Skip navigation

BK-CS5-80-blogkpr.jpg

Hi everyone.

I’m no longer writing on b(log)kpr. (This blog).
But, do not fret, I’ve just moved over to → bartkowalski.com. Same stuff, just more prettier. And we like prettier.

Why don’t you join me?

Latte-Art-Feather.jpg

So, I’m getting closer, no?

…with the sound of dragonflies, swallows, swans, bumble bees, storks, frogs, beetles, ducks, foxes, and of course us on our bicycles.

Today we went for a 25km ride through the most beautiful countryside I think I’ll ever see. Between the towns of Mikołayki and Łuknajno is a lake which is home to wild swans. The bike ride curcumvents the lake and completes an exquisite visual, aural, and smell-ual frolick through sandy country roads, which eventually lead back into town.

I must upload some video and photos upon my return so you can get some idea of the serenity. Currently, I only have an accidental pic taken while fumbling with recording some video on my iPhizzle. Hope this is ok.

Post ride, we’re sitting on our balcony, watching the yachts go by, eating brie and sausage, drinking G and Ts, and vodka and grapefruit juice. Worse places to be.

(Speaking of which, a trip to the local supermarket got us the following for about AU$21: bag of pretzels, 250g of Brie, two medium-sized sausages, two blocks of chocolate (cadbury-sized), a 2L bottle of tonic, a 1.5L bottle of mineral water, and a 350ml bottle of Gin. True story.

So, not long after we left the mountainous region of Zakopane, I decided I’d play a bingo-esque game of find-the-woodland-critter.

Now that we’ve left the Zakopane region, spent a few days in Warsaw, and now a couple days in Białowieża, I’ve checked many, but not all, things of my list of things to spy in Poland:

Hare
Fox
Woodpecker
– Bear
– Beaver
Squirrel
Wolf (In nature reserve — Thank god)
– Man/woman chopping firewood
Deer
– Hearing an Owl
Bison
Eating snow
– Drink from 3 running rivers (only got 2, but we’re going to Mikołajki [lakes district] tomorrow, so I expect to have this one too)

Bonus points:
seeing an Owl
UPDATE 1 – A woodland creature capturing another for dinner (so, a week ago we saw a bird pulling a worm out of the ground and fly away with it. It was pretty cool, but we decided that this didn’t quite qualify as a point on the list. Yesterday, however, we saw a small black and grey bird killing a smaller black and brown one. Seriously. It was standing on and pecking at the other bird hard with its beak, while the smaller bird was thrashing about (presumably) in agony. It stopped for a few seconds, and the smaller bird tried to get up and hobble away, but then it jumped back on top and kept pecking. Not a constant stab, stab, stab, but rather a stab — look at the bird and consider if another peck was needed — then stab again. It was rather exciting, if not a bit morbid to watch. Now, I have no idea whether the larger bird intended to have the smaller for ‘dinner’, but I think I can cross this one off for the sheer spirit of the act.)
10 pierogi for under 10zł (In Kraków)

I don’t think we’ll get them all, but so far I’m pretty content.

Bust. It’s been constantly raining in Kraków since wee arrived. Constantly. Today we decided to brave the weather and make the trek out to see and experience Auschwitz and Birkenau. Yesterday, we spent the morning having brekkie, and drinking espresso martinis before midday. Then we spent the afternoon watching The Wire in the apartment. (We did actually go out to see a documentary on Helmet Newton as part of the Kraków photo month, but we got soaked doing it).

So after grabbing a few bits from the bakery we headed out to catch the bus to Oświecięn. The hour and a half bus ride took closer to two and half hours due to the rain. Along the way, we could see evidence of many smaller rivers and creeks with broken banks. But this didn’t bother us.

…until we finally arrived, and learned all the camps and even the museum were closed due to flooding. After some deliberation decision was made to simply turn around and go back to town. Unfortunately, this decision was made by many others. When the minibus arrived to pick us up, we had standing room only.

