October 30, 2003

CSS Tabs part 2

Doug Bowman provides Sliding Doors 2 for ALA. The sliding doors rounded tabs done with CSS, meaning the text is not in a graphic and the tabs have rollover effects with out having to build rollover images and deal with JavaScript. Doug's version 2 of sliding doors provides those with pages in CMS or other non-hand built pages. This beats the JavaScript sniffing the URL to set the local tab setting.

October 29, 2003

Time to step in to the present

There are days when you realize you are working in an environment that is the equivalent of one that switched from horse and buggy to the automobile a few years prior and is still trying to feed the car oats. There are some that see others putting a liquid in the autos tank so they boil the oats, strain the liquid, and put that in the tank. They have problems seeing why things do not run right.

Changing your environment from printing on paper to electronic information dissemination requires process change and formulating the information for easing the transfer into various presentation layers. Easily save into a PDF for distributing to those users that want to print and for information where layout is actually important to the information. Equally important is saving for Web presentation in valid (X)HTML. The (X)HTML is extremely valuable as it is a the a great means for users to consume the information on a wide variety of devices and provides the user the ability to reuse the information as the need and see fit.

When preparing information one must consider the the media used for presenting the message. It would also be wise to provide a great benefit to the user by considering information reuse. Preparing information for print, but not providing the data behind charts, alternate text for images, and other items that are required for accessibility (Section 508 compliance).

October 26, 2003

Geeks take charge

Steve Lohr, of the New York Times wrote As Silicon Valley Reboots, the Geeks Take Charge. This article hits the pre-tech boom development process and how things are again. The development of solid applications takes passion, intelligence, and personal energy. These things are needed as the road is tough, but worth it for the developers and for the users. Getting the geeks back in the driving seat helps greatly as the business and marketing folks that tried jumping in during the boom seemed to do far more harm than good with their buzzwords and greed, which pushed products to market long before they were ready.

The article highlights some great companies with great products that have survived and blossomed since the boom.

iChat AV making our family closer

Tonight Joy, my Mom, Will and I had a video chat with my Dad from Maryland to California thanks to iChat AV. This was not only a great experience for everybody as it shortened the long distance between coasts, but my Dad stated that experience alone made the move to Apple worth it all by itself. He has already said that the Mac experience is so much better than the PC as everything is just easy.

October 25, 2003

Information structure important for information reuse

John Udell's discussion of Apple's Knowledge Navigator is a wonderful overview of a Personal Information Cloud. If the tools was more mobile or was shown synching with a similar mobile device to have the "knowledge" with the user at all time it is would be a perfect representation.

Information in a Personal Information Cloud is not only what the user wants to have stored for retrieval when it is needed (role-based information and contextual) but portable and always accessible. Having tools that allow the user to capture, categorize, and have attracted to the user so it is always with them is only one part of the equation. The other component is having information that is capable of being captured and reused. Standards structures for information, like (X)HTML and XML are the beginnings of reusable information. These structures must be open to ensure ease of access and reuse in proper context. Information stored in graphics, proprietary software, and proprietary file formats greatly hinders the initial usefulness of the information as it can be in accessible, but it even more greatly hinders the information's reuse.

These principle are not only part of the Personal Information Cloud along with the Model of Attraction, but also contextual design, information architecture, information design, and application development.

Panther Rocks

So far life with Panther has been fantastic. The only downside was my I had to install two times as I was a little tired last evening and selected "Upgrade" rather than "Archive and Install", which I knew to do, but with little sleep and a crazy week I missed it. Doing this Safari did not load when clicked. I reinstalled this morning using "Archive and Install" and have a great machine. I also moved my "Previous Systems" folder to my external hard drive and got back 4.8GB. I now have 15.8GB of free hard drive (I get very nervous when it falls under 14 or 15GB and start fearing that I am running our of hard drive space).

