Buy my Books!

The Sketchnote Workbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, showing how to use sketchnotes in new ways, along with advanced tips and techniques.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →
Watch a FREE video sample →

The Sketchnote Handbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, designed to teach regular people how to create sketchnotes.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →

Mike Rohde (Color - Square)

ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
Read more about Mike →

SIGN UP! Get the Rohdesign Newsletter.


Mobile Phone Tidbits

Nokia 3360I'm not exactly the poster boy for mobile phone use, at least as the mobile phone companies probably look at it. I have a Nokia 3360 on Cingular and I like it, more or less. The truth is, I hardly use the thing. Of course it's handy when traveling, but on a daily basis it's turned off, since I'm generally near a stationery phone at home or the office.

For a little while I used the mobile package on my Nokia, to connect my Clié via InfraRed but because I am always near an Internet cable connection, I didn't find it a great value for the additional $5 per month it cost me. However, for travel, the mobile phone is invaluable, since I can call my wife and have her return the call on her Nokia for free (her plan includes free long distance). On my Palm DevCon California trip, our bill for a few hours of talk time was a measly $1.50!

Even with travel usage figured in, I hardly use my mobile phone. I've decided that I'm just not a typical mobile phone user.

Still, I am a mobile-oriented person, so I am interested in the role mobile phones play in our culture, even if I don't use mine very much. Over the past few weeks I've gathered a few interesting articles on mobile phones to share with you:

Mobile Phones Enslave Brits
First is the article Britons are enslaved by the mobile telephone from the Times Online (UK) about studies done in Britain showing everyday Britons are enslaved by their mobile phones, rather than freed by them. I found it interesting to read that dependence on the mobile phone was extrapolated as a form of control, and gave users a sense of power over situations. Some respondents even felt their mobile improved their self identity. Older users felt some of this but it seems that the younger generation say their mobile phones are "an extension of their physical being". Wow.

Kids Need SMS for Self Esteem
Related to the Times article was this one from NewMediaAge, suggesting that school kids get self esteem boosts from receiving SMS messages. Key quote:

"Children are so obsessed that they are unable to communicate verbally uninterrupted, are constantly checking their phones for messages, and become irritable if they have to be away from their phone for any period of time."

Yikes! I don't know about you, but this sounds a little disturbing.

Mobiles vs. Non-Mobiles
Here's another story along the same lines from Wired, which reports that kids are now breaking into two social groups: mobiles and non-mobiles. The article describes the "mobiles" group this way:

"The people who had become a part of the mobiles group had a hard time doing deprivation at all," Blinkoff said. "They couldn't do it at all."

Whoa. This is sounding more and more like addiction, eh?

I should be clear that I'm not against the mobile phone, but as with all technology, I do think we must be aware of how mobile phones integrate into our lives. I think it's wise to set boundaries to make sure our technology (in this case the mobile phone) doesn't control us, but that we maintain control over it.

To avoid ending this post on a down note, I must share this hilarious James Lileks response to the idea of un-inventing mobile phones:

"I have one. It's always off. If you turn it on, people call you, and there's really only one message you need to know right away: I am a trucker in the car behind you and there is an axe murderer hiding in your back seat. And you would, of course, say "how did you know my number?" Followed by "AAAAIIEEEE!"

Hee hee. Exactly! :-)


Would You Go Back in Time?

This morning I was listening to a radio talk show, where the following question was posed:

If you could go back in time to your twenties, would you do it?

Of course the question was clearly aimed at those not in their twenties. In fact, the show is probably aimed at 30 and 40 year olds, a group of which I'm a member. I pondered the question for a little while and came to the conclusion that no, I wouldn't want to go back to those years again. Here's why:

I generally enjoyed my life in my twenties, so that's not really the reason. I enjoyed the freedom of being single, my life heading off in the horizon before me. However, I do think that as we grow older our memory of the past changes. I think we as humans have a tendency to romanticize the past -- recalling all of the great times and memories we had, while filtering out most of the bad times, lonely times and the boring times.

