Thursday, December 20, 2012

Oh to be able to comment on web pages

On my wish list for the web - once again -  is the ability to easily save web pages locally as a single file AND be able to highlight text and add notes to the existing page - all while within the browser.

The above can obviously be done by taking a screenshot and then adding text in Photoshop. That is not what I want. That is not what I need. No. The Christmas gift I want for this year is to be able to save and comment on web pages.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

CMS v Framework

I just had a long conversation with a customer who had asked whether we were using a CMS or Framework to build his site. I find it interesting that I was asked this question in the first place as few customers care deeply about the technologies involved in their site. Secondly I was intrigued in how a CMS was confused with a Framework.

A CMS is a system where pages are loaded with data that is stored in a database* and the the customer has direct control over the page contents and much of the formatting.

A Frameworks is a set of rules that sets up how files are organized and how they work together. These 2 things have very little to do with each other.

"So why not alway use a CMS?"

Because not all sites are used for delivering content. Publishing houses deliver content, as do eCommerce sites, but some sites are applications and frameworks are used to build these applications. An application may be a Content Management System but it need not be.

* Yes it can be a NoSQL or flat-file solution as well.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fonts Can Save Lives

OK, that's a little dramatic but research shows that humans can absorb information faster in some type-fonts than in others.

(Really? /sarc)

And that if these type-fonts are used in automobile display monitors perhaps there would be fewer accidents.

(Who would have thought of that? /sarc)

Hat Tip: Slashdot.

Maybe I'm just a little bit snarky tonight but ... duh!!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

What you hear is not what you get

This is interesting presentation showing that visual elements affect the sound you think you hear. If you have not seen this before, it's worth watching.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

We all know that correlation does not equal causation but it's always good to have more examples. When Obama took office Blackberry was the industry giant. Now, barely 42 months later, everyone is wondering if Blackberry can survive against Android (Google) and the iPhone. So, is Obama the cause of RIM's failure? Is there a correlation? Or is there no relationship whatsoever?
Milestones of Failure Line RIM’s Path to Disintegration

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New Finding: The less you know - the more you make.

FROM popular culture we know that:
Knowledge = Power
and Time = Money

SINCE P= W/T (Power = Work/Time)
REWRITING THE ABOVE: Knowledge=Work/Money
THEREFORE Money = Work/Knowledge

IN OTHER WORDS: the less you know the more you make.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Higgs Boson Joke, my favorite so far:

A Higgs boson walks into a church. The priest stops the particle and says, "We don't allow your kind in here." Undeterred the particle responds: "But without me, you can't have mass."

So now Mind Reading is Possible

Welcome the singularity. It's 2012 and already we're developing commercial applications that involve mind reading. If we can "read minds" we can record thoughts and memories. The penseive of Harry Potter fame may be here before we know it.
Through the use of an algorithm formulated by Low, the iBrain reads brainwave activity and transmits it wirelessly back to a computer. As Dr. Low points out, the iBrain can collect data regardless of where a person is or what they are doing. For this reason it is a welcome alternative to the masses of electrodes and wires that hospitals and sleep labs generally use when assessing a patients brain activity.

[Stephen] Hawking was fitted with the head-band device and asked to “imagine that he was scrunching his right hand into a ball.” While he can’t actually move his hand, the motor cortex in his brain can still issue the command and generate electrical waves in his brain. The algorithm then translates these thoughts into signals, which show up on the monitor as spikes on a grid.

“We were looking for a change in the signal,” says Dr Low. “In January this year, we found it.”

The Francis Crick Memorial Conference, which takes place on July 7, discusses the topic of "Consciousness in humans and non-human animals" and will be the first time Hawking and Low deliver their findings to the public.

While many are hoping to see the famed astrophysicist speaking to us “through his brain” for the first time, it is unlikely that the technology has been refined to the point where this can be easily demonstrated. Instead, much of the research will be presented through video documentation.

