Magic on Flickr.

Magic on Flickr.

posted 7 months ago
posted 9 months ago

OLPC-SF Summit 2013

As it almost became a tradition, I designed a logo for this year’s OLPC-SF summit. It is a third in a row, so my logo-designing skills have a little anniversary here. This year is a special year for Bay Area. Just recently, the east span of the Bay Bridge, that was under development for years, was finished and opened at last. The brand new wing has a beautiful modern design, as well as lighting. This is what I tried to capture in this year’s OLPC-SF summit logo:



This time we decided to not only have t-shirts, but also print the design on the bottles. I think it came out well.

_DSC5630

_DSC5662

We had a very nice and interesting summit, though this year there was less people due to OLPC Basecamp in Malaysia (which just recently ended by the way). The OLPC crowd in San Francisco feels like a family.

_DSC5971 - Version 2

posted 10 months ago and tagged as OLPC

Bettr Flickr Stylesheet

Ever since Flickr changed its layout and design, I had a few problems with it.

First, it looks very busy. Difficult to see separate photos. Second, it’s too dark. Too much black where there could be some grey and white. Third, this big ‘cover photo’ on the photostream page. Takes too much space.

Well, I didn’t want to get in too deep to start fixing the layout with JavaScript (though I might end up doing it sometimes if I get too tired of the current one). But I did create a short stylesheet that fixes the color and cover photo issue.

Examples:

Originals on the left, Bettr Flickr on the right.

1. Home page

Main page, original
Main page, with Bettr Flickr Stylesheet

2. Photostream

Photostream, original
Photostream, with Bettr Flickr Stylesheet

3. Photo page

Photo page, original
Photo page, with Bettr Flickr Stylesheet
Photo page, original
Photo page, with Bettr Flickr Stylesheet

4. Set page

Set page, original
Set page, with Bettr Flickr Stylesheet

Well, this stylesheet is not ideal, but it makes flickr much better for me.

You can get it here.

Installation is easy. There is an addon called Stylish, for Firefox and for Chrome. Just install it and then copypaste the styles. An don’t forget to specify the domain to use it on.

I am using another addon, Stylebot, instead. It is smaller, lighter and does exactly the same thing: applies your custom stylesheet on the website of your choice.

I will update the file if I add more styles to it.

Enjoy!

posted 1 year ago and tagged as Flickr

OLPC Summit T-Shirts

It is the second year when I designed the t-shirts for OLPC summit. This time they came out better I think.

Last year there wasn’t anything connected to San Francisco. This year we decided to go with a more related picture.

I never actually saw Painted Ladies in real life before that picture, just on photos. The process of creating an image forced me to go there in person and look at them closer, even though I didn’t include the details in the final drawing. They are gorgeous!

Nice small XO symbols are representing happy and united neighborhood as we are here in OLPC community. We put in every effort to stay together and help each other.

Since OLPC is an opensource project in terms of software, I decided to make my designs for this and last year open, too. You can easily find them on a github, and I am planning to get a separate page on my website in the near future just for things like that.

Let me know what you think about the Summit, and the t-shirts, of course.

Download links:

posted 1 year ago and tagged as OLPC OLPC-SF Summit-2012 design tshirts

Notes on Apple Magic Trackpad

I’ve been taking my laptop with me for too long, and it’s getting too complicated given that I prefer to use public transportation these days.
So, I decided to switch to a desktop workstation at work. There are also iMacs at SFSU where I take my certificate classes, so I will be covered for everything. I haven’t been using them before, given I am too used to a trackpad.

On a quest to lighten my daily burden, I compared a few touch input devices, including two Wacom tablets — Intuous and Bamboo. Both of them are perfect for drawing, but not so much for functioning as a touchpad: drivers are sometimes laggy, gestures are not quite the same as on Apple device, but overall they were OK.
Now this is the situation: I am a software developer, plus an interface designer. I am doing some design in Illustrator, wireframes in OmniGraffle, image retouching in Photoshop. Also I do a lot of coding, browsing documentation, etc. And for all that the touchpad on my MacBook Pro was more than enough.

I am really used to gestures and almost forgot how to use a mouse — for more design-heavy stuff I am using a pen tablet time to time, but never a mouse. So, after spending some time on comparison, I finally decided and bought the Apple Magic Trackpad.

And here it is: much larger surface than you possibly have on a laptop, even more responsive and absolutely convenient to use. The tilt doesn’t bother me at all, though I spent some time to get used to it. Given the larger surface, it is much easier to do masks and drawing in Photoshop, and now it really make sense to turn on the three-finger drag. Gosh, the larger trackpad is so good I even use it with my laptop now, even though it got one on its own. Fingers on a touchpad move much more precise than with a mouse, but maybe it’s just me.

