Web Design – The First 100 Years

July 22nd, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

Maciej Ceglowski on the current state of the web

The other part of our exponential hangover is how we build our businesses. The cult of growth denies the idea that you can build anything useful or helpful unless you’re prepared to bring it to so-called “Internet scale”. There’s no point in opening a lemonade stand unless you’re prepared to take on PepsiCo.

I always thought that things should go the other way. Once you remove the barriers of distance, there’s room for all sorts of crazy niche products to find a little market online. People can eke out a living that would not be possible in the physical world. Venture capital has its place, as a useful way to fund long-shot projects, but not everything fits in that mold.

I really want to build something that doesn’t require broad addoption to be successful.

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Box from Bot & Dolly

March 2nd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

This incredible art installation was created using a couple of industrial robots, high quality projectors and very clever 3D modeling. What is perhaps more interesting is what they did not use however. There is no green screen and no special effects were added after it was filmed; it was captured entirely in camera. The creators would prefer that people see it in person but in the interest of allowing a greater number of people to experience their art they created this short film.

From the video description:

Box explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera.

If you were as intrigued by this as me then you should certainly check out the behind-the-scenes video where they show off some of the technology they used.

The modeling software, Maya, even allowed them to control the movement of the robots that control the canvases. Like tool paths in a CNC milling machine but instead of milling aluminum they are creating art.

(via Alexis Madrigal’s excellent Real Future newsletter)

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Docker and the search for the Holy Grail

December 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Ben Thompson has an interesting article about the open source project Docker.

The implications of this are far-reaching: not only do containers make it easier to manage the lifecycle of an application, they also (theoretically) commoditize cloud services through the age-old hope of “write once run anywhere.” More importantly, at least for now, docker containers offer the potential of being far more efficient than virtual machines.

I’ve always considered “write once run anywhere” to be the holy grail of software development. Yeah, it would be pretty awesome to live forever, the only problem is that it’s a myth. There is something different about Docker though that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s the use of one my favorite inventions of the 20th century, the shipping container.

It doesn’t matter what is inside of a shipping container; the container itself will fit on any ship, truck, or crane in the world. Similarly, it doesn’t matter what app (and associated files, frameworks, dependencies, etc.) is inside of a docker container; the container will run on any Linux distribution and, more importantly, just about every cloud provider including AWS, Azure, Google Apps, Rackspace, etc.

I also like the logo.

But perhaps it’s the business model that intrigues me the most .

Docker takes the GitHub model a step further: the company controls everything from the open source project itself to the value-added software (DockerHub) built on top of that, and, just last week, announced a monetization model that is very similar to GitHub’s enterprise offering. Presuming Docker continues its present momentum and finds success with this enterprise offering, they have the potential to be a fully integrated open source software company: project, value-added software, and monetization all rolled into one.

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Fertile Ground

June 12th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Marco Arment thinks iOS 7 is the most disruptive thing to come to the platform since the launch of the app store.

I don’t think most developers of mature, non-trivial apps are going to have an easy time migrating them well to iOS 7. Even if they overcome the technical barriers, the resulting apps just won’t look and feel right. They won’t fool anyone.

This is great news.

Apple has set fire to iOS. Everything’s in flux. Those with the least to lose have the most to gain, because this fall, hundreds of millions of people will start demanding apps for a platform with thousands of old, stale players and not many new, nimble alternatives.

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Facebook Home and the trap of perfect data

May 14th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Marco Arment on the disconnect between the photos in the Facebook Home demos and reality1.

Facebook Home was flat-out badly designed: it’s designed for optimal input and failed to consider real-world usage.

Chat Heads

The two fundamentally flawed assumptions that Facebook made in designing their app was that a) people have recognizable profile pictures and b) people post great pictures that I want to see on my lock screen. If I was using Facebook Home to chat with friends half of their icons be of babies and the other half would be pink equal signs2. Great for representing solidarity with gay marriage, terrible for representing whom I’m chatting with. Also, their pictures suck.

Which brings us to this fantastic advice from Lukas Mathis.

Don’t use placeholder data when designing. Get as much real-life data generated by real human beings as possible and design for that. If you don’t, you’re in for a surprise.

  1. Mediocre pictures on the lock screen, chat heads that rarely work and esoteric settings. []
  2. Caution: hyperbole []
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An entire dev environment inside HTML5’s Canvas

February 1st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve always considered the dream of cross-platform applications to be the holy grail of software development. A cool idea but also, you know, a myth. I have to say, though, that this demo video of a game mod tool built with the canvas element of HTML5 is really impressive. The video is a bit long and poorly shot but it’s worth watching in its entirety. Obviously it’s still in an alpha stage and we have to see how it pans out but so far it looks like a pretty brilliant implementation.

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Strip out HTML tags

November 7th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve struggled for some time to find a satisfactory method for stripping large amounts of HTML from a text file and I’m happy to say I have found the perfect solution. I used VIM and a regular expression, neither of which are intended for children, to strip thousands of tags from a 1.2 MB file in less than 3 seconds. Without further ado here is the VIM command:

:0,$s/<\_.\{-1,\}>//g

It’s a bit intimidating to the uninitiated so here is step by step process.

  1. Download and install VIM
  2. Open VIM and then open the file you want to edit
  3. Copy the following to your clipboard (same as above but without the colon):
    0,$s/<\_.\{-1,\}>//g
  4. Go back to VIM and use the keyboard to type a colon (:). This puts VIM into execute mode and you will see your cursor blinking in the lower left corner
  5. Paste what you copied above. You may need to use shift+insert (fn+apple+v on mac)
  6. Hit enter
  7. Pick up jaw from floor
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Coding Horror: New Programming Jargon

July 20th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

There are so many great terms here and I really want to bring some of them into my lexicon. Particularly:

8. Heisenbug:

A computer bug that disappears or alters its characteristics when an attempt is made to study it.

I hate those kind of bugs and it’s going to make me feel better having a name for it.

14. Baklava Code

Code with too many layers.

Baklava is a delicious pastry made with many paper-thin layers of phyllo dough. While thin layers are fine for a pastry, thin software layers don’t add much value, especially when you have many such layers piled on each other. Each layer has to be pushed onto your mental stack as you dive into the code. Furthermore, the layers of phyllo dough are permeable, allowing the honey to soak through. But software abstractions are best when they don’t leak. When you pile layer on top of layer in software, the layers are bound to leak.

.NET anyone?

23. Rubber Ducking

Sometimes, you just have to talk a problem out. I used to go to my boss and talk about something and he’d listen and then I’d just answer my own question and walk out without him saying a thing. I read about someone that put a rubber duck on their monitor so they could talk to it, so rubberducking is talking your way through a problem.

I have done this many, many times. Am I right Jesse?

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Coding Horror: The PHP Singularity

June 29th, 2012 § 1 comment § permalink

Therefore, I’d like to submit a humble suggestion to my fellow programmers. The next time you feel the urge to write Yet Another Epic Critique of PHP, consider that:

  1. We get it already. PHP is horrible, but it’s used everywhere. Guess what? It was just as horrible in 2008. And 2005. And 2002. There’s a pattern here, but it’s subtle. You have to look very closely to see it. On second thought, never mind. You’re probably not smart enough to figure it out.
  2. The best way to combat something as pervasively and institutionally awful as PHP is not to point out all its (many, many, many) faults, but to build compelling alternatives and make sure these alternatives are equally pervasive, as easy to set up and use as possible.

Amen.

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Making your website Retina Display ready

June 28th, 2012 § 7 comments § permalink

My favorite part of the flowchart:

Is it a Gif? –> Is it animated? –> Convert to PNG

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