This is why I support the idea of Free Culture. Obviously Thomas Jefferson was not writing with culture in mind, but I do think he deliberately chose wording that could be applied in a wide variety of situations. The Free Culture idea is all about liberty and the pursuit of happiness: the liberty to take and reuse the culture that has been forced upon us. Disney did not ask my permission to inject Mickey Mouse images into my mind. Nor did Warner Brothers, Bad Robot, or the Blender Foundation (gotta include some good guys in this list!). If they force their culture on me, it becomes my culture. I will use it as such.
This is what free software and free culture are all about: the process of invention, of taking existing things and using them in novel ways that the previous inventors never even dreamed of.
My family has a bunch of old VHS tapes. Shelves full of them. Most or all of the tapes are TV programs that my mom mostly recorded and then forgot about never bothered to watch never got around to watching. Most of those have labels, and most of the labels are mostly accurate.
So, this year we as a family have made a point of watching our old tapes while we still can. By “while we still can”, I mean “while we can still obtain a working VCR without having to ship it from Lower Slobbovia”. It’s 2015, almost 2016. Who even has a VCR, let alone a working one?
We used to have VCRs. They’ve all died of old age, one by one. These last few months we’ve been using one that used to belong to my grandma. It’s on its last legs. Can’t even get color, except red for some reason. No way to adjust the tracking: the original remote was lost long ago, and the universal remote we’ve been using doesn’t have tracking buttons. We’ll be taking it to the recycling center tomorrow.
We got two used VCRs for Christmas (in case one doesn’t work). I’ve just hooked them both up. They both work perfectly!
And now to the thing that inspired this post: the remote control. One of our new VCRs came with the remote pictured:
This is how you design a remote! Notice how the four most-used buttons – play, stop, rewind, and fast forward – both visually stand out and are easy to find with your thumb due to their large size. Slightly less important buttons – such as power, pause, and record – are also easy to find (though I wish the pause button were bigger and more centrally located). Infrequently used buttons – menu, display, and so on – are present when needed and not hard to find, yet putting them behind the flap makes it immediately obvious that these buttons can be ignored if all you want to do is watch a freaking video. Genius!
It is often said (by my dad) that computer hackers (like me) need to learn how to make interfaces that are actually useful, not just pretty looking. I agree. So, when I encounter something that I feel is an exceptionally good design, I will try to post about it. The above remote design makes using the VCR’s basic functions quick and easy, while also making it obvious where the advanced functions can be found.
Stay happy, stay free, and don’t forget that you don’t need to be a consumer.
I just finished this project as homework for one of my fall term classes. The assignment’s requirements can be summarized simply as “Do something cool with graphs”. That’s really what the entire class was about: collecting data and finding ways to represent that data.
My project was about two main goals: to collect data that nobody would think to collect, and to present data in ways that nobody would think to present it. Continue reading Capstone project: Multi-sensory data representation
Anyone who’s read my previous post on this blog knows that I’m currently working on a short film based on Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Raven’. I thought I’d write this post to share some miscellaneous tips and ideas that I have found useful during the filmmaking process. They’re organized (very roughly) in order of when you will probably need them, earliest being first.
Often, for me at least, the hardest step in the filmmaking process is the first step: coming up with a good film idea. I like to film, I get the urge to pick up a video camera, but I have no idea what to do with it. Here are a few solutions. Continue reading Misc. Filmmaking Tips and Resources