It’s still not a fully functional drawing device, but for intense drawing I have a separate tablet. I now use iMacs with much bigger screen than my 15” MacBook Pro both at work and at school, and all I take with me around is this tiny device.

There are quirks though: iMacs at school are not as up-to-date as my other workstations. Which means the ‘natural scrolling’ I am so used to now does not exist on those computers. That wasn’t quite comfortable at first, but was still better than a mouse. Then, I found the solution: Scroll Reverser. Even though I still miss some of the gestures (hi, Better Touch Tool), the scrolling direction is now uniform on all computers for me.

The only question that’s left is ‘Why didn’t I do it earlier?!’

Apple Magic Trackpad

posted 1 year ago and tagged as hardware apple

Software I use for work

The software tools I use for my projects are evolving over time. Recently, I noticed that there are quite a few of them I’ve been using for longer, and I like them so I would recommend them to others. That’s how this post appeared.

I will start with more generic ones.

Blue XO Laptop (keyboard)

QuickSilver :: http://qsapp.com/

Ah, what would I do without QuickSilver. I use it as a calculator, a notepad, not to say about it’s main purpose: application launching.

Divvy :: http://mizage.com/divvy/

Divvy is an another must-have app I wouldn’t want to live without. It’s a window management app with customizable shortcuts and it’s going its job well.

I have a few shortcuts for different standard sizes: left/right half screen, two thirds left (for the browser), upper and lower right quarters. I also have a shortcut for Divvy itself (Control+Tilde), which allows me to set custom sizes when needed.

TotalTerminal :: http://totalterminal.binaryage.com/

I love quake-style terminals. A long ago, on Linux, I used Tilda. After I switched to Mac, I started to look for similar solutions, and discovered Vizor. Now it is called TotalTerminal.

Well, it’s your regular Mac Terminal, but on steroids, and with a hotkey activation. I put it to Option-Tilde, this shortcut is quite convenient when you get used to it.

JumpCut :: http://jumpcut.sourceforge.net

There are a lot of other solutions like that, but I prefer this one for being minimalist and simple. Even though it hasn’t been updated for a long time.

It does what it’s supposed to do — keeps my clipboard history and allows me to get it when I need. What else would I want from it?

Text Edit

Well, it’s built in to OS X (that’s why there is no link in the header), but it’s still a very useful tool. I set it to plain text by default, and sometimes I use it as some sort of a buffer, to strip any formatting from the text and links before putting somewhere.

VNC Viewer :: http://www.realvnc.com/download/viewer/

Well, you know, VNC. A good client with advanced security settings. The only one that works with our VNC servers.

I am writing software that I have to test with liquid-transferring robots time to time, and VNC saves me a lot of walks back and forth to the lab.

MacPorts :: http://www.macports.org/

The easy way to get unix software through your terminal. A package manager, like apt-get in Debian. There are the faster ones (like Mac Homebrew), that won’t get into compiling dependencies from source code, but I prefer MacPorts.

Cyberduck :: http://cyberduck.ch/

Nice and fun FTP client. Can hold tons of different configurations, can be set up to change permissions on files when transferring them back and forth. I like it.

Git :: http://git-scm.com/

It’s just a must.

FileMerge (opendiff)

That’s an another built-in tool. I usually don’t bother with launching FileMerge through quicksilver, just type ‘opendiff file1 file2’ in console and I’m good to go. I tried a lot of different tools that are similar, but opendiff is by far the best one. And it’s free.

PyCharm :: http://www.jetbrains.com/pycharm/

Well, I am a Python developer, after all. I don’t like Eclipse for some reason, and I think that IDEA is an overkill for what I do. So, here goes the well-cut version of IDEA, that works with Python, JavaScript and HTML/CSS. And it’s cheaper. Too good to be true.

TextMate :: http://macromates.com/

That’s the text editor I use for everything I don’t use PyCharm for. Previewing configs, fast-editing files, trying out Erlang. Everything. And it works with CyberDuck very neatly, too.

OmniGraffle :: http://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnigraffle/

It is a kind of off programming, and more to my other side, UX/UI design. Wireframing, prototyping. Perfect for diagrams, too. Incredible for click-through PDFs, which save you a lot of time and pain. For a more complicated visual stuff I prefer Adobe Illustrator, but it doesn’t need any endorsement at all. For the fast code prototyping I love Twitter Bootstrap.

Well, that’s basically it. I’ll throw in another app, but it’s much more of a generic productivity tool.

