February 2012

I started my blog back in December 2010 and it's still going strong. I've posted at least once post a month since then, so feel free to browse through the archives.

How I Use A Mouse

One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that I tend to use mice slightly differently to everyone else I have worked with. I’m sure other people use mice in the same way, I’ve just not met any of them yet. I’ll try to explain how it works…

Most people tend to use their mice to the right of the keyboard. This is the way that the ‘instructions’ that come with computers suggest, and this is the layout that advertising material tends to show. Totally normal.

This makes sense because normally, when the user moves the mouse up on the desk, the cursor moves up on the screen. Obvious really.

I actually hold my mouse at a -90 degree angle to the way it is normally held. When I move the mouse to the left on the desk (though still up form the mouse’s point of view) the cursor moves up on the screen.

As you can see here, having the mouse in front of the keyboard means I can move my hand there faster than if I moved it to the right of the keyboard, by pivoting on my elbow.

When I’m not typing, I can actually have my arms folded while using the mouse. I find this very comfortable. I’m not sure when I started doing it, but I remember doing it around 2005, and I’ve always done it since.

Does anyone else do this?

What’s your every day carry?

Yesterday I posted my what’s in your bag post, and today it’s time for the every day carry post. These EDC posts have become a bit of an internet trend, with loads of people posting the contents of their pockets for everyone to see.

Windows Phone

So Windows Phone is pretty cool right? I’m using a Samsung Omnia 7, though I would love one of those Nokia Lumia phones – I’m quite happy to use this one until it breaks. (it already has a couple of chips out of it – woops)

Earphones

My current earphones live in the case that came with my Zune earphones way back. I find it extremely handy and they have a cute Zune branded cable tidy.

As for the earphones themselves, I’m currently using some Nokia ones provided to me by Douglas Radburn because my Samsung ones broke. I’m actually on the hunt for some new ones… so I’ll be sure to post my findings.

Wallet

I got my wallet from All-Ett a few years ago and I absolutely love it. I try to keep the amount of stuff I carry down to a minimum and this wallet suits me just fine. In the picture above it carries a couple of receipts, two £10 notes, and seven plastic cards, yet it is still extremely thin and easy to carry.

Keys

My keys are also on the minimal side, carrying only what I need, but I also have a Swiss Tech Utili-Key for opening boxes and fixing glasses.

Again, as usual I try to keep things as simple as possible. I don’t usually carry anything else around with me, apart from the obvious stuff like my watch, my glasses. Oh and clothes…

The ‘Real’ Windows 8 Logo

The new Windows 8 logo, as shown above from the Microsoft blog post that announced it, has been designed to compliment the Metro Design Language and also has roots in the Swiss International Style, which is all about typography, solid colours, strong lines and grids.

Over all I like it, but when I first saw it I felt like something was a little off with the ‘beams’ on the window. It looked like the perspective was messed up or something.

Later I came across an article about the new logo by the design agency Pentagram – who were commissioned by Microsoft to create the new logo. After thinking about it for a little while I understand that the beams are like a grid on top of the rectangle shape, and because of this understanding the logo looks better to me.

This is a bit like seeing the arrow in the FedEx logo for the first time.

You can tell this version of the logo looks slightly different to the one posted on the Microsoft blog. As Pentagram explains, the window shape itself has been chosen to be a rectangular shape in perspective, but the actual beams (or grid lines) are separate from the shape.

The perspective drawing is based on classical perspective drawing, not computerized perspective. The cross bar stays the same size no matter the height of the logo, which means it has to be redrawn for each time it increases in size, like classic typography.

You can see these lines are cut out of the coloured shape, and are not in perspective at all. The idea is that each time the logo is drawn the lines are always the same size, as shown below.

Seeing the logo in this view makes me appreciate the design a lot more, but the problem is that the version that is on the Pentagram website is actually quite different to the one on the Microsoft site.

Here is an animation which Kean created for me which show the difference in the beams and text between the two.

So which one is the real Windows 8 logo?

I find it really hard to believe that Microsoft would be able to convince everyone – from OEMs to the press – to render a version of the logo for the exact size they need, every time they need it. So I think they’ve had to compromise on the design given to them by Pentagram.

I’m not sure which is the ‘real’ Windows 8 logo yet, or if Microsoft are going to make any more changes before it gets released to the public. But I’m going to place my bets on the version that Microsoft posted to their blog.

I’m assuming they’ve just picked a width for the beams which fits well for the majority of sizes shown in the new operating system, and decided to stick with that moving forward.

I wasn’t the only person to notice this, Long Zheng has a write up on his excellent blog. He suggests changing the beams to fit in with the perspective of the rest of the logo, and I think his version looks pretty good too.

