Posts tagged ‘design’


Xiaomi’s tiny idiosyncracies

11.12.2021

There were a few surprises switching to Xiaomi.
   First up, it asked me to do a voice identification by saying these four words, 小爱同學. Only thing is, it doesn’t understand Cantonese.

   The default weather app was able to give me details based on exactly where I am (location service turned on, and I was given fair warning that it would be). That’s superior to Meizu’s default weather app, and the after-market Android one I downloaded years ago for my old Meizu M2 Note.

   This was a bit disturbing for a Chinese-spec phone: there’s still a Google app in there. I wonder if it sent anything before I restricted it, then deleted it. Permissions included being able to read your contacts’ list. I didn’t agree to Google getting anything.

   It prompted me to turn on the phone finder, even after we had established that I’m in New Zealand and everything was being done in English. Nek minnit:

   I’m finding it remarkable that a 2021 phone does not incorporate the time zone into file dates. I expected this to have been remedied years ago, but I was surprised to see that the photos I took, while the phone was on NZDT, had their timestamp without the UTC plus-13 offset. As a result, I’ve had to set the phone to UTC as I’ve had to do with all prior phones for consistency with my computers’ work files. The plus side: unlike my previous two phones, I can specify UTC rather than a location that might be subject to daylight saving.
   Unlike the M2 Note, but like the M6 Note, it doesn’t remember my preferred mode when it’s being charged by a computer via USB. I have to set it every time. The newer the technology, the more forgetful?
   Otherwise it’s proved to be a very practical successor to the Meizus, MIUI is prettier than Flyme (although I’m missing that skin’s translation features and the ability to select text and images regardless of the program via Aicy), and on the whole it’s doing what I ask of it, even picking 5G in town. Importantly, it receives calls and SMSs, and the battery isn’t swelling up.

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Posted in China, design, technology | No Comments »


December 2021 gallery

01.12.2021

Here are December 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
Roger Moore and Ford Fiesta Mk I, via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   More on the Volkswagen Fox in Autocade.
   More on the Ford Consul Corsair at Autocade.
   The Guardian article excerpt, full story here.
   The devil drives Kia? Reposted from Twitter.
   Audi maths on an A3, via Richard Porteous on Twitter.
   Christmas decoration, via Rob Ritchie on Twitter.
   Back to the ’70s: Holden Sandman used for Panhead Sandman craft beer promotions.
   Georgia–Pacific panelling promotions, 1968, via Wendy O’Rourke on Twitter.
   Ford Cortina Mk II US advertisement via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   Bridal fashion by Luna Novias, recently featured in Lucire.
   Deborah Grant in UFO, with the VW–Porsche 914, which would have looked very modern at the time.
   Freeze frame from episode 1 of The Champions (1968), with William Gaunt, Stuart Damon and Alexandra Bastedo.
   Our rejected greeting card design, with a picture shot at Oriental Parade, Wellington.
   Ford Taunus GT brochure spread via the Car Factoids on Twitter.
   My Daddy Is a Giant image and UK measures, reposted from Twitter.
   Richard Nixon attempts to appeal to younger voters, 1972. Simple, modernist design using Futura Bold.
   A 1983 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am advertisement.
   Mazda Savanna brochure via George Cochrane on Twitter.
   More on the Renault Mégane E-Tech Electric in Autocade.
   Lucire issue 44 cover, photographed by Lindsay Adler, layout by me.

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Posted in cars, culture, design, gallery, humour, interests, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, TV, typography, UK, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


A smooth upgrade to Windows 11 (so far)

01.11.2021

The Windows 11 upgrade arrived on my desktop machine before my laptop, which was a surprise. Also surprising is how uneventful the whole process was, unlike Windows 10, which led me to become a regular on the Microsoft Answers forums.
   A few tips: (a) do back everything up first; and (b) do take screenshots of the pinned items in your start menu. The former goes without saying; the latter is important since those pins won’t be preserved with the upgrade.
   The download-and-install took some time and when I restarted the PC, it actually loaded Windows 10 again! Only when I restarted from there did Windows 11 do the full upgrade process, which was relatively painless.
   First impressions: WordPerfect and Eudora appear to work, and MacType has loaded for the programs, including my Vivaldi browser. So that’s the office stuff taken care of.
   The taskbar is too darned tall and there’s no way to fix it without a registry hack, something I’m not yet willing to do. I suppose I could hide it but Windows can be flaky, and you just never know when its presence (and a right-click to the Task Manager) is going to be needed.
   Muscle memory over years (decades) means that I still want to go to the bottom left-hand corner for my icons, but I’m willing to give centred a shot as it reminds me of MacOS.
   Happily, there’s not much more to report. The icons look nicer to me and the change is positive, and the redone UI fonts have a bit more character (pun unintended). The only registry hack I intend to do is for the sake of decent typography. Hopefully there’ll be little more to report.

