Design Principals: ECBARF

November 14, 2011

Attended a design presentation at Manchester Barcamp 6 this weekend and heard the term ECBARF for the first time.  It was during a reply to a question I asked, “How do you learn design?”

ECBARF is an acronym for the six basic design principals:

  • Emphasis
  • Contrast
  • Balance
  • Alignment
  • Repetition
  • Flow
I’ve found a few references to it online – but not many.  The people in the scrap booking world seem very aware of it, and I found a series of blog posts discussing it.  I’m pretty sure it’s use as described to scrap booking will also ring true for mobile app and web app design.

Podcast listening

November 14, 2011

Since getting the mount for my phone working and finally finding a podcast listening application I like (see this post) I am now listening to podcasts on the drive to and from work.  I’m wondering where people go to discover podcasts however.  I’m a big fan of Leo Laporte and his podcast empire, listening to This Week in Tech pretty much complete every week.  He’s got a few others like Security Now that I try to listen to, but don’t always.

I also recently got turned onto Nerdist Podcast via an article in Wired magazine.  Lots of bad language in this one, so can’t listen when kids are in the car.

I’d love to hear from anyone regarding what podcasts you listen to and recommend.


Goal: Get rid of 100 things

August 24, 2011

So I guess the way it works is you spend 15min in a single room and see how much stuff you can get rid of. Started in the office.

1: Verizon bag with empty cell phone boxes
2: Torn up Mickey Mouse Santa Hat
3: Empty priority mail envelope
4: Empty Camera Flash box (Bonus! Found missing digicam)
5: A plastic cover thing we don’t remember what it goes to
6: Empty CD cases
7: Old Red Sox Schedules


Repave your computer

August 20, 2011

I’m inviting comments on this article and will update with useful suggestions.

As a software professional I’m approached by people all the time asking what to do about general computer problems.  Most of the time it’s malware or that windows has become corrupt in some way.

I’ll leave this space blank for all the Microsoft-haters to insert their own, “Get a MAC” type of comment here.  <BLANK SPACE> All done?  Great.  Most people want this problem solved for close to free and buying a new computer isn’t always an option.

What I often suggest is to “Back it up and Repave it” – meaning copy all the files you want to keep, format the hard drive and install windows from scratch.

The reason I suggest this is because I know it will work 100% of the time.  There are many anti-spyware products that might work.  I might be able to google the specific problem and find a solution.  I might be able to reconfigure windows to not use the thing that’s causing the problem.  However – each of these techniques has at best a 50% chance of working – and I have no idea how much time each one will take.

Backing  up your data is usually the roadblock here for most people – and I’m here to tell you that you should have been doing this anyway.  There are many ways to do this, but here’s my suggestion: Use Carbonite. It’s $60/yr.  It’s what I use, it’s really easy, and it’s pretty cheap compared to lots of other options.  Also in Carbonite’s favor is that its now a very established company.  I don’t work for them – but if you decide to use it ask me for an invite and I’ll get a free month or something, or use the link above.

There are MANY backup options out there, you want something you don’t have to think about.  You cannot be trusted to run a backup every night. 

After ensuring you’re backed up, boot from your window’s CD and choose the option that warns about “this will format your hard drive.”  You are not doing an upgrade and you might be asked about partitioning etc – but the good news here is it’s difficult to anything wrong because you’re all backed up and can always do it again.

You’re going to have to re-install any software you use – but now you’ll probably be getting the latest versions of the free stuff – and you won’t be wasting space and resources on all the stuff you installed years ago and no longer use.  You’d be surprised how many applications install something that runs all the time “for your convenience.”  Getting rid of all of these utilities is probably the #1 thing that will make your machine run faster. 

For the most part – the bad guys write really good code, and the stuff they sneak into your system has almost no noticeable effect.  If it did more people would be getting rid of it faster.  Their main goal is to not be noticed on your machine.

After you’ve reinstalled everything you really need, make sure your backup is still working. 

Again: Please comment with your experience etc.  I plan on pointing people to this article in the future.  Feel free to critique spelling and grammar as well.


Doll House

August 11, 2011

Santa brought a doll house kit last Xmas and I was recruited to build it.  I opened the box in March and just last week finished the outside of the house enough that I moved it up into my daughter’s room.  It came out better than I thought it would – but the number of hours to build it was about 3 times what I thought it would be.

The company that produced the kit has a forum where one user details this kit as a 50 hr job.  I’d estimate my time at well over 100 hrs.   I’d put in a couple 4-5hr sessions a week, then a few hours most Saturday mornings.

My advice to future doll house builders is to look at this as a hobby, not a goal.  I very much wanted the project to be done so I could spend the time on the thousands of other hobbies I have and didn’t allow myself the time to really enjoy the craft of creating a miniature house.  The end result will hopefully be an heirloom my kids pass on to their kids, and my daughter is already spending a lot of time playing with and decorating the interior.

There are a few more pictures of the building process in this facebook album.


Internet Controlled Representative Government

August 3, 2011

The latest budget fiasco plus the FAA funding problems have frustrated me with our elected officials. The fact that they are taking a one month vacation before solving a problem that puts my wife’s company essentially out of business is offensive. I emailed my reps and the basic message was that if I did this at any job I’ve ever had then I’d probably loose that job. My employer or my customers would simply find someone else.

So that got me thinking about what alternative we have to our existing representative government. I came across americanselect.org which I like, and am participating in, but I was thinking something more dramatic.  Here’s what I came up with:

  • Run for office on the platform that you will make all decisions based on your constituents wishes
  • Provide a channel of constant input of  constituent opinion via the internet (There are security problems here – but they can be solved)
  • Broadcast all political interactions (similar to justin.tv) and provide commentary for viewers into what’s going on an what decisions are being made (sort of like CSPAN but more)
I believe this would make political office very unattractive to the current breed of politician.  It could evolve into a system where the representative would be largely a proxy being controlled by the population they represent.  Right now political involvement is pretty much limited to voting once every few years.  With this system you could log on and enforce your political desires directly.
There are tons of problems with this type of solution – but it might be easier to solve these problems then the ones with our current system.



Cost of reading a EULA/ToS

July 5, 2011

An EULA is an End User License Agreement.  TOS stands for Terms of Service.  For this post I’m referring to the legalese you are often required to agree that you’ve read and agree to before using a piece of software or a web based service.  Much like speed limits – these things are often ignored.  I wondered how much time and money would be required to read them so I started collecting some info.

Based on my measurements/sampling so far:

  • Average length of  EULA/ToS: 7,385 words
  • Typical reading Speed: 200 words/min
  • Average Time to read Typical EULA/ToS: 37 min
  • Average Software Developer rate: $40/hr
  • Cost to read the EULA/ToS: $25
Bottom line, most companies are expecting $25 worth of your time to read these things.  This is just to read them – not to think about them or contemplate what the repercussions of the agreement might be for your situation using the software in question.  I think about this when I’m clicking that “I Agree” check box – and the developer of the software could easily tell that I only spent about 3 seconds on the page/form/window with the text on it – and there’s no way I could have read it all.  I’m thinking a fun thing to put on the page would be a “Congratulations, your reading speed is 3,800 words/min – and you probably missed that whole part about your first born” or something similar indicating that there’s no way you read the whole thing.
This also reminded me of a Poll Question I once read on the site SlashDot.