What’s in your bag?

I’m a big fan of the what’s in your bag and what’s your every day carry style posts that have become an internet trend. People uniquely try to get just the right combination of things they need for their own personal tasks, and it’s super interesting to get an inside look into what they they find important.

I have a few bags, but the bag I carry around most of the time is actually my Tumi work backpack, which goes to and from Branded3 every day.

HP Laptop

My HP laptop for work. I just recently got this one to replace an HP G62 and it is a million times nicer to use. My biggest complaints about the G62 were related to screen resolution, stupid extra keys, and a funny touchpad. All of which are fixed.

I also have a SanDisk SD card plugged in all the time which I use for Windows Ready Boost. I’ve used this in desktop computers before, but this is the first time I’ve done it with a laptop.

Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

I only just got this mouse, so I’ll be writing a review about it in the coming weeks. I tend to use mice in a bit of a strange way (at -90 degree angle to most people) and it works just fine for my needs.

When I’m in the office I pair this with my Natural Keyboard for epic coding.

Zune HD

I usually have my Zune with me at work for listening to music in the office through our speakers or using my earphones. As most people know, the Zune HD isn’t actually manufactured any more, but it still works with Zune Pass just as well as the day I got it.

Oh yea, and I keep it in an Apple iPod sock. Kinky right? The earphones I use are not pictured here, but I’ve included them in my every day carry post.

SanDisk 16GB USB Stick

This rather beat up looking USB stick where I keep a backup copy of all the scripts and tools I use, as well as installers for all the software I use.

I’ve always had a USB stick specifically for work stuff since I was at Sumo, and it’s a good habit to have as it ensures you’ve always got the stuff you need when something bad happens.

MUJI Document Folder and Notebooks

I’m always carrying some kind of documentation around, and it’s usually A4. Currently I’m using this folder from MUJI for these kinds of documents, and my two Moleskine notebooks for everything else.

Charging Cables, Keys and Pens

I always have charging cables for the laptop, the Zune and a Micro USB which I use for my phone and Kindle. Also keys are pretty important, and so are pens. Currently I’m carrying a Sharpie and a Style Fit Meister 3.

So yea, that’s everything. As usual I try to keep things as simple as possible, and this meets my needs completely.

Style Fit Meister 3

I’ve always been interested in multi-pens, and I’ve found some pretty cool ones (the Pentel Vicuna suggested to me by Brad Dowdy springs to mind) but my favourite ink is Uni Jetstream by the Mitsubishi Pencil Company, so finding the ideal multi-pen which includes this fantastic ink has been a little mission of mine.

While Uni actually produces a number of Jetstream branded multi-pens, I decided to start using the Style Fit series of pens. These cool Japanese pens allow you to mix and match from a large selection of refills and bodies that they provide. Including the fantastic Jetstream and Signo inks. Oh and they also do a pencil refill, which is pretty handy.

I tried the original 5, 3 and 1 size plastic body components, which were great but felt a little cheap. So I had really high hopes for the Meister 3 – the first of these Style Fit bodies to be made out of metal. Oh and it’s also in a higher price bracket of $16.50 verses $3.30.

I went for the swooby red version, which is looks great with my latest Moleskine diary. The refills I went for were the 1.0 Jetstream in black and red, as well as the 0.5 pencil. It’s so very close to perfect… but not quite there yet.

Pros

  • Massive amount of choice for refills
  • Much higher quality materials
  • Twist to change pens is much nicer than the plungers
  • Metal clip is way better than plastic

Cons

  • It rattles when you shake it
  • Pushing down doesn’t do anything except on the pencil
  • No ‘neutral’ position – it’s one pen or another
  • The window doesn’t really help you see which pen you have selected

There is one last thing I’d like to mention, and I’m not listing this as a con as there isn’t any way of doing it yet – but I’d really like to have the Kuru Toga mechanism in a multi-pen like this. The current iteration of the Kuru Toga pencils are way too large to fit in something like this. I’m sure it would be possible to create something that worked in a similar way in the future, and I’m looking forward to trying it out.

While this multi-pen is very close to the mark, I’m going to stick to using my Alpha Gel Jetstream pens and my Kuru Toga Roulette pencils as my every day stationery at work and at home.

I’m glad I got this new addition to the Style Fit line, and I’m going to be using this Meister 3 as my go-to portable pen for when I’m travelling, as well as keeping it in my work bag (see What’s in your bag?) until I need it.

Still Missing in Task Managment for Windows Phone Mango

So a while ago I wrote about some exciting additions to task management in Windows Phone Mango, and I thought I’d touch on what I still think is missing.

