Category Archives: Off Topic

Frozen music, no more

Sunday: Coffee without BIM

I’ve always struggled to read sheet music as effortlessly as some of my more musically-talented friends. It often seemed without life, just sitting there like ink someone carelessly spilled on the page. Sure, I “know” how to read the notes and symbols, but it never really comes to life until played – usually by someone better than I.

They say architecture is like frozen music. This has been attributed to Meis Van Der Rohe, or Friedrich von Schelling, and others… I never fully understood the relationship to be beyond metaphorical. I would say that more accurately, a photograph of architecture, without the experience of moving through and around it is in fact a 2-dimensional, flat and unmoving act. To truly appreciate a place, you must go there. To truly appreciate music, you must see AND hear it.

Now, only after seeing the below mathematical representation of an emotionally inspired piece of Chopin, does it really make sense. As elegant as a well-composed grasshopper or dynamo script, the visual representation of architectural and musical form seem long-lost siblings.

Please enjoy responsibly.

Chopin, Nocturne, opus 9 no. 2 from musanim on Vimeo.

Parametric Pumpkins…

As we are all awaiting with baited breath… the parametric pumpkin doesn’t have to be limited to the virtual. Here’s a working Tetris on Pumpkin, courtesy of a boat-load of LED lights, a steady hand and an Arduino board.

Pumpktris – YouTube

For more information, and detailed photos from it’s creator:

Touchfire, the beginning of something beautiful

Why are you there, silly Skeuomorph?
Have you ever noticed something expressed in modern technology that doesn’t seem right, as if it might be a relic of the past, and yet the meaning is completely lost? What will page turning in an app mean when paper books are more rare than disposable tablets?

Another less controversial example: you know those little horizontal lines under the F and J keys on a computer keyboard? In case you didn’t take a typing class in high school, these exist on physical keyboards to tell you (if you are a touch typist) you are resting at home position. Absent, you would need to look down, as you take breaks to think of what to write next. On an iPad screen they make no sense. To have them as digital ornamentation behind a polished, flat slice of Gorilla Glass, makes absolutely no sense. It isn’t even cute. Apple has these little skeuomorphs everywhere in their applications and OS. Sometimes they help, are fun (like page turning), and more often than not they make my eyes itch.

Now that is Fast!
How cool is the Touchfire? I really like it! I recently received my new light, transparent, whimsical keyboard that has been a story in the making for along while. I first learned (and posted) about this project while on Kickstarter back during Autodesk University 2011. Later in December, Steve Isaac (one of the two cofounders) demonstrated the prototype in my office. I was blown away.

This is the keyboard that iPad wishes it had shipped with. Yes, you can rest your fingers at home position. And no, you will not fire off random gibberish by doing so. The keys are specially designed to work on the capacitive touch screen of the iPad, and work so well – I have begun using only the iPad with my Touchfire for taking notes at meetings. I guess I’m not a perfect touch typist… however, there’s a typing tutorial on the website: I will improve.

The beginning of tactile computing
I’m certain this will be the spark that ignites more tactile computing with our mobile devices and look forward to things to come. What I’ve got now, is far and away better than a wireless or other keyboards that accompany a case. Those are usually sacrificing something and leave the experience as flat as glass. I am sure the recently announced Surface will be no different. The Touchfire is very different. I began composing this on my iPad using it moments after it arrived.

When unpacked, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it comes with a nicely compact hard case. Initially, the surface was a little bit tacky. However, this disappeared after just the press of each key a few times. Little bits of dust, joyriders if you will, were adhered to the surface which a quick rinse under water – the recommended way to clean – easily dispatched.

If your iPad goes to sleep, you can swipe right through the Touchfire with ease. Which means, you can also very easily swipe through to alternate keys. The only technique that I’ll mis is the ability to tap/slide, to quickly insert a capital letter or number. However, now after several paragraphs – already typing at a much faster and accurate rate – will barely miss that capability.

