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2/26/2004

The Usability of JT 

The site: www.justintimberlake.com

The site name is Justin Timberlake, which is shown in big bold letters on the bottom left of the main page. But it also has several sub-headings to take you to different parts of the site: Home, News, Media, Bio, Store. Roll the mouse over them and "WAAAOOW!" If you're a Justin fan, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find that a little snippet of one of his songs plays every time you move the mouse over a different icon. If you click on the first four icons, they'll take you just where they say they will, and the only thing on the screen that changes is the big rectangle in the middle. As long as you stick to the first four icons. If you click on "store" a new window pops up. After I clicked on this icon I got the page that says:

The page cannot be found
The page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.


But I wasn't too keen on making a purchase anyway, so I closed this window and went back to the original site.

Then I noticed a couple of smaller icons above the original five: International Site and Change Background. So I thought I'd give them a shot. When you click on "Change Background", the window slides over with a bunch of pictures of JT for you to choose from. I clicked on one, then clicked on the "Close Backgrounds" icon, expecting the background I had chosen to come up on the main site. But no dice. I still haven't figured that one out.

So I clicked on "International Site". The International site comes up in a smaller size than the other page, in the top left corner of the screen. It has some cool features. If you click on the "music" icon, a page comes up that tells you to drag a cassette tape into a boombox, and with each new cassette, a different song comes on. But the International site doesn't have as much content as the original www.justintimberlake.com, so I decided to close it and go back to the other site. But when I closed it, there was just a big black page that said Justin Timberlake JUSTIFIED click here to relaunch the site. I clicked there, but it just opened up the International site again. This was really the only time I felt a bit lost on the Justin Timberlake site. I finally ended up just retyping the address to go back to the official site.

I looked around for a search option, but it just wasn't there. But then again, the website doesn't really have all that much content to begin with, so it's pretty hard to get lost.

All in all I found the site pretty user friendly. It's not without its glitches, but hey, it's just Justin.

The site also had a link to something called zeocast, where you can make some very interesting things indeed. Here's my Justin Timberlake Zeocast Shoebox, complete with screenshots. Enjoy it at www.thelongtake.blogspot.com


2/25/2004

From one blog to the next: Usability review 

For this review on website usability, I decided to visit a site that you’d think would have to be pretty darn usable considering its subject: the George W. Bush Official Blog. This is only one section of the many-layered georgewbush.com but I will use the blog page as my starting point.

The first thing I noticed, using Netscape as my browser, was that the links to different sections of the website looked all squished together and were difficult to read. Reluctantly, I switched to Internet Explorer to continue my search. Ah, much better.

Now, where to begin? There are a series of sections listed at the top of the page which link to other sections in the site, but I think I’ll stay put for now. I read a few lines of the first post, easily distinguished from the next by clear, red text… fight against terrorists, economic reform, blah blah blah. There is a list of previous posts on the right oranized by subject, title and date. How convenient! I click on ‘Environment’ and the page refreshes with a series of posts all relating to healthy forests, clean air and the like. There are some highlighted sentences within the posts linking to different sources but they all pop-up in different windows, so I can click ‘em closed and be right back at the GWB blog. Plus, the links on the right are still there so I can easily switch topics to something like ‘Homeland Security’ or ‘Compassion’.

Also on the right, there is an image of the official logo of the Bush Blog which links to a section where you can download news feeds and campaign countdown markers to put on your own web page. Sounds fun. Click, click. On this page, the links on the right are gone but there is a new link on the top which will take you back to the main page of the blog. No need for the browser’s back button here!

In the column on the left, there is a little search button where I can search within the blog and right under it there is a nice little link to search within the entire site. I type in ‘Patriot act’ and six results show up. At the top of the page, I can decide how I want to view the results (by title or by date) or I can limit my search and only look for a result within a certain time frame by clicking ‘Advanced Blog Search’. There is also another nice little link to view the results for the same query if I had searched the entire page. Isn’t that thoughtful.

Hmmm, I wonder how this site has changed over time. Let’s take a trip to archive.com to find out, shall we? Well, first of all, back in 2000, during his first election campaign, George W. didn’t have a weblog, but his official site was up and running nevertheless. It was somewhat simpler, mostly because there was a lot less content, but it followed basically the same format his site does now, that is with unchanging words along the top which link to different sections and an easy to use search button which creates a clean and simple, user-friendly website.

P.S. I tried to include screen shots of the web pages discussed but my iMac is being uncharacteristically un-usable at the moment and won't let me. I'll try to add some later.


***Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in this post or on georgewbush.com in no way reflect the political views of the owners of this blog.


Boo-urns 

I just checked our blog in Internet Explorer and none of the photos work. what's up with that?

2/16/2004

The more I know, the less I understand. 

So I left you last time with a link to i-Pod's dirty little secret. Hopefully you have watched the film by now and madly rushed to return your i-Pod, realizing that it is, in fact, a waste of money. Or maybe you were slightly skeptical of this film. I was too... but then I checked the official apple web page (if you want to look at it, google it yourself. In passive resistance, I refuse to link it to this wholesome blog.) and did my research... alas, the allegations are true.