So far the much faster interface and better responsiveness of Panther is a great addition. I am also loving the Exposé as I always have many windows open and this feature makes everything easier to find. The Font Book has been addition I have been anxiously awaiting and it has lived up to my expectations. The new finder took about 15 minutes to get used to, but I am very happy with the changes here and I think it has made the finder much more usable. I am also planning to use the file label colors to use this visual tagging to help me organize all the files I have generated and downloaded.

Mark Pilgrim offers a fantastic overview in his What's New in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther.

October 24, 2003

Got Panther

I picked up Panther at 8:20 p.m. this evening from MacUpgrades, which was on my way home from work (yes I was there that late as my Win2k machine locked-up twice in a row and cause reboots as I was trying to get an e-mail off to India). The store was very busy with 20 or 25 people there checking out Panther, picking up a copy, or just enjoying the wine and cheese and cookies and beer. It was a nice little party and I wished I could have stayed longer, much longer.

I had a call after 9 p.m. from Fred and Paula, who are new Mac owners (iBooks) this summer and the first part of the month. They called to say the line at the Clarendon Apple store in Virginia had an insanely long line. This is their first experience with a release. I will have to find out in the morning how their wait in line went.

My dad, another new Mac owner (12 inch PowerBook) who has had his machine less than a week is going the delivery route as he is at a conference this weekend in a part of California without an Apple store in close (hour drive or less) proximity.

Welcome all to the world of Apple and welcome to the world of hype and delivery on that hype. It will be interesting to see if they are as side-tracked by the Jobs keynotes for major releases as many of the rest of us are.

October 22, 2003

Panther release party in Bethesda Maryland

Mac Upgrades in Bethesda, Maryland is having a Panther release party from 8 pm to midnight on Friday, October 24th. Mac Upgrades is a great small Apple store that has always been focussed providing great service to the Macintosh community. The folks at Mac Upgrade will give any "Genius" a run for their money.

If you pre-order Panther you get a free t-shirt. If you pick up you Panther on Friday night you get yet another free t-shirt. It sounds like there will be other fun and meeting others on Friday, with out the giant crowds of the Apple stores in the Washington, DC area (actually the Tyson's Store is currently closed for remodeling so the Clarendon store could be really packed).

RSS on PDAs and information reuse

Three times the past week I have run across folks mentioning Hand/RSS for Palm. This seems to fill the hole that AvantGo does not completely fill. Many of the information resources I find to be helpful/insightful have RSS feeds, but do not have a "mobile" version (more importantly the content is not made with standard (X)HTML validating markup with a malleable page layout that will work for desktop/laptop web browsers and smaller mobile screens).

I currently pull to scan then read content from 125 RSS feeds. Having these some of these feeds pulled and stored in my PDA would be a great help.

Another idea I have been playing with is to pull and convert RSS feeds for mobile browser access and use. This can be readily done with PHP. It seems that MobileRSS already does something like this.

Content, make that information in general, stored and presented in a format that is only usable in one device type or application is very short sighted. Information should be reusable to be more useful. Users copy and paste information into documents, todo lists, calendars, PDAs, e-mail, weblogs, text searchable data stores (databases, XML respositories, etc.), etc. Digital information from the early creation was about reusing the information. Putting text only in a graphic is foolish (AIGA websites need to learn this lesson) as is locking the information in a proprietary application or proprietary format.

The whole of the Personal Information Cloud, the rough cloud of information that the user has chosen to follow them so that it is available when they need that information is only usable if information is in an open format.

Info Cloud and Personal Info Cloud weblogs setup

We have set up a couple new sites using TypePad to focus on Info Clouds and more directly, the Personal Info Cloud. The Info Cloud and Personal Info Cloud are extensions of ideas that came out of the Model of Attraction work.

The information posted on the TypePad sites will most likely be syndicated here, or vis versa. The use of TypePad is easing the need to have a separate location for these ideas and works in progress. Off the Top will not be changing, it will still be a melting pot of ideas and information. Direct access to more focussed information on topic or categories are still available by clicking on the category below each entry or using the category list.

The information cloud work ties directly to standards, information architecture, content management, and general Web development passions that drive me.