PS.: The removal of system fonts (viz. Arial) worked.

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Refreshing the less oft-seen pages on Lucire’s website

23.10.2021



A decade separates these two incarnations of Lucire’s shopping home page. Some Facebook gadgets were added during the 2010s and the magazine cover was updated, but it was woefully out of date and needed to be refreshed.

It’s very unusual for us to go into the less-frequented pages in Lucire and adapt them to a new template before doing a major one such as the fashion index page. But sometimes you go with the creative flow, so it was the turn of the ‘Newsstand’ pages plus the shopping home page, which hadn’t been updated in seven years (and most of it hadn’t been touched for ten).
   Needless to say, on the latter, almost everything was out of date. We’ve removed the links to the shopping directory, which last existed to support the print magazine as it was in the mid-2000s. Since then, we haven’t really had a shopping section in print, and we ceased to update it much online.
   What was disappointing to note, after my lament about the disappearance of so many fashion websites earlier this year, that even more had closed down, so much so that the three ‘Newsstand’ pages have come back down to two (as it was in the 2000s). There are still some that have not been updated in years, but we have maintained the links for historical purposes.
   Poking about the directories did lead me to lucire.com/xp, a framed page with content for our mobile edition in 2000 that was compatible with Plucker. Long before cellphones became the norm, we were already catering for portable devices. I knew we had a Plucker edition, but had forgotten about the xp directory till tonight.
   The copy on that page reads, ‘Lucire Express was the hand-held version of Lucire, powered by Plucker. With more recent developments in syndication and content management, support for Express has been discontinued.’
   It seemed logical that cellphone browsers would be developed to reduce the content of high-res pages to make them readable, but that is yet to happen (unless one goes into a simplified view mode). To think that programmers found a way to do that in the 2000s. How times have changed, with what appears to be a slowing down of innovation—forcing us to adapt to the technology (developing mobile-friendly themes in-house) rather than the other way round.

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Posted in design, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Switching Lucire’s home page over to the new template

07.10.2021



Lucire’s online edition home page: out with the old (top), in with the new (above).

I switched over Lucire’s home page to the new template today. I’m going to miss the old one, since it had the effect of a bled page, something that’s de rigueur for a fashion magazine.
   As outlined in my previous post, it’s just something we had to do to move with the times, and to make life easier for those browsing on mobile devices. I recognize the irony here, as someone who doesn’t tend to use cellphones having to design for that very medium, but then I’m also a realist.
   Once I get a bit more confidence hacking the theme from HTML Codex, the bled effect might return.
   I made some calls on what to include this time round. The social links are gone—recent events have just made them too discouraging. (The Facebook ones disappeared years ago.) The top image has been replaced by a slider with three images. The little graphic featuring the latest issue of Lucire has also been removed, only because we couldn’t figure out where it would go in the new template, but it might make a return sooner rather than later. In terms of appearance, there are fewer lines, though this is more down to convenience and working with someone else’s CSS; again, they might make a return at some point. The dotted line separating the footer from the body has also gone for now.
   As every web publisher knows, no template is set in stone and there’s ongoing evolution.
   It’s partly a shame to bring to an impending close a template entirely programmed by me. Since Lucire started, it was built on my code, the first issue done on Notepad. But HTML Codex has done a good job with its stylesheet, it would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. Many of the old pages with my code will still exist (since, other than one article, we don’t redo old HTML pages), and it’ll take months before we shift all section indices and the news pages over. I am looking forward to the changes, and that’s always a good sign.

