Poly is a fun iPad app. that allows you to draw with points and turn your pictures into geometric array of colours.
“Inspired by the Triangulation invented by the mathematician Boris Delaunay in 1934. While the process behind is complicated, the result reduce an image to its essentials, creating the illusions of triangles, prisms and pyramids.”

From innoiz.com/apps/

For Safety, Afghan Travelers Tune In to Taliban Ringtones

For Safety, Afghan Travelers Tune In to Taliban Ringtones
The Wall Street Journal reports on the potential lifesaving practice of loading Taliban ringtones on Afghani mobile phones.

Afghan shopkeeper Nasratullah Niazai has developed a brisk new business over the past year. For about $2 a pop, he uploads into customers’ cellphones a collection of Taliban songs and ringtones.
A skinny 22-year-old who operates a one-room computer store on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Mr. Niazai is no Taliban. Neither are most of his customers.
Instead, the songs and ringtones romanticizing the insurgents’ jihad against the infidel invaders serve as potentially lifesaving travel insurance for Kabulis who brave increasingly perilous countryside roads.
Sentries at improvised Taliban checkpoints, some only an hour’s drive away from central Kabul, routinely check travelers’ cellphones. As a result, government officials, police, soldiers, security guards, university students, translators for Western companies, construction workers and scores of others go to extraordinary lengths to scrub their phones of any evidence of links to the coalition and the Afghan government–and to masquerade as Taliban sympathizers.

For Safety, Afghan Travelers Tune In to Taliban Ringtones . Photo Jan Chipchase. Via Danger room.

Portable cathedrals: The Nokia N9

nokia meego
Interaction designer Dan Hill reviews the Nokia N9. I think this might be the best mobile phone or product review I have ever read. It’s something you take with you and not simply scan as you switch between tasks. I found myself agreeing particularly with the following:

The phone is an intimate device, not simply through its ubiquity and connectivity, its relationship with the body. While objects have long been cultural choices and symbolic goods, the mobile phone, being the most personal connection to the internet, is a device for generating symbolic goods, a vehicle for culture, a proxy for the owner’s identities. It is vast business and cultural phenomenon, all at once.

Overall, Meego’s design feels marginally stronger than Apple’s inconsistent designs in iOS, which is both a breath of fresh air and some achievement. Steve Jobs believed that above all his firm had “good taste”, and placed great sway in that; entire swathes of iOS exemplify this belief, with rock-solid interaction design supported by responsive performance, strong accessibility, clear metaphors and big bold buttons.
Yet the skeuomorphic nonsense that incomprehensibly pervades apps like Apple’s own Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, GameCenter, Find My Friends et al–all awkward faux-leather, wood and paper stylings–is is of such questionable “taste” it threatens to damage the overall harmony of iOS with its discordant notes. You cannot derive value from the idle suggestion of such textures on screen; they are physical properties and should be experienced as such, or not at all. Yet Apple’s design team will not explore those physical properties, merely sublimating their desire for such qualities into a picture of leather, a picture of wood. It recalls Marcel Duchamp’s critique of ‘retinal art’ i.e. intended only to please the eye.

Interaction designer Dan Hill reviews the Nokia N9 and asks: will it be enough to revive the declining fortunes of the Finnish giant?. Via Small Surfaces.

Wood Wale

Wood Wale
Wood Wale
I love objects like handmade objects like this that are whimsical and add a touch of warmth to what can be a drab environment. The wooden whale will hold all your desk accessories in one place, including your phone in it’s mouth. Made from reclaimed timber, hand-oiled and numbered; no two whales are alike.
Wood Wale

Does Airport Security Theatre Really Make Us Safer?

Airport luggage trolleys
As you stand in endless lines this holiday season, here’s a comforting thought: all those security measures accomplish nothing, at enormous cost. That’s the conclusion of Charles C. Mann, who put the T.S.A. to the test with the help of one of America’s top security experts. Vanity Fair on the security theatre performed by the American TSA:

Terrorists will try to hit the United States again, Schneier says. One has to assume this. Terrorists can so easily switch from target to target and weapon to weapon that focusing on preventing any one type of attack is foolish. Even if the T.S.A. were somehow to make airports impregnable, this would simply divert terrorists to other, less heavily defended targets–shopping malls, movie theaters, churches, stadiums, museums. The terrorist’s goal isn’t to attack an airplane specifically; it’s to sow terror generally. “You spend billions of dollars on the airports and force the terrorists to spend an extra $30 on gas to drive to a hotel or casino and attack it,” Schneier says. “Congratulations!”
What the government should be doing is focusing on the terrorists when they are planning their plots. “That’s how the British caught the liquid bombers,” Schneier says. “They never got anywhere near the plane. That’s what you want–not catching them at the last minute as they try to board the flight.”
To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest.

Theatre or not, flying through the US sucks. From the Vanity Fair.

The Alarm App

The Alarm App
A refreshingly original design for an iOS alarm app. They should win some kind of award for the most original app promo video. Worth $.99. From their website:

Alarms are typically associated with something negative – due dates, early mornings and must do’s,” explained Johanna Ehde, art director at Curt Design. “The challenge was to create something that transforms the user’s perspective, creating an alarm that people look forward to using and fall in love with. The typography, colors and forms allow for a fun and unexpected contrast – the new and digital with the more classical and tangible.”
There is a demand for apps that offer that little extra,” said Henrik Strand, founder and CEO of Whiletrue, who developed The Alarm App™. “Stable base-functions that are spiced up with good user interface, nice design, and something that stands out – like the physics engine that’s used in The Alarm App™; this gives it a unique appearance and shows the user that numbers also follow the laws of physics.
“The Alarm App™ has all the functions you’d expect from an alarm clock, and it’s beautiful, too,” said Strand. “And beautiful things make people happy – even in the morning.

