How to get video out of your iPod

Apple AV Cable

Having a blog with a bit of readers is a wonderful thing. You can post articles about stuff that makes you angry. And then realize that you are completely wrong!

Have a look at the comments. Thanks, Magnus and Tor Erik.

Apple should still consider their strategy concerning FairPlay and a couple of other things. Regarding their AV cable they did the right thing.

The original post:
Apple is a company that makes wonderful software and hardware. Still, sometimes they do their best to make their products difficult to use and annoying for the consumer.

The connector on top of the new video iPod can also be used to deliver video to a television set. Video cameras and other equipment use standard AV cables to deliver stereo sound and composite video out of a mini jack like the one on top of your iPod.

However, Apple has decided to make it difficult for their users by making the connector on top of the iPod non standard. They say that you have to buy Apple’s own cable if you want to connect your iPod to a television set.

For starters, that’s a lie. You can buy a standard AV cable. You just have to connect it in a very stupid and non logic way. Someone at some point made some thinking and managed to make some kind of standard out of the typical RCA connectors you use for audio and video. White and red for left and right audio. Yellow for video. Great.

If you buy a standard AV cable for your iPod you have to connect it like this:
* Plug the red RCA plug into your TV’s yellow RCA jack
* Plug the yellow RCA plug into your TV’s white RCA jack
* Plug the white RCA plug into your TV’s red RCA jack

Detailed description here.

How stupid is that? Yes I know, Apple think they’re going to rule the world and get stinking rich by selling the special AV cable where the connectors have been messed up to match the iPod.

Well, this is amazingly stupid thinking:
1. It gives great room for confusion
2. It is a classic example of bad usability
3. Last but not least:
Apple, please start trusting yourself. I bought your expensive and special cable. Not because I was unable to connect the red to the yellow, using a cheap standard cable. I knew that already. I did it because Apple’s original cable is one of the best built, wonderfully designed and sexy AV cables ever made. I would buy another one for my video camera as well if it had been built using the standards.

The reason why I bought this cable is the exact same as the reason for buying an iPod in the first place. It is more expensive than the competitors, but it is also better built, in a league of its own when it comes to looks and in general a pleasure to use.

This is a tiny issue and not a very important example on its own. Still it illustrates an unintelligent strategy from Apple.

Apple, I love your products. Now please, open your FairPlay DRM. Open the Firmware in the iPod. Open your Front Row Experience for third party content providers…

How to get video out of your iPod

US dollars and usability


The American dollar is one of the best known currencies in the world and probably the closest you can get to some kind of universal method of payment.

When travelling I would of course always recommend to use local currencies. Anything else would usually be very expensive and sometimes it could be considered directly offensive. Still, when travelling on remote places I always carry some dollars. It’s not the cheapest way to get around, but if your backpack and your passport and your camera and your wallet has just been stolen and the only thing you need is to get to a big city and an embassy, the 100 dollars you have hidden under your belt will usually do the trick. It doesn’t even have to be that dramatic. Some dollar bills has helped me out of simple conflicts on small islands in Indonesia and in the jungle in Malaysia. As mentioned, local currencies help, but when travelling through many countries it’s nice to have something that might work in all of them.

Anyway, I find it strange that this very commonly used currency has such a horribly bad usability:

1. All the bills are the same size
2. All the bills are the same colour

How does blind people pay with dollar bills? I found this solution on

Dollar bills

Coins such as nickels, pennies, dimes, and quarters are easy to tell apart. They all are different sizes, and quarters and dimes have ridges around them, while pennies and nickels are smooth. There are many ways that paper money-like one, five, ten, or twenty dollar bills-can be identified. Some blind people like to keep different bills in separate places in their wallets, especially if it is a larger bill that they perhaps do not often carry with them. The most common way to tell paper money apart is to fold the bills in different ways. Each person will have his or her own way of folding them; there is no standard for everyone. Maybe a five dollar bill is folded in half the long way, and a ten dollar bill is folded in half the short way. Or maybe the ten is folded twice. A one dollar bill might be folded one way or not folded at all. Or maybe a twenty dollar bill is folded in fourths or not at all. Everyone uses his or her own methods. When we get money back from someone else, we ask which bill is which and then fold it.