The trip back was long not only ‘cos we were on our feet, but also the crowded nature of the minibus brought on mind motion sickness. It was NOT a pleasant trip back. In fact, it was a waste of a day. It was still raining. The reports on the radio have talked about evacuations of a couple town that lie on the Wisła river. Kraków lies on the Wisła, but were safe so far. The river did look extremely full and fast-flowing when we saw it last night. Floods. Jesus.

On the flip side, we had pierogi for lunch. Win, but the only one today.

KLDW2010-keyring.jpg

Last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I attended three days of design conferences as part of KLDW2010.

The three conference days consisted of:

  1. Typo-graphics
  2. Creative Magazine Symposium
  3. Ani/Motion

With many more design-related exhibitions running throughout KL (One of which I still need to attend tonight!).

I won’t give you a blow-by-blow ‘cos that’d be boring. And, if you did want a blow-by-blow, you should’ve been there yourself. No, what I’ll give you is a brief overview of what I thought of the conferences as a whole.

Overall?

I’d give the conferences a 7/10. I’ve never been to a bunch of conferences stuck together like this before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was a little let down with the organisation — we ran late on all three days — but I understand this is what conferences are like. I’m not saying it’d be easy to organise either, especially for a city that only beginning to put itself on the map as a hub of design.

So, my overall thoughts are the speakers were very good, the organisation was ok, the rule of no food or drink in the room were balls-face. ^ hours a day in a room, and you can’t bring in some water?! WTF, mate? I did, as did a few others.

Speakers

The host Graham Perkins (Twitter link) was good, providing entertaining discussion between speakers, as well as an impromptu hour-long presentation on the third day when a pair of Japanese presenters couldn’t make it. His work on Hail The Villain‘s film clip, and indeed on the concept of their 360º campaign, was pretty rad.

Other speaker highlights for me were:

Feng Zhu — A digital matte artist, and conceptual artist for such Hollywood productions as the latest Star Wars films, Transformers, and TMNT, as well as many A-level game productions. His talk was informative, and inspirational, which is exactly what you want from a speaker. It’s a shame he was on last on the third day, as I’m sure everyone would’ve loved to hear him talk more on his work and the industry in general. Unfortunately we were running over an hour late at this pint, so Mr. Zhu wasn’t able to participate in the round-table discussion at the end of the day.

Reza Abedini — A persian graphic designer and typographer. I w=have always been a fan of Mr. Abedini’s work even though I did not understand the language. It’s visually striking and bold. See some examples here.

I was very pleased to hear mr. Abedini talk about not only his craft, but also the history of Persian calligraphy, and the controversies surrounding the new wave of typographers in that part of the world. There’s evidently so much thought and mastery put into traditional Persian calligraphy, that there are still people professionally practising calligraphy to such an extent and expertise, that people see the words written by these masters almost as prayers in themselves.

Mr. Abedini also talked about the difference between ‘global and ‘international’ style of typography, and design taste, echoing sentiments I have exactly. Global being the loss or reduction of individual identity and culture, and international meaning culture acknowledged on a global stage, but retaining it’s individuality. This was a common discussion point throughout the three days.

Me & Mister Jones — A husband and wife team from Belgium. Their work was inspiring — especially the corporate stuff — with some great ideas and results.

Douglas Young — Founder of GOD (Goods of Desire) design stores in Hong Kong. His work with major brands to produce products and clothing with some humour and cheekiness really resonated with me. At first, I thought he would be presenting an hour-long advertisement for his stores, but that feeling was quickly replaced with enthusiasm for GOD’s work practices and overall light-heartedness. This talk was a surprise for me actually, I’m really glad I enjoyed it as much as I did. I wish I could read Chinese though, as many of the in-jokes were local. Must’ve been funny, ‘cos many were laughing.

Hideki Inaba — A Japanese typographer and artist. Like most Japanese, Mr. Inaba was humble and passionate about his work. He was quiet when he spoke (in Japanese with the aide of a translator) but he went quite deeply into his work. I get that a lot from Japanese artists and designers: they truly believe in what they are doing.