As an example: I can recall many fond memories of the past almost immediately, but if I stop and dwell on the past, I begin to recall the not-so-memorable moments. Like Friday nights spent at home watching bad made-for-TV movies. Or long nights at the office crunching for a deadline. And a particular favorite: cold winter evenings waiting for busses. And, I mustn't forget all of the lonely times that I wished for a girlfriend or wife to call my very own. While life was generally pretty good, it certainly wasn't fun 24/7. :-)

But the larger reason I wouldn't want to go back to my twenties is, I'd miss my wife and new son Nathan terribly. It's amazing how difficult it is to imagine how much a wife and children will one day mean to you when you're a single guy. Only now, as a husband and father, do I understand just know how valuable my family is to me. I think that's a very good reason to stay right here.

At face value, going back in time twenty years sounds like loads of fun, but after a little introspection, I'll pass. Even though my life now certainly isn't perfect, I like where I am. Someone else can step in to the time machine.

The next question is -- would you go back?


Palm's Tungsten Series Fares Well against iPAQ

Tungsten vs. iPAQInteresting article was posted today at Palm Infocenter about recent tests that show the Palm Tungsten T and Tungsten C faring quite well compared to the Pocket PC iPAQ h1910 and h5450 in several critical areas.

Specifically, battery life was significantly better on the Tungsten C, which pulled off eight hours at full screen brightness. The Tungsten C with Wi-Fi active ran 3:45 vs. the 5450's 2:10; over an hour and a half longer. The Tungsten C's 1800mAh battery certainly shines here.

If you look at the VeriTest PDF document (72k), you'll see that battery life was about equal between the Tungsten T and iPAQ h1910: both were at 4:15 with screen on full brightness. When playing MP3s, the TT came in at 4:30 and the h1910 clocked 4:32. The h5450 came in at only 2:27 with the screen on full brightness and at 3:40 playing MP3s -- battery life a bit more equivalent to a notebook than a PDA.

Days until data loss was another interesting section -- both TC and TT last about 20 days on 'standby' mode, where all battery life is focused on maintaining data to the point of deactivating the screen completely. The h1910 comes in 3rd at 10 days and the h5450 only offers 4 days. Better not forget the 5450's power charger on a long business trip!

Lastly, I found it interesting that identical information took more space on Pocket PC OS than on Palm OS. This included datebook, contact and address databases as well as Word and Excel files converted/stored in Documents To Go vs. Pocket Word and Excel. While the difference is subtle, I think this test indicates Pocket PC is a bit less efficient in file storage than Palm OS.

These tests got me thinking about comparisons between Pocket PC and Palm OS devices and how they're starting to match up in specs and pricing quite nicely. I think Palm OS has the advantage of a much simpler to use and faster operating system that's more efficient in both the number of taps to do things and in power consumption. Further, the Palm OS platform offers many more software titles and a wide array of physically different devices.

Yes, Palm OS still has the 4k memo limitation among other well-known problems carried over from the days of the Pilot 1000. However, when Palm OS 6 arrives, the playing field will shift even further -- Palm OS licensees will have the same hardware and in many cases better specs (320 x 320 hi-res for instance), integrated security, multimedia, XML extensibility, and efficient code that takes less space, runs more quickly and efficiently than Pocket PC.

That's when things will get interesting -- you'll have two platforms that are equal in megahertz and chips, that will probably be similarly priced and will most likely integrate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or both. However, the Palm OS devices will come in many different shapes and sizes, have higher resolution screens, run faster and more efficiently, have better battery life and have some 17,000+ available apps to choose from.

Some PDA commentators suggested that PalmSource ought not try and beat Microsoft at its own game by matching specs... I never agreed with that reasoning. When I look at where Palm OS is going, the spec match game benefits Palm OS much more than Pocket PC, especially considering screen resolution and battery life. Palm OS seems to be catching up and aiming to pass by a stagnating Pocket PC OS especially if the upcoming PPC OS update is more of a bug fix than a significant leap.

I'm getting the feeling Palm OS might just be sneaking up on Pocket PC. Surprising, eh?