While much of the publicity that Neurovigil has gained has been due to its close work with Stephen Hawking, Dr Low is quick to point out that the technology has been developed for everybody. That’s because the concept of “mind-mapping” with the iBrain is not limited to its use as an augmented communication device. In fact, the applications are so varied that it led to Dr Low refusing initial funding from venture capitalists.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Struggling with HiPPOs Again

How often do I hear that we don't need to test because "We know our customers" or "We've been in the business for 'X' years" or, my personal favorite "We have come to the conclusion ... "

Coming to a conclusion, based on facts is one thing, but coming to a conclusion based upon personal judgment or intuition without direct testing is something else. I completely understand when time or budgetary constraints come in and the development team is "forced to go to war production with the army design they have." That being said the organization understands that mistakes in preparation have been made and that careful re-thinking of the application must be made. (Often times this re-thinking never occurs until the next hurried release is made. But that's another story.)

So, how does one deal with the HiPPO (HIghest Paid Person's Opinion) problem? It certainly can't be based upon your intuition that testing ought to be done. Ideally you would have a series of examples were the HiPPO had previously been surprised with user responses and be able to leverage that experience. Aside from that I have not had success. I have brought up examples from lecturers and articles to no avail. I would love to read about other's success rates.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What is Business Intelligence

A good presentation on business intelligence. For UI designers who think that UI work for financial companies is less demanding than for customer based sites - please take a look at data visualization and dashboard presentations.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Skype (changing default browser) and user admin design

I'm starting to use Skype more and more for work. When people send me links in the IM the link automatically opens up in Internet Explorer. I wanted to change the default to Chrome but could not find where to do so.

I went on line and found the answer: Skype opens up the device's default browser. You cannot make the change within Skype. You must go to your browser of choice and make the change there.

This begs the question: when designing user admin sections should IA professionals include information on settings that their app doesn't update? In this case it would have been very nice for Skype to have a tab " Update Default Browser" and tell me, the user, that I would have to go to Chrome and declare that my default browser.

Now, you may ask - why didn't I do that already? Because I unpinned IE from the Windows 7 taskbar. It wasn't part of my consciousness - that's why. :-)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Golden Ratio Debunked?

Keith Devlin takes a mathematicians eye to the claims made for The Golden Ratio and shows that the art and the architecture claimed to have been based on The Golden Ratio is simply not backed up by any evidence. The Golden Ratio does exist in nature but the most famous natural example, the nautilus shell, does not follow said ratio.

It's a long talk but, if you're interested in the Fibonaci sequence and The Golden Ratio, it's worth listening to. He recommends Mario Livio, The Golden Ratio, on which a lot of the proofs for the talk were based.

And now The Golden Ratio from a more spiritual perspective:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Anonymous Posting

There has been some talk lately about eliminating anonymous posting. I find this argument too repulsive to behold. But the proponents of such legislation are correct to some degree - people are hurting others by posing as other people. This needs to be stopped. There are laws in place but this needs to be addressed carefully. I don't want these actions to be automatically treated as criminal behavior but posing as others cannot be considered acceptable. As for example this case in Arizona:
When he finally confessed to creating a fake porn profile for his son's assistant principal, Robert Dale Esparza Jr. of Gilbert, Arizona, "sort of laughed," says Dennis Ogorchock, a detective with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Computer Crimes Unit. But soon, Esparza may be laughing from a jail cell. Last year, Esparza created the profile of Frank Hendricsen, assistant principal of Gateway Pointe Elementary School, where his son attended, using the faculty member's full name and photos as a revenge prank, the detective told in a phone interview.
Dad busted for fake porn profile of kid's principal

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SpaceX rocket begins milestone mission to space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A private space capsule called Dragon soared into the predawn sky Tuesday, riding a pillar of flame like its beastly namesake on a history-making trip to the International Space Station.

The unmanned capsule, built by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX venture, is the first non-governmental spacecraft to launch to the space station, ushering in a new era of partnership between the public and private spaceflight programs.


The SpaceX launch vehicle is named after the Millennium Falcon of "Star Wars," while the capsule got its moniker from the Peter, Paul and Mary song, "Puff, the Magic Dragon."

