DIY Home Projector

Though I quickly corrected my broken TV problem by picking up a used model on Craigslist, I’m still fascinated by the projector option. Here’s a guide to a $200 DIY projector using an LCD panel and an overhead projector. Part of the appeal is having a school-like overhead projector in your living room, very retro. During parties you could leave some overheads next to the machine and see how people reacted.

Razorfish acquired, again

This time for $160 million, by aQuantive, who owns Avenue A. SBI had picked up Razorfish for $8.2 million less than two years ago, but also added MarchFirst, iXL, Scient, Lante, etc. to the mix. Would be interesting to do the math and see how much SBI actually made on the flip (sorry to put it in cold financial terms, but I think that’s all there is to it).

It’s an amazing brand story as well. Consider the strength of the Razorfish name:

  • In the early days Razorfish acquired several other companies but always kept the Razorfish name.
  • After SBI aquired the companies mentioned above, it only rebranded after acquiring Razorfish.
  • And now it lives on as Avenue A/Razorfish.

That name is probably a temporary combination to educate the market, it’ll be interesting to see what the final name becomes. Certainly a lesson in building a brand reputation, even an infamous one.

Contrast with how Semaphore — along with some others — was recently folded into Arc, part of the Publicis group. I’m kinda sad to see the old Semaphore site go away, they had a niche that made sense.

Dynamic Text Replacement

Once the HTML is finished loading, our script will search it for specified elements (h2, span, etc.) and replace the text inside of them with an img tag. This dynamic img tag has its alt attribute set to the original text, and its src attribute set to the URL of the PHP script that we just installed. The PHP script then sends back a custom PNG image, and voila: custom headings.

That is whacked.

Textpattern auto CSS?

I’ve been thinking about ways to edit CSS from a content management system, and fascinated by Dean’s description of Automatic CSS mode in Textpattern

Automatic CSS mode, style sheet editing is taken to a sophisticated new level, using an editing interface and organizational method intended to make CSS parameters more readable and logical. Any existing style sheet can be ‘poured’ into the editing interface and modified indefinitely.

Any Textpattern users out there? Does the Auto CSS mode UI look the same as this, or different? My email address is over there in the nav bar.

Projection TV

We came back from vacation on Monday and when my wife pressed the power button on the TV remote all that happened was click, click, click…

I’ll check in with my local repair shop tomorrow, but I thought it was a good time to figure out the brave new world of televisions. My current set is a hand-me-down from my father, so I haven’t actually bought one in over 20 years (a 13″ Emerson to use with my Commodore 64. [sigh]).

In short, it seems like good old fashioned CRTs still look good and provide the most bang for the buck. The ‘flat’ CRTs aren’t as flat as LCDs or Plasmas but are much thinner than our father’s sets. LCDs and Plasmas look great but aren’t that big yet and are molto expensive. Rear projection sets are giant, affordable, and look crappy.

Then there’s front projection, like in a movie theater. My friend Leah had talked about using a projector as a TV years ago, and now the price has come down to where they are being marketed (and sometimes tweaked) for home theater. It’d be nice to ditch the big box, and have gorgeous, huge video projected on the wall (with the project 11 feet away from the wall, the screen will be 65 inches diagonal minimum). Drawbacks seem to be 1) connecting the projector — which is close to your sitting position — to the audio gear which is across the room, and 2) putting a screen on the wall.

ProjectorCentral is an excellent resource. Their recommended list makes shopping easier and their projection calculator is perfectly executed.

On the bargain side (< $1000), Infocus seems to have the lead with performance in their X1 and X2. Here's a thorough X1 review. The X2 seems to be the successor, increasing the brightness for the same price. Here’s a story — not entirely complimentary — of someone who upgraded. Apparently Infocus subtracted some features to sell a premium version of the X2 labeled the 4805 for $200 more.

Also interesting is this Dell vs. Toshiba shootout in which the Dell wins, but they mention the Infocus might be a better option for movie use and the Dell better with more computer use. The comments section there is very astute, but this one is more emotionally charged. The Epson Powerlite 10 is similar, as is the BenQ 6100 which, with the current $100 rebate from Amazon, would be my first choice.

Side Chair No. 14

I’m getting over my prejudice of chair-happy designers (why must every designer do a chair?). Niels Diffrient, designer of Humanscale’s Freedom and the new Liberty, describes the chair, in the new Metropolis, as ‘a psychological challenge: all architects and designers of note have chosen the chair as their ultimate note. it’s gotten to be hallowed ground.‘ We spend an enormous amount of time sitting, and so the chair has universal appeal.

A wonderful example of innovation-via-chair is Thonet’s No. 14 which was made with only six pieces of steam-bent wood, ten screws and two nuts. It addressed an exploding need for cafe-style side chairs and used highly available (in Europe) Beechwood. In 1859 it bridged the gap between craftwork and industrial production with a beautiful product.

Dillon critical of navigation

Andrew Dillon, in his report on the fifth annual IA Summit, gives me props but is critical of the idea of navigation….

…I really enjoyed, again, a session on navigation by Victor Lombardi, which probably appealed to my academic sensibilities more than some of the other sessions. I have been a strong critic of the whole idea of navigation as a driving force for design, but there is no doubting the allure of the concept for IAs – it was standing room only at this session as Victor gave a detailed overview of the various strands of research that have emerged in this area and how best IAs might use the findings.

I’m not sure if he means navigation as in navigation bars (which Dillon has specifically questioned IA’s obsession with) or the larger practice of navigating through digital information, or something else. I’ll be sure to follow up.

Customer Loyalty and Experience Design in eBusiness

Karl Long posted his new DMI article, Customer Loyalty and Experience Design in eBusiness: ‘I’ve tried to take the approach of connecting experience design to a business imperative, in this case customer loyalty…. This means some issues need to be addressed by the design early on before you start trying to collect more information or value, like usability and trust.

A great example of an article we need more of, from someone who groks design and can connect it with business issues.

Biometric approaches the chasm

The fingerprint biometric device for $49 was inevitable, I’m just surprised it arrived this soon (should we thank the demand generated by the Dept. of Homeland Security for the accelated development?). I predict within two years someone will build this into a laptop, sitting beside the trackpad.

Update: Josh points out that fingerprint biometrics are already included in the $650 HP iPAQ Pocket PC h5550, probably aimed at corporate customers. At this price point, inclusion on a consumer laptop will be probably happen sooner than two years.

InfoDesign interview

Peter J. Bogaards was kind enough to chat with me for the InfoDesign Profile series. One question I didn’t have an answer for was, Who is your role model? It’d be great to have one, but it feels like the world is changing too fast for anyone else to consistenty interpret the world in a way I strive for.