October 16, 2003

AIfIA event sponsorships

The fine folks as the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture (AIfIA) are offering IA event sponsorships. Yes, there are two 1,000 U.S. dollar sponsorships available as well as marketing and speaker services.

Personalization is not a preference

News.com writes that a new Forester report states personalization is over rated. This comes from many of the portal tool developers who are trying to push the technology. In discussions with users, many like their one personalized site, (my.yahoo.com or my.washintonpost.com) and they prefer to pull content into these single broad portals.

It seems like the folks selling the tools should be focussing on syndication rather personalization of everything. Syndication, such as RSS, can be pulled into what ever personalized interface the user desires. Anecdotally I have found users also like getting e-mail opt-in as a means to find out when information is updated.

The user does not really have control of the personalized information as it is maintained on an external resource and not one that is truly close to the user. Users often prefer to have the information come to them where they can control it and sort into a system that works for themselves. The one personalized site may fall into a user's personal info cloud as they have a central place to find information, but if every site is personalized it is the disruptive factor is still in place, which keeps the user from having the information that they need when they need it.

October 13, 2003

Snapshots of Mac users

Robert Scoble (who incidently now works at Microsoft) ponders why most weblogers seem to be Mac users. This is a very good snapshot of Mac users. Webloggers are often considered word-based creative types.

Tim Bray observes nearly everybody at the O'Reilly Foo Camp weekend had a Mac (the Foo Camp was an event of some of the brightest folks in technology (not the richest, just the brightest) held at the O'Reilly HQ to share and expand understanding.)

October 7, 2003

Building Web pages for crippled IE browser

Microsoft and others are posting the work arounds needed for the Web pages you build if they require plug-ins. Java and Active Script seem to been the focus at this point. Here we go: Microsoft guide for building to the new neutered IE browser, Apple developer guide for post EOLA development, Real Networks guide for embedded, and Macromedia guide. [hat tip Craig Salia]

October 5, 2003

Making money from weblogs

Matt provides a great article on making money from weblogs. The article is well written and provides great advice and insight. At this point it does not seem that money from weblogs is a huge amount of money, but it does look like it will pay for hosting and provide extra cash, at the least.

October 3, 2003

Raskin's Zooming Interface

Jef Raskin opens up a public demo of THE Zooming Interface. This interface is done with Flash for this demo of the concept. I find the tool very cool, but a wee bit buggy.

Read through the THE information to find out more about this open source project.

October 2, 2003

Compassion and the crafting of user experience

Adam provides a good form versus function essay in his Compassion and the crafting of user experience post. Make the time to read. Once again design without function is an unusable product, but function with good design is very enjoyable. Top designers understand the balance of form and function and make decisions on how the design will impact use. Those that are not to this point yet, do not have command of their craft, which should be a goal.

Death of E-mail

Ray Ozzie discusses the death of e-mail as a work process tool. Of course Ray has an interest in this as his Groove application provides encrypted shared workspaces for workflow and sharing. If you rely on e-mail for document sharing or an Intranet, Groove is a large step above and beyond these technologies. E-mail was not designed, many many years ago, for the type of tasks and volumes that are required of it today. As every work environment struggles with privacy and security most e-mail solutions do not provide a sufficient level of support, particularly with e-mail storage limitations.

E-mail also does not often provide portability and tracking across various work environments. Groove however does do this. I was testing and using Groove in a beta mode and the free version a year or two ago. Groove had these capabilities then.

Yes, secure e-mail is available on many e-mail platforms, but the portability and retention of state of work does not work as easily on other applications. The one downside of Groove for me is it does not yet have an OS X version,

October 1, 2003

Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver gets a referance site

My first edition copy of Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver arrived yesterday. I flipped through it yesterday and was very impressed with the craftsmanship of the book. The paper and typography are very impressive. I read the intro this morning and I am very much looking forward to digging in.

Also to note, Metaweb, an annotated reference for Quicksilver. The annotations are provided in part by Neal himself along with others. There is a need for this reference as this is a historical novel with fact and fiction interwoven. The reference provides a guide background and what is real.

