Get your beer out of the way of your TV!

It's football season, and that means beer and TV. Unfortunately, you never know what amazing play you'll miss during those few seconds when your glass blocks your view, so you'd better play it safe with the TV Beer Mug. Of course it's ridiculous and you shouldn't buy it (what else would you expect from a site called Perpetual Kid?), but it's still clever enough for a laugh. Cheers!
[via Gizmodo]

Irregular Mr Potato Head fights food waste

Fruits and vegetables often sell based on aesthetic appearance, leaving strange-looking but otherwise fine produce to go unsold. This is a part of the food waste problem, my favorite explanation of which (as usual) comes from John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. Unlikely hero Hasbro has stepped in with an asymmetric version of the classic Mr Potato Head, in a bid to win hearts and minds toward produce with a little wabi-sabi. I'm all for it, and believe that it's possible to appreciate aesthetic beauty where it's appropriate, but be wise enough to set it aside when it's not.
[via Gizmodo]

Swipe the spacebar to move the cursor

Mobile devices have limited touchscreen space, so many interface elements do double duty (or triple, or more): the same button reacts differently when tapped, swiped, long-pressed, or hard-pressed. The trouble is that many of these aren't intuitive: you won't find them unless you're told about them. And so, with a useful feature like Google Keyboard's spacebar which can be swiped for cursor movement, it comes as an "oooh!" moment when someone reveals it. (Just look at the elated comments on that post - and these are tech-savvy people!) The feature is mentioned in the brief novella that is the app description, but who actually reads those? And who knows what other gems might be hiding there...?
[via Lifehacker]

Design & engineering during an active shooting...

In a recent active-shooter crisis at UCLA, many students found themselves in rooms without door locks. It's a grim and terrible situation, but one that can still benefit from quick design and engineering. Pranasha Shrestha shows one example of the lengths some went to keep the doors closed - copied above, complete with hashtags - and Gizmodo cataloged many more. Locks are basic tools, whose presence or absence can be used for good or bad; the ability to improvise a change to the lock situation can be, literally, a lifesaver.

Beer Trough Picnic Table: Impractically Fantastic

I know it's impractical: tough to fill, quick to melt, hogging precious table real estate, and more. But damned if it isn't gorgeously inviting, like a cornucopia of booze right there for the taking! You don't even have to stand up to get a new drink! Sometimes maybe the un-usability of a product (or DIY project, as most of these seem to be) is justified by a fleeting moment of sweet, satisfying perfection. Now let me grab another beer out of that trough.
[via Core77]

The Ugliest Color (and a good use for it)

Want to make cigarettes as unappealing as possible? You can put warnings on the box, show photos of smoke-ravaged lungs and other organs - and you can find the ugliest color in the world and swaddle the packaging in that, too. Market research firm Gfk Bluemoon determined that Pantone 448C, delightfully named "Opaque Couche," was deemed least attractive in a poll of over a thousand smokers. It's now on duty in Australia, UK, France, and Ireland, making cigarettes look just as repulsive as they are.
[via Core77 & The Evening Standard]

Visual Voicemail on Android: An Unfulfilled Promise

Another reason I'm relieved to be going back from Android to iPhone: Visual Voicemail on Android hasn't worked out. It was a truly innovative part of the original iPhone, forced by Apple on carriers as a condition for carrying the must-have handset (and removing a sneaky profit-making annoyance in the process). As Apple tends to do, it took full control of the feature and implemented it with high quality.
Android is different, with the vision that "carriers are free to implement their own vision of Visual Voicemail!" But with nobody enforcing it, the task was met with near-apathy by carriers who know the feature isn't central to their profits. And so we have the sad, half-baked abomination that is AT&T Visual Voicemail, guilty of the following sins:

  • The phone will double-notify of voicemails: once with a prompt to dial the non-visual voicemail number (what am I, a caveman?), and once much later to notify that the visual version is available. Separate apps, of course.
  • For a loooong time, the app didn't use the proximity sensor to turn off the touchscreen when listening to a message without headphones or speakerphone. My ear usually triggered the notification shade and pressed god-knows-what buttons up there.
  • The current version of the app doesn't keep the screen alive while playing back a message over headphones or speakerphone. So the phone falls asleep halfway into playing the message - which also causes the audio to stop (unlike most audio-playing apps). I have to wake the damn phone up and press "play" again to resume the message.
Bugs are bugs, and the first issue may be more related to insufficient integration at the OS level. But the prox-sensor and stay-awake behavior are basic, easy design issues that shouldn't have made it past a single design review - if there ever was one. So in this case, it'll be a relief to go back to an ecosystem overseen by a zealous tyrant obsessed with user experience - it's better than a wild-west where nobody's motivated to offer something competent.