Gilles Vandenoostende

Hi, I'm Gilles Vandenoostende - designer, illustrator and digital busybody with a love of language, based in Ghent, Belgium.

Translation is UX

Working as a webdesigner in the notoriously bi-lingual country of Belgium, I enjoyed this A List Apart article by Antoine Lefeuvre. Take it from me, designing & building sites to be language-independent takes a lot of hard work to get right.

However I won’t agree with his opinion that the french dubbed version of The Big Lebowski is somehow superior to the original, out of principle. Movies should always be enjoyed in the language they were shot in, with subtitles if necessary. I find dubbing over original actors’ performances disrespectful, and I think it ruins movies.

King of Samsung

The Verge has a good exposé of Samsung’s history and “chaebol” style of management & succession:

But the company’s rise to the top has been tainted with controversy. Samsung is the quintessential example of a chaebol, that uniquely Korean brand of conglomerate that mixes Confucian values with family ties and government influence. Accusations of corruption and cozy establishment connections, conviction over an embezzlement scandal, strained family relationships that threaten the traditional chaebol structure, and a bruising patent battle with Apple have taken the polish off Samsung’s — and Lee’s — glittering business record. Who is Lee Kun-hee, and how has he managed to survive this delicate balance of stress and success? And where next for the company, which still yearns to be taken seriously as a force for innovation?

I honestly can’t understand people who claim to like Samsung, the company. I can understand someone not liking Apple, but liking Samsung? A billion dollar multi-national corporation run by a bunch of corrupt nepotists, which is guilty of all the same business practices Apple gets flak for (exploitative factory conditions, engaging in patent warfare, etc…), but all without a displaying a single shred of true innovation, or even originality?

Recreating the sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop using the Web Audio API

A most excellent web experiment by the clever chaps & chap-ettes over at the BBC:

Explore the BBC sound of the 1960s with our 4 demos of Radiophonic equipment, built with the new Web Audio APIstandard. Each demo comes with commented code, so you can learn how to build your own audio applications.

Of course there’s Daleks & Cybermen.

Sound was really one of the last vestiges of “things you could only do with Flash”, so is this one of the final nails in its coffin?

The Kickstarter Successes: Where are they now?

PC gaming blog par excellence Rock Paper Shotgun takes a critical look at some of last years games-related Kickstarter projects and asks: “where are they now?”

Double Fine Adventure
Double Fine
Raised: $3,336,371
Release date: Aug 2012

Well clearly that didn’t happen. But everybody who cares at least knows it, with every step of the development being filmed. The game, codenamed “Reds”, is getting a brand new engine, which is what’s taken up a lot of the last eight months. Development is due to “ramp up” next year. Sadly, their Kickstarter updates – while enormously detailed – are all for “backers only”, which rather misses the point of promoting a game.

I’m currently backing 2 gaming projects, the aforementioned Double Fine Adventure and Planetary Annihilation. In Adventure’s case I’m of course slightly disappointed it missed its August deadline, but the documentary and updates provided to the backers so far have more than made up for it.

Sick of making excuses

I feel as though I’ve been ragging a little too much on Microsoft these last few weeks, so to offset, here’s a valid critique of OS X’s flakiness from David Chartier:

Exhibit A: Open Mail, find a message with a zip attachment, and double-click it. Nothing happens? Oh something happened. Archive Utility opened to work its magic on the zip file, but you missed its appearance in the Dock if you blinked. Don’t see anything else? Of course you don’t, because Finder opened a new window to reveal the spoils of Archive Utility’s victory behind Mail and didn’t bother to tell you. No Dock bounce, no Finder brought to the foreground to show you the folder.

To add a personal perspective on this, I’ve found that since Lion, OS X’s windowing has gotten increasingly buggy and annoying, with apps or Finder windows either stealing focus, or refusing to gain focus until I cmd-tab to them. I upgraded my personal laptop to Mountain Lion and it’s improved upon these issues (although they’re still there in certain situations), but my work laptop is still stuck with Lion and some days it can get very frustrating indeed.

Part of me is thinking that Apple is closer to making iOS as powerful as OS X than it is at fixing OS X to be as user-friendly as iOS. Which is scary, because iOS’ closed nature wouldn’t make it a very good platform for professional creators and developers… hopefully by the time iOS reaches critical feature parity with OS X Apple will have introduced a pro-sumer line of iOS devices to prevent that critical segment of their ecosystem from leaving to another platform. Although it’s hard to imagine another platform to leave to, with Windows having jumped the shark, Android having many of the same problems iOS has, and Linux being pretty much a non-starter for people who just want to do work with their tools, and not embark on a never-ending quest to find just the right distro and configuration.

For a Bit of Colored Ribbon

Jeff Atwood once again expounds the virtues of gamification:

Since I left Stack Exchange, I’ve had a difficult time explaining what exactly it is I do, if anything, to people. I finally settled on this: what I do, what I’m best at, what I love to do more than anything else in the world, is design massively multiplayer games for people who like to type paragraphs to each other. I channel their obsessions – and mine – into something positive, something that they can learn from, something that creates wonderful reusable artifacts for the whole world. And that’s what I still hope to do, because I have an endless well of obsession left.

RIP 35mm Film

In June, director Martin Scorsese tried to show his 1993 film The Age of Innocence at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Thelma Schoonmaker, Scorsese’s editor for the past 40 years and a three-time Oscar winner, called Grover Crisp, the senior VP of asset management at Sony, for a 35mm print. But Sony not only didn’t have a print, it couldn’t even make one.

Daniel Eagan writing for The Atlantic, paints a depressing picture of media obsolescence, and how digitization isn’t always the answer, considering the ever advancing nature of technology: films that were digitized years ago are already becoming dated in terms of resolution.

Why the Kin crashed and burned

On monday I wrote:

Instead of the Courier, they gave us Silverlight, the Kin and Bing.

Speaking of the Kin, Wired published a rather damning article featuring some leaked internal user-testing videos taken during the final stages of the Kin’s development:

These internal Microsoft videos, provided to Wired by a person who worked on the project, show focus groups testing the ill-fated Kin. According to our source, these are pre-production models that changed very little from the shipping product, although “performance improved some prior to shipping.” Watch them, and you can readily see why the project tanked: Kin phones just weren’t usable. Or, as our source described them, they were a “pile of shit.”

Add to that Nielsen’s damning usability review of Windows 8 and you really have to start asking yourself a couple of questions: such as what’s the point of doing user-testing if you’re just going to ignore whatever they say and release broken products anyway? Is it just incompetence, or ill-will towards their customers?

Clearly some people inside Microsoft know what they’re doing (the fact that they’re even user testing at all is a testament to this), but clearly something is preventing those people from having any real influence in the final decision making process.

I realize I’ve been ragging on Microsoft a lot lately, but it’s done more out of bafflement than out of irrational hatred. I myself was a long-time Microsoft user (hell, I grew up with DOS games) before I switched in 2008 out of sheer desperation for a modern OS that wasn’t a complete piece of crap. I just don’t understand how a company that had such a head-start in life could be so careless in throwing it all away in the space of a decade.

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