Category Archives: Science

Gnome dock with physics engine


Akamaru is a simple, but fun, physics engine prototype. It is amazing to use, and easy to install. One more reason to forget Windows Vista, embrace Open Source, and use Ubuntu or Fedora.

akamaru.png

The dock at the moment kinda works just like the MacOSX dock at the bottom of the screen, and tests the functionality of the Akamaru physics engine nicely.

This looks really great, adds some nice eye candy to the Linux desktop.

Usability: The Heuristic Evaluation


Any web developers, programmers, engineers, anybody who has some experience in working on the design phase of the user interface of a website or software application im sure will be fairly familiar with the concepts of a usability study, more specifically a heuristic evaluation.

I am in my final year of my Computer Science degree and have conducted many tests and usability studies and evaluations of many software products (including my own) and websites for my own purposes or for assessments at uni.

usability.jpgJakob Nielson developed a set of guidelines or principles in which to follow when assessing the usability of an interface, regardless of platform, physical appearance, etc. “They are called “heuristics” because they are more in the nature of rules of thumb than specific usability guidelines” (J. Nielson).

Not many people will be familiar at all with Jakob Nielson unless you’re a computer science major or IT professional in some manner, but he is a big part of the usability community developing many techniques and writing many documents on effective testing and studying of how people use interfaces both electronic and non-electronic mediums.

Below is a list of Nielson’s 10 Heuristic evaluators and their definitions:

Visibility of system status
The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
Match between system and the real world
The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
User control and freedom
Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.
Consistency and standards
Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.
Error prevention
Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
Recognition rather than recall
Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.
Flexibility and efficiency of use
Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.
Aesthetic and minimalist design
Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.
Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
Help and documentation
Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

Source: Heuristics for User Interface Design – Jakob Nielson (useit.com)

Evaluating the design of user interfaces is a very important step in the overall design phase of any software product and in larger development studios and companies this isn’t so much of a problem becuase of their very professional way of doing things, but many single bodied programmers/developers or smaller independant houses may very well benefit from incorporating as much time into the actual usability of their product as the functionality itself.

These ten heuristics have helped me evaluate my own software and make it as good as it can be. If you yourself aren’t a professional programmer or still a student such as I am but haven’t taken user interface design as a subject (I did, loved it) then have a quick read through and check out useit.com which is Jakob Neilson’s website. Lots of good information on there.

Canned Oxygen the next Bottled Water?


The emergence of another possible billion dollar business, based on bottling and selling a free, natural commodity. Bottled water has become a $9 billion dollar industry in the US alone, and distributors look to repeat this success with canned, flavoured oxygen.

If you are one of those people who practically live off energy drinks and sports drinks such as gatorade (myself included) this could be the next product to keep you alert and feeling like a million bucks. Sure, the whole concept of bottling air sounds a little ridiculous, but read through the article, the author does make a great argument. I can see how something like this could appeal to the public, just as bottled water did.

The very idea of having oxygen bars in the future is such a funny thought, but I can see its broad marketing appeal. This is such an interesting concept, be sure to check out the link below to read the entire article.

read more | digg story

New HIV Vaccine Trial To Begin Soon


The first two doses contain fragments of HIV DNA, which prime the patient's immune response system. The second two doses contain an altered poxvirus designed to boost the immune system.

It worked in rhesus macaques, protecting 22 of 23 vaccinated monkeys from AIDS for more than 3 1/2 years.

This is actually really amazing. HIV/AIDS is one of the most highly rampant diseases of the world, especially in many African nations where proper health care is very hard to come by. I remember reading stats of like 1 in every 4 people in Africa have the disease, not to mention countless others spread across the entire world.

With new technology and new research projects on the cure for this disease, im sure that we are as close to a cure as we've ever been before. This new HIV vaccine trial to begin soon is by no means a 'cure' but it a giant step towards it. Check out the link below to read the article, its an interesting read and hopefully leads to bigger things in the search for a cure for HIV AIDS.

read more | digg story