Archive for July 2005

The Tyranny of Validation

Alex Russell's well-written reality check for XHTML validatorians.

Cameron on Mobile Rapid-Fire Reading

An interesting new technique for reading passages of text quickly on tiny screens.

Too Much Cream of Wheat?

Are there any Cream of Wheat aficionados in the audience? If so, can anyone tell me why my local supermarket gives me four choices for what should be one of the most basic foods on the shelf? See the picture below that I snapped yesterday. We apparently have a 10-Minute version, a 2.5-Minute version, a 1-Minute version, and an Instant version now:

I haven’t eaten Cream of Wheat since I still had my baby teeth, but is there really such a need for so many versions? I guess I understand the “10-Minute” and the “Instant” because usually food that takes longer to cook is better, but is there a palpable difference between the three quickest versions? And perhaps more importantly, if the stuff is to be eaten hot, how much quicker could “Instant” really be than “1-Minute”? Who is the person who needs to shave a few seconds off of their one-minute breakfast drill?

A Look at Ambigrams

Ah, so that's what they are called. I've always loved these things.

I'm Not Ignoring You

Apologies for the generally worthless post, but I discovered the other day that I had inadvertently enabled a setting on my mail server which deleted all items from my inbox which were older than 30 days. There were probably 30 or 40 emails I still needed to return which are now gone forever. So if you wrote me something in the last few months and I haven’t responded to it yet, please write again!!! Especially if you’re the person who wrote in with those two really, really nice examples of sIFR-ized sites you’d designed or if you’re from that technical school in Seattle and wanted to say hi. Those are the two that I remembered clearly and tipped me off that something was wrong.

Anyway, that’s it. Sorry for the interruption.

P.S. Is anybody else as baffled as I am that after 10.4, 10.4.1, and now 10.4.2, Apple’s Mail program still takes 5-10 seconds to pull up a new mail window when you hit the “Reply” button? Is that really such a hard problem to fix?

P.P.S. Safari is also crashing on me about once a day now. Anybody else? Two years of virtually no crashes and now this? I think it’s a known issue with the newest Safari release but are we going backwards?

P.P.P.S. Anybody tried Vonage? Especially for a business? Any good?

Josh Williams Blinksale Interview

Josh explains some of the great thinking behind his new invoicing app Blinksale.

Major Tivo Withdrawals

Behold the intoxicating powers of HD

After switching from my beloved DirecTV w/ Tivo service to Comcast’s HD w/ DVR service a couple of weeks ago, I now understand why every household doesn’t have a DVR:

Because mainstream DVRs, in and of themselves, suuuuuuuck.

This new Comcast 6412 box in my living room is such a royal pain to use that I’ve begun watching less TV simply because I hate interacting with it so much. I pull up the channel guide and it shows me only six channels per screen. I hit rewind and the box doesn’t even acknowledge my keystroke for a couple of seconds. I look for the 30-second commercial skip button and there is none. The amount of annoyances this little box ships with is almost unbearable. It’s a high price to pay for recordable HDTV, and I will probably continue paying for it, but it sure does feel like almost every other piece of Microsoft technology I’ve ever used: just good enough to tolerate and just bad enough to piss me off at every turn. If it weren’t for the fact that I can record Anna Kournikova in high definition and transfer the footage to my Mac for viewing over and over and over again (see actual screen capture above), this thing would be on the first van back to Philadelphia, or Redmond, or whatever heathen land from whence it came.

Following is a comparison of my DirecTivo service and my Comcast HD service –

  DirecTivo Comcast 6412 HD PVR
Local, Recordable High Definition Channels No ★ Yes
Hardware Footprint Big ugly dish on deck, receiver in living room ★ Receiver in living room
Easy to Transfer Video to Mac No ★ Yes
Interface Makes Me Want To… ★ Hug my TV Never watch TV again
30-second Commercial Skip ★ Yes No
Channel Guide ★ Useful, efficient Wasteful, maddening
Responsiveness ★ Great Awful
RW/FF Snapback ★ Yes No
Recordings Begin and End On-Time ★ Yes No
Remote Easily Controls A/V System Volume ★ Yes No
Channel Volume ★ Normalized All over the map
Standard Definition Channel Quality ★ Digital, very good Analog, borderline unwatchable

I have decided to tolerate this Comcast box with Microsoft interface until a more Tivo-like product is available, but I’m definitely not happy about it. I also worry about DirecTV’s impending HD push because they’re offering their own box instead of a Tivo-powered one. That Tivo isn’t just owning every living room in America right now is a sad, sad tragedy. Here’s a message to Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Microsoft and any other company trying to control my living room:

Make it harder for me to watch TV and I’ll watch less TV. Make it easier and I’ll watch more.

The World of Poker Blogging

A look into the growing poker blogging scene and how profitable it may or may not be.

Photoshop CS2's New Smart Objects

A great video tutorial about using some of Photoshop's new smart features to ease your workflow.

Make Your Site Mobile-Friendly in Two Minutes

After checking out B. Adam Howell’s excellent IYHY.com site a couple of weeks ago, I thought it might be a good idea to write a little tutorial about how to make your entire site more mobile-friendly without even touching your pages. You may think that since you write valid code and separate structure from presentation at all times, your site already works great on mobile devices. You may also think bad things don’t happen to good people. In both cases, you’d be wrong.

The fact of the matter is that the state of HTML rendering in the wireless world is all over the map right now. Some browsers, like Pocket Internet Explorer, are actually pretty good at parsing through standard web pages. Others can scarcely handle layout rules at all. And still worse are the mobile browsers that load all CSS and javascript files, attempt to use them, and screw up the experience even more in the process.

What’s really needed until HTML/CSS/JS support is improved in mobile devices is a little server-side filtering. By pulling out everything a mobile device can possibly choke on before it even gets to the mobile device, we can create a mobile version of our site which is not only viewable on more devices but is much quicker to download as well.

And you know what? The mobile version of your site is probably going to be much easier on screenreaders too.

Four easy steps

Outlined below are the four steps to get this done in a matter of minutes, provided you are in an Apache environment and can run PHP. If you’re not, these steps can easily be adaptable to other technologies.
→ Read the rest of this entry

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Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away:

A great essay about how toxic everyday distractions can be.

Humanity's deep future:

A group of researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute talk about where our race may be going and how artificial intelligence could save or kill us all.

Steve Jobs speaks about the future at the International Design Conference in 1983:

31 years later, it’s safe to say this is one of the most prescient speeches about technology ever delivered. Jobs covers wireless networking, tablets, Google StreetView, Siri, and the App Store (among other things) many years before their proliferation. A fantastic listen.

How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.