Matt Gemmell is an iOS and Mac software developer focused on user experience. He writes about software interfaces and usability on his blog and for newspapers and industry magazines. He speaks at conferences worldwide, and his clients include Apple and other Fortune 500 companies. He’s @mattgemmell on Twitter and mattgemmell on App.Net, these are his good things.
Good things to read.
The Unconsoled, by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a unique novel, nominally about a pianist who arrives in a European city to perform a concert, which plays with the reader’s expectations as to narrative cohesion. It’s a book written in the manner of a dream, with all of the corresponding spatial, temporal and narrative malleability, and is well worth at least attempting to read.
Universal Principles of Design, by Lidwell et al. This is an accessible (and beautifully produced and printed) book covering many facets of design: visual, behavioural, cognitive and emotional. It’s easy to dip into, and its many very brief chapters are both concise and informative. It’s one of my favourite books on design.
Design Patterns, by Gamma et al. This books talks about design in the software architecture sense, presenting classic patterns for control flow, abstraction, delegation and more. Some of the names may be different from those you’re used to from your own development platform, but any programmer will gain a great deal of insight from this clear, rational treatment.
Good things to watch.
The Good Wife. My own wife introduced me to this show. It’s a legal/political drama, with a strong and nuanced female lead character and an impressive ensemble cast. Julianna Margulies manages to portray both capability and vulnerability without sacrificing either, and the storylines are extremely contemporary – often touching on the travails of large tech companies and the legal issues surrounding information ubiquity and privacy.
Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. This is a magnificent British dark comedy series, which presents itself as if it’s a rediscovered lost classic from the 1980s. The titular character is a self-possessed, arrogant, insecure and casually sexist pulp horror fiction author, and Darkplace was supposedly the low-budget TV adaption of some of his work, also starring himself and his friends. There are only 6 episodes, but the attention to detail and satire-upon-pastiche nature of the show make it instantly comfortable.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. A timely choice, given this year’s release of the second reimagined Star Trek movies. Khan is not only easily in the top two Trek movies (and indeed I’d put it in the top spot, above First Contact), but it’s also perhaps the pinnacle of the tight, tense and claustrophobic sub-genre of space battles. It manages to deal with ageing, family, love, friendship, death and vengeance, with a truly epic Horner score and one of the most satisfying cat-and-mouse space battles I’ve ever seen. The crew are extremely comfortable in their roles without the premise feeling fatigued, and there are moments of surprising emotion. Khan remains one of my favourite movies of all time, sci-fi or otherwise.
Good things to use.
xScope, by The Iconfactory. xScope is a fantastic tool for designers, whether your work is destined for the web, apps, or something else. It incorporates several very clever tools, including on-screen frames for various devices and screen-sizes, automatic edge-finding measurement tools, colour pickers with colour-blindness simulation, global guides, and the ability to mirror your designs on iOS devices. It should be part of any designer’s or developer’s toolkit.
Staedtler Pigment Liner Fineliner pens. These are my favourite pens (often for use in my beloved Moleskine squared-paper large softcover notebooks). I use then for writing notes and for UI sketches, and I like to keep a range of nib sizes: 0.5mm down to 0.05mm. The ink flows smoothly and is pleasantly dark without requiring pressure, and there’s no scratchiness. You can also get them in a range of colours if you wish, but I find that the plain black pigment liners suit me perfectly.
Mu folding UK plug. In the UK, we have large three-pronged moulded power plugs which, whilst very safe, are bulky to transport (commonly creating a bump in your messenger bag, or even gradually fraying the fabric from inside). The Mu plug fixes that by offering a UK plug (mains to USB) that folds flat for transport. When folded out for use, it’s very robust and can be readily inserted into and removed from even the stiffest power socket, and it folds flat again in seconds. It’s not cheap, but it’s well worth buying for either British people travelling, or those visiting the UK.