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  1. #1
    ian
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    Default Topic: UI Graphics & Concepts



    Here is a thread I am starting to encourage people to think about the future of networking UIs. (Including myself). Anything from a picture you find on google images, to a sketch you make up yourself, to some text about your thoughts. Anything goes. I don't even care if it has nothing to do with networking, or computers even. If its interesting or exciting, go for it.

    Its first quarter, the teams are on the field... the coin toss... i'll take the kickoff... here goes.

    -i

  2. #2
    ian
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    Default Antares Audio Technologies



    This is the work of the award winning guys over at Antares Audio Technologies, out of Scotts Valley, California. They make software and hardware audio DSP technology. For newbies out there, you would call these sound effects and electronic instruments and plugins.

    Here is a link to some of the shots of their products:
    http://www.antarestech.com/products/
    You can click on some of the pictures to see what they are up to.

    Heres what I think about their Filter product (small image above):
    1) They are packing a significant amount of functionality into a small space, effectively. Perhaps a little more than a newbie could handle, but they've done a much better job than many.
    2) Great icons, buttons, knobs, and very nice graphing capabilities. They don't have too too many different control types.
    3) They use color very effectively (minimally. The base/background color is a light metallic grey. On top of that they use yellow to indicate an active state, and other colors are used only when necessary to differentiate key concepts (different frequency bands, in this case).

    If you look at their Auto Tune product you'll also see some fine work. Im sorry but that thing looks like anyone could figure it out.

    Two thumbs up to you guys, great work!

    -i

  3. #3
    ian
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    Default Lego Digital Designer



    Here is a UI that I think you will all find quite wonderful. It might even take you back to your younger days. It is a product called "Lego Digital Designer", or LDD to those people who are more familiar with it. This is essentially 3D legos on the computer. You could call this some sort of modeling, or CAD (if you're quite visionary, and the LDD people are...), but the more important thing about this GUI is that its actually _fun_ to use.

    How did they make this fun?
    I was a developer at Lego (in the Lego/Digital division in Billuund, Denmark) working on this project for a year in its early stages, to bring the 1.0 to the masses. I ended up there because I was one of a small handfull of people in the world that had researched (and attempted to solve) a problem known as "connectivity". This is essentially the problem of deciding when two separate 3D objects are in acceptablie orientations in 3D space, relative to each other. I have my own solutions to this, but Lego also has theirs, and it is known as "Click & Stick". It is patented and much credit to Olga T. for pioneering this. The essence of Click & Stick is that it is very fast, and supports a drag & drop form of interaction, which children can rapidly grasp. The fun for the child comes from the fact that the UI is very responsive, and bricks just seem to go to the place where the child had intended. CAD folks have much to learn from Lego, and quite honestly, Olga's work is incredibly advanced, but most people just think its a child's toy Its not.

    Play with it!
    I recommend you download this for the mac or pc and play with it! If you have children, get them in on it too!!! Its so easy to use you're going be really surprised. You can download it from the reviews below, or just go to the LDD website:
    http://ldd.lego.com

    How did this come about?
    In fact, the original purpose of this technology and UI was to allow children to design lego models on their computer, then print out the parts list, then go to the Lego Store and pick out and buy all the necessary parts from the Pick-a-Brick wall. (This is a wall covered with buckets of parts that you can scoop out and buy.)

    connectivity?
    Well, I figured id mention a little more in case you were wondering. The problem has two key parts. 1) you must model the set of all possible connections, taking great pains to make sure the model doesn't include invalid connections. This creates, usually, a massive space of possible connections. 2) you must be able to search that space very very quickly to determine which is the particular connection the user is trying to make. 3) you must "guess" very accurately what two objects the user is attempting to connect. If you get all that right, then a 4 year old can intelligently use a CAD system

    vnunet.com review:
    http://www.vnunet.com/vnunet/downloa...gital-designer

    softpedia review:
    http://www.softpedia.com/reviews/mac...ew-27156.shtml

    happy friday!
    and props to Ronny, Olga, and all the other wonderful folks there designing the future!

