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hello, I'm Craig Morey. No, not that Craig Morey.

  1. Earlier this year we spent a week in a relative’s farm house in Southern Sweden, and found some gadgets that I remember from my own grandfather’s house. During this time of dredging up and re-interpreting old user interfaces (in skeuomorphic or interpreted form), I thought I’d catalogue a few of them.
The light switch.
I know. A light switch is a light switch. Except that they’re not. In the UK, the default is a pretty dull and nasty small and stiff rocker switch that is just larger than two finger tips. Here in Sweden, the modern alternative is a nicer and much larger rocker pad, that is an easier hit target and feels lighter to the touch, probably just because you don’t hit it so close to the pivot.
But at the farmhouse, the light switches are the the old style rockers. And they’re lovely. 
There’s a lightness to the spring that makes flicking them a joy. You barely touch them for an immediate effect. And because you flick them with an outstretched finger, theres no stabbing and stubbing, no unsatisfying “smudge” as your digit slides off the switch. Even the click sound is delicate.
If the hit target is small - for instance in the dark - reach around the side of almost any door and swipe down with the whole of your hand. Much easier.
I’m not sure if manufacturing cost or simply a change in style made this design die out. In your typical stripped-down mid-century house maybe they suddenly looked a bit “fiddly”, a bit “Victorian”. But the tactile action and user friendliness still betters the UK light switch. Maybe it’s the button we most press during our lives, maybe it needs to be re-evaluated.

    Earlier this year we spent a week in a relative’s farm house in Southern Sweden, and found some gadgets that I remember from my own grandfather’s house. During this time of dredging up and re-interpreting old user interfaces (in skeuomorphic or interpreted form), I thought I’d catalogue a few of them.

    The light switch.

    I know. A light switch is a light switch. Except that they’re not. In the UK, the default is a pretty dull and nasty small and stiff rocker switch that is just larger than two finger tips. Here in Sweden, the modern alternative is a nicer and much larger rocker pad, that is an easier hit target and feels lighter to the touch, probably just because you don’t hit it so close to the pivot.

    But at the farmhouse, the light switches are the the old style rockers. And they’re lovely. 

    There’s a lightness to the spring that makes flicking them a joy. You barely touch them for an immediate effect. And because you flick them with an outstretched finger, theres no stabbing and stubbing, no unsatisfying “smudge” as your digit slides off the switch. Even the click sound is delicate.

    If the hit target is small - for instance in the dark - reach around the side of almost any door and swipe down with the whole of your hand. Much easier.

    I’m not sure if manufacturing cost or simply a change in style made this design die out. In your typical stripped-down mid-century house maybe they suddenly looked a bit “fiddly”, a bit “Victorian”. But the tactile action and user friendliness still betters the UK light switch. Maybe it’s the button we most press during our lives, maybe it needs to be re-evaluated.

  2. LTE and the UK

    Sure I want LTE. Yes, I’d like an iPhone (at the moment). I know that only EE currently have LTE in the UK and the rest of the pack will join the party around May next year (2013). 

    The way I see it, I want good coverage and good penetration - I live in a block of flats in North London that acts like a faraday cage. Getting WiFi to reach 10m is hard enough, while cellphone coverage is pretty much non-existent across all networks.

    So I wondered is all LTE created equal?

    The general consensus is that the lower the frequency, the better the coverage and penetration. With WiFi, running on the more normal 2.4GHz reaches through more walls than the alternate 5GHz (noise aside). I’m also aware that my current iPhone runs on O2 3G at 2.1GHz. Both of these are crappy at home.

    So the lower the LTE frequency the better, sub 1GHz would be great. Currently in the UK we have EE running on the 1.8GHz band, Three will use the same when it launches, while O2 and Vodaphone will be getting either the 800MHz or 2.6GHz bands next year (both widely used in Europe).

    Which means whoever gets the 800MHz band gets my account, right? Well, it could depend on what hardware is available.

    Around the world, there are about 9 different LTE bands in use - an inevitable consequence of trying to find clear spectrum globally. The device manufacturers understandably don’t want to support every possibility in every phone, and instead pick common subsets.

