1 April 2006

@web@

Your April Fool’s Joke Sucks. Counter-example.

 

@computer@

Emo Programming. That’s just me!

 

@web@

Flickr caves in to blog pressure [via].

 

@apple@

Steve Jobs Fooled Us All.

 

@web@

New AdWords image sizes [via]. Actually, why not create an ad system that would serve pixel-ad banners? Not sure it wouldn’t work, at least for a moment.

4 April

@misc@

Am I disinterested with tech news lately or is it really a slow news week? Even Apple’s birthday hasn’t brought anything worth blogging.

 

@web@

Wait a second — Ajax doesn’t work anymore with an up-to-date Internet Explorer 6?! (It’s way down the page, at “Browser security constraints”, and don’t count on me to turn my PC on so I could check.)

 

@misc@

This Fujitsu UMPC concept is a pretty interesting take on the conundrum of fitting a keyboard into the tiniest computers. It’s not a technological breakthrough, but just good design that you’d like to hold in your hands. (But it’s not an Origami and doesn’t appear to have a touchscreen. So I figure it’s announced a year too late.)

5 April

@windows@

How I Work: Bill Gates

On my desk I have three screens, synchronized to form a single desktop. I can drag items from one screen to the next. Once you have that large display area, you’ll never go back, because it has a direct impact on productivity.

Yeah, I used to agree, but guess what: I switched from a triple-seventeen-inch PC setup to a single 20-inch iMac and haven’t looked back a single time. Not because the Mac is so good that it’s worth giving up two screens, but because the Mac is so good you don’t have to crowd your desk with monitors in order to be productive.

Seriously, three screens and all he uses is a mail client? That’s so… Windows.

We’re at the point now where the challenge isn’t how to communicate effectively with e-mail, it’s ensuring that you spend your time on the e-mail that matters most. I use tools like “in-box rules” and search folders to mark and group messages based on their content and importance.

It’s funny that way he phrases it like Outlook (he doesn’t name it here, but does later on) is so powerful when he just implied in the previous paragraph that the most important “tool” he “uses” actually is a personal assistant summarizing the thousands of emails he receives from people he hasn’t whitelisted. Yeah, everyone should have one of those.

The future of e-mail (or any other communication or collaboration system) shouldn’t ever be decided by someone who has an assistant. (And I’m not targeting Bill Gates in particular here.)

Outlook also has a little notification box that comes up in the lower right whenever a new e-mail comes in.

OMG that’s so cool!

Uh, sorry, couldn’t help myself.

(Okay, neither Growl nor Mail.appetizer are included with a default Mail.app install. But on the other hand creating an Applescript rule is trivial.)

@apple@

Apple’s April Fools is a few days late: Boot Camp Public Beta repartitions the hard drive without erasing data, burns Windows drivers on a CD, and allows a cute graphical dual-boot when you press Option. (And the final version will be included with OS X 10.5.)

To quote John Gruber: Holy shit. I had to hand-type the URL to verify that it really was on apple.com.

Word to the Wise: Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it’ll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world.

Wonder whether they deliberately waited until someone won the contest before they opened their beta.

 

Unless it actually is an April Fools that was discovered too late by the public?

6 April

@apple@

Shouldn’t it be (ultimately, if not immediately) possible to put OS X in deep sleep or whatever they call it when you switch to Windows, and hibernate Windows when you switch back? That would make the whole “dual-boot is so 1999” point pretty much moot. (Still not as simple as full virtualization, but orders of magnitude simpler than regular dual-boot.)

I can’t wait to see benchmarks, of games as well as applications. That’s gonna be fun. ([04/06] Cooooool. The Mac has really become the best computer in the world.)

 

To the army of pundits chanting that OS X is dead, again, but for real this time, once more, because developers won’t have any incentive to port their software to OS X any more: that’s Windows thinking and that’s cluelessness. That’s Windows thinking because you’re assuming that the reason people develop for OS X is that the Mac market is captive, and that Mac users don’t switch to Windows because they’ve invested too much money in their white novelty computers. Well, no they haven’t, that’s not the way it works on the Mac side of things, and no they’re not eagerly waiting to switch to Windows on their Mac. But how could analysts ever comprehend that there’s a qualitative difference between two OSes and you can choose to use one rather than the other based on personal preference?

