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ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
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Thursday
Jun262003

Jonathan Ive's PowerMac G5 Design

Powermac G5If you've followed this weeks announcement of the new Apple PowerMac G5, you're probably aware of its strange new minimalist Aluminum design, a signiicant shift away from Apple's recent plastic cases.

I really like the new PowerMac G5 design, including some of its controversial details, like its front and rear grilles being equated to cheese graters. The funny thing is, while everyone else in the PC world are trying to outdo each other with freakier or uglier looking plastic cases, Ive and his Apple design team just push the envelope and progress their designs to the next level. Just look at the simplicity and subtlety of the new G5: folded aluminum, and see-through grilles.

In my opinion, Jonathan Ive and his Apple design team are the design trendsetters of the computer industry. They set the trends everyone else tries to mimic and copy. Take for example the original iMac. Shortly after its release, other PC and peripheral makers were furiously copying Ive's design style. Funny thing is, by the time the competition was into copying the iMac look, Ive had long since moved to the next design.

Another good example was the PowerBook Titanium's design which was knocked off years later by Gateway... but by then Apple's PowerBook line had already shifted to a completely new design using an aluminum case.

And finally, I should mention the iPod. Many have tried to copy its style and simplicity but just can't seem to get it down. And again, by the time competitors have made their best effort at a bad copy that's been watered down by committee, Apple and their lead designer, Jonathan Ive have already moved on to the next thing. Buh and bye!

Wired posted a very interesting article this week, called Design According to Ive, in which the writer asks Ive about his design philosophy and the new G5 design. I especially love this quote:

"We wanted to get rid of anything other than what was absolutely essential, but you don't see that effort," he said. "We kept going back to the beginning again and again. Do we need that part? Can we get it to perform the function of the other four parts? It became an exercise to reduce and reduce, but it makes it easier to build and easier for people to work with."

Wow. Reducing and simplifying? This is something really unusual. Often there is this tendency by companies, particularly in the computing world, to keep adding and adding features rather than trimming and reducing things to reach a good design. The idea of reducing to achieve a great design is Design School 101, but I don't often see designers using this approach in the real world. It's very refreshing to see this principle adopted by Ive and Apple.

UPDATE: Andy, my Mac-using Austrian house-guest has supplied me with a nice link to 30-some shots of the new PowerMac G5 surrounded by a throng of German Mac fanboys from the Apple Germany press event in Köln. Check out image 400 -- is that Heidi there in the background? :-)

Tuesday
Jun242003

Austrian Culinary Delights

Che AndyWhile everyone else is commenting on Apple's new PowerMac G5, 64-bit desktop tower computer, or Microsoft's new Windows Mobile (a.k.a. Pocket PC 2003), I've decided to get this week's blog posts rolling with something completely different.

Here at the Rohde household, we have a special guest with us for the next two weeks. Andy Bauer is a very good friend from way, way back. We've known each other since the early Macintosh days when we both used Powerbook Duos and were regular posters on the popular and now defunct, Powerlist.

Andy has actually visited us twice before: first for my marriage to Gail in September 1999 and again in April 2002 just for the fun of it. Gail, I and our friends have thoroughly enjoyed Andy's visits and all of the fun activities we've had with him. So, Andy decided to get away from his daily grind and give Milwaukee a try in the midst of summer.

Now, Andy is an Austrian (living in London) and on this third trip over, he's brought along some traditional Austrian recipes to make for us. On Saturday evening, I was fortunate to enjoy the results of his first experimental culinary delight, Marillenknödel, or apricot dumplings. Andy told me that these "fruit dumplings" were really of Czech origin, but since the Czech republic was part of Austria in the old days of the empire, the recipe is known more as an Austrian speciality.

In brief, a Marillenknödel is an apricot with the pit removed and replaced by a sugar cube, then wrapped in a thin layer of egg dough. The dumpling is boiled; when it pops to the surface it's rolled in bread-crumbs sauteed in butter then sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Mmmmmm, they were delicious and surprisingly filling! I was also surprised to learn that Marillenknödel are a main course in Austria, which for me was a bit odd since they're sweet. However I can see how 4 or 5 off these guys would be very filling. They certainly filled us up!

Andy was able to translate all of the ingredients for the dumpling dough properly (particularly a complex equation to get flour weight into cups) and make very tasty Marillenknödel in the unknown environment of an American kitchen. In fact he said they were quite good -- almost as good as his grandmother's.

So, you may be asking yourself, "what does this story of Marillenknödel have to do with technology?" My answer is... nothing. This is my weblog and I can write what I like... besides, I like to think of the my weblog as an occasional respite from the flurry of high-tech news and rumor-mongering. So there. :-)

In fact, for the next two weeks it's likely I'll not be posting as often as normal, as we'll be spending time during these brief two weeks with Andy. However, it might provide some funny experiences with our guest, so stay tuned...

