Faruk At.eş


Archive for 2010

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Showing 19 posts from

Apple's iPad -- a broken link?

Adrian Ludwig, attempting to overstate the value of Adobe Flash:

If I want to use the iPad to connect to Disney, Hulu, Miniclip, Farmville, ESPN, Kongregate, or JibJab -- not to mention the millions of other sites on the web -- I'll be out of luck.

Until more and more of these sites follow Youtube and Vimeo's lead of supporting HTML5 Video, that is. Flash games, sure, but video on the web already seems to be trending away from Flash. Its days as the de facto standard (for video on the web) truly seem numbered.

I Love Walled Gardens

Rory Marinich, with a great User Experience-oriented perspective on the complaints about the iPad's (and iPhone's) closed nature:

Does anybody remember what using a computer is like? I spent a week after reinstalling my operating system picking out the right tweaks and gizmos and gadgets to make things more manageable. Weblogs exist that do nothing but teach you how you can make your experience on a computer less shitty. On a closed system, you can’t do that.

iPad: The Better Webbook

Remember when I wrote about ChromeOS and Litl, somewhat over a month ago? It was all about the next generation of Operating Systems and the many, many devices and different types of devices that we're progressing towards; ChromeOS and Litl stood out because both are completely browser-based Operating System, which is similar to Palm's WebOS but even more to the letter. To identify the Litl's uniqueness in particular, I wrote:

Leave it to David to make Goliath look the fool; an innovative and ballsy approach at making a brand new computer, complete with its own Operating System. A total break away from the traditional mold of computing devices and operating systems.

In my mind, I started referring to ChromeOS netbooks (as yet unannounced, hardware-wise) and the Litl computer as "webbooks". They're not really a netbook, the way we think of netbooks today, and they're certainly not tablets. "Webbook" seems fitting, if admittedly not a great name.

The iPad, out of all announced and existing devices I can think of, reminds me most of the ChromeOS netbook (concept) and the Litl, except better. For one, the iPad drives a lot of its value through the built-in Safari web browser, which means that it is capable of doing many of the same things ChromeOS and Litl do. Unlike the two of them, it lacks Flash but it compensates that tremendously by being so much more than just a browser-based OS: it is the iPhone OS on steroids, and with more potential (and much more powerful hardware).

Another observation from my earlier piece applies here, this time about Google and ChromeOS:

First they came with Android, now Chrome OS; the two platforms appear not to share any code or frameworks, so Android developers are at no advantage whatsoever when it comes to developing apps for Chrome OS.

The iPhone kickstarted as a platform by leveraging the Cocoa framework, reinvented for a multi-touch interface instead of a mouse and keyboard. This meant that all existing Mac developers—who are responsible for a large number of fantastic products with great UI—were able to quickly get started building apps. The iPhone's popularity and monetization potential, along with the really great SDK, meant that many more people got started building apps for it.

Now there's the iPad, and it builds on top of the iPhone SDK and CocoaTouch frameworks. I haven't yet explored the iPad SDK but you don't need to in order to realize that every iPhone developer is now also a well-prepared iPad developer. And there are over a hundred thousand iPhone developers already (whilst a much smaller number are published app creators, that number is still larger than for any other mobile platform).

The iPad, as a result, is the "webbook" that really delivers. It offers all of the potential that those other devices have to offer, but adds on top of it a wealth of existing applications that already work on it, a legion of developers ready to expand their skill set and product line, and a much more powerful layer of applications that have yet to be created for it.

There's so much more to be said and is being said about iPad, but I felt this particular aspect was being overlooked thus far.

iPad About

Stephen Fry with an excellent piece about the iPad:

There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking, still no Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment until you’ve spent five minutes with it”. No YouTube film, no promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and interacting with one of these magical objects.

Adding Tags to the OS X Address Book

One of my very first experiences with Mac OS X was watching Cindy Li update her Address Book with all the business cards she had accumulated on day 1 of the @media 2005 conference in London. The simplicity and elegance of such a mundane but common task struck a chord with me, leading to my switch to the Mac very shortly thereafter.

In all the years that I've been a Mac user, now, I've used Address Book to pleasantly manage my contacts but there are a couple of things that I've found increasingly lacking about it. One of them, in particular, is making it more useful as a tool for managing business contacts in an efficient and flexible manner.

The primary Address Book use case for me is searching through it for someone with a particular trait: a designer, a programmer, an investor, friends in the area, people in cities I'm planning travel to and would like to meet up with, et cetera. These are all traits that would be best expressed by a tagging mechanism: I would tag people with their primary skills and passions, their related interests and their geographical location (among other things). The problem is, Address Book has no support for tags, and no real plugin architecture to add it. The only thing it has is the Notes field which you can stuff full of meta-data about a person, so how do you take advantage of that?

The obvious solution is to just write out your own tags in the Notes field, but you can't just write the words on their own: searching through your entire AB for words like "product" or "design" can lead to ambiguous results, such as (part of) a company name or an AIM or e-mail address. Using hash tags ("#design") doesn't work because the hash sign gets ignored. Fortunately, there is something that works: the hyphen!

Prefixing your tags with a hyphen allows you to do functional tag searches in Address Book that exclude normal occurrences of the words. They'll still include hyphenated URLs like easy-designs.net, but it's a big improvement nonetheless. And, you can search for multiple tags separated by spaces.

So if, like me, you want to organize your contacts in a slightly easier, faster and more flexible manner than using countless of groups, tag them with hyphen-prefixed tags in the Notes field. You don't have to go into Edit mode, and using newlines between tags creates a nice listed overview for each person, too, e.g:

-design
-productdesign
-sfbay

Like it? Let me know your thoughts via Twitter!