Apple love

Mark Morford explains why Apple deserve gushing adulation in his San Francisco Gate column. For me yesterday's plugging in a new digital video camera and having the video just seemingly show-up ready for viewing and importing into iMovie was another jaw-dropping simple it-just-works moment for me. There have been very few difficult moments for me and my Mac. And when they do occur I am tweaking at the command line and getting used to a slightly different syntax for the variant of UNIX that Apple uses. (Note: there is no need for me to play at the command line, but it is something I find fun and rewarding, in a sick build my own soda can sort of way.)

I was also able to use the a Firewire cable to connect to my video camera and have iChat sense it was attached and put me in video iChat mode automatically. Oddly the Sony camera did not come with an iLink (Firewire) cable, odd in that they own some of the rights to Firewire but do not use the superior technology out of the box, instead opting for the poorer quality USB product. The Sony camera came with a CD full of software for Windows machines and drivers so that Windows users can use the digital video output on their machines. My TiBook needed none of that, it just worked easily and wonderfully.

While I am off work for a few days to help Joy and Will adjust I get to fully live in a Mac world. I can get things done and fit work in easily, I have had no virus problems, bugs, halting interfaces, or connectivity problems that plague me at work. Having work environments standardize on Windows is akin to having them endorse non-productivity.

Needless to say I love my Mac and Apple's attention to detail. It is almost as if they care about me and the work I do, by just letting me do my work. Apple does not care if I am coding, programming, being creative, writing, or performing analytics it just allows me to be productive. The amount of money saved in using my Mac more than makes up any price difference (laughable in that there is not a comparable product in the Windows world) for a similar product.

Baby instructions

I have already found of the many joys of being a parent. But I have also found some of the pain. The biggest so far is the inability of manufactures of infant products to put together slightly usable instructions. The failure is largest with car seats, which is one item all parents worry about as they want their child safe. We have had problems with three Graco instruction sets so far. Being the type of person I am I went to the Graco Web site to see if there were better instructions there or maybe even videos for each product. No, the only thing available were the failure of directions that come with the products.

Why are the instructions so terrible? The instructions have four problems: 1) Cover more than one product variation covered in the directions (car seat has 3-point and 5-point connector models covered in the directions): 2) Minimal words for instructions (words are used for warnings, which are not clearly explained how to avoid the problem related to the warning); 3) Multi-lingual directions and warnings intermingled (languages do not have their own sections of the instructions); 4) Visual instructions not clear (lack of labeling on the product to ease correlation of instructions and parts as well as no parts list).

Nearly all my neighbors and friends with children warned me of the horrors of the infant, baby, and child toy instructions. The information needing to be communicated is lost in whatever design or vetting process this information goes through. The folks at Lego and IKEA understand that the successful use of their products is their ease of understanding the instructions for assembly. Neither Lego nor IKEA's products are sold to protect the life of a child or to enhance the safety of a child, but they do understand the ability of the buyer to assemble the product correctly to achieve satisfaction. In Lego's case the instructions can be superfluous as the product can also be used as a medium for creativity, but in the case where the user wants to exactly replicate that is on the box cover the directions are perfect. The beauty of the instructions in the Lego and IKEA instances is that they are completely, or largely text free.

Slight changes

I have been running an incredible amount of running of errands the past few days since Will and Joy have been home. Many of the errands are just general errands, but as Joy is not able to drive for two weeks there is a lot of trips to make. We are doing well with the feedings and sleeping, so far.

We have been amazed with the amount of laundry that is generated. We knew that it was going to be a change in laundry, but not to the extent it has grown.

I also made a few modifications to the Airport WiFi in the house so that I can get a very good signal in the living room and in the bedrooms. I was going to add an antennae to the TiBook, but found that the Airport is not Omnidirectional as I had thought. By turning the apple on the Airport toward the room I really want coverage and moving the Airport six feet closer really helped. I have a 80% signal or higher. I can now hang out with Will and Joy in the living room and possibly the screen porch and in the bedrooms upstairs.

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