    For instance the “rest-of-world” SKU of the iPhone5 supports 850MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.1GHz, which gives it pretty wide support around the world, including EE in the UK. But it means no LTE for iPhone5 on the Vodaphone or O2 - unless Apple release an additional SKU in the future.

    It’s clear that a “tiny” phone (for LTE) like the iPhone 5 only has space for a limited amount of aerials, whereas the much larger Nokia 920 can more easily support aerials for 800MHz/900MHz/1.8GHz/2.1GHz/2.6GHz. Samsung take a different route, instead making ten different SKUs, each for a different market, making it less a “world phone”, but much easier to sell widely within a country.

    It’s a jungle of a market that’s incredibly young, so there’s no clear solution for the manufacturers that gives global coverage, manufacturing efficiency and compact device size.

    To sum up, if you’re interested in LTE in the UK but don’t want to jump in with EE, there’s no point in thinking too definitively just yet. When the UK 4G market really gets started next year, I’ll be eagerly looking at who gets which band, whilst keeping an eye out for what devices/OS are on offer at that point. At this market pace that could mean iOS7, WP9 and Android Victoria Sponge (kidding).

    But in the meantime there’s nothing wrong with a bit of research ;-)

  3. Weird CSS part 14 million and one. This table has a cell with a simple CSS gradient and a dashed/dotted border on the opposite side. The trouble is, the border appears solid, not dashed - for no apparent reason.
Once the border is changed to red, you can see whats happening. The border sits on top of a  shadow-dom grey border, a mirror of the left side of the cell with it’s gradient. This happens in Chrome 20/FF14/Safari6, so it must be expected behaviour, unless you’re a human I guess.
So the fix is clunky, add a one pixel change to the gradient on the opposite side and it’s all back to normal (apart from that nasty one pixel jag where the cell joins the heading - dagnabit)

    Weird CSS part 14 million and one. This table has a cell with a simple CSS gradient and a dashed/dotted border on the opposite side. The trouble is, the border appears solid, not dashed - for no apparent reason.

    Once the border is changed to red, you can see whats happening. The border sits on top of a  shadow-dom grey border, a mirror of the left side of the cell with it’s gradient. This happens in Chrome 20/FF14/Safari6, so it must be expected behaviour, unless you’re a human I guess.

    So the fix is clunky, add a one pixel change to the gradient on the opposite side and it’s all back to normal (apart from that nasty one pixel jag where the cell joins the heading - dagnabit)

  4. The three horsemen of creativity

    three amigos

    When it comes to creativity, I have three basic states of mind, and each one is both constructive and destructive. Each one takes hold of me at a whim, when I would rather be more in control of mixing them up. They both fuel who I am and they hold me back from what I could achieve.

    Researcher.

    Even before the internet - yes, I’ll admit there was such a time - I was probably the archetypal info-freako. If I was interested in a subject, there wasn’t a library, magazine or documentary that I didn’t shake all the specfics out of. 

    It’s easy to see your stamina for info-consumption as a strength, after all, you can’t point to a great writer who wasn’t an avid reader. And you may become the go-to person to ask a question. But gluttony for consuming information leaves no time to create your own works.

    And things are so much worse now. Even with concious strategies for triaging information like skimming hundreds of RSS feeds and sending a precious few to instapaper in endless micro-moments only helps taste the spray of the sea of todays information world.

    I could have a full-time job gorging myself with new information. To no end whatsoever, feeling comforted that I’m learning new ideas, but not producing a single idea of my own.

    Doer.

    Real artists may steal, but they also have the taste and skill to make something appear new. The rest of us can follow a style and make something that looks at best “clean” or “professional”. That makes us the doers, trusty sidekicks to the designers of the world.

    Experience has taught me that too many design egos in a room has a negative effect instead of a positive one. You need people to be able to actively question the creative thought, but in the end to get on with the donkey work of “getting shit done”.

    I actually love this part of the job - the sitting down and working through a problem, followed by the endless polishing so that it’s done right, damn it. It’s a pride thing. It’s the Malcom Gladwell part of a job - the nervous trial and error that gradually hardens into a nugget of experienced certainty that you can then throw at a new job, and appear the prefessional that you are.

