Ideas I should have patented…

I have noticed that I have had some pretty good ideas growing up. Unfortunately, I neglected to ever actually pursue these ideas, thinking myself either incapable of completing or engineering these ideas, or because I simply forgot. Without Further ado, I give you the things I should have patented:

1. The scroll-ball

In the nineties, I got my first mouse with a scroll wheel. Such a novelty! So convenient for surfing the net, and equally great for working in Photoshop! Not long after having one, I thought it would be super to combine that technology with the already popular trackball, and make a super mouse that could scroll both up and down as well as left and right. Well, I never did anything with that idea, and 6 years later apple released the “Mighty Mouse.” I got my wish (but no cash… Bummer).

2. The touch-mouse

Once the “Mighty Mouse” (Now just Apple Mouse) was invented, I thought about how it was able to sense that fingers are present in either the left or right positions, thus knowing when to right versus left click. I found out that the principle of finger detection is the same technology they use for track pads on notebooks. I thought to myself that having a track pad on the top of the mouse instead of the scroll ball would be way cooler. There would be no ball to clean, etc. Well, Apple did finally do that too when they created the “Magic Mouse.” It also has multitouch capabilities as an added bonus!

3. No-Glasses 3-D Screen

Remember those cool pictures that moved when you changed the relative viewing angle? (lenticular animation) Well, that is because there are 2 or 3 images split up into vertical line segments, and spread across the whole area of the image with a prismatic lens on top which allows only one set of vertical lines to be seen at a time. Well, this seemed like a perfect technology to combine with the high-pitched LCDs. If 2 images (stereoscopic) were positioned in vertical lines and placed behind this same type of prismatic lens so that the left eye and right eye will only see isolated images, the effect of 3D would be produced. Well, I didn’t jump on this idea, and now it’s been patented and even demonstrated. This example is not exactly the same, but it uses the same principle involving a lenticular sheet, and augments it with 16 projectors.

4. The Digital Rubick’s Cube

Back in the day when I first learned to solve a Rubick’s Cube, I thought to myself that it would be quite convenient to have a a digital one capable of shuffling itself or solving itself. Well, many years later such a thing was created. It’s called the “Rubik’s Touchcube.” To bad I never saw it through to actually creating it. I must say however that mine would have been cooler…

I’m sure there are more, but this is good for now.

Crowd Control

You know what really just bugs me?! A lot of things. It’s true. I’m easily annoyed. However, in this particular case, I am speaking of overly excited supporters of varying sport oriented teams and players. Yes. Those “fans” as we call them. They annoy me. They make sporting events nearly un-enjoyable, as they are constantly yelling things out.

Many of the things they yell are not constructive. Lets be honest. The athletes are professionals. They practice for hours a day, and get paid a lot. (Probably more then I’ll ever see in my lifetime…) Do you really think little Mr. sports fan’s advice to fake left is really going to make them win the championship game? No. Little Mr. Sports fan is just trying to look cool by “knowing” what he is talking about… It might even make him feel like he’s part of the team. In either event, it’s a selfish thing to do, and benefits no-one. Please don’t do that.

This brings me to the next point; The anger and competition that so often goes along with team sports’ spectators. So often people will root for their team and shun the other, even ridicule them and their fans. And for what? When the team wins, all of the respective fans celebrate as though they have accomplished some great feat! It’s really amazing that they were able to sit on those stands for a whole hour and watch professional athletes work very hard. Those spectators really earned that victory and the bragging rights to go with it. No.

Even the really notable feats of athletic ability are lost by competitive fan bases. A person rooting for one team is not inclined to acknowledge the accomplishments of athletes from the opposing team. I think that a lot of sports (thinking to the Olympics) were to showcase the physical abilities of athletes and teams. By so single-sightedly focusing on and rooting for one team, a lot of the admiration for perseverance and ability is lost, in my opinion. The team you may not be rooting for can be good, and can be respected and acknowledged by you. Is this not so?

So, this is why I don’t like watching sports. Honestly. It’s annoying. Thanks for listening to my rant.