What’s wrong with different sizes on the different bills?

I have spent my fair amount of time in the US and at some point on each trip I am about to pay with the wrong bill. Something like a 10 dollar instead of a 1 or the other way around. Or even worse, 50 instead of 5… It’s dark, you have been drinking, you’re in a pub. You start paying 10 dollars for each beer. If you’re in Norway that’s perfectly normal, but not in a cheap bar in Las Vegas… (Yes, in hip clubs in Oslo a beer sets you back about 10 dollars, but that’s another story).

What’s wrong with different colours on the different bills?

Beats me. I know that a country’s currency is an important part of the culture. And in the US maybe more than in any other country. Is that the reason why it is impossible to change the dollar bills into something more user friendly?

US dollars and usability

Bad usability – Nokia Memory card

I was presenting at the stage in the picture last week (no, it’s not me in the picture). During my presentation I have a part about usability, and I could not help mentioning the picture of a horrible example of bad usability hanging behind me. A picture of a Nokia 6630 with a hand that is about to insert a memory card. Marked in red in the picture.


Looking at the closeup, someone could think that the photographer snapped the picture at the wrong moment. The memory card has its back facing towards the user. It should be like the next picture in this post.

The same situation. Looks OK, the front of a phone, the front of a memory card, and a slot on the side of the phone where you are supposed to insert the card. But, no. This is the wrong way to do it. The photographer is not stupid, you are supposed to insert the card with the back facing towards yourself. Why on earth would they put the card reader into the phone that way?

The correct way to insert a memory card in a Nokia 6630 is how it is illustrated in this picture. Because I am interested in technology on a level that is above average people tend to ask me when they have questions. Lately I have had quite a bit of questions regarding the Nokia 6630 and Nokia 6680. Questions regarding music, pictures, podcasts and navigation software on the memory card. I have tried to observe closely, and not one of the persons have tried to insert the card in the correct way on the first try.

Simply because the correct way to insert the card is what most sane people would think of as the wrong way.

And, as a finishing note:
If you insert the card the wrong way, it will lock itself into the slot and you would have to use some kind of tool to get it out. When you get it out you have to insert it the wrong way once more to release the slot and then insert it the right way.

Nokia – why?

Related post: An example of good and bad usability design

Bad usability – Nokia Memory card

An example of good and bad usability design

After travelling between Oslo and Stockholm several times I started making note of an interesting example of good and bad usability.

When you arrive at the platform where you wait for the airport express train in Oslo you meet the following board:

It clearly states that the next train will leave at 17:45

And, I ask you: is this really the information you want?

If you say “yes, of course I want to know when the train leaves when I am at the station“. Think again.

I don’t think so. This is what you do:
You look at the sign:
Okay, the train leaves at 17:45…

Then you find the nearest watch:
…right, it’s now 17:39..

Then you do some calculations:
…let me see.. the train will leave in 6 minutes… okay, I have time for a coffee!

Is this good usability design? Is this following basic rules like “give the user the right information”, “make it fast and simple for the user to find the answer”?

So, what you want to know when you are at the station is how many minutes you have before the train leaves.

When you plan your trip the day before is something else. At that point you want to know at what time the different trains leave. But, at the station you want to know how many minutes will I have to wait?

An interface that consist of one single line of information and they got it wrong. Usability design is hard.

So, arriving at Stockholm Airport Arlanda I go for the Airport Express train, and meet this sign:

Arlanda 2 minutes left
Yepp, the Swedes got it right…

Continue reading “An example of good and bad usability design”

An example of good and bad usability design