December Exhibition

“To present the musical soul of the masses, of the great factories, of the railways, of the transatlantic liners, of the battleships, of the automobiles and aeroplanes. To add to the great central themes of the musical poem the domain of the machines and the victorious kingdom of Electricity.”
“I unfurl to the freedom of air and sun the red flag of Futurism, calling to its flaming symbol such young composers as have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice.”
A few years ago I became enamoured with the audio environment around me. Through my photoblog at that time I had already been noticing and sharing small bits of visual artifacts but noticing interesting signals through all the noise that is present here was something new. When you take the time to listen you may find yourself surprised at the remarkabley diverse array of delightful noise. Your cityscape transforms itself into futuristic noise orchestra that constantly changes, a never ending performance, which in turn completely changes you and your relationship with your city.
And I started to record and think of ways to share what I heard. I decided I wanted to be a sound artist.
A year and a half ago I finished a body of work, well mostly just prototypes and concepts given form, of sound art and tangible UI/interactive art. It was a tremendous learning experience – an education in product development rolled up in less than a year. We exhibited in an entirely appropriate old railway house to some acclaim. Since then I have been lucky to show various pieces at other venues throughout Taiwan. But until now I haven’t had the oportunity to focus entirely on sound art.
This December I will exhibit my traffic series of installations in Puli Taiwan. I wanted to show more, including my ambient room, but budgets would not allow. I’m looking forward to it as a source of inspiration and a break from the doldrums of freelancing.
All the pieces are reltively similar but with different execution. Here are brief descriptions of the pieces:
Traffic 1
“Now we are satiated and we find far more enjoyment in the combination of the noises of trams, backfiring motors, carriages and bawling crowd.
To excite and exalt our sensibilities, music developed towards the most complex polyphony and the maximum variety, seeking the most complicated successions of dissonant chords and vaguely preparing the creation of musical noise.” -The Art of Noises- Luigi Russolo
Traffic 1 is a series of sound vignettes played through custom built enclosures. It communcates through sound various emotions felt during the daily commute through Hsinchu’s streets. Using the simplest tools possible I set out to recreate the sounds I hear when driving in traffic in Hsinchu.
Traffic 2
Traffic 2 attempts to create spontaneous real time auditory compositions or improvisations using data gained from network traffic. A secondary aim is to test our understanding of the usage of network data in the public and private sphere.
We treat the network as an unseen life form – a body in constant change – born from the usage patterns of the users of the system. By using network traffic as a tool for creating music we in effect illustrate this unseen form.
Unlike traditional musical performances, Traffic 2 does not exist over a set period of time. It is in effect never ending and never the same at any given point in time.
Traffic 3
Over a period of time we gathered sound samples from various locations throughout the city of Hsinchu. We edited these samples and tuned them to a specific harmonic structure. We then fed these sounds, over a 100 in total, into our software agent which communicates with our server. The result is a cacophony of sound which could be understood as the city of Hsinchu acting as a Futurist Noise orchestra driven by network traffic.

Adium the memory hog

I’ve been experiencing some severe slowdowns on my Powerbook lately, actions seem to take an age to complete. I have to free up some disc space it seems for the incredible amount of virtual memory that both the OS and applications in general gobble up. But a surprising culprit for eating up the finite amount of real memory was Adium. 140 meg of real plus 350 meg of virtual memory. This is more than Photoshop! Can’t programmers create lightweight apps anymore?
I don’t know how much the memory hungry Adium contributes to my Powerbook woes but I don’t need to keep in touch that much to not try alternatives. Like email.
msn: 21 meg (rm) 160 (vm)
skype: 44 meg (rm) 248 (vm)
yahoo: 45 meg (rm) 200 (vm)
ichat: 19 meg (rm) 178 (vm), ichat agent 5 meg(rm) 108meg (vm)