I have always had a battle between Firefox and Safari. Ask anyone who knows me. About every month I switch from one to the other. I love the usability, look, and interface of Safari. It’s clean, uncluttered, and simple. It appeals to my Apple-lover side too. Firefox though is much faster, and seemingly more multi-threaded. Often in Safari, I find myself unable to use other tabs because one page is loading (and taking its sweet time) rendering the entire browser unusable. I never have this problem with Firefox. It is so stable and so fast, but I do find the interface to be somewhat cluttered and lacking in niceties. I decided to compile a list of the tweaks that I find make Firefox usable.

    About:Config tweaks

  • browser.urlbar.autoFill;True
    This allows for the address bar to auto-complete, enabling the user to press enter for a given URL without having to type the whole thing, or down-arrow in order to select the URL guess.

  • extensions.checkCompatibility;false
    This setting allows the user to utilize add-ons which may not be compatible with the currently installed copy of firefox.

  • browser.tabs.closeButtons;3
    This places a single close button for your tabs at the right. I’m not sure if I like it better than having close buttons on each tab, but I do like knowing where to find it each time I’m looking for it.

  • Adblock Plus
    Most people are already aware of this add-on. It blocks advertisements on websites. I hate visiting a website and having the whole thing cluttered with ads.

  • Flashblock
    Similar to adblock, Flashblock replaces flash elements with a play button. This gets rid of annoying auto playing music and flash elements that can be so annoying.

  • Stop-or-Reload
    This is just a simple UI tweak which makes the stop and reload buttons function as in Safari where the buttons are combined, thus if the page is loading, a stop button is displayed, and if it is loaded, then the reload button is displayed. It makes for a less cluttered UI, and I just like it.

  • Fission
    Fission merges the progress bar with the address bar, like Safari. This is once again an aesthetic tweak. I don’t like having the progress bar at the bottom of the window where my attention is usually not. In the address bar, it is more prominent and in my opinion less cluttered. PS: I like putting this picture as the background of the progress bar.

Wait… Didn’t I see this movie before?

I was watching Galaxy Quest at work the other day, and I asked myself, “Wait a minute, haven’t I seen this movie before?” The next day I was watching ¡Three Amigos!, (again at work), and made the connection that somehow the very same plot traversed space and time to create two seemingly different movies as far as location and period, but both stuck to essentially the same storyline and motivation of characters.

Don’t believe me? Look at this. So, here is the basic plot:

  • Out of work actors are in need of a job or gigs
  • A helpless society finds recordings of their shows
  • The society calls for the actors mistaking them for real heroes
  • The actors mistake the invitation for help for a gig
  • The actors realize that they are in a real situation, and not a show
  • The actors suffer an initial defeat against the antagonist
  • The actors toughen up, and combat
  • Tactics are used from their prior shows/movies
  • The actors and helpless society pull together and win
  • Everyone is happy! The actors become better people

Anyways, I thought this was interesting. I must confess that I like both of these movies a lot, and this connection doesn’t effect that at all. It was just something interesting to be noted…

Instant Gratification

Each day our world is more and more enamored with the thought of having something for nothing, and fast! The marketing that we and even more so our children grow up with is meant to convince their audience that they need a product, and even that they can’t live without it! This could affect the rising generation, if we aren’t careful, by rendering them more self centered and self serving in their actions because of the need they feel to have their every whim gratified.

All technologies are showing this need for instant gratification. Tivos allow TV to be made around our schedule, and not the other way around. Internet makes listening to that music you want possible without even so much as driving to the local music store. Email allows a letter to travel around the world in a few seconds. Facebook lets people know what others are doing without even talking to them.

Throughout the ages, this is what drove technological advancement; the desire to sell products to more people. This wasn’t really possible back in the days of artisans and craftsman. Every product was one of a kind, and only the nobles could afford such luxury. As the industrial revolution occurred, and mass production of products began to be commonplace, prices were able to drop to a point that most if not all could partake. There is nothing wrong with this, or anything wrong with wanting to buy products that make our lives easier or just for fun. But I think it is getting to a point where people let it consume them, and it becomes a lust that is ever-present in their thoughts. They want the newest car, the newest computer, the biggest house, etc. People don’t want to wait to enjoy these things, and are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get it now, such as going into debt.

Even the food industry shows the signs of a people who don’t want to wait. Fast food has made the ritual of eating less about the experience, and more about the getting the food you want so fast that you don’t have to leave your car, and with as little human interaction as possible. I personally hate drive-throughs. I would much rather any day actually see a person face to face and talk to them.