Thursday
Jun192003

The Ultimate Mix Tape

iPod SharingThis morning I came across an intriguing article at Wired.com called IPod Muzak Isn't Same Old Song. The article details similar ideas being used by two different entrepreneurs; one who rents out iPods with electronica music playlists as Hip Muzak for upscale clients, and another who lends iPods to potential clients for no charge, as a music promo tool for his Philly music store.

Then, I read this article in TiBITS called Internet-Guided Offline Recreation (IGOR): Database Rituals which talks about the phenomena of sharing things between groups of people. The article discussed Geocaching, where groups of GPS users 'hide' artifacts and provide general coordinates for others in the group to locate the item; and BookCrossing, where book readers paste an ID tag on a book's inside cover and leave it in a public place for others to pick-up, read, comment on at a website and then leave in public for another reader to discover. Cool stuff!

These two articles got me thinking... what if a casual iPod trading service got started? For instance, two or more friends with iPods could organize a bunch of their favorite songs and cycle their iPods between the other friends? It'd be kinda like creating your own ultimate mix tape club where your friends could hear your favorite music and you'd get to hear their musical selections in return. When your iPod returns, build a new playlist and send it out again.

I remember having great fun making mix tapes for friends of mine back in my college days; it was a blast to find cool new songs and then share them, and to hear tapes my friends had made of their favorite tunes. I even did a little DJ work between songs back then, which by the way, sounds incredibly cheesy to me now.

I'd love to create a month-long mix collection on an iPod and share it with a small circle of friends with somewhat similar tastes in tunes, though with anywhere from 5 to 30 Gigs to fill up, getting playlists together might take some time to compile! :-)

Wednesday
Jun182003

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Bytes

My Linux-using friend and colleague, Niall, sent along an image via email today that had me literally laughing out loud. I think it's the funniest image I've seen for a while now, since it so perfectly illustrates (and kinda exaggerates) the difference between Mac OS X (based on BSD Unix) and GNU/Linux.

Notice how simple the OS X box is; on or off... well maybe that's a bit of an overstatement. However, on the other hand, notice how you're not really sure which button or knob on the Linux box even turns the thing on or off. In fact, the button you're so sure powers down the box, might just reformat the hard drive! :-)

FYI, the original, larger image can be found at http://gniarf.net1.nerim.net/mindless2.jpg

Tuesday
Jun172003

Good, Cheap Coffee

Coffee StuffOne of the things I've grown fond of over the past few years is good coffee. In particular espresso. It all began on a Friday morning in the early 1990s when I stopped into a downtown bakery cafe near my office called La Boulangerie. I normally bought a dark coffee, but that day decided to try a cappuccino.

Wow! I fell in love immediately. I really loved the rich flavor of espresso blended with creamy and slightly sweet foamed milk. From that day onward I began getting cappuccinos on Fridays as a reward for making it through the week.

My love of good coffee was reinforced on my trips to Germany in the mid 90s, particularly because of Matt Henderson, who happened to have his very own Italian Gaggia espresso maker and loved to make cappuccinos for his guests.

Seeing Matt enjoying his espresso machine at home got my gears churning... what if I could make cappuccinos and lattes right at home? Hmmm. Well, I loved the idea of home-brewed espresso, but a good quality machine like a Gaggia was a bit beyond of my budget at the time. However, I stored the idea in the back of my mind.

It wasn't until 1998 that I began seeing inexpensive espresso makers appear at stores at prices I could afford ($50-100). I asked for an espresso maker for Christmas and was surprised to receive a Krups espresso maker from my little brother Pete. Woohoo!

Since then, my el-cheapo Krups espresso machine has provided me and many guests with delicious espressos, cappuccinos and lattes. I make a coffee for myself almost daily, and I've found I really enjoy brewing "fancy coffees" for guests.

Some thought the little Krups unworthy of good coffee, like Roberto, and Italian friend of mine in Germany who would supply me with Illy coffee on my trips to Europe. When I told Roberto about the Krups he politely told me "Throw it away! You need a good Italian machine for good espresso!" Well, I haven't thrown the Krups away and despite its low cost, I think it still makes a great coffee. Besides, I still don't have the budget for a "real" coffee maker.

I do enjoy "fancy coffees" when I go out, now and then, but when I see their prices I realize how inexpensively I can make the same drink at home! A cup of milk and a half ounce of high quality Illy ($11 per 8.8oz) or even less expensive Goya ($2 per 8.8oz) espresso costs maybe 50 cents. That makes a $4 latte at Starbucks a pretty hard sell!

So, why am I sharing this? Well, because I love good coffee and I know others do too. I also thought it might encourage those of you addicted to $4 lattes at Starbucks to consider a cheap $30-50 espresso machine for your home. You can save $3.50 you would have spent on a fancy Starbucks espresso drink. Besides, you might impress your friends and family with "fancy coffees" after a nice meal or just for the heck of it. :-)