The Alarm App

Mobile Mobile: reinterpreting the Christmas tree

I posted this same video a couple days past 2 years ago. I think it’s worthy reposting considering the season and all. Here’s the story behind the installation:

We took this as an opportunity to reinterpret the Christmas tree and its role as the traditional focal point for a communal space. ‘Mobile Mobile’ is a six metre circumference interactive sculpture, and signature piece for the entrance of the Lost Boys London Brick Lane studio.
To cut a long story short, after a company-wide upgrade the agency had a lot of old mobiles gathering dust. We took these, built and hoisted a gigantic interactive chandelier/mobile that plays Christmas jingles in their reception.
To add a little xmas spice to the mix, anyone could go online, compose and play their own jingle (and enjoy annoying the hell out of people waiting around in the reception). This was achieved by playing the thing live, using your computer keyboard from a web browser.

Roll Up Travel Charger

Roll Up Travel Charger
I don’t find myself carting around many chargers these days as most of my needs are met by a single device but if you do this portable charger will reduce the number of chargers you have to carry to just one. I’ve been eyeing small portable external battery solutions for those times when I’m using my phones camera a bit more than usual. The Roll-Up Travel Charger can charge up to four devices at a time, and is compatible with most phones and portable devices. I think everyone appreciates a reduction in cable clutter. Looks good.
Roll Up Travel Charger

Ryan The Dome Backpack

Ryan The Dome Backpack
Sporting a more boxy look than many backpacks of this type that I frequently see, the Ryan is designed for everyday use, outdoors or in an urban environment. It’s big enough for your laptop and goods, made from organic cotton weatherproof canvas, lined with waterproof recycled polyester and features leather finish. It’s made in China, which isn’t a bad thing (obviously tremendous skill and talent exists everywhere), but I do prefer small scale local producers no matter where they live, with an emphasis on those who truly appreciate their craft. Millican has a sincere explanation for their decision to outsource overseas on their “Meet the Producers” page.
Ryan The Dome Backpack

Book Christmas Tree

The lovely physical book. Four days before and I am just only realizing that it’s the Christmas season …. everywhere but here. I need a snowball fight and red cheeks from the cold. Unfortunately here in Silicon Valley east all we get is grey skies and work. A bit of homemade eggnog and the excitement of our kids should be more than enough to make p for the general lack of cheer here.

Khaki and Black Waxed Tote

Waxed Tote
This waxed tote from Southern Field Industries follows the familiar form and style that I love from this type of bag. Handmade of canvas, brass hardware, a leather bottom and replete with inside pockets this bag should last for years.
I spent the better part of yesterday looking for similar bags locally to no avail. I found some nice choices from Kinoshohampu but their prices are more than I am willing to pay; quality goods are incredibly expensive here.
Khaki and Black Waxed Tote

SIWA Cushioned Laptop Sleeve

SIWA Cushioned Laptop Sleeve
SIWA Cushioned Laptop Sleeve
I would love to experience the feel of this material. It looks fantastic and apparently like leather will exhibit a unique patina over time.

Designed by Naoto Fukasawa for Onao, the SIWA collection is a perfect marriage of traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design. The collection is produced using a planetary sounding material call Noaron, which is made from wood pulp and polyolefin using age-old Japanese paper manufacturing techniques. Soft to the touch and quite flexible, the material is also extremely durable, surprisingly strong (it has been tested up to 20 lbs), and water resistant.

Designed in Yamanashi Prefecture, a rural area near the beautiful Mount Fuji that has served as home to washi-making for generations. A friend just returned from the area and it truly is a peaceful and beautiful place.
SIWA Cushioned Laptop Sleeve

Galaxy Nexus: “battery life predictably takes a hit”

Tim Stevens for Engadget:

And then there’s the battery life. It’s well known that LTE can put a real hurting on phone longevity and that appears to be the case here as well, our Nexus struggling to hold on to a charge in day-to-day use with all antennas firing. We’ve as of yet had very limited time with the thing, but in our 24 hours of intensive testing we had to reach for the charger multiple times. Using Google Navigation with LTE enabled? The battery drained so fast our in-car charger couldn’t keep up, leaving us unsure of which exit to take off the 101.
So, if you can refrain from drinking from that sweet, sweet fountain of 4G, this is actually a respectably long-lived phone.

I always find how these drawbacks are discounted by many gadget enthusiasts rather curious and far from my ideal. Whats the point of having a mobile device if you are tethered to a power outlet? And what’s the point of having a device with all these features if you can’t use them?
My last Nokia was in some ways far more feature rich than my current device; mobile web server, internet radio, IM, FM transmitter etc. etc., but when you start using these features you can visibly watch the power bar decrease in length. And then you try replacing the battery without breaking off the cheap plastic back.
Spec lists are dead, what matters is not the acronyms, it’s the intangibles, the way you feel when using the device and it’s intuitive interaction. This is why I keep a tiny Panasonic mobile phone* for travel and emergencies, and why the iPhone’s camera app drives me to distraction.
Verizon Galaxy Nexus review

*A single use device, the Panasonic has no real software experience. It’s simply a brightly coloured dumb phone which is impossible to miss at the bottom of a backpack and the battery lasts a week. Perfect for pay-as-you-go plans that are prevalent in different countries in Asia.

You have 3.7 billion appointments

Fun. Apple’s new commercial shows Santa asking Siri for directions to children’s houses, checking the weather in various U.S cities and mining his messages for his ‘Naughty and Nice List’.
I can’t even get near an iPhone 4S in Taiwan – the waiting list to purchase is the size of medium sized city and every time I see one in a shop there is a lineup to demo.
Via The Loop.