Designing the Mobile User Experience

“People use their mobile phones in environments in which there are hundreds of distractions competing for their attention. In such environments, services that require complex interactions fail.”
“Achieving simplicity and speed of access is the key to expanding people’s perceptions of the mobile Web to include information, entertainment, and commerce services.”
“Your first step is to determine the contexts in which people will be using your mobile service.”
“What you can’t overcome is choosing the wrong technology for a particular context of use.”
Designing the Mobile User Experience – Richard F. Cecil

The Taiwan Name Thing

I have been having some problems with my name lately. At my bank my account name uses my full name while my visa with the same bank uses just my first and last. Mail arriving to my house uses either my first and last, my Chinese name, or my first and last with an initial.
I get cheques from the US monthly and if you know Taiwan at all you know it’s an absolute miracle to be able to cash these. This enthusiasm tends to be tempered with the realization of all the forms you have to fill out. 30-40 minutes later you leave unscathed.
If there is any slight difference between what appears on the cheque and your name, hassles ensue. No amount of identification or proof will make a difference if the cheque does not match visually with what they have on file. Rules are rules that only they can break when it’s convenient for them. So, I change the way my name appears on the cheque. Now unfortunately the post office doesn’t recognize my name and returns all the cheques.
That useless middle name of mine. Prince had the right idea.

Artifacts as Urban Art

Many of my friends think it’s funny when I proclaim that the ad. stickers, posters, and notices I see plastered over the walls in Taiwan, Bangkok, and Hong Kong are a form of ‘urban art’. I love the random nature of the paper and characters and how over time the elements transform this form into something entirely new. It changes just like the environment around it.
I have an sound art installation whereby we tried to recreate what I saw (and heard) on the street. Though I spent a great deal of time culling the city for bits and pieces of what is seen in these photos here, it was never ‘ugly’ enough. It was too planned and had too much attention to detail. But it was one of my most popular installations.
This is a cross-post from my new web blog on Vox. Just what I need another web blog! I consider Vox to be a more restrained and slightly more mature MySpace.
More images like above can be found by browsing the archives on 35togo.

The Long Tail from IHT

An explanation of the jargon phrase that I keep wanting to explain but always fail.

Want to buy an out-of-print book, a folk song recorded on a 78-rpm disc or some 18th century ceramics from Lunéville? You know already that the Internet can connect you with such esoteric purchases.
What you may not know is that these products help make up “the long tail,” a phrase that describes the never-ending shelf life of products that are not mass-market, top-40 favorites.

The End User: Of tails and walls

Marijuana Café

When I first saw this sign for a new café in Hsinchu a number of weeks ago I did a double take as I thought for an instance that I had been transported through the continuum to lovely Amsterdam. Unfortunately I was just witnessing yet another creative use of the English language in Taiwan and was still expertly dodging scooters on the sidewalk in Hsinchu.

Woofer Speaker


Design: Sander Mulder & Dave Keune, Buro Vormkrijgers
This is functional kitsch; the wrong becomes the new right. By adding a function to an otherwise grotesque object, it acquires new aesthetic values, becoming an object of desire. Pun intended, this woofer holds the mids between an addition to your sound system and your loyal 4 footed companion.

Maybe this would be better suited to the office as I am sure it would scare the heck out of my daughter. Available at POAA for €599.
Found via SwissMiss.

Illusions of simplicity

My internet connection here at kelake world hq has been crapping out regularly lately. It’s like a tap where someone is controlling the regular flow of bits and bytes to my wireless network. One second we are blazing full speed ahead, the next nothing. In practice this means incomplete page loads and a constant refreshing of the browser. Not the most efficient use of my time.
This illustrates one thing I hate about technology. Everything in my office, except the printer, has been designed to be easy to use. The technology has been hidden from view behind a gui and elegant hardware screen. But this ease of use is an illusion. The technology hidden from view is immensely complicated and prone to all kinds of errors. It isn’t as easy as trouble shooting a leaky facet (though in Taiwan even that can be difficult). Where do I start and how much time will I waste trying to solve this problem?
Like many I will sit here, curse, and hope that this magical tool will somehow rid itself of all the problems that affect it.