Patrick Burgoyne — An editor for Creative Review magazine. Mr. Burgoyne talked about the approaches of CR magazine, how their very English point-of-view was not a negative thing in the day and age of global design culture. He talked about the transition, or co-existence rather, of online vs print magazines. It was very informative and honest.

Andrew Byrom — A ‘typographer’ who constructs typefaces in three dimensions. This was another talk I thought would not be interesting — I mean, it’s a guy, who makes ‘type’ out of things — but while I didn’t particularly find his end results too inspiring, his thought process and the industrial designer approach was something I could relate to. Sitting and drawing for hours to not only make something work in 3D, but make it strong and balanced enough so it could stand on it’s own resonated with me. A very informative presentation on the inner-workings of a designer.

There were many other speakers which I enjoyed, but there were also a few who more or less just showcased their work. The work itself was very impressive (and in one case even exhausting) but I can look at these people’s work online in my own time. What I wanted out of them was why and how they approached something.

New contacts

I was the only Aussie in the room of about 200. On all three days. I knew this because after doing a whip around the room to acknowledge the Malaysian, Chinese, Singaporean, and even (a large and boisterous group of) Lebanese (women, one of which had the most fantastic eyes not seen in this photo [girl on the left]) the question was asked “Are there any other nationalities in the room?”. Of course, I stuck two sets of metal-horns in the air and yelled “Australian!” (I thin I may have also said “raaaawwwwk”, but I can’t be sure).

I think this incident helped me to meet some people. I made a few friends at KLDW, some dudes from DDB and The Distillery (M&C Saatchi), as well as Izu, the president of A&DAM, (Art & Design Alliance Malaysia). All nice people. In fact Izu welcomed me to Malaysia, telling me I’m now considered a Malaysian Designer. Neat. We talked for a while after the last day and I’m confident I’ll be involved in some local design events and exhibitions in the near future.

What next?

Well, I’m going to Poland for three weeks, leaving in just under five hours…

Really?

Yep. For a wedding. And a holiday.

But aren’t you kind of on a holiday now?

Well, not really. I’ve been working quite a bit since landing in KL. Working and setting up a life here has taken up much of my/our time. The good news is 90% of the set up have been done now — bank accounts, driver’s licences, internet (well, sort of internet) so when we return I’ll be a bit more focused.

But… what about us?

I realise this blog will be a bit quiet for a few weeks, but if you’ve just tuned in, it’ll be a good chance for you to read back and see what the hell this blog is all about. And if you’ve been with us from the beginning, well, you should probably get out more :P

I’ll no doubt be posting things to twitter for the next few weeks, so you can (request to) follow me there. If I deem you worthy, I’ll let you in to my private place.

No, not that private place. Jeez…

Latte-Shrimp.jpg

I’ve quite taken to making coffees with our Sunbeam coffee machine. Frothing the milk etc. I find it quite enjoyable and challenging. I have the grind and tamping down pat I think. The milk part is the most difficult, and I think it’s because of the milk here, not just my developing skills.

Most of the milk you buy from the supermarket says “Made from real milk”. Made from real milk. I think they use this so called ‘real’ milk and basically add sugar syrup to it. Everything in KL has sugar syrup.

Anyway, I’m having a hard time keeping the runny milk combined with the silky stuff. This makes pouring latte art difficult. After watching many a youtube video, I’ve been trying to produce a decent rosetta leaf:

meisters_latte.jpg

This is not mine (hah!) I wish… I’ve stolen borrowed this image from here for illustrative purposes.

I’ll keep trying to create my first rosetta leaf, but in the meantime, to make myself feel better, I’m approaching it from a different angle. Instead of trying to create something pre-planned, I’m letting all the cosmic energy flow through me, the steamer, and the milk, to produce a surprise every time!

Exciting, no?
The first iteration is a winged prawn. And a pretty damn accurate one at that. Stay tuned for more…

The grey rabbit seen in this video is named “Turkey”.

More news as it develops…

KLDW2010.jpg

I’ve bought the full ticket to all three conferences of KLDW2010 (Kuala Lumpur Design Week 2010). All of the exhibitions around the city are free, but the tickets allow me in to the three, day-long conferences at the KL Convention Centre.