Post-Bubble Silicon Valley

This weekend I came across a great Po Bronson article called Life in the Bust Belt from latest issue of Wired Magazine. The article describes life in Silicon Valley now that the Internet bubble has burst, comparing it to Detroit of all places.

If you recall, I'd longed for a description of present day life in the Valley after reading Silicon Valley Boys -- I think Bronson's 'Life in the Bust Belt' article fits the bill quite well. As I suspected, everyone is a little closer to earth these days -- preferring a stable but less exciting job to living on the edge.

For the most part, workers are happy to have a life back. "It's just a paycheck now," said one woman I rode Caltrain with. "I'm all right with that." At San Jose's Tech Museum of Innovation, I got into a conversation with a former headhunter, now doing HR. "The subsector of the industry that profited from chaos isn't counting on a recovery. Ever." She used to eat at trendy restaurants; now the highlights of her week are a regular dinner with friends (alternating among their apartments) and the volunteer tutoring she does at an elementary school. She says, "The question 'What do you do?' now refers more to 'How do you pay the bills?' than 'What is your purpose?'"

I'm not suggesting this article as a way to experience schadenfreude (finding malicious joy in others' pain). Rather, I think it's a way to get truer sense of how things have changed in Silicon Valley, for those who don't live there.

I actually disagree with Po Bronson on his view that the Silicon Valley is no longer an icon. Silicon Valley will always be an icon -- it just won't ever be the same icon of endless growth and prosperity it was in 1999. But who knows... nobody predicted what happened in the 1990s! ;-)


Matrix Reloaded: Review

NeoI saw Matrix Reloaded on Thursday and have some definite thoughts about it, along with some still-to-be-determined thoughts. Overall, I thought Matrix Reloaded was a very good sequel film. For me, the strong need to see the film yet again, to figure out a few bits and pieces is a very good sign.

If you are going to see Matrix Reloaded, make sure you sit through the credits (about 5 minutes) as there's a little surprise at the end of the film. Trust me. :-)

Spoiler Warning! I realize that my non-US readers may have not yet seen the film, so I've activated the Moveable Type excerpt feature on this post to avoid spoiling the film for anyone who has not seen it. You're now forewarned that following the link below will share film details.
Ok, first off, I should say that I would have been perfectly happy with only the original Matrix movie. I felt it stood well on its own, sharing the story and leaving the viewer with a nice wrap-up at the end. It worked for me quite well as a single film and what a film it was!

However, I also liked the idea of a sequel, as long as any Matrix trilogy were designed originally as a three-film series. I didn't want to see the Wachowski brothers spin off two more films because the money was good, with no clear idea where they were going with Neo, Morpheus and Trinity. I was pleased to learn that the Wachowskis had always intended three films. This set my mind a little at ease, as I reasoned that a clear intention to tell a story with three parts (e.g. Lord of the Rings) had a greater chance of being good, than the "thanks for all the cash -- now lets make up two more films as we go" approach.

Still, even if the Matrix parts two and three were created with the best intentions in mind, I had a feeling that we Matrix fans had a pretty high standard set for these films, because The Matrix. was so well done. Even if the Wachowski brothers managed to create an excellent second movie, I was concerned that so much new ground was taken with Matrix that any movie to follow it might be somehow seen as less than the original. In fact, I was pretty certain of this.

I came to May 15th slightly mixed in my feelings: one the one hand I was excited about seeing Matrix Reloaded, finding out how the main characters deal with the machines and what new areas of the Matrix world I'd get to see. On the other hand I knew that this could very well not meet my own expectations compared to the feelings I have for the first Matrix film.

I felt the film was a success as a sequel. There many things I enjoyed about the film and a few details that I disliked. Let me start with what I enjoyed about Matrix Reloaded, as I felt that the majority of the film was perfectly suited to its task. I'll follow that with some of my criticisms of the film, things I'm unsure of (until I see it again) and my overall conclusions.