I wish we as a society could enjoy the wait. I wish we would slow down our lives a little and enjoy each other instead of trying to one-up each other at all costs. Life is too short as it is. I don’t want to be too concerned with gratifying all of my material desires that I let life pass me by. It’s hard though. I must admit that I too have succumbed to the desire for instant gratification. I find that I often covet the newest and greatest technologies that I just can’t afford. But maybe that’s just human nature. Who knows?

Multi Touch

Everyday I read something on a blog, like Engadget, about multi-touch. People are so excited about it as if it’s going to be the wave of the future. I don’t doubt that in a few years computers will all ship with a multi-touch capable displays, however, I don’t believe that it will revolutionize the way we create user input…

For myself, I’m not too keen on the idea of raising my arms at eye level in order to do simple tasks. My main computer is a desktop computer. I think that the mouse is a more effective, or at least in this case, the more efficient method of user input. I think a tablet PC is probably the more effective device for multi-touch implementation.

Another concern I have is the cleanliness factor. I spas-out when people touch my display. I don’t like smudges and fingerprints, so, why am I going to want to touch my display multiple times at a time every day? It means I’m going to have to clean my display with windex every time I use my computer. (I’m a little obsessive compulsive…) This really isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but it would bother me to some degree.

In all those demos, they have at least one example with the pictures that you can resize with 2 fingers. Every time I see that part of the demo, my enthusiasm for multi-touch goes down because that just doesn’t seem to be a productive way to organize, or even show off photos, but it rather just a fancy way of showing off the capabilities of multi-touch. As stated before, I’m OCD and want my photos nicely aligned to a grid with some sort of hierarchical organization. This isn’t a problem with multi-touch by any means, it’s just for me an ineffective way of convincing me that multi-touch will revolutionize the way I use my computer.

I do have to admit, multi-touch looks really cool, and I love seeing those demos. They make me excited and make me want to try it out. I just don’t see it becoming the main method for user input (at least on desktop computers), but more as a fun novelty. On the iPhone and iPod touch though and similar devices, I find multi-touch to be a perfectly logical and efficient way to interface. Just my thoughts.


Opinions have such a powerful influence upon our actions and thoughts towards any subject we can possibly conceive. What is amazing is how quickly a person can form an opinion without any real knowledge on the subject. This may not seem significant, however that quickly-formed opinion can alter the decisions of that individual which can have a long term affect. The more I’ve thought about opinions, the more I’ve wanted to resist these quickly-formed opinions, and try to have an open mind until more knowledge is gained concerning the subject.

People seem to inherently want to know “what is truth.” When events occur that we do not understand immediately, or that we did not foresee, we ask “of what is this an instance?” Such a question is harmless, and may even spark research into the events causality. However, humans generally are cognitive misers and seek the path of least resistance. We want answers, and we want them now. Increasingly we expect answers at the click of a button, or at the search of Google. If we don’t get it, we make it up on Wikipedia. When answers are not clear, it is my belief that we gravitate to something or anything that has even the prospect of explaining the event’s purpose or causality. It’s as if humans love to be right, hate to be wrong, but just absolutely cannot stand being without an opinion. It’s as if we must belong to a school of thought, regardless of what it is, to avoid the dismal abyss that is neutral-ground. This insistence to claim what is right, even if we are wrong does not exist only at the individual level. In fact, it very-well may be a socially constructed phenomenon. Regardless of its origin, opinion-setting is commonplace. An example of opinion setting is found in contemporary American politics. Candidates can be Red, or they can be Blue, but shame on you if you are Purple. A candidate (or any “true” party member for that matter) must be committed to an ideology. Never mind what that is, just make sure you are committed. Because America will NOT accept the middle-ground. It’s a classic, “you’re either with us, or against us.” This example is not perfect, because good does come from a competitive election process, and my beef with opinions is not at all in advocacy of unaffiliated ignorance. To the contrary, I believe that opinions SHOULD be made, but not the way that they most commonly are made, and not with the binding and unyielding insistence that most of us ascribe to our opinions.

