30 Apr
   Filed Under: Personal   

Well, I got what I wanted. I’m sorry for being quiet lately, but it was my birthday yesterday, and I got quite sick today, so I just wanted to give a small update before things will start to change around here. You can guess that May first is a bit in the blue; I don’t know if I will be able to get the new two ‘layouts’ finished in time. Anyway, work will continue, so you’ll notice, eventually.

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Don’t you people miss a lot? My last iPod was a second generation iPod, 40 gigabytes, and it died (battery) quite quickly. Not so good for 600 euros of hard-earned cash. I hope this new nano will serve me a bit more faithfully.

Strangely, there are a lot of applications for the iPod, but very few seem to serve my purpose. There are very few apps to synchronize unread Mail, RSS articles, convert PDF’s to a rich text file and export it, and do ‘widget’ tasks (get weather, TV guide, stocks, or other info on your iPod). The biggest gripe, however, I have with my new iPod, is very simple; I want to see it’s battery life status on my Mac.

This shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve, yet nobody seems to have picked this up. I’ll see what I can do, myself.

Stay tuned for the monthly blog redesign.

28 Apr
   Filed Under: Personal   

I hope I get an iPod Nano.

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28 Apr
   Filed Under: Unfiled   

SubRosaSoft announced the release of MacLockPick recently. It’s supposedly a product for law enforcement agencies (supposedly, because there is no ‘try before you buy’ – quite a jump to take for a 600-dollar app, cough, memory stick) and it’s claimed to ‘crack any password on a Mac’.

When clicking further than the all too speculative headlines from news websites, you quickly discover some facts about MacLockPick; 1.) It’s entire working is apparently based, according to their site, to the default setting of the OS X keychain to be ‘opened’ to use. This means anyone serious enough about computer security will be able to harden themselves against it. To quote SubRosaSoft;;

MacLockPick takes advantage of the fact that the default state of the Apple Keychain is open, even if the system has been put to sleep.It also makes use of the openly readable settings files used to keep track of your suspect’s contacts, activities and history. These data sources even include items that your suspect may have previously deleted or has migrated from previous Mac OS X computers.

Oh my, we got a disaster on our hands! Macs are insecure by default! Want to prevent nasty government agencies from stealing your keychain? Read up on UNIX. Oh yeah, that advice I gave about ten times in one of the most popular OS X security how-to’s on the web also stands; any standard non-admin user will not be able to get access to those logs.

While all these statements are made here, I can honestly say I don’t know how the supposed agencies will be able to simply parse the keychain passwords to disk. If you have the keychain open, and an application tries to fetch passwords, the Keychain Agent will ask you if you want to allow access. I suppose one could automate with OSA to just ‘allow everything’, but that would really mean our implementation of the Keychain is flawed. You could also think in the sense of the InputManagers and other injection hacks that can replace such system services with their customized code (actually working example at the bottom of the page). Anyway, I’d love to get my hands on this software to see if it exploits a fundamental weakness in OS X. I am still quite sure, however, that if you follow the advice I have given in my how-to, there won’t be a slim chance in hell that MacLockPick is able to retrieve a single password from your computer. They’d have to bruteforce it.

27 Apr
   Filed Under: Design   

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When I think more about the concept of automating design and art in our times, it comes to mind that the applications are endless; we are essentially stepping into a world where we can delegate any work, even the most ridiculously redundant and repetitive activity can be automated and performed by computers, and it’s getting exponentially easier to formulate these tasks. It’s important to realize that, like any major innovation in man’s tools and technology, this will be reflected in our cultural references; arts and design.

We have seen arts and design take various directions as the time with this computerized technology increased; the reaction: technologically looking graphics, the emphasis on the ‘Mankind we can Make’, digital letterforms and printing, abstraction of common designs; the counter-reaction: ‘crafts’ in art becoming more popular as a means to diverge with current technologies and trends, or even to accessorize them. As the digital pinnacle hasn’t been reached yet, there are lots of developments in the wake of the computer revolution that are over the horizon, but approaching fast. What can we expect?

Austin started a campaign about 7 months back in California that used RFID-chips (Radio-Frequency Identification) supplied with the Austin Mini’s keychain that would send it’s owners’ credentials when near a special billboard, promptly displaying an enormous line with his or her name. This is an obvious example of a stupid attempt at doing something new. First, RFID tags can be tracked (especially if they contain user information, or have a unique ID) by location, and form a threat to privacy. Second, it’s a total heap of money to stuff into something that will only shift the conveyed corporate identity by a bit. There -are- smart ways to do this.