Caution: Heads will turn
When you first unfurl the keyboard and begin using it, people will stop and stare. This is perfectly normal. Then, people will ask to try it out. I tell them to get their own and keep typing. Then after about 30 seconds give them an opportunity to savor in the soft luxury of typing on a gel surface. It’s always fun to see their initial response. This is so much nicer on the fingertips and the reduced noise is welcome in the office. My old IBM-style mechanical keyboard is very jealous.

The Touchfire works best if you have an Apple cover – including the smart cover for iPad 2 or 3, or the original faux-suede iPad1 cover. The smart cover allows the keyboard to roll up and out of the way entirely. Regardless of iPad generation, you will have the ability to fold the keyboard back on itself, and it hangs out there at the bottom of the screen, awaiting redeployment. I do sometimes enjoy using my iPad sans cover, and this also works very well on the newer model iPads, due to the internal magnets of each device. With my original iPad, it just means that I need to swipe across it’s ‘chin’ and type away – while I do need to keep the device relatively flat.

I highly recommend this screen-top keyboard if you plan to type anything of length greater than a tweet on your iPad, and give this two big thumbs up!

TouchFire: The Screen-Top Keyboard for iPad

For those of you lucky enough to own an iPad, or may soon own one after the holidays, you really should check out

This transforms the iPad into a very functional laptop replacement (for some activities), without needing to lug around a separate Bluetooth keyboard or bulky case.

I met with founder Steve Isaac today in the Seattle office to get a feel for the prototype, and it’s amazingly responsive and fun to use. If you join the Kickstarter project in the next 4 days, your funding can count towards the pre-ordering of one of the first to roll off the assembly line!

Five years later…

It nearly escaped my notice today, but this officially marks the passing of five years blogging here. Thanks for being there. I look forward to the next five.

I never thought I would be interesting enough, nor have enough to say when I first started in 2006. I also didn’t expect that the face of BIM and blogging/social networking would change so much.

To borrow from Wired magazine, here’s a look at AEC and technology trends as they’ve changed over the years.

Wired | Tired | Expired
Revit | ADT/ACA | AutoCAD
Living Systems | Sustainability | Green
Collaboration | Outsourcing | Specialization
Sketchbook Pro | Impression | Architectural Studio
iOS | MacOS | Windows
Wordpress | Blogger | Windows Live
Loopt | Facebook | MySpace
The infinite | The cloud | The desktop
Digital Design Leader | BIM Manager | CAD Manager

– Blogged from my iPhone.

P.S. (the makings of an omelet)


Neighbor-raised | “Free Range” Organic | Conventional
Thanks, David!

Vancouver 2010 – Olympic Oval

Let the games begin. Today marks the torch lighting and opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. Now, although it is technically winter, this part of the country has seen so little snow.  You have to wonder why the climate change deniers still continue to talk conspiracy theories, when all I have to do is see the brown topped mountains where we have previously held the world annual snowfall record. Yes Mt. Baker, practically in my backyard, had a record 1,140 inches of snow fall on it’s peak during the 1998-1999 season. Put your calculator away, that’s not a typo – it was 95 feet! This year, snow needs to be trucked in to Whistler, and the other locations. Well one sport that suffers from no ill effects is speed skating.

Perhaps I’ll see Stephen Colbert practicing for his bid to take all the gold. Seriously, we wouldn’t even be taking part in these events had it not been for his generosity in getting a leg up, and sponsoring the team along with donations from fans. Apollo Ohno may not be favored to take home the gold for Team USA, but always a fan of the local underdog, I’m routing for him. The five-time Olympic medalist, and 2007 Dancing With the Stars champion is back. There are so many taleted athletes in the men’s and women’s speed skating, I just think it will be interesting to watch. I grew up playing hockey, and how could I not, growing up in Boston and watching the likes of Bobby Orr, and Raymond Bourque glide across the ice, and occasionally crushing bones. Go Bruins! Although never as good as this guy, I really enjoyed the sport, and especially the feeling of the cold air and the pungent smell of the ice and sweat in an arena.

Which finally leads us to…

What do you think? Photo or Fake? Is this a clever rendering technique? Think about it, then hit the Read More link if you are on the main blog page. Otherwise, scroll down, when you’ve decided.

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