Ric Bretschneider

My thoughts in your brain…

Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Take the Blue Pill…

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Just a reminder that this blog (at https://ricbret.wordpress.com) is no longer active and new content is appearing at http://blog.ricbret.com.

Please adjust your links and subscriptions as necessary to keep in touch.

You can subscribe to the active blog by going to http://blog.ricbret.com and using the subscribe control at the top of the page on the right.

And there’s a new entry there today! Kind of fun, maybe leading into something scary. I’m excited and hope you’ll check it out.

Oh, here’s a direct link! http://blog.ricbret.com/books/take-the-red-pill/

redblue

 

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Written by ricbret

July 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm

She’s Giving It Away…

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resonate

No secret to anyone about my love of this book.

So why is it news today?

This morning Nancy Duarte announced that “the multimedia version of Resonate is now available on HTML5 and iTunes for FREE! You can read, learn, and share on any platform or device.”

So stop reading this and go get it. Even if you already own the book, this is the multimedia enhanced version so you’ve got brand new levels of coolness to explore.

Written by ricbret

November 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Leap Motion – First Impressions and Demo

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Leap_Motion

Postman bought my new Leap Motion controller this week.  Minutes after installing it (and figuring out I’d placed it on the desktop upside down!) it was up and working.  This video is my first few impressions of the orientation application and the OSX integration application.

Video is in high resolution so click the zoom button to view full screen.

So, will this be a permanent and well-used addition to my physical desktop?  Hard to say.  Right now it’s a real cool demo, and it’s got some potential, but the fine tuning will the real test here. Even games require an exacting “touch” that will hard to match. And the reality here is that if you really want to replace my mouse this new method to exceed my current input devices.

Leap_Motion 3

Does it do that?

No, not really.  But I hope it will soon.

Leap_Motion

Rotten Bitter Apple

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Update:

Word from comiXology now after many hand-wringing updates overnight is that Apple didn’t prevent comiXology from pushing to iOS apps, but comiXology made the call.  In a letter on their blog page, comiXology CEO David Steinberger noted:

After hearing from Apple this morning, we can say that our interpretation of its policies was mistaken. You’ll be glad to know that Saga #12 will be available on our App Store app soon.

It would be very interesting to know which policies, their actual nomenclature, comiXology was concerned about violating. Expect they were spot-on in their interpretation.  This smells of Apple making an exception after the fact to avoid bad press, and a small company falling on its own sword to keep in the fruit monopoly’s good graces.
Apple is a blatant censor, they just don’t want to be known as one.  Their role as a publisher who censors other publishers is a net-negative, regardless of the details.

20130410:12:45PM PST

Ric’ Originally Wrote on April 9th:

Apple Computer’s been pretty absurd about trying to prevent mature individuals from enjoying mature content on their mobile devices.

What’s so special about mobile devices? Nothing, except that Apple has implemented a file system and application system that they can control, they can prevent the user from using for any content. There is only content Apple approves of, on apps Apple approves of. And they’ve been your nanny since day one.

But now they’ve gone a little nuts.

a1Tomorrow, one of the finest comics available, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, will not be available in digital form on iOS devices. This is due to two “postage stamp sized gay sex scenes” that appear in the magazine. They’re kind of background images, literally like someone left a TV on in a scene, context is ambiguous and not flamboyant.

Still Apple takes umbrage, and is shutting down all iOS apps that might try to down the comic. No iPad, no iPhone, no. Because they’re trying to protect you from an image you can walk into any comic store tomorrow and buy without showing your driver’s license. And it’s not the first nudity or sexuality in the magazine. It’s undoubtedly because of the gay context that they get out their big censor stick.

This is a crime against art.

I’m not exaggerating, Saga is one of the best comic books available today. Smart, inventive, human, witty, lovely, and unique.

All things Apple used to be.

And now they’re just disappointing.

Written by ricbret

April 10, 2013 at 7:03 am

Savino Wine Preservation System Unboxing

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Sometimes we have to put the tech, and the presenting and the other stuff geeky aside and just enjoy a glass of wine.

But maybe we can combine a few of these. The latest tech in wine storage. The geeky flavor of an impromptu unboxing and demo. All on a Friday afternoon.

Enjoy.

Written by ricbret

March 29, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Calming Down the Grandpa in Office 2013

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I got a lot of good feedback on The First Thing to Do to Your New PowerPoint 2013, thanks and wow – happy to help.

So OK, here’s the second thing you should do after you install Office 2013.  It’s a bitter post, full of my opinion, and I’m perfectly willing to accept that others may disagree.  However, in my opinion this trick corrects one of the most ridiculous mistakes made in Office 2013. You may consider it more of a taste issue. But I think that if you have taste you’ll want your Office interface to not look like somebody’s grandpa sending e-mail with the CAPS LOCK key on.

HEY, YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!

Yeah, that’s right. For some reason the designers at Office decided that years of calming down the interface, using readability methods developed and proven literally over centuries, should be abandoned so they could inject some “style” into the product.  Beware of designers attempting to make their mark.

Application design should fall back against the content, should not stand there screaming HEY LOOK AT ME, or HEY, GET OFF MY LAWN, or HERE’S A JOKE THAT ALL MY SENIOR FRIENDS THOUGHT WAS FUNNY SO I’M ADDING YOU IN MY REPLY-ALL… just for example. UI should be clear, it should be available, but not garish and hard to interpret.

