Archived entries for Gadgets

Receipts via Email from Wells Fargo ATMs

A couple months ago, Wells Fargo ATMs added the ability to have a receipt emailed to you instead of printed out on the spot. The present a menu screen where you can choose to view the receipt on the screen, print it out, send it to your Wells inbox, or have it emailed to your personally email address on record.

I get an outsized amount of enjoyment from this simple little feature. Part of me wonders why it hasn’t been such before — it’s so simple! Another part of me enjoys the physical convenience — no paper, no trash. And part of me gets a silly little feeling of cleverness — that we /are/ actually living in the future.

In general I hate Wells Fargo because they continually charge me extra hidden fees and make me jump through silly hoops repeatedly even though I’m a long time customer holding, I believe, nine different accounts with them (our TIC/condo group in part of that).

But while the bank may such (don’t they all?), their ATMs are cool. (For those interested in UX and Interface design, Pentagram studios did the redesign and Physical Interface has the story / case study.) In addition to the emailed receipts, I like that

  • the screen options are personalized with your most common transactions (how much to withdraw; from which account; receipt preference);
  • you can deposit checks without an envelope, and print a receipt with a scanned image of the check;
  • and that you can buy postage stamps.

Anyways, I write this because I’m up early on a Saturday morning waiting on a phone call to come in. Uggh. Scanning Techmeme while I wait and this post reminded me about the WF feature and that many other hadn’t seen it (apparently only testing in Northern California and Colorado)…. So there you go…back to my coffee…

Wireframing with Balsamiq Mockups

Thanks to Pras for the pointer to Balsamiq’s Mockups application. I was sketching wireframes quickly within minutes of finding the product.

I believe in low-fidelity sketching at the wireframe stage. Balsamiq makes it easy with its large library of UI control stencils, its auto-complete driven keybroad stencil selection, on-screen snap-to alignment guides, a powerful inspector for precise control when rarely needed, and, more of all, a simplicity that makes it easy to start sketching or tweaking your mockup immediately.

The output is Balsamiq files, PGN or flattened image files, and XML. Because it exports XML it’s possible to use Balsamiq as a programmatic ingredient for downstream engineering systems and tools (such as partially automating the creation of detailed functional specifications, or using it as source for the automated building on the actual interface.

There is a rumor that they’ll be announcing clickable output files shortly, which might allow for the fast creation of clickable wireframes for usability testing (and other) needs.

I haven’t noticed, but it should be possible to customize what’s in the included UI Widget Library to a) take on a different visual skin; b) reflect new or fewer interface widget options.

All and all, I’m pretty intrigued. It seems there’s a market for consumer-friendly ways to design interfaces. Once more people catch on how to much fun we’re having, they’ll want a shot at designing and realizing all the apps they’re dreaming up, too!

I’d love to hear what you think of this approach. Have you tried it? Does it work for your teams”

Balsamiq Mockups For Desktop - * New Mockup

Songbird Public Beta (0.7)

Congrats to my buddies (yo Koshi!) over at Songbird for reaching another big milestone: public beta.

Songbird is a media player like iTunes. Except that it’s build on top of the awesome Mozilla Firefox foundation. And like Firefox, it has an extensive array of extensions, themes, and assorted addons. Earlier versions haven’t supplanted iTunes for me, but it’s looking like this version may well do that.

I had some trouble imagining what type of addons would make sense, but in this release we’re beginning to see. An early favorite for me is the ticketing integration:

Songbird%20Blog%20%C2%BB%20Play%20music.%20Play%20the%20Web.

You can read all about the release on their blog, download it here, and see a screenshot below:

Songbird

iPhone Volume Too Low, with Partial Fix

I don’t remember noticing this issue in the first several months of owning an iPhone, but lately it seems that the volume is way too low. Even when I max the volume many songs and podcasts are difficult to hear well. I suspected the ear buds were at fault, but lately I’ve been thinking that it might be software. I played around a bit and found that going into Settings > iPod on the iPhone and setting Sound Check to Off (and disabling Volume Limit for good measure) makes things louder.

I’m still not thrilled with the ear buds, and am shopping for new ones, but the software fix was a big help.

YSlow, a Web Performance Plugin for Firebug, Release by Yahoo!

I let the cat out of the bag about the forthcoming YSlow plugin for Firebug during my @media presentation (High Performance Web Sites) last month. But the wait is finally over and I’m happy to let you know that Steve Souders, Yahoo!’s Chief Performance Yahoo! (and the guy who’s data I used in my presentation), made the announcement during his session at OSCon yesterday.

YSlow has three main views: Performance, Stats, and Components. Performance view scores the page against each performance rule, generates an overall YSlow grade for the page, and lists specific recommendations for making the page faster. Stats view summarizes the total page weight, cookie size, and HTTP request count. Components view lists each component (image, stylesheet, script, Flash object, etc.) in the page along with HTTP information relevant to page load times. It also contains several tools including [Douglas Crockford's] JSLint.

Give YSlow a try, your users will thank you. And for more about performance, check out the Exceptional Performance section on the Yahoo! Developer Network.

It’s Finally Here: Wireless Electricity

I’ve been dreaming about a future where wireless devices were free from their last tether — the power cord/charger — and it seems the day is finally here!

For years, electricity experts said this kind of thing couldn’t be done. “If you had asked me seven months ago if this was possible, I would have said, ‘Are you dreaming? Have you been smoking something?’” says Govi Rao, vice president and general manager of solid-state lighting at Philips. “But to see it work is just amazing. It could revolutionize what we know about power.”

The range is about three feet, with radio waves being converted to DC current by a small receiver embedded in the device. Price point seems to be about five bucks, which means it’s viable everywhere. The idea of having your ipod, camera, and phone charge while you’re sitting at your desk — with them still in your pocket — is pretty cool. A wireless mouse that never needs to dock is attractive too. It’s low-power stuff for now — including pacemakers — but as with all technology i’m sure it will improve and expand.

Here’s the article Death of the cell phone charger from Business 2.0 magazine.



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