SpaceX rocket begins milestone mission to space station

From Sputnik(1957) to Apollo (1969) to today - milestones in man's reaching for the stars. How long are we from asteroid mining, space tourism, and colonies? I think, with the advances in computing power and new materials, we will see commercial activity in space in less than 20 years - a blink of an eye.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Future is Coming Fast

I remember when the CSS layouts in this video were fantastical, especially the exclusion area. "That's impossible" was a common refrain. Of course, as time went on, kludges were created using a series of divs to orient the text. And now? Just watch the video.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Moore's Law and Privacy

Most people are not appreciating how fast technology is changing. They don't appreciate that we're in a period of exponential growth, and they don't put an thought into how these advances will change their life, politics, and employment in the very near future.

Of concern to me in this post is not the advances in screen technology, construction materials and medical advances but that of computer speed, data storage and data retrival and how these advances affect everyone's privacy.

Monday, March 12, 2012

IA and breadcrumbs

There is a terrific website to help your children learn math, The Khan Academy. They have excellent videos. I wish this resource was available when I was in high school and college. I mention this site, not because it is an excellent resource, but because they have failed, failed miserably in a basic way.

When one goes to a page to watch a video there is breadcrumb across the top.

There is even a nice feature where a drop-down appears and one can select other videos in the same sub-category.

However, should you decide to see a video in another category - you cannot select a higher-level category. You are forced to go back, in a convoluted way, to the "index" page. Part of the problem is that some categories have a LOT of videos. Still, there are nunumerous workarounds to that problem.

There is one other issue. The Khan Academy is trying to increase participation by using gamification techniques. It's an excellent idea, as you watch videos you get "points." It provides an incentive to join the community. That's excellent. However, should you decide to join, you must login with either a Facebook or Google account. Tsk. tsk. Not everyone wants everything they do to be so easily and completely tracked by Facebook and/or Google.

All that being said, I still highly recommend this site.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Too Funny

Kerning refers to the adjustment of spacing between characters in a proportional font. If you didn't get it right away - take a look at the cartoon again.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Finance Group v Cox - Is there a positive outcome?

Jesse Jenike-Godshalk wrote a pursuasive piece that the Finance Group v Cox ruling was not as bad as it seemed on first blush. First, the judge ruled that opinion based blog posts are covered by the First Amendment.

the judge stated that blog posts, by their very nature, are usually “opinions” and not provable assertions of fact. Such “opinion posts” are protected under the First Amendment and are not actionable as defamation—regardless of whether the writer is “media.”

The Judge wrote that the:

Defendant fails to bring forth any evidence suggestive of her status as a journalist. For example, there is no evidence of
(1) any education in journalism;
(2) any credentials or proof of any affiliation with any recognized news entity;
(3) proof of adherence to journalistic standards such as editing, fact-checking, or disclosures of conflicts of interest;
(4) keeping notes of conversations and interviews conducted;
(5) mutual understanding or agreement of confidentiality between the defendant and his/her sources;
(6) creation of an independent product rather than assembling writings and postings of others;
or (7) contacting “the other side” to get both sides of a story. Without evidence of this nature, defendant is not “media.”

This is very interesting. Except for points 1 and 2 these are standards that any blogger can meet. It points to ways independent writers can protect themselves: keep your notes and do your own research.

There's a lot more. If you're interested in the case I highly recommend reading the article.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Take a Second to Review Google's Privacy Policy

Take a second and think about what you have searched for, where you have gone on line over the last few years. Google will soon combine all the information it has collected about you. EFF (The Electronic Frontier Foundaton) has an article describing the steps you can do to "erase" this history

On March 1st, Google will implement its new, unified privacy policy, which will affect data Google has collected on you prior to March 1st as well as data it collects on you in the future. Until now, your Google Web History (your Google searches and sites visited) was cordoned off from Google's other products. This protection was especially important because search data can reveal particularly sensitive information about you, including facts about your location, interests, age, sexual orientation, religion, health concerns, and more. If you want to keep Google from combining your Web History with the data they have gathered about you in their other products, such as YouTube or Google Plus, you may want to remove all items from your Web History and stop your Web History from being recorded in the future.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Interesting Read for Developers

I came across an interesting article/eBook, Essential JavaScript Design Patterns For Beginners [Hat Tip: Hacker News]

At the beginning of this book I will be focusing on a discussion about the importance and history of design patterns in any programming language. If you're already sold on or are familiar with this history, feel free to skip to the chapter 'What is a Pattern?' to continue reading.