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Posted in design, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


After eight years, a new template for Lucire’s online edition

04.10.2021

Those were two pretty intensive days but Lucire’s web edition now has a new template. Before you head over there excitedly expecting all change, it only exists on two pages so far, and they are of the same article but in different languages.
   The look itself is not that different, either: we wanted to stick fairly close to what we had, but updated for the 2020s to handle mobile traffic.
   Surprisingly, the outgoing template was created in 2013 with some concessions to mobile devices, and was partially responsive, but as those of you who surfed to Lucire on mobile knew, it did not cater that well to them. One big issue was the use of HTML tables (the old-fashioned ones), which would play havoc on cellphone browsers unable to grasp at just what size type should be displayed at.
   I kept hoping there would be technology that would straighten all of this out—there was in the 2000s with Bitstream having devised a solution to show reduced pages—but the pace of change isn’t as fast as you might think when it comes to web stuff. Of course not, when companies with monopoly powers dominate in the US, and affect a lot of the world.
   That old template was tweaked briefly in 2015 (shifting the subsidiary column from the left to the right) and it is remarkable that something that old managed to keep us going all this time.
   Over the weekend I began developing a cellphone-friendly template with a single-column layout. The trouble was that when I finished, I noticed it was utterly devoid of character. That was the trouble: I was designing more for the cellphone than the web, and the smaller medium doesn’t lend itself well to creativity.
   For the first time in Lucire’s history, I opted to get an open-source template from HTML Codex as a starting-point rather than create it myself. The result is quite a departure from theirs, but the underlying code and stylesheet are theirs, and, rightly, their credit appears in the footer.
   This first story also marks the second time a Lucire article has appeared in French online. It has been taken from the second French issue of Lucire KSA.
   There are both up and down sides. The obvious up side is that the template works remarkably well on a desktop screen and on a phone, but not without some substantial tweaking (hence the hours put in). Unlike my single-column layout from the weekend, it still has character. For better or for worse, the result is based on one of my designs.
   The big down side is that the stylesheet file is 180 kbyte in size, versus 17 kbyte with mine. Some of my CSS specs wound up in the big one. It also has to call a bunch of Javascripts, including one Jquery and a Bootstrap bundle. I will put parts of the page template into virtual files for the server-side includes to summon, but for now, with the hard coding, it’s about 10 kbyte larger than my effort.
   Kudos to the original template developers, whose efforts have saved us a lot of time, and I look forward to tweaking things further as this new look becomes the norm.

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Posted in business, design, internet, marketing, publishing, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


October 2021 gallery

01.10.2021

Here are October 2021’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month. Might have to be our Instagram replacement!


 

Notes
Chrysler’s finest? The 300M rates as one of my favourites.
   The original cast of Hustle, one of my favourite 2000s series.
   Boris Johnson ‘wage growth’ quotation—what matters to a eugenicist isn’t human life, after all. Reposted from Twitter.
   For our wonderful niece Esme, a Lego airport set. It is an uncle and aunt’s duty to get decent Lego. My parents got me a great set (Lego 40) when I was six, so getting one at four is a real treat!
   Publicity still of Barbara Bach in The Spy Who Loved Me. Reposted from Twitter.
   Koala reposted from Twitter.
   Photostat of an advertisement in a 1989 issue of the London Review of Books, which my friend Philip’s father lent me. I copied a bunch of pages for some homework. I have since reused a lot of the backs of those pages, but for some reason this 1989 layout intrigued me. It’s very period.
   Fiat brochure for Belgium, 1970, with the 128 taking pride of place, and looking far more modern than lesser models in the range.
   John Lewis Christmas 2016 parody ad still, reposted from Twitter.
   More on the Triumph Mk II at Autocade. Reposted from Car Brochure Addict on Twitter.
   The origins of the Lucire trade mark, as told to Amanda’s cousin in an email.
   More on the Kenmeri Nissan Skyline at Autocade.
   Renault Talisman interior and exterior for the facelifted model.
   The original 1971 Lamborghini Countach LP500 by Bertone show car. Read more in Lucire.
   More on the Audi A2 in Autocade.

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Posted in cars, China, culture, design, gallery, Hong Kong, humour, interests, marketing, media, politics, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Title design in 1970: big geometric type rules

11.08.2021

There is something quite elegant about title typography from the turn of the decade as the 1960s become the 1970s.
   There is 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever by Maurice Binder, which apparently is one of Steven Spielberg’s favourites, but I’m thinking of slightly humbler fare from the year before.
   I got thinking about it when watching Kevin Billington’s The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, which has Futura Demi tightly set (it is the 1970s) but arranged in an orderly, modernist fashion, aligned to the left on a grid. Nothing centred here; this is all about a sense of modernity as we entered a new decade.