I was tossing up whether to purchase tickets or not when I first heard of the festival, because I didn’t really know any of the speakers. But I changed my mind for four reasons (in order of importance):

  1. Reza Abedini is speaking! He is one of my favourite poster designers. I actually hadn’t thought about his work for a long time, but when I saw he was speaking at the Typo-graphics conference on Friday, I knew I had to get a ticket.
  2. I’m currently in desperate need of design inspiration.
  3. I’m hoping I’ll meet some new, like-minded people to become friends with. (That sounds a little scary. Like, stalker scary…)
  4. The third conference, Super Ani/Motion, is about CG animation. This is something I know nothing about at all. Sitting and listening to animation speakers from around the world talk about their craft will either a) go over my head, b) bore me, or c) teach me things I never knew about. Hopefully it’s ‘c’, and I learn a great deal about animation and what’s involved.

There’s at least two full days of exhibition-/installation-going to be had, with the first day spent as CapSquare. Unfortunately, many of these exhibitions weren’t fully set up yet, which was disappointing, and made me feel a little worried that KLDW will be kinda crap. Comments on the KLDW Facebook page agree with me about CapSquare, but I’m keeping positive that the other exhibitions, especially the one’s at the National Museum, are a hell of a lot better.

I’ll let y’all know how I go.

I’ll leave you with a few choice poster designs by Reza Abedini, which I’ve unashamedly stolen from his website:

Reza_004.jpg   Reza_017.jpg

Reza_018.jpg   Reza_057.jpg

In the second instalment of ‘Reviews’ blog posts, I’ll give you my take on the iPad, in the context of what I bought it for. (And a little bit about the general context). There’s a bit of a preface to this review, so if you happen to be looking for information specifically about the iPad as a digital photo frame, you can skip ahead.

Now, most people know me as a sort of a geek. I love computers (Macs), and I love the web (the web). I’m no stranger to gadgets, and I’m always interested in new technology — even if I don’t understand it. Technology appears to be moving ahead very quickly and I find this very exciting. As a graphic designer, I’ve become increasingly interested in UI (user interface) and UX (user experience). I feel more and more that these areas of design — and they most certainly are designed — are going to be the backbone of what makes a great website. More and more, websites are being created that do something. They provide services, whereas in years past they provided information. We use websites, where before we looked at them. Balls… I’ve started ranting again…

Back to the review.

When the iPad was announced (after literally years of speculation and rumour) I must admit I was underwhelmed. For two reasons:

  1. We had had two or three years of touch interface with the iPhone, and the iPad gave us nothing new here (I was personally hoping for a tactile feedback of some kind), and
  2. I couldn’t see how it met any of my needs as a computer user (read: I don’t have an excuse to buy one)

The answer to 1, well, we can only dream.
The answer to 2 however, is, it’s not meant to fit my needs. It’s meant to fit the needs of people who want less from their computers. I see it as a device for mums and dads who don’t need the computing power of a laptop, and don’t want to spend the money. Also, they don’t want the hassle of owning a fully-fledged computer. Even macs have their little issues — IT support for my parents can attest to that. No, the iPad is for people who want to join in on the social web, but without the hassles.

Or

…it’s for people who are after a kick-arse digital photo frame. Like me :)

So, last year, Kelly finally opened the Agfa digital photo frame we had been given a few years earlier as a Christmas present. It went unopened for so long because I thought digital photo frames were a joke, and a waste of electricity. How wrong I was! Once it had been set up, I was absolutely delighted at my enjoyment of seeing images that otherwise would have gone unseen.

You see, all of my images are taken digitally, filed digitally, and displayed digitally. You either need to visit my Flickr page to see image, or sit down at my computer to see them. Neither of these are convenient. Enter the digital photo frame. Now, images can be viewed all the time, while on the couch, or anytime you’re in the same room as the frame. And, obviously the images change, so you always have something new to look at. The most important benefit I think, is seeing images that you would otherwise need to make an effort to see, which usually meant they were not seen at all. In short, I love the concept of the digital photo frame. I recommend it 100%.