Many factors determine the opinions that a person makes. Social situations such as family, religion, income level, neighborhood, and education have great impact on what or how an individual thinks. As a person is raised, the thoughts and opinions of the parents expressed in everyday life are thrown upon a child who is very impressionable. Children, being so trusting, are quick to adopt the ideals thoughts and opinions of their parents. Granted that not in every case this is true, but in many nurturing homes the apple does not fall far from the tree.

The real problem is that no opinions are right or wrong once you go outside of the scope of the person whose opinion it is. An opinion can be proven through experimentation or trial and error to become a fact, or truth. This of course depends on the type of opinion. In such cases, it might be better to classify them as hypotheses rather than opinions. In any case, at such a point, it ceases to be an opinion and become a fact.

People with their opinions are so quick to berate those with whom their opinions clash. I find that some people defend their own opinions (even those quickly-formed without any real research) to the point of ridiculing and mocking others. Why are some people prone to do that? Are they searching for self-validation in the destroying of other’s self-confidence? Perhaps they are trying to convince themselves of their surety by taking such an aggressive stance. In any case, it is rude and prevents the possible growth that can be gained by listening to other’s opinions in order to understand why they think or believe a certain way. In some cases a truly opened mind may be changed by such an action. I find myself very interested in understanding what people think and I feel that I have grown and understand people better in general. It’s very interesting and enlightening. It’s interesting to see the correlations in opinions on different subjects between people of different races or religions. It’s like a sociological experiment.

I suppose that my point in writing this is to show the value that I find in trying to understand people rather than to convince everyone that I am right about everything. Of course, that’s just my opinion…


It seems to me that humans don’t like to take responsibility for their actions. The main reason that I can see for this is that people don’t want to suffer any negative repercussions or punishments from not successfully accomplishing a task given to them. We are so afraid of looking bad to our peers and superiors, or even subordinates, that we tend to look for others to place the blame on, whether rightfully or not.

When a person is able to admit that he has made a mistake, I have to respect him because that shows that honesty and integrity have been made more important than one’s selfish inner desire to find a scape goat. The ability to accept one’s consequences rather than scurry to find a way out of a mistake should be more admired in our society. It is something I find more and more rare. Every day it seems that some corporate big-shot is trying to cover a paper-trail so he doesn’t get indicted…

I recently read an article about the impact of doctors saying, “I’m sorry” to patients. By being upfront with the patients, and admitting guilt as it were by apologizing patients were less likely to prosecute, less malpractice suits were filed, and more money was saved rather than spent in legal battles. I was thinking about it, and thought back to my previous thoughts on taking responsibility for one’s actions and/or mistakes.

I was discussing this topic with my friend Joe Johnson who pointed out that Adam, when asked what he had done blamed the woman who had given it to him. Eve, when asked what she had done, blamed the wily serpent. When it came to the serpent, he said, in effect, that everyone else was doing it, so therefore it was ok. The inability to accept responsibility seems to be universal, and to have existed since the dawn of time.

In any event, I think the most admired people in our society haven’t been the ones pointing fingers, but the ones who have accepted responsibility for their actions, and who have endeavored to learn from their mistakes and become better people.

KOHL’S Customer Service

I must say, a tip of the hat to Kohl’s customer service is deserved. Last september I purchased 2 pairs of jeans from Kohl’s. Both were Lee jeans of similar style, but differing color. 8 months later, I was dismayed to find that one pair had grown a large hole whilst the other appeared to look new. I don’t do a lot of strenuous labor, and was therefore surprised to find such wear on a product. I decided to take it to Kohl’s and see if there was anything they could do. I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that both representatives I talked to were more than happy to allow me to exchange the pants out with new ones at no charge. I must say that I was not expecting such service.Although I was really expecting to shell out more money for a new pair of pants, this is the type of service we should expect. They have succeeded in acquiring a repeat customer. Thanks!

Mac vs. Windows…

My university recently had an entire newspaper dedicated to the “battle” between Macs and PCs. I must say that I had some qualms with a few of their points, as-well with the overall message that the newspaper delivered. I was going to write a letter to the editor and explain how I felt, however, the time has passed, therefore I shall write about it here.