    -i

  4. #4
    ian
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    Default Hyperscore from The Media Lab, MIT



    Hello all lovely readers. This GUI I discovered a few years ago, while researching user interfaces for children, while at Lego. It comes from the Media Lab at MIT, where they do some very cutting edge work in computer assisted music systems.

    Essentially this tool allows children to learn about, and experiment with, music. The child is able to draw in a freehand/interactive manner, and the software translates that drawing into a musical composition! Ok, that is perhaps a little bit of an oversimplification, but it is certainly much easier than writing a real composition!

    This tool is great fun to play with, and is lots of fun to share with children, regardless of their interest in music. I think you will find that this tool can spark the musical imagination.

    From a UI point of view (to get to the meat of the matter), I will simply say that I've never seen a piece of musical software that was this fun to use, interactive, and intuitive. Never. They have catered to their audience very well, by transforming the playful activity of drawing into music making.

    Download it and play! (for PCs only)... boohoo
    http://amoxifen.media.mit.edu/hypers...red_scores.php

    Check out some incredible audio people & children have made!
    http://www.media.mit.edu/hyperins/To...ony/audio.html

    Check out some video of people using this great tool!
    http://www.media.mit.edu/hyperins/To...ony/video.html

    Have a lovely friday
    -ian

  5. #5
    ian
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    Default touch me...

    <object width="425" height="350"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/5JcSu7h-I40"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/5JcSu7h-I40" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350"></embed></object>

    <object width="425" height="350"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/89sz8ExZndc"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/89sz8ExZndc" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350"></embed></object>

    It's 2:30 am on Tuesday morning, and I'm still bothered that I haven't yet posted my usual friday entry. Im playing some records on my Numark and I just happen to be playing Samantha Fox. Specifically, im playing one of her hits, "Touch Me" (I Want Your Body). Luckily for me, and you the reader, there are 5 versions of that song on my vinyl, because it is a single. Untanglers know that if they have heard the seemingly same song a few times in a row, it is likely that i found a single

    Anyways, after hearing the first few lines... it finally came to me. I wanted to bring you up to speed on whats really going on with touch screens... (notice the connection to "touch me") Im not talking about mobile devices, which I personally felt was only a matter of time. Im talking about on the "desktop". These new interfaces CLEARLY open up entirely new ways to interact with software, and make the interaction experience FUN.

    Watch this video, and pay attention to a few things:
    1) Notice the graceful hand motions that are being made. They are natural, almost as if playing an instrument. They are not jerky, such as mouse movements.
    2) Notice that both hands are being used, and the user is standing. He is more physically engaged with the software, working more of his body and mind (to coordinate more muscle movements)
    3) Notice that gesture recognition is being used. This is the ability to translate a series of motions into a single action/commend. (Looks like sebastian is ahead of his time by using mouse gestures)
    4) And heres my favorite... the real kicker. its subtle. Notice that 3D visualisation/navigation works. It allows the user to act as if the world is in his hands, literally. And he has much more freedom to move around as intended. This just does not work well with a mouse, but seems very workable with hand gestures.

    I have had thoughts about touch screens with the Untangle UI for quite some time now... most buttons are large enough... an on screen keyboard could be brought up for typing needs, etc. You could use the touch screen in the server room and do away with the keyboard and mouse. Perhaps this is more of a neat idea than a practical one... but I thought id mention it because it was also a reason why i made this posting... to show that touch screens have come a long way, and they have a promising future

    sa sa sa sa samantha fox...
    -i
    Last edited by ian; 03-20-2007 at 03:12 AM. Reason: needed another good vid

  6. #6
    ian
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    Default Mind Rover




    Sorry this is a few days late. Friday was a bit hectic. Here is a UI for an educational game I found several years ago, while building a mobile robot at Carnegie Mellon. What caught my eye about their robot programming interface was that it was very similar to what Lego was doing with their Mindstorms set. They were developing an icon based graphical programming language. "Programming Language" might be a bit of an over statement, but it is certainly clear that their system allows for the expression of interesting and complex logic.

    From their site...
    MindRover is a game where players learn to program robots for competitions ranging from "Hot Potato" to "Hallway Racing" and "Quarry Battle". The highly acclaimed programming interface provides a graphical wiring screen which makes it very easy for a new player to program their first robot. At the same time the depth and expansion capabilities of the underlying architecture allow for very complex robot behaviors.