   Similarly the opening title for Alvin Rakoff’s Hoffman, starring Peter Sellers and Sinéad Cusack. For the most part it’s Kabel Light on our screens, optically aligned either left or right. It’s a shame Matt Monro’s name is spelled wrong, but otherwise it’s nice to see type logically set with a consistent hierarchy and at a size that allows us to appreciate its forms. Monro belts out the lyrics to one of my favourite theme songs, ‘If There Ever Is a Next Time’, by Ron Grainer and Don Black, and the title design fits with them nicely.


   It certainly didn’t stay like this—as the decade wore on I can’t think of type being so prominent in title design on the silver screen. Great title design is also something we seem to lack today in film. I helped out in a minor way on the titles for the documentary Rescued from Hell, also using Futura, though I don’t know how much was retained; given the chance it would be nice to revisit the large geometric type of 1970.

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Can a no-name mouse take the place of a Microsoft Intellimouse?

01.08.2021

I’ve occasionally had good luck with ultra-cheap Chinese mice. Years ago, I bought one, with very simple left and right buttons and a scroll wheel, and it proved to be one of the most comfortable I owned. The wheel didn’t run smoothly at first but a quick trim of the plastic, and it’s been fine since.

   This US$3·89 mouse (price at time of writing) was a similar case. I ordered it to see if it might be better than the NZ$75 Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse, and that was bought to replace my favourite, the Microsoft Intellimouse 1·1. One of those was being used after my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 died—like the Intellimouse, these had large bodies that people with bigger hands, like me, can use.
   As those in a similar predicament know, mice have shrunk over the last decade, so finding a replacement takes months as you read the specs and, in some cases, visit the stores to see if they have anything.
   A Tecknet mouse proved too low by a millimetre or two to be comfortable, but when I saw this no-name unit being sold by a place called 7 Elves Store (did they mean dwarves, as in Disney?) on Aliexpress, I decided to take a punt. (The specs suggest the brand name is Centechia, but it’s nowhere to be found on the device or in the heading and description.) And for US$3·89 plus (sorry) my share of carbon emissions from the air freight, it didn’t cost me much to find out.
   It arrived a few weeks ago in damaged condition. The buttons did not work at all, and once again I had to make some simple repairs to get it working. It’s too light. The plastic is of a crappy grade. And the details on the base of the mouse suggest whomever wrote the text had not been in the occident much, if at all. I don’t like the lights because I don’t care if a mouse has pulsing RGB effects since (a) my hand is over it and (b) I’m looking at the screen, not the mouse.
   But here’s the thing: it fits my hand. It’s nowhere nearly as comfortable as those old Microsoft mice, but as a cheapie that I can take in my laptop bag, it does a better job than the Tecknet. It’s not as comfortable as the Asus, but it beats every other mouse, that is, the ones I didn’t buy, that I’ve seen in the shops. On the whole, I can use it more than the Tecknet, and it will do when I’m travelling or out of the office, though I still haven’t found the holy grail of a decent sized Microsoft mouse. (The revived Intellimouse, as I may have mentioned earlier, is asymmetric, and its shape doesn’t work for me.) I’m not sure why this is so hard for mice manufacturers: you’ve all peaked a bit early, and none of the improvements you’ve made have advanced the ideas of user comfort and ergonomics.
   For those who care about this stuff, here’s the Aliexpress link.

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Facelifting the Lucire licensing site after 13 years

30.06.2021

After 13 years, it was time to facelift the Lucire licensing website.
   It’s a very familiar template, similar to what we used for JY&A Consulting a few months back. The home page copy we already had from a flier that we created late last year that Susan Ninan and I worked on; and the ‘About’ page’s text was mostly carried over (though it still needs 13 years of updates).
   I am surprised the old site still netted us enquiries but it was looking extremely dated. The 2008 design was positively archæological in internet terms. However, I’m not sure if the new one is particularly interesting, because the web design convention is to do something very simple at the moment.
   The old one was created with consideration for those who didn’t have mouse wheels, whereas these days it seems to be all right, even fashionable, to scroll away.
   Hopefully everything is more fit for purpose though, and the links are more useful. We’ve kept the code very light.
   And if you do want to license an international fashion magazine with an independent, authentic and engaged firm, you know where to come.



Above: The old and the new Lucire licensing sites—to my eyes, the old appears more creative, even in 2021.

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