OS X users are staying in OS X, and those (few) developers who wanted to reach them before will have to go on developing for OS X. And the others still won’t, and at least Mac owners will be able to use their software if they need to. And play games. It’s not like game developers were going to be convinced to work en masse on Mac ports of their games any time soon; they’re busy enough working for every different console there is. (Why don’t iMacs have a video input so you can play a console on its glorious screen, by the way?)

You can bet that everyone at Apple has been thinking long and hard to decide whether releasing Boot Camp was a good or a bad move. They’ve decided it was good, and they were right.

12 April

@web@

KittenAuth:

I for one have been waiting for a brilliant alternative to those annoying X6hyT8-style captchas that test how human you are. Sure, humans can read blurry, twisty letters, but do we really want to? No human, however, can resist a kitten photo.

Try for yourself: as a basic concept to replace captchas, it’s not as stupid as it sounds (although it requires javascript, and maybe 9x8x7 different values aren’t enough to be effective).

 

@tv@

I haven’t seen any speculation about this, but maybe I’m not reading the right blogs, as usual: is ABC preparing to show Lost and Desperate Housewives episodes for free on the web because Steve Jobs joined the Disney board, or despite that?

(Actually, come to think of it, hadn’t it been announced a while back already? Am I having déjà-vu, or is it making the headlines again for no particular reason?)

 

@computer@

It’s stupid enough that Google Talk saves logs on the server so you can access them in your Gmail account, but refuses to store messages sent to offline contacts. But what makes absolutely no sense is that I just found out those messages are actually logged: the sender gets a “(your contact) is offline”, and my client doesn’t receive the messages when I log back on, but they do appear in the Gmail history! How insane is that?

Geez, I can’t wait to have a place to install our own Jabber server.

 

@misc@

And still not much interesting material to write about or even link, and I’m still unsure whether it’s a slow news month or I’m just losing interest.

13 April

@web@

The Da Vinci Code Quest on Google. Uh… yuk, what the hell, and so on.

For 24 days, you will encounter unique challenges. These daily puzzles will pull you deeper into the world of The Da Vinci Code. Answer all 24 puzzles correctly for a chance to win untold riches.

Okay, I’ll have to admit — if it weren’t for the utter piece of crap that Dan Brown’s novel is, I’d probably find this idea supercool. But in that case it just gives me a skin rash.

20 April

@web@

Hacking A More Tasteful MySpace: how to make a bearable web page out of your MySpace profile, using CSS to target miles and miles of child table selectors. (Or the ultimate proof that clean HTML makes for easier CSS design.)

If Dave Shea built the CSS Zen Garden, this was going to be the CSS Weed Patch.

The first time I read this post, he had hidden the banner ad, but now it’s back, presumably so the profile doesn’t get deleted right away. In any case, it’s quite nice knowing you can make something out of your MySpace page, even though the design does everything to complicate the process and it’s all likely to break down whenever their tag soup changes in the smallest way.

Linked from that post, another take on MySpace customization — which I find nicer (more web 2.0, as it were):

Meanwhile I’m working on <plug> gayattitude.com </plug> to make template and CSS customization as easy as can ever be, and I’m wondering: should I, really? Does assisted customization make a site more popular, or has its impact always been too negligible? Most people are quite content with the most crappiest designs, and the others appear more than happy to work their asses off to hack better looks into very limited designs, so am I actually catering to nobody’s needs?

22 April

@games@

From Roger Ebert’s review of Silent Hill:

Dr. Shlain made the most interesting comment on the panel. He said they took some four and five year-olds and gave them video games and asked them to figure out how to play them without instructions. Then they watched their brain activity with real-time monitors. “At first, when they were figuring out the games,” he said, “the whole brain lit up. But by the time they knew how to play the games, the brain went dark, except for one little point.”

Oh well. That’s still more brain activity than most people experience daily.

24 April

@web@

Apple is working on how to adapt the web for high-definition displays [via]: basically, zoom pages like Opera has been doing for years now (i.e., change the effective size of a pixel), while allowing web publishers to specify alternate high-resolution versions of their graphics so that upscaled web pages don’t look too blocky.