    What struct me as very forward looking about this UI when I was experimenting with it was that it introduces kids to such concepts as:
    directed graphs
    encapsulation of functionality
    sensors feeding into event loops
    autonomous decision making
    and much much more...

    And all of this through icons and graphs. This was really great. It allowed computer scientists (or aspiring computer scientists) to program robots to perform interesting tasks, without having to worry about mechanical and robotic issues. They could just focus on the software component.

    You can download and experiment with this fun game for free on your lovely PC running windows or linux:
    http://www.mindrover.com/downloads.html

    Have a great week!
    Oh, and since I haven't gotten any posters yet for this thread... im going to up the ante. If you make an interesting post, I shall send you a pair of wooden chopsticks. Autographed by me.

  7. #7
    ian
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    Default Electric Sheep!

    <object width="425" height="350"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/1e7lPYTIaRQ"></param><param name="wmode" value="transparent"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/1e7lPYTIaRQ" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" width="425" height="350"></embed></object>

    For all you readers out there, I really had to deliver on this one, since I didn't deliver anything at all last Friday. And so I decided to share a delicious little treat with you called "Electric Sheep". If you haven't heard of this, you're in for a surprise!

    The easiest way to explain what Electric Sheep is...
    Its an insanely visually addictive screensaver. It shows beautifully colored animations, known as flames, in various orders, with looping at some points so that there are smooth transitions between different flames. Aside from the fact that it is completely hypnotic, there are some really interesting technical implications.

    It turns out that each computer running the Electric Sheep screensaver is actually a member of a massive distributed render farm! Thats right. While your computer is showing the nice animated flames, it is actually helping to render frames of animations that will be available in the future. All of these frames are collected by the sheep server, compiled into MPEG animations, and then the animations are sent out to everyone running the screensaver.

    Finally, some of those frames are rendered at 1080p (as opposed to 480p) and end up as part of a special plasma display installation. There are only 2 or 3 such installations, one of which is on display at Google.

    Oh gosh... forgot to mention... while the screensaver is running, you can vote on which "sheep" you like, and which ones you dont. That data is fed back to the server, and the sheep that people like are bred together to product new, unique sheep! Thats right, the animations evolve!!! based on basic user feedback!

    All of this chicanery with distributed rendering was actually a solution to a computational complexity problem that the project faced... It turned out that in order to render all of the animations that they wanted, billions of years would have been needed. So by rendering on thousands of computers across the world, they were able to cut this number down to a much more reasonable number!

    Incidentally, the windows version leverages BitTorrent to make this download efficient. The mac and linux versions are not yet so sophisticated. AND!!! here is the real shit kicker. I met the fellow who implemented the bittorrent code for the windows version, at a bar in san francisco a few months ago! He had just arrived from Sweden, to work for BitTorrent... and I was telling him about my favorite screensaver... Electric Sheep of course... and he turns to me and says... "dude, i worked on that".

    Anyways, the technology behind this whole project is quite impressive... coming from Scott Draves, who did this project based on his PhD work at Carnegie Mellon University. I wont delve in much, but I will tell you that there are several PDFs out there authored by Scott that discuss the "fractal flame" algorithms.

    So why do i even care about this?
    After seeing this, it became clear to me that computer graphics had clearly become an extremely creative, artistic, and expressive medium... and it could integrate randomness, imperfection, etc. AND, it could produce results that were undeniably pleasing to the eye. (they are in fact hypnotically pleasing). I think Scott has made his mark on the forefront of computer art (not just graphics), and so I tip my hat to him!

    download:
    http://electricsheep.org/index.cgi?&menu=download

    Happy Good Friday, and Happy Easter!

  8. #8
    ian
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    Default Frank O. Gehry and Gehry Technologies




    Hello all.
    Today im going to write a little about what I think is the most important innovation in architecture in the last century. And it happens to be based on computer graphics and usability. These innovations were led by Dennis Sheldon and Frank Gehry in an effort to support the needs of Gehry when designing innovative structures.