Now, really back to the review.


The review

I decided to write this review because I found it difficult finding detailed information about the iPad as a digital photo frame (DPF from now on). Many pages mentioned it has a photo frame option, but that’s about as far as they went. My reasoning for an iPad as DPF was the Agfa frame was too much of a pain to load images onto it, you couldn’t have more than one set of images (albums) playing together, and the sleep feature (where the frame switches on and off at certain times) would wake to the settings screen and not start the slideshow. That last reason really was the deal breaker.

So, armed with my aforemetioned love of gadgets, and my new legitimate purchasing excuse, I took the plunge. And, I must admit I am a little underwhelmed. I say a little, because there are good things and there are bad things.

The good things

The iPad actually has a photo frame option.
I mean, a specific photo frame option. Someone at Apple thought “Hey, maybe people will want to use this as a picture frame.” Apple have done this by the way of a little flower icon which appears on the lock screen (as long as you have photos on the device). Tap this icon and the iPad automatically goes into photo frame mode. This by passes the need to swipe to unlock, then navigate to the photo frame option or app. Nice thinking!

The looks.
Obviously, as it’s been designed by Apple, it truly looks beautiful. No logos anywhere on the front face (which other DPF makers do. Who the hell wants a logo on their photo frame?), and a slick black glass border, with a thin aluminium edge. Plain, but stylish.

The screen.
High res. Crisp. Clean. Sharp. Bright.

Syncing your photos.
The easiest way to get photos onto the iPad is to Sync with your iPhoto library via iTunes, as you would your iPhone. All your events and albums will come across. Obvious, but neat.

Apps.
There are a bunch of photo frame apps out there already. I haven’t tried them yet. Photo Frame for iPad is one I’m interested in. But I’m not sure the extra battery hit from WiFi will be worth it. Obviously, as it’s an iPad, you have the potential to use it for so much more than a photo frame. This is where the prospect of thousands of applications really shines. You’re really buying more than a photo frame here, but I digress.

The bad things

The photo frame option.
While it is a good idea to have a dedicated option to use your iPad as a photo frame, the settings are extremely limited. I won’t cover what’s already been covered about the settings themselves, suffice it to say you cannot change the length of time the images are displayed, and they are displayed for three seconds. Three seconds. Think about that in a real-world setting: you sit the frame down over there on the shelf. You glance over occasionally or you walk past, and you look at an image and think “Hey! That’s great I remember when we went to tha…” *Image changes*

Three seconds might be ok if you sit down with the iPad, hold it in your hands and click the photo frame icon, but for a frame that sits somewhere in your house, three seconds is waaaaay too short. Apple should have given us the option to change the length of time a photo is displayed. Simple as that.

You can get around this by using the photos app. It does negate the photo frame option, because you need to go into the app to launch it (many more taps), but the benefit is there are many more options available to display your photo, including setting the time for each photo. However, it only gives you five options: 2, 3, 5, 10, and 20 seconds. In my enthusiastic use of DPFs, I still think even 20 seconds is too short to display an image. I would think somewhere in the vicinity of 30–60 seconds would be good, but for me, even longer. I don’t want to it and watch my photo frame, I can do that on my computer, I want for it to display a photo that I can glance at, and ponder about for a while. You my disagree — different strokes and all that — but a setting to customise the length of the slide would accommodate all scenarios.

Stand (and position of dock charger).
I made a crude stand out of cardboard and gaffer tape. I did it because there wasn’t a stand supplied. Also I was eager to get the frame up and running. Sure, there are plenty of stands available already, and surely more to come, but I want something simple and unobtrusive. I especially don’t want a stand that comes around at the edges and ruins the beautiful glass/aluminium border.

In a landscape position, which is the position I assume you want your DPF to be, the dock connector is on the right (or left) edge. To plug the charging cable in is to have a white, albeit simple, bit of plastic sticking out the side of the frame. It’s a bit utilitarian. I realise the iPad as DPF is only a tiny bit of what the iPad can be used for, so the position of the dock connector is a small niggle. But as I’m reviewing the iPad as DPF, it needs to be mentioned.