OmniFocus :: http://www.omnigroup.com/products/omnifocus/

This is a powerful task manager. I little bit too powerful, but still neat and nice. When I am at work, I mostly write my tasks on paper. But if I need to bring anything back to home, this is the perfect solution. A little bit too perfect, though. I have it in a mobile version, too.

posted 2 years ago and tagged as software mac apple coding development

URL change

I have two news, one good, one neutral.

First:
I am rarely updating this blog, but I will do it more often.

Second:
I am going back to domain name live.ninastawski.com for the blog. Got tired of mezmerize.me. Also, GoDaddy gets more and more greedy on renewals year to year.

So, if you always wanted to have that domain name, hurry: it expires around July 24th and I am not going to renew it.

As for the blog, all entries and other stuff will stay the same, but there will be another address pointing to it. Update your RSS readers and bookmarks, I am going for the blog writing.

posted 2 years ago and tagged as technical info

Getting back (notes on motivation)

Don't look back

About a year ago I found myself in a deep depression. I had enough knowledge in psychology to diagnose myself with it, study the situation and start taking actions.

That was the time when I learned about motivation - in person, so to say. In a normal life you have a lot of things here and there: I want to do this and that right now, but I can’t because I have to do that. I need to do that, but I don’t want to do it, not right now. So, normally we have an ongoing dialogue between these motivations, that we don’t even notice. I want to go to the gym, because it’s good for my health, but right now I really want to sit comfortably and watch the tv. The reward from watching tv is closer and more obvious than from going to the gym, especially if you’re not used to it. So, the time to do ‘that thing’ would never come. Our brains are too much used to their tiny comfort zones and naturally resist any motivations that would move them out the zone.

Depression is different. This motivations dialogue doesn’t even happen. It’s not like ‘I’d better watch the TV’ or in any other way stay in my comfort zone. It’s so much out that you literally want nothing. Nil. Zero. Naught. Nichego.

At that point I became very interested in the situation as a psychologist. I thought, if I don’t want anything at all, then I would probably get no resistance in doing something meaningful - anyway it doesn’t matter, right?

And so I took my depressed body and mind to the gym. It didn’t mind. It wouldn’t mind if I went to jump from the bridge to the highway, either. It is really all the same in depression. But I am a conscious being, right? So I preferred the gym and started doing sports every day for at least an hour.

It wasn’t hard to make myself doing sports. In fact, it was fairly easy. You just do it, that’s it. No thoughts, no motivation fight, nothing. Literally nothing. You have to watch out for stopping, but it’s easy enough too.

And then the magic happened. In a couple of months, I started getting myself back. I got motivations, desires, goals, wishes. I started to feel: be happy and sad, I came back to my old hobbies and interests. Then, in a few months more, I could say I was back again.

The experience of motivation and ability to do things without waiting for too long stayed with me since then. Now I know how easy this is: you just do. A great deal of finishing something is showing up. You take yourself to the ‘start’ point without hesitation and see what happens. It’s even easier than in depression: then I had to drag me in all the time and watch out that I did not stop. Now I just go to the ‘start’ point and everything happens naturally.

posted 2 years ago and tagged as depression psychology

Analog vs. digital profile switching

I was using Android long enough to get used to some of it’s handy features that I now miss a lot on iPhone. One of these features is the way you switch your profiles (usually normal to silent and vice versa). iPhone has a different way to do it.

When I saw iPhone for the first time, I was excited about the handy profile switch it had near the volume buttons. It’s great when you can set ‘Silent’ without turning on the screen and attracting attention, say, on a meeting. You can do it not looking, even!

But in a few days, my initial excitement turned to disappointment. On Android (and even on a Symbian phone Nokia E51 I had before it), you could download an application that would look into your calendar and set/unset silent mode automatically, based on the events you have. That was great, I remember. I never had to worry about forgetting my sound on or off for a long time. If I chose the silent mode manually, it would stay until the end of my next calendar event and then went back to normal, again, automatically.

For iPhone, everything’s different. You have this fancy switch, but that’s it. No indication whether your phone is in ‘Silent’ mode, or not, except when you look at the switch. Nothing on the screen. No way to change profiles from within the system; no apps for auto change as well.

Usually I do not forget to switch my phone to ‘Silent’. Auto-switching was handy, but still, having no auto-switch doesn’t make a big deal. If I forget, I always can set it later, when something reminds me about it. The outside switch could be handy when I need to do this fast, but — let’s be honest — how often do you need to do it so fast?

And now we are at the point where auto switch matters. When you need to turn the sounds back on. And when you (most likely) will forget about this again and again. When you needed to mute all sounds, it was important — you had a meeting or any other event requiring silence. Now it’s not important anymore, so your brain will most likely skip and forget about sound switch. Digital profile setting works best in this case. Analog one… no, don’t tell me about it.