The Good Stuff
I'm very pleased with the visual appearance of the film overall. The greenish color shift of the Matrix seems very consistent with the original Matrix film. Cinematogprahy was excellent, with some very beautiful scenes to liteally drink in with your eyes and your mind. I was also pleased with the extreme comic-book-like camera angles, continued from The Matrix. I also appreciated the extension of the "classic" sense in the Matrix itself, with great classic and new cars, big, square trucks and the fashion blend of 1950s CIA agent clothing, shiny plastic coats and Morpheus' custom made, Italian shoes. Well done!

I love the way the film opens, with Trinity kicking things off -- from the outrageous motorcycle jump to the use of her helmet as a kung-fu weapon. Trinity opened The Matrix as well, so it should be interesting to see if she also opens Revolutions.

The big rebel pow-wow at the start of the film was quite interesting -- great background environments there! However, I wondered why about 10% of the Zion leaders didn't wear sunglasses -- maybe their residual self-image didn't include black shades?

I was a little surprised to find that Agent Smith had been freed -- I found it a funny little slieght of hand by the Wachowski brothers, who know you'll assume Smith is still an agent, when actually, he's become a rouge virus of sorts. Tricky. I actually have a gut feeling that Agent Smith may end up being a character much like Gollum was in Lord of the Rings -- mostly bad but there to serve some kind of purpose in the end. I could be collossaly wrong... but we'll see when Revolutions arrives.

Zion was well done, particularly the landing pad and views of the huge machinery that keeps Zion running. I loved the "lived in" feel that Zion had -- it was slightly industrial (like the dwellings with submarine doors) but very human and organic at the same time.

I also found it very interesting to learn about Morpheus being much more of a small faction leader, very much like a John the Baptist character in the Gospels. In Matrix you figure he's a big leader in Zion, but in Reloaded you find he's much more the exception than the rule.

Fight scenes were again very well done. I can't say that they were groundbreaking in comparison to the original Matrix, but this comes back to the idea that Matrix was so revolutionary, it would be hard to top. Some reviewers complained about the length of the staircase fight -- I didn't mind and found it an interesting take, with much more flying and floating -- it seemed almost like dance.

My favorite fight scene of the film was the Burly Brawl, where Neo and hundreds of cloned Agent Smiths battle to a draw in a playground. Just the idea of a single guy (Neo) taking on this many combatants was a sight to see. In one scene I laughed out lout when I saw one Agent Smith clone thrown against the wall of a building about 4 stories up and in another, where Neo was using one Smith for a bowling ball against twenty Smith clones, I had to smile. Even in the fight scenes the Wachowski brothers have a sense of humor. I found it particularly interesting that Neo comes to realize he cannot win the battle against all the the Smiths and flies away -- Neo is tempered a bit.

Of course, I love the freeway chase scene. For me, that was 18 minutes of pure fun. I switched between asking "how did they do that" to "WOW" several times. I loved that Niobe cruises up in a purple 1967 Pontiac Firebird. And the finale was pretty amazing too. All in all the freeway scene for me was alone worth admission.

I liked the albino twins: their phasing tricks and how they completed each others' sentances. Should be interesting to learn if Morpheus knocked them off, or if they will reappear in the next film.

I really enjoyed the Keymaster, though his name did bring back memories of Ghostbusters and Rick Moranis. Scary, eh? It was great to see this little guy and his necklaces full of keys, darting around. I especially liked the scene where the Keymaster pulls out a key to access a door and gets Trinity to remark "you do come in handy!".

The Not So Good Stuff
The Rave scene. If you've read any reviews or comments, you'll know this is one of the least favorite things mentioned. I'm squarely in the anti-rave camp. I thought it was too long for starters, which added to the dragginess of the first 45 minutes of the film. But the rave was also kinda cheesey -- while it dragged on I kept thinking of the Ewok dance in Star Wars Return of the Jedi. It was also cheesy in that these people are all dancing next to pools of molten lava -- come on now! Those dancers woulda had 3rd degree burns! So, I say trim this 8-10 minute sequence to 2 or 3 minutes tops, with much less emphasis on the rave.

Morpheus came off a bit too full of himself and over-serious. I suppose this is the idea, since he's a believer in Neo as The One while most everyone else thinks he's a nutter. Still, I wished Morpheus' lines were not always so serious and dire.

