Archive for October, 2008

Design Matters: Donald Norman

October 29th, 2008
Don Norman slide

Don Norman slide

Donald Norman spoke as a part of the Design Matters lecture series at UIUC on Tuesday. Here are a few notes from his talk.

The traditional design approach creates a one-to-one mapping between user(s) and a machine or service. However, it neglects the environment. One particularly egregious example is what Norman calls “machines that moon us.” For instance, computers are designed to look good from the user standpoint. However, if the back of the computer faces the customers or a glass wall, more people can see the mess of wires behind the computer than the well-designed part.

“Social signifiers” are trails that people leave behind. For instance, if we arrive at a subway station and the platform is full of people, it is likely that we are early for the next train. On the other hand, if we arrive and the platform is vacant, it is likely that we are late. Fascinating.

Organic processes tend to be asynchronous. Therefore, waiting is unavoidable in the real world. The goal is to make the wait interesting and engaging for the user. More on this at a later date.

In other news, two interesting Design Matters lectures are on the horizon. David Goldberg of the iFoundry initiative to modernize engineering education at UIUC is speaking on 4 November. The second one is actually someone I considered suggesting to the series but dismissed as a long shot…Nokia designer/ethnographer/anthropologist Jan Chipchase, whose fascinating blog is in my blogroll, is coming on 2 December!

» Read more: Design Matters: Donald Norman


October 27th, 2008

Just some miscellaneous news from happenings over the past month…first, the good news…

I passed the oral exam on Tuesday.  So, I’m officially ABD now.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Nikon released the 50mm f/1.4G AF-S SWM prime lens at the end of September.  I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention.  This is good news for D40 owners such as myself.  But, the price is almost as steep as the Sigma f/1.4 30mm and 50mm HSM lenses.  The 30mm lens would be a better all-around choice.  Perhaps Nikon will come out with something a little shorter by the time I’m ready to buy.  Until then, I’ll keep using the 50mm f/1.4 AF-D that I have on indefinite loan from work.

I managed to destroy the drivers in my recently-repaired TS-930S.  I considered swapping the drivers from my second radio into this one.  But, when I took that radio apart, I found that the capacitors had swollen.  So, I have parts on order to fix that.  UPS says they’ll be here today.  I requested a quote for the NTE236 replacement for the MRF-485 drivers.  They want almost as much for the NTE236 as RF Parts does for the MRF-485.  I think I’ll get the MRF-485s.

We had high winds yesterday (Sunday).  I lost the 80-, 40-, and 20-meter dipoles.  Sarah said, “Do you expect that (80-meter) antenna to last the winter?  It just broke in September.”  She’s right.  I’m not sure I’ll repair it if it breaks again.   It’s less than a week to the CW Sweepstakes and I only have one working radio (FT-840) and antennas for 10 and 15 meters.  The forecast calls for 65 and sunny on Thursday.  So, I’ll probably take the day to work on antennas.

» Read more: Miscellaneous

Trivial Gallery v1.0.0

October 24th, 2008

I wrote up a little Perl script that builds a gallery out of pictures organized in folders in order to host a gallery on my DSL router running OpenWRT.

Try it here

Get it here.

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TS-930 update

October 9th, 2008
TS-930S AVR board

TS-930S AVR board

Thanks to KA5IPF and WE0H, who answered my query on the TS-930S reflector!  The oscillation was due to dried-out electrolytic capacitors on the AVR board and unhappy pass transistors on the heatsink in the back.  I bought 105 C capacitors instead of the 85 C ones that Kenwood used, plus bumped the voltage rating up to 63 V instead of 50 and 35.  Fortunately, I still had some leftover 2N5886’s, but I need to buy a replacement set of capacitors and pass transistors to have on hand in case the other radio fails.  I haven’t tested it in contest conditions, but all signs are good that we should be ok.  Maybe the NS tonight?

Have a Synton ARC (sorry about the ancient web site…we are going to fix it…sometime) meeting at 2:00 today.  Everybody else in the Club is building SoftRocks.  I’m bringing my IK4AUY preamp parts to start building.  Need to order some PL-259’s, probably today.  Yeah, and I need to finish writing my prelim exam document and presentation.  So much to do.  So little time.

» Read more: TS-930 update

The Decisive Moment

October 8th, 2008

I contemplated using an original photograph to head this entry.  However, I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Anyhow, words to shoot by:

In whatever picture-story we try approach the subject on tiptoe—even if the subject is still-life.  A velvet hand, a hawk’s eye—these we should all have.  It’s no good jostling or elbowing.  And no photographs taken with the aid of flash light, either, if only out of respect for the actual light—even when there isn’t any of it.  Unless a photographer observes such conditions as these, he may become an intolerably aggressive character. –Henri Cartier-Bresson.

» Read more: The Decisive Moment

Why does X cost so much?

October 3rd, 2008
Monetary instruments

Monetary instruments

For the third time in a month, I’ve seen a thread pop up on a ham radio mailing list or forum asking, “Why does X cost so much?” Morse code keys, amplifiers, and gin poles, were the subjects of “excess” expense. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Begali or a Bugatti, a Henry or a Haliburton contract, a Rohn or a recession, some things are expensive, and many with good reason. Why is there a problem in the U.S. economy? We spent the money we once saved. Then we borrowed money we did not have from someone who was saving. Then we borrowed more money than we could ever pay back, sticking the lenders (arguably, the savers) with our debt and a fake smile. We bought things we could not afford. We did not (and do not) understand how much things cost. We became accustomed to spending too much for things we did not need. I suspect that the economic downturn is good for America in this regard…

» Read more: Why does X cost so much?