One recent “study” that PC users are all too eager to talk about is that of a personality profiling of Mac users the shows that they are “more liberal, less modest, and more assured of their own superiority than the population at large.” In addition, the “survey” indicates that Apple users have high indexes for “low modesty,” “high perfectionism,” and “high superiority,” and low indexes for things like “humility,” and “self esteem.” What they forget to mention is where this sample of 7,500 individuals was collected. All of these individuals were tested at the Macworld San Francisco Expo. May I remind people that the tickets to that event can run about as much as $1600.00 (or more), more than my MacBook costs. So, what does that tell us about the people in attendance? I think we can safely say that not all Mac users can be put into the same category as those who were profiled! I certainly couldn’t fit in. I can’t afford to go!

Another aspect of these articles presented in my school’s newspaper that didn’t agree with me was that of their choice of selection of interviewees for the Macintosh platform. Back in the MacOS 7 days the Macintosh community had a smaller market share and there were fewer Mac Users. This created a feeling of unity and brotherhood amongst those few who owned and loved their Macs. Whenever one Mac user would meet another, an instant friendship became. With the ever-growing popularity of the Macintosh platform, this feeling of brotherhood has slowly disintegrated. Having a Mac now-a-days is practically a fad or trendy. Many of the users aren’t hard-core but rather buy them because “they’re pretty,” or “my daddy bought it for me…” These types of people were interviewed and asked why they preferred Macs. No intelligible answers were made. Surprise.

For myself, there are several reasons that the Macintosh platform appeals to me. For starters is the lifetime of the products. I have several computer that are quite old that continue to work. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t upgraded in order to have a newer machine, however my first G4, which was purchased in 2001 (used) is still capable of running the most current OS, Leopard. It’s quite snappy too. Apple is known for supporting products for a minimum of 5 years, which is more than the average person would use a computer without upgrading.

Apple continues support for legacy products for a long time, creating smooth transitions. When Apple was about to make the jump from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X, the thought of losing all of my current applications made me uneasy, however Apple kindly created a method of keeping legacy applications running through a layer of emulation called “Classic.” This classic support lasted for 7 years through OS X Tiger. Apple also recently made the transition from Motorola based CPUs to Intel. This change in architecture required the recompiling of applications and also numerous tweaks for existing applications to work. Once again Apple provided a layer of emulation called “Rosetta” which enabled applications compiled for Motorola processors to continue to work. This seamless integration allowed for smooth transitions. I never had any hiccups along the way.

Another reason I like to use Apple’s systems is that the hardware and software is designed by the same company. The hardware never has driver issues. All the drivers are built into the system and maintained by Apple, and updated whenever needed. There is just one DVD to install the system. Nothing beyond that initial installation is required to gain full access to the computers capabilities. Many printer drivers are already supplied. Both of my HP printers plugged in and printed without installation of any kind. It’s this integration that appeals so much to me.

Another reason I like the Mac OS is the organization of files (especially system files). Apple has a very clean way of placing files in places that make sense. Nothing hidden or tricky. It’s just all there. Applications are contained in files called packages which are just containers with all the unsightly extra files inside like support files etc. Nothing bugs me more than installing a program and having 20 files that they don’t want me to touch along side with my application that I want. I think this organization has made for a better looking more straightforward interface.

Lastly, I very much like the way Apple allows for multi-tasking. I like that windows don’t automatically take up the whole screen, that it is easy to switch between applications with features like exposé and spaces, and that items in the dock give a graphical preview, (which is live I might add), of the programs running. Obviously Vista now has many of these features, but I like and am used to Apples implementation, which I have been enjoying for many years.

My last point I’d like to touch on is rather the question, “why must these operating systems be put to battle?” I mean honestly, is one better than the other? The answer cannot be made clean cut and dry. It all boils down to one’s opinion. As for myself, I prefer the Macintosh philosophy in organization and presentation as I have previously discussed. It better suites me, and the things for which I like to use a computer. I like running Adobe software, and doing those creative things that Macs are known for. I don’t however look down on or hate people who find PCs to be the more productive machines for what they like to do. I don’t know why people always pit their opinions against each other. It just seems so childish to me. I do like to joke with friends about getting Macs or what-not, but in all reality they know, or at least I hope the know, that their personal choice for computing platform doesn’t change my opinion or friendship with them.

© 2007-2015 Michael Caldwell