The Burly Brawl CGI. I thought this section was pretty good, but I suppose as a picky graphics guy I see all of the imperfections. While this was not enough to ruin the scene (which I really enjoyed) I was much more aware of the too-perfectness of Neo's coat as he fought and the too-smooth draping of his clothing. There were other little clues that made it feel like CGI, but as I mentioned in a previous post, I don't mind this "perfectness" too much because after all, the Matrix is supposed to be a stylized, computer generated environment.

Trinity's car getting shot on the freeway with no bullets entering the cabin. I was a bit surprised that Trinity didn't find 8 bullets lodged in her arm from all the shots in the Caddilac on the driver-side door. I mean, come on... is this thing armor plated? It didn't seem so in other scenes where bullets penetrate the car. I know... suspend belief. :-)

The John Woo-ization of Trinity jumping off the semi trailer on the Ducati. I about gagged when I saw this scene unfolding for what seemed like five minutes while the woo-ing choir swelled. Just jump the bike off the semi already! Maybe this was the Wachowski's tribute to John Woo (whos overdone style of cinematography I'm not terribly fond of).

What I'm Unsure About
I would really like to see Reloaded once again to clear up some details in my mind with the movie. This is a good thing for me -- I'm the type of person who really enjoys getting more detail from a second or third viewing. Sometimes (like with Lord of the Rings) I'll see the movie to hear the music and then go again later to look at background details. Through this process, I gain a fuller sense of the film.

A few things of note: I want to see exactly who the guy was intending to kill Neo before he gets on the elevator. I've read this is the physical representation of Agent Smith, but I could only remember the goatee.

I'd also like a chance to hear the discussion between Neo and the Architect again. Information was moving so quickly and so deeply at that point, I feel I've missed something. I'd love to process through that sequence once more.

I'd also like to see the portion with Merovingian and Persephone -- I was again pleased with the Wachowski's humor in Merovingian and would like to absorb the dialogue there once more to see how it fits in with the rest of the film.

Of course I want to see the freeway chase scene again and take its details in bit by bit. The action is so quick there, that I feel it deserves a second viewing to really get a feeling for what's going on on the freeway.

I'm not sure what happened to Neo that he was able to stop the sentinels at the end of the film with a telepathic thought. I'm not sure what this meant -- did Neo's powers extend to the physical world or is Zion also a Matrix? Hmmm.

I want to see Reloaded again for these reasons and more -- mostly that I enjoyed the film thoroughly and would love to see it again.

Final Impressions
My overall impression of Reloaded was that the Wachowskis are trying to throw viewers off balance. We're challenged by the conversion of Agent Smith to a virus, Morpheus' beliefs in Neo as the One are challenged and Neo's idea of free will and choice are being challenged. About halfway through the movie I had the distinct feeling that the Wachowski brothers were intentionally puling the rug out from under us... to prepare us all for their conclusion in Revolutions.

I think Reloaded is a great sequel movie but really couldn't stand on its own. But I believe that's exactly what was intended -- the Matrix is a story designed to be told in three parts, so the second film depends greatly on the first. And the third film will depend greatly on the first two. But in the end, we will have a whole film, much like Lord of the Rings will be whole this year. Because I believe this, I'm not bothered that The Marix or Reloaded have some imperfections, because the story is moved forward and will be unified in the third part -- Revolutions.

Finally, I'm pleased to see that the Wachowskis are having fun with a multi-faceted film. They're offering something for everyone and having a great time experimenting with all the ideas they've had bottled up in their brains for years and years. Philosphy, action, religious thought, software concepts, exploring choice vs. destiny and of course visual explorations. I think it's great to see these guys offered the chance to explore things nobody else has until now. Yes, maybe parts were explored but not all of these aspects in a single film. I applaud them for this daring approach.

I guess this review was more geared toward those who have already seen the film, because I'm curious to hear your impressions in the comments section.

I hope you enjoyed Reloaded as much as I have. Yes, it's not perfect, but overall a great bit of fun that I look forward to seeing again soon.