Portrait images in landscape orientation.
One thing I think the Picture Frame option and photo app could do is fill the frame with portrait images. Currently, if you have a portrait image in your landscape oriented iPad it will show the whole image, with large black bars on the sides. Personally, I’d prefer the photo to fill the full screen, and crop the top and bottoms off. The picture frame option has a setting to ‘zoom in on faces’. This could be perfect for a portrait image in landscape mode. Focus on the face. But this is just me.

Battery life.
I’m running the frame without the charging cable attached. So far, I’ve got about 16 hours out of a full charge, with WiFi on (as a test), but push notifications and location settings off. The brightness set to about half way, and Auto-brightness on. This is not too bad I guess. I just plug it in over night if I need to.

Sleep mode.
Or, lack of one. I wish I could have the iPad wake and sleep at specified times. Cheaper, crappier photo frames can do this. In my opinion, it s one of the more important features of a digital photo frame. Who wants the thing to be running while you’re at work, or sleeping?

The screen.
I mentioned the screen earlier. It is crisp. It’s also completely reflective. Ultra-reflective even. This poses a problem if you happen to harbour dark images (like myself). Or if you place the iPad near a window. Be aware of this. You will get reflections. I’m sure it’s possible to get low-sheen plastic film, but it’s hard enough to install on an iPhone. I can’t imagine getting a perfect installation on a 9.7-inch screen.

Smudges.
This thing picks up smudges. It seems to do so more than an iPhone, although the iPhone is much smaller, and you’re more likely to wipe it clean more often. I guess if you’re only using it for a photo frame, this won’t be too much of an issue.

Price.
The iPad is more expensive than most, if not all, dedicated DPFs. It might be twice as much even. But, I think it has a fantastic screen, looks beautiful, and can be used for other things. This is what you’re paying for really, the other things.

If you’re using the iPad as a DPF primarily, you could save a bit of money as you probably don’t need to shell out for the larger storage capacities, and definitely not for the 3G version. I have the lowest storage option (and the cheapest) of 16GB, and WiFi only. I don’t think I’ll ever need more than, or even up to, 16GB of photo events on my DPF at any one time.

Conclusion

Putting aside the fact the iPad is a mobile computer first, digital photo frame maybe 30th, and thousands of other things in-between and beyond, I think the iPad is a great digital photo frame. Despite the cons outweighing the pros almost two-to-one when written out as a list, the end user experience — that is, glancing at or viewing (not watching) a frame sitting on a shelf or table — is simply superb. What it can do, it does well. And most of what it can’t could be fixed in software updates. If Apple could give us more iPhoto (on the Mac) options for the iPad photo app, like the ‘Ken Burns’ effect, and filling the frame, the iPad as DPF would be even better.

…But I wouldn’t hold my breath for that. It’s hard to miss the real appeal of the iPad, as an ultra-portable computer. The photo frame options are a nice add on. I’m hoping they’ll address these image display issues, but I can understand why they’d be low on the list of priorities.

I’d recommend the iPad as a digital photo frame, but not as your first DPF. I’d suggest getting something much cheaper if you’re not sure how much you’d enjoy a DPF. In saying that, if you purchase an iPad, and don’t like having a digital photo frame, you could always use it for something else.

Mini-review: iPad (as… well, an iPad)

As quick review of the iPad as mobile computer, I think it underwhelms as well. I find typing on it to be very difficult, not so much for the on-screen keyboard, but the angle it needs to be to type and view the screen. Coupled with the super-reflective screen, you don’t really have a choice of angles if you’re in a brightly lit room, or outside.

Using the web browser is also a bit tricky, and maybe only needs some getting used to. I find clicking on text links with my finger can be hit-and-miss, again not because of the iPad of software, but because my finger is much bigger than a mouse cursor.

I think touch technology still has a fair way to evolve. Or, maybe more to the point, the web needs to evolve to touch technology. Either way, currently, I’d still prefer to bring my MacBook along. And if you’re tempted to purchase an iPad because it’s new and shiny and exciting, try one out for 20 mins before you buy.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.