OneNote

OneNote for Windows Phone is pretty good and I use it all the time, I especially like the fact that To Do tags can be shown in notes.

But unfortunately other types of tags that you can add in OneNote for the PC still don’t turn up. They do turn up on the web client though. The same happens with tables and ink and other formatting.

Also you still can’t pin a section to the home screen, but you can pin a notebook or a shortcut to creating a new note.

Tasks

Tasks in Windows Phone Mango are great, and even support different exchange accounts with highlight colours that match the calendar…

But tasks are hidden away inside the Calendar app. I’d much prefer to be able to pin the tasks directly to the home screen, with a count of tasks due. I’d also like to see a way of pinning ‘new task’ much like you can pin a ‘new note’ in OneNote – unfortunately this hasn’t been implemented in the current release of Windows Phone.

What else is missing

On the topic of being unable to pin things – here’s a selection of things that I’d like to see pinnable in future versions:

  • Wireless Settings (on and off)
  • Flightmode Settings (on and off)
  • Blueooth Settings (on and off)
  • Task List
  • Individual Tasks
  • New Outlook Task
  • A OneNote Notebook Section
  • Individual Pictures (you can pin an album though)
  • Individual Calendars

While this is not a list of everything anyone could possibly want to pin (I’m sure there are lots) these are just the things I’d like to be able to pin today.

Microsoft Future Vision

Every so often Microsoft make ‘Future Vision’ videos, and while both of the ones I have posted here were produced some time ago, I stumbled across them again recently so I thought I’d share them for anyone who hasn’t spotted them yet.

The basic concept is for the Office division to imagine where productivity will be in the next 5-10 years, without having to actually create the products today. Both of these videos have a similar feel (I actually prefer the 2011 video) and the technology in them is smart and subtle. Some of the technology is even starting to become real.

It’s this smart yet subtle concept that really connects me to the modern Microsoft design language, including Metro on Windows Phone and Windows 8.

2009

My favourites from the 2009 video have to be the smart school room, and the flexible newspaper display. Fantastic ideas.

2011

There are so many parts of the 2011 video I like, but most of all I like the way the devices work together. The taxi windows and hotel room computers become personal once hooked up to the smaller devices. A very powerful concept.

You can watch a few of the Microsoft Future Vision videos on the Office YouTube page, but I don’t think we’ll see a new one until next year.

What playing Pokémon has taught me about myself

I enjoy collecting things

Anyone who has seen the amount of pens I own has seen that I like collecting things. Trying to limit my collection urges is tricky, but thanks to careful reflection and fierce reduction there aren’t that many things I collect unnecessarily these days. One thing that I think helps reduce my clutter is the fact I have never ending possibilities for collecting Pokémon. The only difference is that these Japanese ‘Pocket Monsters‘ are just save files on a cart in my Nintendo DS.

Looking back on my younger life I can think of many collections – stickers, rocks, Pogs, games, DVDs and CDs have all had this lucrative collectability appeal to me. Problem is that most of these collections have just gathered dust and eventually were recycled or sold. Collecting Pokémon is something I enjoy and it doesn’t cost too much money or take up too much space. For me this is a good way to keep my collection habit contented, and I’ve been doing it for over 10 years.

I like knowing lots about a subject, and talking about it

So while I admit I’m fairly terrible with the names – and often need to use Bulbapedia, I do have quite a good amount of knowledge about how to breed and train Pokémon. There are special techniques that you learn for yourself and are taught by others who also play the game. This is much like learning a programming language or any other skill – it gives you a sense of accomplishment that you can share with others (like Emma!).

I feel relaxed when doing repetitive tasks

The main reason I play Pokémon (when I’m not working through the story) is to switch off. I actually want to ride my bike forward and backwards over and over again, only stopping occasionally to swap a freshly hatched Pokémon for a freshly laid egg. I enjoy running back and forth near the long grass for an Audino to appear to start a battle.

It is repetitive, can be done at the same time as watching a movie, and is quite relaxing. Yet at the same time, I still feel like I’m accomplishing something. Sure it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of my life, but I still find that valuable.

I’m not much of a gamer really

I used to call myself a ‘hardcore casual’ gamer. I liked to get all the latest titles, but I never played them all the way through. Even though I have enjoyed many Sonic, Mario, Zelda, and Metroid games – I’ve never wanted to complete all the titles in their respective series.

The only video game series I’ve managed to find time for over the last decade has been Pokémon (starting with Gold) and I’m alright with that. I sold my Xbox and I gave my other games away.

The Pokémon series is smart, well produced and very well recieved. I don’t need any other games.