What I Want From CSS3 - Part 1 | October 25, 2005

I’ve been thinking about liquid layouts recently and have decided how useful min-padding, max-padding, min-margin and max-margin would be.

Generally in liquid layout you will set padding/margin using percentages to create a liquid gutter between elements. However once the layout is reduced beyond a certain width, the gutters start to get too small. As such it would be great if you could set a minimum gutter width to maintain the separation of elements, and hence legibility.

Conversely, on a wide screen, gutters can become ridiculously big, causing a disconnect between content elements. Setting a maximum gutter width would prevent this problem and help keep elements visually associated.

Considering there is a min and max width, it seems like an oversight not to have an equivalent for for padding and margin.

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iPod Nano Scratches | October 24, 2005

I’ve wanted an iPod Nano ever since they were released, and yesterday I went ahead and bought one. I was concerned by the reports of scratching, but Apple said this only affected a tiny proportion of models, so I wasn’t worried.

I had to nip to the post office today to pick up some mail, so I thought I’d give it a try. I slipped my iPod nano into an empty coat pocket, chose a podcast to listen to, and went for a 30 minute walk. Before I left my iPod Nano screen was pristine. By the time I’d returned it was covered in tiny little scratches. I can’t believe that after 30 minutes of use, the screen is almost as scratched as my girlfriends two year old classic iPod.

I’d be interested to know if any of you have experienced similar problems?

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Top Ten Mac OS X Freeware/Shareware Applications | October 15, 2005

Here are my current top ten OS X freeware and shareware applications. What are yours and why?

Growl and GrowlTunes

Growl is billed as a “global notification system for OS X”. What that means is that when an application performs or finishes performing a function, it will inform Growl. Growl then passes that info onto the user by displaying the info in an unobtrusive floating box. Growl works with lots of apps so you can set it up to do things like notify you when new mail comes in, or downloads are completed.

I mostly use Growl in combination with GrowlTunes to display song details whenever the song changes in iTunes. I found that I was listening to iTunes music collection in rotation, never knowing the name of the artist or song that was currently playing. With Growl, whenever a new song comes on, a little floating transparent box shows me the name of the song, the artist, cover artwork and star rating.

Quicksilver

Quicksilver is a fantastic application that all OS X users should have. Quicksilver does a whole bunch of advanced things, most of which I don’t know about. However I use it as a way of quickly launching applications, finding contact details and occasionally finding files or websites. When Spotlight came out I though it would be a Quicksilver killer, however in comparison, Spotlight feels like swimming through treacle.

When I hit control space and start typing, Quicksilver pretty much always finds what I’m looking for, in an instant. When I hit command space and start typing in Spotlight, it takes a couple of seconds to think about things before results start to slowly appear. The results jump around loads so I’ll go to click the top result only for it to change and take me somewhere else! Spotlight is great because it searches inside docs, and would be particularly handy if I started tagging my docs. However I just don’t like the sluggish responsiveness and find Quicksilver a much more pleasant and predictable experience.

X-Tunes

X-Tunes is a really nice, simple iTunes controller. Hitting alt space brings up a floating panel that displays basic song details and lets me stop, jump forward or back in the playlist, or change volume. IF a song comes on that I don’t like, I simply hit alt space and then the forward arrow. If the phone rings I just hit alt space and enter, pausing the track. Once I’ve finished on the phone, the same combination starts the track up again. Simple but very effective.

Transmit

I’m not sure why I like this application so much, as its just an FTP client. In all honestly its probably got a lot to do with the big, chunky dump truck icon. However it is simple to use and does everything an FTP client should. There is also a rather nice widget for Transmit that allows you to FTP files to s pre-specified location without having to launch the app and log-in. Its not hugely useful, but I like using it anyway, if only to see the truck logo animated, bumping along the road as its delivering your files to the server.

Net Newswire

It seems that a lot of people have jumped ship from this app of late, and are using one of many new RSS readers around. I’ve had a quick look at some of these other apps, but none of them seem to offer anything compelling enough to make me want to switch. Net Newswire has a simple and intuitive user interface, and pretty much does everything I want in a feed reader.

Not that I actually have enough time to read my RSS feeds at the moment. Every time I open Net Newswire I have 800+ unread feeds. I’ll spend an hour going through my feeds, reading the quick reads, marking uninteresting posts as read and saving the interesting ones for later. However there never is a later, so the number of interesting unread feeds just keeps building. At some stage I really think I’m going to have to take a week off work, just to read my feeds.

FontExplorer X

Lets face it, Apple font book sucks. Its OK for previewing fonts, but is totally impractical for managing large font collections. So I was fantastically pleased when I found this app. Doubly so because its free. The app basically works like iTunes for your font collection. You can drag fonts around, group them, preview them, enable them and disable them, all in a familiar and intuitive interface. Very nice.

TextWrangler

A great free text editor from Bare Bones Software. I don’t need the full power of BBEdit so this little app is perfect. It does everything I need in a lightweight text editor.

xScope

I have to admit that I don’t use xScope that much; but when I do, I love it. xScope provides a series of Photoshop like tools for your desktop. You can set up guides, measure things with the ruler, zoom in to layouts and check colours with the eye-dropper. I most use it when I’m debugging my CSS, using the zoom and ruler tools to measure gaps in layouts to see what is going on.

VNCThing

VNCThing isn’t sexy, but I find it really useful, particularly in combination with Browsercam. Being a Mac user, I don’t have a Windows box to test on. I used to use Virtual PC, but it tends to be really slow, and anyway, the version that I had broke when I moved to a G5 iMac. Version 7 apparently works on a G5, but I’m a bit annoyed that the copy I bought just stopped working when I moved processors and I have to upgrade for it to work again. So instead I use Browsercam.