Fotofalls photo holder

I’ve bought a few of these when I used to visit the design shops in Bangkok. I still like them and think they make great center pieces for tables. This version is sold at cb2 for $55.00US but I am sure you can get similar designs in Taipei and elsewhere.

Taiwanease Issue2

In the heads down mind fog of “bus(y)iness” of last week I forgot that Issue 2 of Taiwanease is out and available in limited (hurry get one before they are gone) quantities at key locations throughout English speaking Taiwan.
An interesting observation is that it seems that a front cover illustration of a stretched and tortured dead pig is far more acceptable to distributors than a cover featuring an illustration of a couple of Mormons.
I am starting to believe that there is more art in finding art than the actually process of creating art itself. Finding and directing good illustrators who are willing to follow a brief for free is a task I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Though attractive in theory, stock companies that have an escrow service of sorts have proven to be useless. Who can wait 2 weeks for an email reply?
Here is an illustration from my friend 林授昌, who did the cover for this issue, that didn’t work out for the editorial.

Twelve days to a positive user experience

From the hesketh site and possibly written by Steve Champion. A bit early for an article with a festive theme but here in Hsinchu the Christmas lights stay up all year round. A few brief points:

  • It’s not the number of clicks to complete a task it’s the amount of thought that goes into these clicks(but reducing clicks is not a bad metric either)
  • Don’t produce a diarrhea of wordage … cut cut cut … think Miles Davis not John Coltrane
  • formal testing is not as important as testing (and iterate) if it means not testing at all

“So how do we create a positive user experience? Remember this mantra: User experience should be useful, usable, and satisfying. As you assess, architect, and measure the real experience of your users, you will craft better user experience…which leads to more value…which leads to increased profitability”.
In the words of my daughter, you can read the article if you like.

Taipei Zoo via Highway 3

The Taipei Zoo is one of my daughter Catrionas favourite places to spend the better part of a day – I think she would go everyday. But as good as the Taipei Zoo is, if you are going to spend time over lunch there, take a lunch with you, as the food in the zoo must be the worst Taipei has to offer.
Up until recently we have been taking highway 1 from Hsinchu to Taipei and then trudging our way through the city until we eventually made our way to the zoo. I have no idea why we didn’t try highway 3 in the past but it makes getting to the zoo far more enjoyable and it’s quicker to boot. Just keep going north in the direction of the Muzha exit and you will eventually see the signs. Unlike most way finding systems in Taiwan I had no trouble finding the right exit to the zoo. If you are travelling with children one of the added bonuses of taking this route are the tunnels. Lots and lots of long tunnels. It makes for some fun games in the car. Highway 3 is a great way to get to the zoo.

Design and Business Ethics

“AIGA has released a series of brochures outlining the critical ethical and professional issues encountered by designers and their clients. The series, entitled “Design Business and Ethics,” examines the key concerns a designer faces in maintaining a successful practice and speaks directly to the protection of individual rights.”

From Swissmiss.

Jessey Meng and Toilet Gate

You just can’t make this stuff up. The Mainland Chinese forums are ablaze with indignation that someone would make a joke at their shoddy toilet facilities. From Reuters:

Enraged Chinese Internet surfers have called for a public apology from a Taiwanese model after she poked fun at the mainland’s public toilets and their users on a Taiwan chat-show, local media reported Thursday.
“Many mainland toilets don’t have doors and even when they do, most people don’t even shut the door!” Meng said.
She regaled the host with a story about a toilet in a Chinese city where she had seen “hundreds of pale bottoms all lined up in a row.”

Old news is sometimes good news. Found via my referrer logs.

An Ive for Design

Businessweek retrospective on Jonathan Ives.

