange.  Love it. Driving through the canyons and hills between the Moreno Valley & Beaumont The Windmills before Palm Springs Allison & I when switching drivers at Dillon Rd, Coachella Stopping at Desert Center so my Dad can stretch out a bit Calif Hwy 95 & Hwy 62 interchange near Agriculture Inspection Station Hwy 62 over the Colorado River from Big River to Parker, AZ Glimpse of The River from Riverside Drive Arizona Hwy 95 south to Quartzsite with yellow grass from rainy winter T-Rock rock store with Buddhas in Quartzsite T-Rock rock store, Allison looks composed but it is 97F/38C! Rocks and Glass rocks Driving West on the I-10 down into the Indio / Coachella Valley The Windmills & Mt. San Jacinto in the evening going home Mt. San Jacinto with a bit of snow left Westbound 91 at sunset in Corona, Calif.

Photos taken by Ms. Jen with her Nokia N86 while on the crazy/fun road trip.

Sun 05.30.10 – When someone in Southern California, particularly a native or long-lived migrant, says “The River”, they mean the only one in 200 miles that runs all year around – the Colorado River on the border of the California and Arizona. To some tribes and sub-cultures going to The River from Memorial Day to Labor Day is a sacred activity, just like a certain set of East Coast tribes go to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. Except it is different. Really different, different as in a different nation, different customs, morals, dress, and culture.
Anywhoo, I don’t belong to either tribe so the few times that I have ended up at The River on a big holiday weekend or in Nantucket during the summer, it always seems odd. Odd, as in: get in, do what called one to to the locale, and get the heck out real fast.
The last time I was in Nantucket in the summer, I lasted about 38 hours before I hopped on the ferry back to the mainland. Today, I went to The River for less than 3 hours, not including the 3.5 hours each way. I was on a mission and my sister, Allison, was kind enough to come along on the mission.
Mission? Getting my Dad, who is one week out of a major back surgery from Tustin, Calif. to Big River, Calif. so he can go to his surgery follow up appointment with his doctor in Phoenix mid-week.
Allison and I left Seal Beach about 8:15am, we picked up my Dad who was properly pain med-ed up for the long drive, and off we went. Upon arrival at his RV in Big River, we got him set up with food, A/C, and other bits, went to lunch, he off to a big nap, and then we got back on the road to see Quartzite, Arizona, before hopping back on the Interstate 10 to drive back to the LA area.
Once we left the LA area basin and reached the desert, it was Good & Hot all day. The temperatures were between 93 – 101F / 34 – 39C the whole drive. We only left the car’s A/C for a few pit stops, to unload my Dad & his stuff, and to walk around T-Rock rock store in Quartzite.
Other than those few pit stops, we arrived back home within 12.5 hours of departure. Now I am ready for bed. ;o)

Over the Air Updates, Too Much Kit, & Mobile UX

Forgive me for last night’s storytelling rant/praise about Over the Air updating of one’s mobile / smartphone. But one point that I would like to pick out from the story’s threading is that of ease of use for the customer.
Many in the mobile and computer technology space complain about how users do not update their computers, mobiles or software thus making it more complex, difficult, and at times more expensive for creators, designers, and developers to provide great experiences (giving the the stink eye to IE6). But we can’t complain if we are part of the problem in making updating difficult or more complex than it needs to be.
Apple has solved the problem of updating by making syncing between one’s iPhone/iPod/iPad as close to automatic as possible when you dock or plug it into your computer. But it creates another problem in that one need’s to have access to a computer to update or sync one’s Apple mobile products and it can also create problems if you don’t want a full sync or update. I have heard quite a few friends complain about both, either not having a regular computer or by syncing unique data on the mobile is wiped out by the sync. Apple makes it very easy but they have control over how the update happens.
Google’s Android has solved the problem by making all their updates to any Android phone happen over the air. As I detailed out last night, Android puts a little notice up in the top tool bar that updates are available, the user can then click on the tool bar and a drop down menu will give one the alerts as to which software and/or firmware has updates available. Google makes updating very easy and gives the user the control on when and how much they want to update.
My complaint of the last four years about Nokia’s Symbian S60 devices and updating is that the updating can only occur when one has the mobile phone attached by USB cable to a Windows PC/laptop. If one does not have access to a PC or one does not wish to find a PC to update one’s mobile, then one goes without. Once one gets a PC of which to conduct the update on, it becomes a multiple step update process that usually includes updating the Nokia Updater software and then updating the phone. Most of the time this takes at least 3-5 times longer than an Apple or Android update. Unnecessary kit, steps, and time just to update.
What was so exciting to me and praiseworthy yesterday was that the Nokia N900 with the Maemo linux-based OS uses the Android model of OTA (Over the Air) updates. The user clicks on the alert in the top tool bar, one chooses the updates that one wants to have updated, and as long as one has data connection it will update. As stated last night, this whole process for a major firmware update took less than 10 minutes. It was truly efficient.
From the user experience perspective, we as creators, designers, and developers cannot assume what the user will have for ‘kit’ or a computer to update with and what access to connection they will have. Thus I suggest the following for updating of software and firmware on mobile phones and computers:
1) Let the device that needs to be updated be the only device involved. If a mobile, don’t force the user to find a computer to conduct the update.
2) Make the available updates be readily noticeable to the user on the front or home screen of the device.
3) Allow whatever connection is most convenient for the user to do the updating. If wifi, then let the wifi do the job. If data connection through a mobile carrier, then let the sim chip do the job. Don’t force it to be through the mobile carrier as some folks have very spotty 2G& 3G connections. Don’t let the user fear that a spotty connection will brick the device. Conversely, if it doesn’t work for the user to do the update only through a mobile connection, then give them steps to get around this.
4) Allow the user to choose how little or how much they want to update. If a major firmware update, then say so in plain language, not the internal language of your company or specialty.
By taking these four steps we can encourage users to update and make the update painless. Painless updates that just work make for a good user experience, excitement for new features or bug fixes, and in the end for brand affection and loyalty.

Tidbits :: Thursday May 27, 2010

SOF Observed on Being Comfortable with the Presence of Mystery: “Given that title, it is perhaps surprising to learn that Mario Livio is not himself a religious man. But in his science, he is working on frontiers of discovery where questions far outpace answers — exploring the nature of neutron stars, white dwarfs, dark energy, the search for intelligent life in other galaxies.
In vivid detail and with passionate articulation, he reinforces a sense that has come through in many of my conversations with scientists these past years. That is, in contrast to the 19th- and 20th-century Western cultural confidence that science was on the verge of explaining most everything, our cutting-edge 21st-century discoveries are yielding ever more fantastic mysteries. The real science of the present, Mario Livio says, is far more interesting than science fiction could ever be.”
Killing the Buddha on Louisiana Coast: Return to Sender : “Dear France, You’ve been good friends. Great friends! …”
Luis on Helsinki for beginners : “If you’re a teetotaller, you’ll be happy to discover that Finns drink plenty of berry juices. In case you’re not, you’ll be happy to discover that Finns drink. A lot”