Most people use Browsercam simply to take screenshots. However the killer feature for me is remote access. Using VNCThing I can VNC into any of their boxes and test not only my layout, but also the interaction. And amazingly, its faster using a remote computer over the Internet with VNC than it was using Virtual PC on my desktop. Go figure.

Omni Graffle

Lastly I really like Omni Graffle. Again, its one of those apps that I feel I don’t use enough, but that is probably because I’m not doing much IA at the moment. This is the perfect app for doing all your site mapping, wireframing and any other IA work. Its basically Visio done well. I’ve not tried the latest version, but from all the reports I’ve read, its even better. Check it out.

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The Six Stages of Technological Acceptance | October 13, 2005

I was listening to Derek Featherstone’s WE05 podcast the other day and he mentioned how the 5 stages of grief mirrored many peoples experience of web accessibility.

You would start off with denial, claiming that accessibility wasn’t an issue that you needed to be aware of. You would then move into anger, being annoyed that you were forced to do something you didn’t want to do. You would then start bargaining; “how about if I only reach single-A conformance?”. You would next hit depression, being frustrated about how difficult things were. And lastly, you would come to acceptance making accessibility part of your every day life.

I’ve been doing a lot of CSS training recently and one of the things I talk about is how web standards have started to hit the mainstream over the last 18 months. Many of the people who used to deny the usefulness of CSS or got angry about it have started to accept its relevance and even get enthusiastic about it. The very same people who would argue with me on mailing lists about how rubbish CSS was and how it would never take off, are now asking questions on CSS, building sites using CSS and even showing others how cool it is.

However I’ve been talking to a lot of people about Ajax and other Web 2.0 type topics in the run up to d.Construct and I’m experiencing a similar level of push-back as I experienced with CSS and web standards 3-4 years ago. People either seem to be blissfully unaware of what is going on, in denial (and that’s not a river in Egypt honey), angry about it, or really into it.

In the field of change management, there are three basic phases people go through. The first phase is called “unfreezing” whereby people start to break out of their existing mindset. This period involves breaking down barriers, overcoming defence mechanisms and finally realising that change is going to happen. The next stage is a time of uncertainty where the person knows that change is happening but doesn’t know how to deal with it. This stage is typified by anger, confusion and frustration. The third and final stage is freezing, whereby the new mindset is accepted and new patterns are built.

So this got me thinking and I came up with my own six stages of technological acceptance.

Blissful Ignorance - People seem to start in a state of blissful ignorance. They are not aware of what is going on around them and frankly don’t care.

Denial - People have heard about this new technology, but it’ll never take off and its not something they will ever need to know.

Anger - People don’t get why everybody else thinks the technology is interesting and they don’t, so they get angry.

Acceptance - Finally people come to the conclusion that if enough people think the technology is interesting, they better start learning about it or risk being left behind.

Understanding - The light-bulb goes on and people start to get why the new technology is so interesting.

Enthusiasm - People get good at the new ways of thinking and actually start getting other people interested in the technology.

Does these stages seem like an accurate description of the process people go though? Do they match the experiences you’ve had? Maybe with people on a mailing list or members of your own team?

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d.Construct – the UK's First Grassroots Web 2.0 Conference | October 9, 2005

I have wanted to put on a cool, grassroots conference in the UK for a while now. However, what with setting up a new company and writing my first web development book, I’ve just not had the time. Then two weeks ago, the organisers of the Brighton Digital Festival approached me to ask if I wanted to be involved. They had a great space available with a big digital projector, AV and free Wi-Fi, for a reasonably modest fee.

Initially I thought about putting on a large-scale SkillSwap, but as I chatted to contacts in the Industry I realised we could do something much better. I started sending off emails to everybody I knew, asking if they would be interested in talking at an event, and quickly an idea started to form.

The buzzword Web 2.0 is all around us at the moment. Nearly every blog I read and poscast I listen to has made some reference to the term. There are huge conferences going in on in the US as well as smaller, grassroots affairs. Everywhere you look a new Rich Internet Application is being launched, and tech companies are snapping up every DOM script and Ajax savvy developer they can find.

There is a renewed buzz in the web development industry and 2005 could really be the year of the web app. I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to bring together some of the pioneers in the field to talk about what is happening today and how things are likely to develop over the next few years.

d.Construct 2005 was born.

d.construct

(Thanks to Denis Radenkovic for the great logo)

d.Construct is a grassroots conference focussing on the future of the web as an application platform rather than a document sharing platform. We have organised an amazing line-up of speakers from organisations like Yahoo, the BBC and the EFF to talk about Ajax, API’s and the Remix economy. We also have some fantastic international speakers and tech authors talking about DOM scripting, Flash application development and the mobile web.

As the name suggests, d.Construct is a grassroots digital conference aimed at those constructing the next generation of web apps. During the course of the day we aim to deconstruct (do you see what I did there) what web 2.0 really means and what goes into making a really great web application.

Because d.Construct is a last-minute grassroots event, don’t expect any flashy brochures, bulging goodie bags (although offers of schwag, prizes and sponsorship are always welcome) and slick organisation. Also don’t expect a fancy website as we just didn’t have the time. Instead, expect to see world-class speakers talking about the stuff that really matters.

d.Construct will take place in Brighton, on the 11th of November between 9:30am and 4:00pm. The venue has a capacity of 100 people so we expect the conference to book up early. Registration opens on Tue 11th Oct at 12pm, so if you would like to attend, please book early.

If you are as excited about this conference as we are, please tell your friends, blog about the event and generally help spread the word. Feel free to link directly to the page on the Clearleft site, or use the more convenient, www.dconstruct.org domain name.

I look forward to seeing you there.

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