As I said, you could install a handy app for a profile switch for Android or Symbian phone. The only sort of apps for iPhone I saw on iTunes market are those that show you a pop-up reminder telling you to put the ‘Silent’ switch off. And, I must say, this is ridiculous! Getting an app for this sort of reminder, because your phone can’t do it automatically — you’re basically signing up for spam that your brain will most likely skip as well.

The only thing Apple did right with this silent mode is, actually, two things: your morning alarm, that will be loud no matter what, even if everything else is muted, and the ‘Find My Phone’ sound message, that will do the same. Latter even saved me a half an hour of search, when my phone sinked into the sofa with silent mode on. This is how it should be.

So, let’s wrap up. Digital profile switch? It may take longer time, but it allows extra features such as auto profile change based on calendar events or a pre-set time. This is actually very handy and helps to back up your mind when you’re most likely to forget your phone on ‘Mute’. Analog profile switch? This is handy for fast sounds mute, but no indicator icon and no auto-set-back makes this feature pretty useless.

I don’t blame Apple for this no-digital-switch thing. Analog thing can be useful, too. And if you think on having best of both worlds, you get another problem: the way it is designed on iPhone, how can you automatically set your analog switch back?

Here is my answer: if you re-design the switch and make it a button, like volume buttons on iPhone, then it would work. Or, even better, get rid of this button and keep this function up to the industry standards: long press on ‘Power’ gets you the profile menu.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t used to follow industry standards. They set them. Usually it’s good, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Phones

OLPC Summit T-Shirt

Summit is now over, and I’ve been asked so many times about the t-shirts.
They are not just randomly designed, they actually have an idea behind them.

OLPC is for kids, right? I remember, when I was a child, I loved the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, especially his ‘The Adventure of the Dancing Men’. That’s where the font of the t-shirt message comes from.

Can you guess what the message is about? Well, it’s not that hard when you know that XO icon is not a letter, just a decorative element. Don’t worry, I won’t keep you guessing for long.

There is a phrase that greets you every time when you enter Terminal Activity, ‘Hello, Children Of The World!’. I took the word ‘Children’ and wrote it in the Dancing Men Script. I know it could be just the word ‘Children’, no matter where it from, but I like to think I took it specifically from the phrase you see in Terminal.

This is basically it. If you were at the Summit in San Francisco this year, and got the t-shirt, I hope you liked it.

DSC02725

posted 2 years ago and tagged as OLPC OLPC-SF Summit

Why I didn’t buy the ‘touch’ or ‘fire’ Kindle version

Yesterday Amazon announced a bunch of new devices in Kindle series. I looked [online] at all of them, and bought the new basic kindle, the version for $109, the one without special offers.

Why didn’t I go with Touch or Fire? Well, to my taste, the Touch version is a way too far from a real book, although it may sound strange.

I had the Sony Reader Touch Edition for a while, buying it as a gift to my parents. Touch is OK overall, but it crudely interrupts reading for me. Touch feature means that your screen won’t be nicely clean and unscratched anymore, just as with your favorite smartphone from Google.

It is fine to buy protective screens for a smartphone: although they make the screen look less crisp, it is still acceptable. But for the device that’s main purpose is reading and only that… I don’t want any more layers here. Just the screen as it was designed originally, preferably without the scratches and fingerprints. Side buttons to turn pages is OK. Nothing more is needed.

A kind of the similar concern I have about Fire. It’s too far from the device I would call a book now. Even an electronic book.

Surely, having a colored screen is nice, and I was anticipating the color Kindle from Amazon, but… that’s just not it. I don’t want an overpowered under-tablet that lives on the battery less than 8 hours for reading. I would be happy with colored pictures, but not at the point when they make my battery last thirty times less. Between color and battery life for a so-called book, I always choose battery life.

Why no special offers? Well, there are a lot of people out there who just doesn’t notice the ads, and therefore usually prefer the cheaper version of software, hardware, and everything. I just can’t. Maybe it’s my former media experience (I was designing ads for a while in the past), maybe something else, but I always notice the ads and most of the time they irritate me. And I just don’t want any ‘special offers’ in my book. I know Amazon does everything to make my reading experience nice and smooth anyway, but ads are still ads. Even if they are placed only on the idle screen, I don’t want to have them there, and I choose not to. Really.

It is the era of multifunctional devices, indeed. But for the old-fashioned activity such as reading a book, I prefer a simple, single-functioned machine such as a basic Kindle. With no touch, no color, no 3g and no ads.

It is my choice. What’s yours?

posted 2 years ago and tagged as kindle ereader amazon