One of the most important aspects of writing maintainable code is being able to notice the recurring themes in that code and optimize them. This is an area where knowledge of design patterns can prove invaluable.

It is well written. Worth the read if you're so interested.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Recording Memories - Will we see it in our lifetimes?

These scientists have succeeded in decoding electrical activity in the brain’s temporal lobe – the seat of the auditory system – as a person listens to normal conversation. Based on this correlation between sound and brain activity, they then were able to predict the words the person had heard solely from the temporal lobe activity.
Scientists decode brain waves to eavesdrop on what we hear

Hat Tip: Slashdot

This development is intriguing in several ways. In addition to helping people with a wide range of problems (stroke, Parkinson’s, ALS) communicate I see this as one of the first steps necessary to saving memories. If these thoughts can be expressed in 0s and 1s; if you can “read” words via recording synaptic transmissions can we “see,” and “hear” thoughts and memories? Will we be able to store “consciousness,” the “brain-in-a-jar” meme from B sci-fi movies? Will learning, whether facts, applications or physical activities be accelerated as depicted in The Matrix?

The answer, of course, is yes. We need to come to grips with what is coming down the pike. Even before “immortality” becomes an issue (the merging of the brain-in-a-jar meme with robotics) we will have to grasp more mundane issues such as police interrogations, legal proceedings, contracts, advertising, privacy from “hackers” and other issues we can’t conceive of at the moment.

As scary as this may be if we live in a police state – how exciting it is in other endeavors, such as medicine (from diagnosis to helping people who are disabled) and in the spread of knowledge. “Video” memories will be added to biographies, to scientific papers, and in personal records analogous to adding YouTube videos to a blog post or as the Pensieve from the Harry Potter stories.

[Edited 2/25/2012]

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Technological Change will Alter Old Ways of Doing Things

I usually don't comment on articles such as SocialNomics: 40+ Items Tech Will Kill this Digital Decade but I so disagree with so many of the points made that I feel compelled to comment.

Got called away. Will be back to complete this shortly.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

ACTA will Suffer the Same Fate as SOPA

It looks as if ACTA is going down. Poland has rescinded it's vote. ACTA is now all but officially dead within the EU. This, for all practical purposes, kills ACTA. How long until the US and others signers also rescind their votes?

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said
that his government had made insufficient consultations before signing the agreement in late January, and it was necessary to ensure it was entirely safe for Polish citizens.

Although it is technically a trade agreement, ACTA is effectively an international treaty aimed at criminalising copyright infringement and associated activities.


Poland has seen the biggest protests against ACTA, with thousands demonstrating on the streets last week. Hackers believed to be associated with Anonymous attacked Tusk's website, as well as the European Parliament site, after the signing.

Critics of ACTA say it has insufficient safeguards for online liberties, particularly in signing countries that do not already have strong principles of freedom of speech and expression. In addition, the agreement negotiations, which took place without the contributions of civic groups or elected representatives, have been widely described as undemocratic.

ZD Net

As of now Germany and The Netherlands (among 5 other countries) have refused to sign ACTA. It's difficult to see ACTA working without Germany and The Netherlands unless other countries are exerting considerable pressure on them. Considering that none of ACTA's 31 signatories have ratified the treaty it seems that ACTA will die a very public and ignomious death.

Now all we need is for the US to rescind their agreement as well.

EDIT 2/16/2012

The government of Bulgaria, which had already signed ACTA, announced that it would not seek ratification of the treaty.

ACTA dissed in Bulgaria, too

Friday, January 27, 2012

ACTA - the New SOPA

Theft of intellectual property is a massive problem. But the solutions brought up by governments never seem to make any sense. Too many people, in too many places, prefer government control to individual choice - hence many of the dangerously silly proposals. Then, when we add the penchant for secretive decision making on such an important aspect of life - who can be surprised that these backdoor agreements never seem to work out well?