But had we all been discriminating consumers from the beginning, we would have seen through the i-Pod right away. The i-Pod's big selling point (lifted directly from an ad): "The iPod gives you a huge 15GB, 20GB or 40GB hard drive — big enough to hold 10,000 songs. Do the math: that’s four weeks of music — played continuously, 24/7 — or one new song a day for the next 27 years."

Let's do some more math. The i-Pod battery only lasts for 18 months. That means you will have to buy 18 i-Pod batteries if you want to hear all 27 years of songs. At $255 a pop, you will spend $4590 on i-Pod batteries.
If you are buying your music in the i-Tunes store for about a dollar each, you will have to spend $10 000 in order to use your i-Pod to its maximum capacity. TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Add that to the cost of the batteries and the player itself, and you are looking at quite an investment my friends.

Now let's look at it from a logical point of view. No portable music player is built to last for 27 years. They will either become worn out, or break, or be overtaken by newer, better technology. For instance, i-Pod is already marketing its "next big thing", the i-Pod mini. Slightly smaller in size than the original i-Pod but just as big a waste. We should also take into consideration that no one has time to listen to 10 000 songs. The concept is ridiculous. But in this rampant consumer-culture, more is more.

I would like to post a challenge to anyone reading this entry. Kill your i-Pod. Kill your music-downloading software. Question your consumer impulses. Stop looking at music as a more is more industry and start experiencing it. Go to shows. Listen to vinyl. Learn guitar.

Long Live Analog.

2/12/2004

once upon a time... 

Once upon a time there was a little girl named Mira and she had to make a self-portrait with a friendly little program named photoshop. Now, she and photoshop were no strangers. You might even say they'd been around the block a few times. But FTP-ing? Hmm, this could be tricky, she thought. But, undeterred, she whipped together some images of her in a nutshell, captured them onto a cd and away she went. A layer here, some cropping there, lots of "lets see what'll happen if I click this" and ta da! A self-portrait emerged.

plugged

But how will this picture of mine ever be seen if it's stuck in my computer? she thought. Where is the "upload" button? How the heck would an upload button even work?

Looking for answers, she found a conveniently placed FTP-ing tutorial in the mac lab at school. After trying a gazillion passwords (aparently Qwert6 is too close to a real dictionary word), alcor was finally pleased and let her do her thing. Following the simple steps broken down on the hand out, Mira's photo was online in no time. Easy! But, hmm, does it look duller to you on the site or is it just me, she asked? Is there any way to un-upload it or is it stuck there for good? Just switch the command put/ to del/, TA Eric said, and you're all set. Goodie! said Mira. A few touch ups later and her self-portrait was ready for its close-up.

Now it's living happily ever after on her alcor account and her beloved blog, too.

The end.

i'm there for you, consumer 

I-Pods unreplaceable batteries only last 18 months. Some guys made a film about it. Click Here. I might do a real entry about this later.

2/09/2004

expose on digital media project predominantly written in telegramese 



INTRODUCTION

Working with Photoshop was new. Working with scanners was new. Working with FTP was definitely new. Conclusively, entire exercise was new. And not without problems. You should know right now that everything turns out in the end. Throughout the process of this explanation of the Digital Self Portrait, things will look bleak... failure will seem eminent. But all works out, or at least I assume so, although credible feedback is lacking.

SCANNERS

Assumed that scanners were simple machines. Dumped some things on scanner in back of IITS room and pushed scan. Things scanned. All was well.
Attempted e-mailing the scanned things to myself in order to switch to computer across hall to do editing. Not so simple. Computer made angry noises and e-mail rendered useless.
Opted for CD-R to hold images (praise Nadaa for being there with an extra CD). This proved the better method of transferring images. Walk across the hall.

PHOTOSHOP

Looked at Mac. Looked at CD. Looked back at Mac. Poked Mac in several places in lame attempt to open CD drive. Silly PC user. Expecting a visible CD drive and OPEN/CLOSE button marked as such. Ludicrous.
Found open button (on the keyboard of all places!) and loaded CD. Opened Photoshop. Opened Images from CD into Photoshop. Marvelled at slow pace. Marvelled as the image opened, and was black and purple rather than original colours white and blue. Assumed this was normal. Played around with several applications in lame attempt to revert colours to their natural state. Wasted time. Spoke to Mira and discovered this "colour changing thing" was abnormal. Gave up on Macs (maybe forever).

Went to sister's house and used PC with Photoshop. All was well. Sized picture appropriately with little effort. Even had time and patience to play around with layers. Saved document.