    First and foremost, GT developed tools to support Gehry... which were critical to building many of Gehry's structures. These tools were necessary for a very important reason... It turns out that architects can dream up all kinds of great geometries, even using computers... However, engineering and construction teams cannot necessary implement those designs in terms of traditional construction materials (in a cost effective manner). Thus there is a massive communication breakdown/gap. Gehry needed a way to translate a complex design into much simpler designs that could not only be understood, but would also be cost effective.

    The most important problem that Gehry and GT solved had to do with complex bezier paths, and thus manifolds. They found a way to tesselate complex geometry into much simpler and more regular (though not necessary the same) tiles. These tiles could then be cost effectively produced and labeled and returned to a construction site... and then re-assembled (much like legos) to produce the final structure. There would also be architectural designs to specify where each and every darn tile would fit, so that there would be absolutely no room for creative interpretation by construction and engineering teams. (architectural creativity = good, construction creativity = bad)

    So, in plain english, GT and Gehry made it cost effective to produce buildings with complex or irregular geometries. Now, there are lots of great examples of architects who mastered curved or irregular geometries (e.g. Gaudi)... but I would hardly say that their works were cost effective. They tended to be heavily financed and took lots of time. On the other hand, Gehry has created appartment buildings... that were most likely not massively financed, and probably didn't take years to build.

    Why do I consider this a usability issue? Heres why. Gehry already had plenty of architectural tools at his disposal. And he surely had programmers that could write scripts or other procedures to perform customized tesselations of specific geometries. But it wasn't until tesselation became a fundamental operation of his tools which could be applied to various geometries, that he and his architects could experiment with it to produce results which would satisfy economic constraints. AND, he wouldn't have to pay an army of developers for each usage. So tesselation had to become generally usable by him and his team before it itself was feasable to the point where Gehry himself would go on to become famous for his designs. Incidentally, other architects could not copy his work simply because they couldn't make the final results as economically feasible.

    Forget the fact that his designs are tremendously natural looking and pleasing to the eye... they simply wouldn't be economically feasible to build, given the unique geometry of each individual piece... and so making tesselation usable, as a tool within his toolset, was critical to his success.

    My hat off to you mr sheldon and mr gehry, and the rest of you over at GT.

    http://www.gehrytechnologies.com
    http://www.foga.com

    -i
    Last edited by ian; 04-13-2007 at 05:53 PM.

  9. #9
    ian
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    Default Spinnin Cube of Doom



    Hi everyone. This is going to be a short post today. My RSI is acting up and ive been told that using a keyboard from the good folks at kinesis will help. So im using one now and let me tell you its NOT easy. Its like learning to type all over again. My patientience is thin, but my motivation to heal are great... so i can continue to bring you UIs that other suckas cant

    REGARDLESS, this post today is going to be different. I want to propose bringing a new tool into the battle for network security. This tool in particular is not totally new, but it has not yet been brought to the masses. And it is not easy to take advantage of.

    This is a network security visualization technique known affectionately as the "Spinning Cube of Doom". I swear, thats the real name. This allows a user to visualize accesses to ports on their network in such a way that port scans and worms become super easy to recognize. Then you know you are under attack! (And you can move your Battleships and order your subs to dive dive dive!) (at untangle, we call going into attack mode "going 5 degrees down bubble", which means ordering your sub to dive at a rate of 5 degrees.)

    (this keyboard is really testing my patience...)

    Heres what the axis of the cube represent.
    X: the IP address space of your internal network, which is externally visible, where connections may be attempted to. (ofcourse this may be a just a single address in many cases)
    Y: the IP address space of the Internet, where connections may be attempted from.
    Z: 0-65535, all possible port numbers.

    Then you plot successful connections in this cube as a white dot, and plot unsuccessful connections as colored dots. And it turns out that useful patterns emerge!

    If this sounds cool to you, tell me! Id, love to hear your thoughts on this. Also, read the homepage about it. It talks much more about the exact patterns that emerge.

    http://www.nersc.gov/nusers/security...inningCube.php

    I personally think this would be a really cool feature to bring to the Attack Shield, to help people actually SEE attacks, in the past or present.

    Im so hungry now and i cant type anymore... must eat.

    have
    a
    great
    weekend

    -ian

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