Although ACTA is primarily concerned with the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR), its designation as a trade treaty meant it could be negotiated behind closed doors. This lengthy process, led by the US and Japan, was exposed in a series of leaks — some via Wikileaks — that revealed what was going on.

The final version of ACTA is very different to earlier drafts, which would have forced countries to disconnect internet users if they were found to be repeatedly sharing copyrighted content. The EU rejected this proposal, and other ideas, such as criminalising the use of a mobile phone camera in a cinema, also fell by the wayside.
UK signs ACTA as activists urge resistance

Early drafts of ACTA "mandated that people unlawfully distributing copyrighted content online should have their internet connections cut off, and that people who record films in cinemas should go to jail." As much as I disagree with the provision regarding distributing copyrighted information (unless it is very carefully written and applies only to a very narrow definition of theft) I agree completely with the provision which calls for jailing those who record films in cinemas. There is no excuse for that.

What's Wrong With ACTA

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA - The End?

It looks as if SOPA and PIPA will not pass. SOPA has already been put on a backburner by the House leadership and it looks as if the outrage has reached critical mass. There is bipartisan opposition to both bills. Piracy and theft of intellectual property is a real problem but these bills seemed, to this observer, to be fatally flawed. Time for Congress to revisit the problem.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Arfa Karim Randhawa, 1995-2012

An amazing person has died way to early. Arfa Karim Randhawa became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional at 9 years old. She died nearly a month after entering the hospital after suffering an epileptic seizure and cardiac arrest.

Who knows what she might have accomplished. The world has lost a brilliant light.

Randhawa's Philosophy of Life:
If you want to do something big in your life, you must remember that shyness is only the mind,” she said. “If you think shy, you act shy. If you think confident you act confident. Therefore never let shyness conquer your mind.”

From Geekwire

Friday, January 6, 2012

Moore's Law Gets Another Reprieve

Woo Hoo. Doomsayers beware! Moore's Law has yet another reprieve. This is terrific news. Ever cheaper computing power is necessary in every human endeavor. There may / will come a time when Moore's Law is no longer applicable but at this point in time every double is critical.

Ohm’s Law Survives at the Atomic Scale

Moore’s Law, the cornerstone rule of the semiconductor industry, may get a reprieve from its predicted demise, according to a group of scientists in Australia and the United States. Their unexpected findings show that a well-understood law of classical physics—and a pillar of electrical engineering—holds for some objects that are just four atoms wide, a size where quantum effects should rule instead. ...

Previous experiments had shown that at widths less than 10 nm, the resistivity of silicon nanowires increased exponentially (Ohm’s Law, by contrast, is linear). The researchers were able to get around this exponential increase and follow Ohm’s Law, in effect, by heavily doping the silicon nanowires with phosphorus.

Read more on the topic at Slashdot.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

IE6 still huge in China

According to IE6 Countdown IE6 is still huge in China with over 25% marketshare. That certainly puts an interesting twist for those concerned about a cyber-war with China. Right now, with all the holes in IE6 security, China is certainly a "target-rich" environment.

I would love to know how much of the IE6/Windows 2000 usage is in private hands (thus open up to government spying) and how much is corporate/governmental usage.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Page Size, Includes, and Page Rendering

I came across a site that took a long-long-time to load. I took a look at its source code. The code is well-written; there are no graphics or movies and yet it takes about 20-40 seconds for the page to render.

There are at least 22 .css includes and 17 .js files. The file is 512K NOT including the .css and .js files and has 3859 lines.

OK designers and developers I know that many users have great connections but when you have almost 4000 lines of code (not counting .js and .css files) including one line - jQuery.extend(Drupal.settings)- which had over 57,500 characters you've gone off the deep end.

Maybe in 6 years when computing power quadruples and we're all on Gbit networks then fine. Until then, at the very least, make certain that the file in question uses all the .js and .css files being called.

See other files that covered this topic:

1. Why am I waiting so long for some websites to download?
2. @Font-Face and Page Rendering Performance