Apple Gives Design Observer Some iPad Lovin’

Apple + Designer Observer + iPad

Apple announced the new version of the iPad today. Of course, everyone has been navigating to Apple’s website to get more information on the updated tablet.

I was one of them.

And while reading about the iPad’s “Built-in Apps”, I noticed that Apple gave one of my favorite websites Design Observer some lovin’ in the Safari section.


UPDATE: In-A-Gist earlier posted: “Design Observer is star site in launch video on Apple homepage for new iPAD.”

[image via PJ]

Caught Mapping (1940)

How to make a treasure map

Watching Caught Mapping (1940) makes me extremely appreciative of technology like GPS and software like GIS in modern cartography. While we still can’t really get away from field work to gather actual and reliable updated road information, I think computers have made physically updating and producing maps less laborious.

As for those driving duos who braved 115 degree heat to obtain up-to-date road information, you were truly road warriors.

Thanks to CharacterControl for the video below.

[photo via My Tornado Alley]

Microsoft Tries To Be Too Innovative With Its “Pedestrian Route Production” Patent

Microsoft was recently issued a patent for Pedestrian Route Production, which sought to create a “route [that] can be developed for a person taking into account factors that specifically affect a pedestrian.”

Microsoft aimed to take route generation a step further for pedestrians beyond the simple estimated time it took to walk to your destination. However, you might be surprised to know what variables and information sources that Microsoft used for its algorithm: security information (i.e., crime reports), weather information, terrain information, or a combination of all three.

Only terrain information would be the most useful for such routing because we all know walking uphill takes longer than walking downhill. The other two variables are too subjective and help persuade people to refrain from using common sense. I know few people who don’t check weather forecasts regularly. While others have talked about Microsoft’s so-called “avoid ghetto” feature, I will instead discuss the Microsoft obvious omissions.

Among them is sidewalk information.

gonzales rd no sidewalks

If you look at pedestrian accidents and deaths, many of them occur on streets that lack sidewalks or other pedestrian safety features. Anyone who has walked on city streets know that there are more hazards to pedestrians than crime. There are more variables that influence whether any particular area makes pedestrians feel unsafe, such as vehicle speed limits and street buffers (i.e., on-street parking, sidewalk plants or street trees). Are these variables included in Microsoft’s analysis? Nope. Street tree information would have also aided Microsoft’s desire to protect pedestrians from “harsh temperatures” as anyone who has walked outside when it’s hot knows to purposefully walk under trees or other shadows to avoid any direct sun exposure.

Microsoft tried to be innovative with its mapping technology, but I think engineers tried to be too innovative and forgot to design the features from the user’s perspective. I suggest that Microsoft research Safe Routes to School Programs to get a better understanding of the fundamental physical challenges that pedestrians must deal with in order to perfect its new pedestrian mapping tool.

[image via jimbobtheboss | photo via Luton]

Summly Is Useful Tool To Summarize Web (iPhone App)


The Internet can easily waste a huge chunk of a person’s time. Numerous web links and browser tabs can turn quick research sessions into sleepless nights. Finding information can be easy if you know where to look; however, finding the right information is the tricky part. And information overload is not fun or pleasant.

Distilling all that information into something useful is really the most time-consuming part (and I am ignoring the report writing part). I like to have the ‘more is better’ mind-frame when researching, but that can quickly lead to dozens of open browser tabs or dozens of downloaded PDFs and many more hours spent paring the useful stuff.

Summly aims to help users summarize web information with its FREE iPhone App. I actually think the most intriguing aspect of Summly is the search function as it summarizes a webpage’s information before a user clicks the link to that webpage.


I can see myself using this tool to quickly digest information and bypass link clicking altogether. However, this makes me beholden to Summly’s patent pending technology to display the most important information. It seems credible enough, but the search screen leaves a lot to be desired (although I appreciate the clean and simple design).

The biggest problem is no date display on the search page or the summary page. Users have no idea how current the information is unless they click the link. This seems to defeat the purpose.

Summly iPhone app screenshot

Another problem is the app does not seem to be able to summarize web content that is already efficient (e.g., 500 characters or less).

That said, Summly is an interesting application that may alleviate my information consumption. Time will tell if Summly becomes a permanent app on my iPhone. I may have to wait until Summly is integrated into more services like Twitter or Yahoo.

[image via English for Advanced Students | photos via PJ]

ReadCube Has Potential To Be One-Stop Shop For Research Literature


Labtiva recently released its ReadCube tool that allows people to better manage their PDF library of academic research literature.

Geared toward an academic audience, ReadCube allows users to upload their PDFs into their ReadCube library for more accurate searchability and supposedly better recommendations for related articles. Not just a glorified PDF library program, ReadCube takes it a bit further by providing methods for annotating (highlighting and adding notes) articles for even more personalization without in a non-destructive method (PDFs remain in their original location on your computer).

Additional Benefits

1. ReadCube handles duplicate files with ease. As long as the file title of the PDF does not change, ReadCube recognizes duplicate files (at least with the PDF file title) and does not re-add it to your library. ReadCube remembers computer folders, so even when I moved my PDF into a different folder and attempted to re-add it to my library, ReadCube refused.

2. It is surprisingly fast (although I have not uploaded a large PDF to view in ReadCube).

3. See more features here.


1. There are two methods of adding PDFs into your library: normal file-system and drag-and-drop. However, every time you click IMPORT, ReadCube “rescans” your entire company, which can take a while. There should be a pause button for this scan feature, so that users can quickly drag a new article. Or something that simply pauses the process.

2. There is no optical character recognition (OCR). Not all research literature were created as scanned text, and ReadCube’s main selling point was improved searchability; in addition, not everyone is going to try to re-download their PDFs as searchable PDFs or reformat their PDFs as searchable PDFs (not everyone has this capability nor the time, but it would make sense). ReadCube could add this capability so that users would not have to worry about doing it themselves.

ReadCube Image Highlight

3. There does not seem to be a method for highlighting images or basically any non-text objects. I was resolved into simply highlighting figure captions, but there should be a way to highlight entire images, charts, or graphs. There is a snapshot tool that I think is for this purpose, but it did not seem to do anything.

4. There is a limited number of participating institutions that ReadCube partners with for easier access to academic literature behind their proxies. For example, no California State University seems to be available, or at least not the one I am affiliated with.

5. ReadCube continually attempts to resolve issues related toward identifying PDFs you import. I uploaded several working papers, and there was no way to add relevant citation information as there was no way to manually input these since ReadCube tries to match what you input into PubMed or Google Scholar. There should be a way to maintain PDFs that are not academic articles.

ReadCube has a lot of potential in helping people better manage their academic literature. I stated many ways for it to improve, but the framework for a one-stop show for research literature is totally there. And it is social.

Still in public beta (version 0.86.945), ReadCube is available for both the Mac (Mac OS 10.4.9+ (Intel)) and PC (Windows XP, Vista, 7). The program utilizes Adobe AIR.

[images via PJ]