FTP

Opened up document explaining how ALCOR account works. Was thoroughly confused (lack of Mac, abundance of Mac-related instructions). Downloaded something called PuTTY. Wondered what, exactly, SSH meant. Enrolled help of sister's techie roommate. Techie roommate became thoroughly confused. Gave up on ALCOR, SSH, and PuTTY. Got free webspace at www.geocities.com. Uploaded image to web in mere minutes. Was pleased with user-friendly web-making. Was still bitter with ALCOR. Am still bitter with ALCOR.

CREATIVE PROCESS

Will desist Bridget Jones-like narration now in lieu of flowing prose. My creativity on this project was limited due to my limited knowledge of the medium, and my realization that content was less important. However, I did attempt to put some thought into the images I chose to represent myself. The background is a study of a Lawren Harris (I really do like him) I did in oil-paints a little over a year ago. The negatives are from some photography I did in a class last year... chosen because they are portraits of many of my closest friends, and because I developed the film myself and am rather proud of it. Then there is the green shamrock necklace my best friend gave me for Christmas a while ago. I just think it is pretty. I also scanned my headphones, my saviors.

This project was a good introduction to a medium I have never explored. I can see good things ahead. And I enjoy telegramese. Will continue to explore pros and cons of said writing style.

2/04/2004

Not class related.... but they put the code right up there on the page, I couldn't resist! 

Being sucked dry by leeches isn't so bad.
You will be sucked dry by a leech. I'd stay away
from swimming holes, and stick to good old
cement. Even if it does hurt like hell when
your toe scrapes the bottom.


What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

2/02/2004

Video Game Misrepresentations 

Nina Huntemann's documentary Game Over: Gender, Race and Violence in Video Games is, as the name suggests, a look at the problematic representations of race and sexuality within violent video games. By now, most of us have heard these issues before. In such an imperfect world as the one we live in, almost nothing escapes the critique and finger pointing of a culture looking for someone (or something) to blame for its flaws. ("Surely the Columbine shooters must have played video games and listened to death metal", etc, etc.) But, as was pointed out by a few individuals in the film, video games and the technology they spawn from are not inherently evil. So have they become increasingly gory and violent because somewhere down the line that's what the consumers, in this case usually young men, have asked for? An escapist, fantasy world in which they are aggressive, hypermasculin beings who have total control over their environment, including the women who inhabit it? Perhaps.

Now I don't mean to be a stick-in-the-mud and I'm certainly not saying we should burn every game in sight (heck, they're kind of fun). But I do think that the producers of these games have a responsibility to move away from their representations of women as mere sexual objects and towards a more fair and accurate portrayal of empowered females. And I'm not talking about Lara Croft, either. That's hardly an improvement.


However, what I found even more offensive than the representation of women within the video games themselves, since those are obviously not real , was the objectification of women in the video game ads. Girls tied to beds and standing around in bikinis? Give me a break. Talk about alienating any female gamers who might have been interested in the game otherwise. Apparently 35% of video game players are now women and I'm sure that number would be a lot higher if their were some strong, independent and healthily proportioned female characters out there.

But what I find most frustrating is that, during our discussion after the film, while most of the girls in class said they didn't agree with the gender stereotypes being presented in the video games in question, no one was particularly outraged or even all that offended. We've gotten so used to it that it just seems normal. We're comfortable with our place in society and don't feel oppressed or objectified in real life, so we've given up on fighting for the same equality within media representation. But why should we have one standard for reality and another, more lenient one for representations? If a young boy is playing x number of video games a day in which all he sees are scantily clad women, then seeing similar images in ads around the city and on tv and in mainstream films and just about anywhere you look, isn't that eventually going to ad up and affect his views of women in real life? I would think so. As one man said in the documentary, there is no clearly defined switch from reality to fiction and I would tend to agree.

my digital darkside 

When I have a paper due or an upcoming examination I like to play Dopewars. For those of you unenlightened to the wonderful world of Dopewars.... It is a game you can download for free off of the web. The object of the game is to buy and sell drugs in cities all over the world without getting caught by a loan-shark or the police. The graphics are limited .... It is the buy-low-sell-high concept that really gets to me. I love finding dirt cheap heroin in one city and making a 400% profit selling it somewhere else... It's like slumming for stockbrokers.

So let's talk about this in the context of today's Digital Media class. The video 'Gender Race and Violence in Videogames' brought up the issues implied by the title. And it was interesting.... But I've heard that stuff before. "Women are objectified.... or in the case of female characters like Lara Croft, misrepresented by large breasts and tiny waists" Fine. But honestly, is there any person (save professional athletes) who feels correctly represented by videogames? Big muscles and killer instincts? Not so much. I don't know anyone who plays videogames because they feel like they can relate to Duke Nukem or James Bond.... Maybe they wish they did..... Or maybe it is just an escape....

My relationship with Dopewars extends purely from procrastination. And that's all. If you know me at all, it is blatantly obvious that I am not a drug dealer... Shucks, I don't even do drugs. But that doesn't mean I'm not interested in the grimy underbelly I'll (probably) never be part of. And I know it isn't real. But it sure is a good waste of time and I don't read much more into it than that.

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