That would be very fine if they didn’t (quite expectedly) confuse backward compatibility with immobilism: while this is a rather major philosophical change, they’re trying as hard as they can to make it fit into existing HTML and CSS tags and attributes, and the only change to HTML they’re proposing is to add resolution-dependent CSS “media” types.

Their basic premise is this: to make a 100x100-pixel image, make it four or sixteen times as big, and use HTML or CSS attributes to specify the intended size. You can use conditional CSS to hide high-resolution images from regular-resolution browsers (although that will make a tangled mess out of your CSS files), but for <img> tags (and those are still necessary for contents — you’re not going to use CSS image replacements for your photolog) the only option Apple offers right now is making everybody download and then downscale a huge high-resolution image on the off-chance that one viewer might someday want to see it on a 30-inch screen.

So here’s the comment I posted:

Since this is all about the images, wouldn’t it be orders of magnitude simpler, and more logical, to just modify graphics file formats instead? Couldn’t SVG and PNG files (nevermind GIF and JPEG since we’re talking about new content development, so obsolete file formats don’t necessarily have to be supported) maintain backward compatibility while having some metadata to either include the additional pixels or reference the high-definition versions?

Imagine this: make your navigation buttons in 300 dpi in Photoshop, check a box when exporting to specify saving to a 72 dpi base, and the PNG holds both versions, with the complementary pixels hidden from older browsers’ view.

Or this: edit your photograph in 300 dpi in Photoshop, check a box when exporting to specify the creation of myphoto-72dpi.png, myphoto-150dpi.png and myphoto-300dpi.png (or more), with each file containing references to the others. That way, a browser downloading the 72dpi version from an img tag will know to refer to the 300dpi if the display resolution warrants it, and a graphics program editing the highest-resolution file will know to update the others accordingly.

Okay, in both cases there’s a bit of bandwidth spoiled, but if a visitor is going to download the 300dpi version of your picture, having downloaded the 72dpi version before will almost be negligible.

Besides, your proposed implementation is only bandwidth-efficient for decorative / navigational images, but not for content (e.g., photos published on a blog or gallery, where you can’t practically use CSS stylesheets to choose which version to download): the highest resolution image will be downloaded every time, and downsampled by the client. That’s a waste of bandwidth, CPU time, and RAM, and for now it looks ugly on Windows browsers (which don’t resample but resize pictures, unlike OS X).

 

Actually, the simplest way would be server-side content-negotiation — with the browser sending its virtual display resolution as an http header, and receives the right image file in response — but then it would be up to each webhost to decide whether to upgrade its web server, whereas with improved graphics file formats it’s up to each and every content publisher to decide if they want to use a program that knows how to output such files.

@apple@

Wow, that was unexpected. I actually woke up this morning (uh, afternoon, that is) thinking I had to check out apple.com (yeah, so I’m a geek) to verify that Think Secret was wrong and the new 17-inch MacBook PowerBook wasn’t out today. Well, what do you know — they were right! That hadn’t happened for a while, had it?

So… it’s a hefty sum of money, of course, and they’re still not taking much advantage of the additional real estate (I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but with all that space around the keyboard, how about adding some keys or something?) except for the addition of a third USB port and a Firewire 800 port (considering the price of a high-end 15-inch model, I find it weird to save the 800 for that one — does it require that much more room on the motherboard, or is this just Apple’s discreet response to customer and columnist complaints regarding its absence from the previous models?). And, hopefully, a bigger battery… that will only compensate for the bigger screen’s power consumption.

 

Of course, now that such a minor Apple rumor has been proven true (I mean, seriously, everybody knew that was coming, and the rumor only consisted in announcing the exact launch time less than a week in advance), we’re back to square one of the speculation game. Are colored 13-inch MacBooks iBooks really on the way? (Probably not too soon, because that deserves a keynote, and the 17-inch laptops would have been announced at the same time.) Did Apple really have planned the iPodTablet announcement for its anniversary, only to postpone it because of engineering problems? Is Steve Jobs really going to build a 400-meter shiny white monolith on the land Apple just bought in Cupertino? Is the next version of OS X going to emulate the whole Windows API and run Windows apps? (Okay, the last one is too stupid, even Dvorak didn’t dare write that.)

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