    Empires were made of that sort of work. But it’s also the comfortable path, the following of others that never breaks the skin of a new idea. Endless pats on the head only encourage you to build similar work, Pavlovian style, before you tire and want to bite back on the patronising hand. 

    It’s the thing that makes time pass so quickly until you notice you missed your chance to make a dent on whatever world you work in.

    Creator.

    Sitting down and coming up with an idea. There’s a noble pursuit. It doesn’t have to solve cancer, kill poverty or generate clean energy - a neat little website to re-organise how a team allocates design jobs would make me happy.

    But it comes with it’s own problems. Getting the time inbetween the “research” and the “doing” to really think is hard enough. Having the clarity, the focus and the perspective to sift the sludge and visualise the good stuff is another snag. But then crystalizing a thought into a plan and bloody well executing and completing that plan - that’s where the true genius of creation lies.

    You can come up against technical limitations (so often your own), but more often a lack of time, energy and passion to follow it through. The wasteland of half-finished good ideas is a heavy net that drags me down. Every new unfulfilled idea is left behind like a dropped penny you can’t be bothered to pick up, so you casually make out that you didn’t notice you dropped it at all.

    And the next idea that comes along is a little harder to act on, because despite your bluster, you can’t hide your own track record from yourself.

    The three horseman of creativity.

    These three phases of my mind wrestle with each other. All of them are essential, but only in the right proportion will they achieve anything outside of the ordinary. Most of the time they just get in each other’s way.

    I’ve yet to prove to myself that I can mix them well enough to successfully lead rather than follow. To build things that make people want to work with you, instead of want you on their team. To inspire instead of please.

    I sometimes call myself lazy. By that I mean that I spend too much time on the research and the doing - because they’re comfortable and necessary. And they happily take up the time that would otherwise be spent on taking a risk on a new idea - then following it through to it’s conclusion, for better or worse.

    Funny thing becoming a dad. I’m more aware of risk, but I’m more aware of the ways it can really pay off. 

    So here’s to more risk, and the right mix of creation, work and research that could make it pay off.

  5. Installing SSL email certificates in iOS5

    Working on a new project meant that I needed to start using signed and encrypted email for communication. I’m not much of a security geek, so all the terms and conventions were a bit confusing, so here’s what worked for me.

    1. I eventually downloaded a free email certificate from InstantSSL.com (as Comodo.com’s email cert page was just a 404…), and it installed into Apple Mail on the Mac with little fuss. Lovely. The only problem was that now I couldn’t read the emails on my iPhone/iPad, or send signed/encrypted ones. The good news is that I was running iOS5 beta - which can use email certificates. Hurrah! Now if I only knew how to get it working.
    2. My email certificate was a “.p7s” file. Getting it onto the iPhone (by email or dropbox) was no use, the iPhone didn’t know what to do with it.
    3. Eventually, after much googling, it appeared I needed a “.p12” file. You get one of those by using the “Keychain access” app in “Utilities” on your Mac. You import the certificate into the keychain, then click on your new certificate and export it as a “Personal Information Exchange” (P12) file. You can choose to add a password to this file, which means you don’t need to add a password when you get to installing it on your iPhone, but I left it blank.

       
    4. Google was telling me that other intrepid iOS5’ers found they needed to then also export the same thing as a “.cer” certificate, as both were needed. I can’t tell if that’s true, because I followed their advice blindly.
    5. Now you need to get your two new certificate files onto your iPhone. You can download the mysterious “iPhone configuration utility” app to install the certificate, but it didn’t work for me. I settled for the tried and tested “email them to yourself” - probably making security experts wince, but hey.
    6. I clicked on the two attachments and they installed into iOS with no problem. Then the email was deleted, and checked it wasn’t in trash for good measure.
    7. You’re not done yet, you need to set up iOS mail app to sign and encrypt outgoing email. You have to go to the “settings” app on your iPhone, and right into the “advanced” details of your email account. Set the “S/MIME” switch on for the account your certificate is for, and set the “sign” and “encrypt” settings to yes (each one makes you select the email certificate you’ve just installed).
    8. Lastly, I backed up my email certificate somewhere safe, in a passworded DMG file. Yes, in more than one place.
    9. Congratulations, you can now send and receive signed and encrypted email. Happy private conversations.

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