The man who, after Jobs, is most responsible for Apple’s amazing ability to dazzle and delight with its famous products, chose instead to talk about process — what he called “the craft of design.” He spoke passionately about his small team and how they work together. He talked about focusing on only what is important and limiting the number of projects. He spoke about having a deep understanding of how a product is made: its materials, its tooling, its purpose. Mostly, he focused on the need to care deeply about the work.

Read: Who Is Jonathan Ive?

Broadcast only

I’ve turned off the comments again due to the overwhelming amount of spam that floods my MT installation on a daily basis. With the extremely limited amount of ‘conversations’ that have ever occurred here it just doesn’t seem worth the time to manage all the noise.

Taiwanease Magazine

The first issue of Taiwanease Magazine was officially released to the wild today and can be picked up at a number of outlets throughout Taiwan. Kudos to all.
Special thanks to 錢世泓 and 汪峻德 for their illustration work. 汪峻德 had to endure many nights of revisions, a task he didn’t complain too much about. 錢世泓 finished his work with only a few hours to spare before he boarded the bus to start basic training for the Taiwan marines.
After being in development for almost 10 months it’s great to see elements of this project finally seeing fruition. Next the website.

Help Wanted (PHP)

Well I thought I might give this a shot here on my web log. Taiwan is a Microsoft island and though I have met many talented engineers during my stay in Taiwan far too few are into open source software. There are many people like myself who know enough about PHP to be dangerous but I am looking to meet people who live and love this language. I have a number of projects languishing due to slow development.
Here’s what we are looking for:
PHP developer
We’re looking for a local PHP developer to work on some neat projects we’ve been developing. Required buzzword-y skills: PHP, MySQL, XHTML, CSS, Javascript (including AJAX), Linux. Design skills and usability experience wouldn’t hurt. Familiarity with wiki’s and social software would be cool. Some English ability required.
I am also looking in the near future for a Chinese speaking Community Manager but I think I will have far less difficulty with finding a partner to fill that role.
These are ‘partnerships’ and we work on a monthly revenue share payment system.

Luke Wroblewski on Refining Data Tables

Luke Wroblewski writing for UX Matters:

After forms, data tables are likely the next most ubiquitous interface element designers create when constructing Web applications. Users often need to add, edit, delete, search for, and browse through lists of people, places, or things within Web applications. As a result, the design of tables plays a crucial role in such an application’s overall usefulness and usability. But just like the design of forms,there’s more than one way to design tabular data.

Refining Data Tables on UX Matters

Ross Lovegrove Presentation via TEDTalks

From the TEDBlog: “Ross Lovegrove is an industrial designer, best known for his work on the Sony Walkman and Apple iMac. In this highly visual presentation, he presents his recent work — from furniture to water bottles — which is organic in form and inspired by nature. (Recorded February 2005 in Monterey, CA. Duration: 20:14)”

Open Source DIY MP3 player

Wow, the Sakura open source MP3 player kit opens up all kinds of possibilities for installation projects.

For around $30 in parts and a good amount of patience, you can have a completely open source and hackable mp3 player ready to go. It can be modified to accept serial commands, be embedded in an art project, used as the voice of your next smart talking robo-sidekick, or filled with music and used as is. Put in whatever size card you want, up to the theoretical limit of the MMC format! All the source and schematics are here for free as part of the Creative Commons. I have kits available if you don’t feel like scavenging for the parts yourself.

The Sakura: The World’s Simplest Open Source DIY MP3 player!

Hinet’s Tubes Clogged

Hinet Taiwans tubes must be clogged. Since coming back to Hsinchu I have been experiencing some real network latency and general ‘suckiness’ in my broadband connection.
There seem to be excruciating delays at Hinet’s usa-paix router making American sites (about 99% of all sites I visit) quite time consuming to use. It’s been along time since I have had to use the refresh button multiple times just so a page will load.
Taiwan generally has great broadband so I hope the problem will clear itself soon.