It’s a smart age. Computers will start doing more ‘on their own’ as humanity wants to be supplemented with supportive ‘wares’; software and hardware that becomes an extension in day-to day life. Information Architecture becoming more open and accessible, while being forced into new paradigms because on virtually any medium (including the real world), visual saturation has been reached. It’s time for new media. It’s time for smart media.
Representing it’s age like no other, ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’ designs (no pun intended) in graphics, logotypes, and typography, are dynamic products that are able to make ‘decisions’ themselves. You could take a 24/7 grocery shop as an example. Let’s say the shop is called XYZ, and it’s logo looks somewhat like a small store with a sky in the background. It’s branding could cohesively change on conditions like time of the day, time of the year, sale strategy, product inventory per shop.

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The visual rules (the branding guide and it’s visual identity) can be applied in a computerized fashion, creating freedom for a logotype or graphic to modify itself within existing boundaries. A ‘fallback’ logo type is a real thing here; the new, ‘dynamic’ logotype (actually, the company’s identity) is ‘backward compatible’ with old media like print; after all, if the only thing the dynamic logo changes or controls is the appearance of graphics, the only thing one has to do is print the result. However, nobody is dependent on the maintenance of a corporate identity. Creating products in line with the graphic language and main message are done by an application instead of a designer.

Let’s go back to that shop. What if some of it’s stores sell vegetables in a special aisle and other stores in the chain do not? One could say that a green color addition or an otherwise notable modification in the branding could be used to communicate this. Graphics need to adjust themselves based on situations, and it’s possible today. Applications are only a step behind with e-paper, ubiquitous displays and computers (websites and computer graphics) to display new, dynamic, even animated identities.

You often see stores with massive displays used for nothing more than static flash or powerpoint loops. In a new, ideal ‘smart’ world of design, we could see logo’s and graphics being able to communicate the message framed in line with the visual identity; no longer do we need to establish guidelines or let nothing more than an urgent pamphlet be designed by the costly design agency; if applications are smart enough to produce the style, then they can apply new information and make it cohesive. The same goes for traffic signs; in the future, we could see computerized signs with display graphics that are dynamic enough to change. We wouldn’t possibly let humans design every possible combination of information so that we can display it; we need a design ‘language’ that a computer can natively ‘speak’; so the computer itself merely needs the information and formats it appropriately. Why limit this to such static applications? I feel there is a need for a new age in branding and graphic design. Look at the current pioneers in graphic design. They often surpass competition with sheer technique and style. This is because they are close to the tool. If designers truly understand the tool (in this case, the computer), the only logical thing to come out of it is innovation. The supreme ability of computers today is to create imaginary constructs and ‘living’ experiences. I suggest we let them do just that.

This, of course, calls for new media in the most literal sense; we need new file formats, new technologies to make these kind of graphics with a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) interface, new paradigms for how branding and visual profiling works. As I said, we need to rethink Information Architecture in a day where visual saturation has been reached, and new media are at the doorstep. We just need to ‘upgrade’ our visual and cultural paradigms to get in line with a new direction of communication – one that is as dynamic as the human race and rapidly shifting society of today. Our products can now evolve as we evolve.

I expect to roll out some samples of this soon.

edit; you wanted a bit of a sample eye-candy? You got it.

26 Apr
   Filed Under: Unfiled   

For someone way out there.

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Click here for a bigger version.

Some work with inspiration from a Futurama quote and the Matrix. “There is no two.”

I got a week of vacation coming up. I’ve still got a lot of work to do for school, but Praetorian still has a healthy amount of hours going in it every day. Some questions were raised about Praetorian recently, so I’ll post a Q&A soon. And my lecture-in-the-works for the CCC is progressing great.

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Just a table content in the works, but that’s pretty much decided on. It’s up to the CCC committee to approve my paper and presentation before May 15th. So, I’m quite curious if I will make the grade.

Please keep giving input about my apps in the making! The most stupid question is the one never asked. Email’s open 24 hours a day.

25 Apr
   Filed Under: Unfiled   

Freeverse came out with Periscope, an application that, does the following;

* ‘scope your home when you’re out of town.
* ‘scope for intruders with motion detection.
* ‘scope the kids when you’re at the office.
* ‘scope a time-lapse movie of your workday.
* ‘scope for security.
* ‘scope for fun!

So, one could say this could make potential buyers or testers of iSight Expert compare the two. Before the speculation starts (and it’s bound to, since my app’s not out); there is a major difference between iSight Expert and Periscope’s design philosophy.

My application is focused on giving you control over what your iSight does; bascially, you could say it personifies a piece of hardware to do whatever the hell you want it to do; schedule it’s settings, take images on a very broad range of conditions. Perhaps the intended group of users is also different; my application has intermediate Mac users in mind with the urge to unlock their hardware potential, while Periscope looks a bit less like an application, and a bit more like a ‘game’.

In the mean time, I am in no hurry to release iSight Expert over increasing ‘competition’ — Praetorian is the application I will roll out first, and it will be followed by iSight Expert.