So one of the first things you’ll notice looking at Office 2013 is the ribbon. The ribbon that so many hate, and the rest just find somewhat annoying. Sure it makes it easier for novices to find things, but it’s proven that the ribbon limits experts from levels of productivity they had with the prior menu UI. But we’re kind of stuck with it, and I digress. You see how easy that is.

What we’re looking at most is the tabs. The little label tabs at the top of each ribbon. And they’re all screaming like grandpa.

FILE  HOME  INSERT  DESIGN  TRANSITIONS  ANIMATIONS  SLIDE SHOW  REVIEW  VIEW

Hideous, right?

Well, maybe you’re not bothered by it, and hey, good for you.  But there’s so much basic knowledge about how typography works, how the eye interprets words and breaks, how recognition is speeded by properly applying basic typographic conventions… all ignored here. It’s tragic really when you consider the scope of Office, how many people deal with this UI on a daily if not hourly (if not constant!) basis.  There were lots of people bringing up how ugly and broken this was in the open Beta for Office 2013, but Office designers decided they knew better.

Sigh

Anyway, you can fix this, calm it down. I can show you how. It’s a little tricky, so follow closely.

We’re going to go into the customize ribbon command. Right-click somewhere on the ribbon where there isn’t a button or control, and you’ll see the hidden commands. Choose Customize the ribbon and you’ll see the ribbon customization mess… er… UI.

right click taskbar and select Customize the Ribbon

Now, if you’re pretty perceptive you’ll notice something kinda weird.

customize ribbon ui

We’re looking in the right column, a list of the ribbon titles and the controls each ribbon contains. Funny thing is, all the labels are already in initial cap case. They are not in all-capitals. The UI let’s you change the name of any of these labels, see the Rename button beneath the list, but if you want to continue using the right names you’re kind of stuck.

The developers have special-cased these label titles for each of the individual ribbons so they display in all caps if they match the intended default label. Why did they spend their time doing this instead of fixing bugs or getting good features into the product? Who can tell. We can imagine the passionate arguments the designers put forward about not allowing users to destroy the delicate balance of their screaming grandpa design, but that’s just me recalling similar conversations. Probably nothing like that. But again, digressing.

A little experimenting will show you that the labels

Home displays HOME
HoME displays HoMe
HOME displays HOME

but it’s kind of hard to get it to just display “Home.” But not impossible. Just give it some space.

Or one space to be exact

Select one of the tab labels in the list and click the Rename button.  Adding a single space character, either before or after the letters “Home”, apparently is enough of a Jedi Mind Trick that  the developer’s force to upper-case code is told “these are not the glyphs you’re looking for” and they pass along to be displayed unharmed. Do this to each label, and you get a nice initial cap label and a much calmer interface.

lowercase tab labels

Yeah, Grandpa is still yelling FILE. If you can figure out a way to get him to calm down there, let me know.

A couple of things

You may want to do all the labels ahead of time. There are more than what are initially shown. Just open the list at the top of the right column and choose All Tabs.

alltabscontextual tabs display at the bottom of the list

Notice a bunch of items got added to the bottom of the list. These are the “contextual tabs”, tabs that show up when you select certain things, like shapes and tables, to give you control over their options.

It does take a few minutes to change all of these labels, but you’ll find the pattern is pretty easy to get used to. Might take you 15 minutes to add spaces to the end of each label. I think that’s the easier technique to use.

And don’t worry about making a mistake. If you do, you can nuke all your changes and reset the UI to the defaults again. That’s what the Reset button at the bottom is for. You can reset all, or just the selected tab.

And One Last Thing

Which leads us to the last tip here. It’s Extra Credit, so feel free to skip it.

If you’re a writer or instructor or someone who needs, occasionally, to make your UI look like it’s fresh out of the box, you can use the Import/Export UI changes command.  It’s just beneath the Reset button.

the import/export change file command

This lets you save a file with all the customizations you’ve made as a file that you can reload later, even share between machines. So if you need to undo your changes and go back to the just out of the shrink-wrap smell, save your customizations, then Reset everything.

Later when you want to stop grandpa from screaming, just Import the saved settings again and you’re back to a calm, mature looking UI.

Let me know how this works for you.

This somewhat silly article is dedicated to my dear departed father, a grandfather and computer user himself, who eventually learned to just use all lower-case in writing his e-mail.

-Ric

Fun Fact: Did you know that the first few versions of the 
Apple computer did not have the ability to display 
lower-case letters? The keyboards had a shift key, but 
it was used almost exclusively for shifting number keys 
to access punctuation characters. The Atari and Commodore 
Computers were among the first personal computers to 
introduce lower-case letters as a standard personal 
computer feature!

Written by ricbret

January 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Love of Books – An Unboxing of “The Fifty Year Sword”

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I’m a big fan of books. Not just the stories, but the book construction as well. From bindings, paper choice, typeset, typography, layout, it’s all interesting to me.

Mark Z. Danielewski is most famous for House of Leaves, an inventive experimental work of layered stories and typographic morphing of most everything we think of as the printed page.

In this video I do a short review of House of Leaves for those who are not familiar with the work (and to allow those familiar with it to berate and chastise me for “getting it wrong” I suspect) and then do an unboxing of his latest work The Fifty Year Sword, which comes in a unique box and exhibits some of the same traits found in House of Leaves.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope those trying to make a purchase decision on this book are aided in their decision making.

preview

Written by ricbret

December 10, 2012 at 9:58 pm