Mag+ on Vimeo

Fantastic concept video of what a magazine app for the iPad might be like. I'd be surprised if, say, Fray magazine doesn't do something like this.

How A Great Product Can Be Bad News: Apple, iPad, and the Closed Mac

Peter Kirn, writing for Create Digital Music:

I think the new, mobile Apple is doing immense harm to the computing legacy the company has forged. We could have had a Mac tablet today. Instead, we have a giant iPhone – and that’s a decision that has some serious repercussions. It’s a blow to open source alternatives, but also to open development in general: the power of interchangeable hardware and software, on which everything we do with music and visuals on computers is based.

Kirn argues in repeated forms that the iPad is very closed in every way and that, as a result, it stifles creative people. My response to that is: look at what the iPhone did to enable people to be more creative, extra (existing) peripherals be damned.

The real power in creative computing is in software, not hardware. The iPhone has proved that any creative app developer can help enable millions of users be more creative with the very same hardware, in myriad ways. The iPad will be no different, and serve instead to allow people be even far more creative than they already can be with their iPhones.

The takeaway for me from the iPad announcement is that manual file management is destined to go the way of the dodo. I would not want to use a Finder with long lists of files on iPad, not even with a revamped UI at the level of excellence shown in the new iPad apps. Dedicated apps with dedicated management for its files offer a much better user experience, and serve 90% of the needs of the masses.

Apple may be more closed than they were a few years ago, but they've enabled and stimulated far more creative outlets and creations than ever before in doing so.

The Weekend I Met The Internet

There are certain people that sometimes have a troubling time digesting the nature of my lifestyle, or perhaps I should say our lifestyle, for I am speaking about something not unique to myself but characteristic of a great many people. Many great people, I should add.

Ten years ago—that it's been so long never struck me until I wrote it down just now—I went on my first trip across the world for the purpose of meeting people I had never met before. This wasn't a vacation for the vacation's sake, it was a vacation to meet people from the Internet. Haha, how weird is that?!

Well, not very. This past weekend, well over a hundred people traveled from far and wide to San Francisco for the sole purpose of… meeting people from the Internet—myself included. We came from different countries and different continents, and from cities all over the U.S., and for two short but amazingly fun-filled days, we were alltogether in person.

Most people, when they go away on vacation or a long weekend, go somewhere where they're not surrounded by the people they see and talk to every day. Those 140-odd of us in San Francisco, well, we don't see each other in person every day, but we see one another online with Gratuitous Picture Of Yourself Wednesdays and miscellaneous other photo posts to Twitter and Tumblr. We talk to each other all day long in small chunks of 140 characters or up to sixty-second sound clips. We are one another's friends and we share something every single day with each other—except real-life interaction.

The great thing about the Internet is also one of its most challenging flaws: it brings you "together" with people who can be—and are—anywhere else in the world. Sometimes even out of this world. You just aren't in the same physical space, and that brings about some challenges, not in the least having to explain this new interaction and friendship paradigm to people that don't quite get it.

But this is why we organize events like this San Francisco TweetUp; so that we may see each other in person every so often, and give each other real hugs and high-fives. We do this because these people are our friends—not on the Internet, but from the Internet. The friendships we build over bits and bytes, using words and pictures and sound clips and videos, are every bit as significant and meaningful as the friendships we built when we were young kids playing with other kids in the back yard.

It's events like these that make me realize just how small the world really is, and how immensely filled with wonderful people.

The Battlefield of HTML5

It was a cold and quiet night, snowflakes flitted past the window and burning wood crackled soothingly in the fireplace. A cup of coffee and a chocolate bonbon rested beside me when I read something that put the idyllic visage of this real-world environment into a stark juxtaposition against my online world: HTML5, the specification already plagued with an identity crisis, had now turned into an Orwellian nightmare. What was once a Web technologies specification rife with issues expressed (with great concern) by the community for whom it is intended, had now become an idiotic accumulation of spec-shrapnel.

“What happened?”, you may wonder in great distress. Well, HTML5 got torn to pieces.

A little history: HTML5 is the specification that started out as Web Applications 1.0 and was created in 2004 primarily by employees from Apple, the Mozilla Foundation and Opera under the formation of the WHATWG, or Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group. It arose out of concerns over the W3C’s direction with XHTML and their lack of interest in HTML.

Since then, a lot has already changed: the XHTML2 specification was terminated in lieu of much faster and more sensible progress taking place in the WHATWG on Web Applications 1.0, which got renamed HTML5 somewhere along the way. It is still being developed by the WHATWG but from then on existed as a specification, somewhat inexplicably, on both the WHATWG and W3C websites. Meanwhile, the Web Forms 2.0 specification, also an original WHATWG effort, got rolled into HTML5 and the Web Controls 1.0 specification got abandoned due to XBL 2.0.

Now, if you’re a web designer or web developer wanting to use the latest and greatest technologies available to you today, the above bit of narrative will probably have made you ask: what does any of that matter to me?

The Good:

Mostly, learning about the origins of HTML5 and its (ongoing) history will do you little to no good. You’re not going to learn a thing about how to build semantic, accessible, rich media-enhanced websites using the technologies defined in HTML5 from knowing this history. But…

The Bad:

Since the specification is still under heavy development here and there, there are very few tutorials so far that accurately explain how you can use the new features. As such, you are almost guaranteed an occasional but necessary trip to the WHATWG website for a look at the specification itself. “How is this feature implemented” is something that browser vendors are still working on, let alone have it documented, and yet website developers are already eagerly trying to use them. In other words, the HTML5 spec (such as it can be called “spec”, but more on that below) is one of the few resources at your disposal that help you figure out some of all this stuff.

The Ugly:

This is where things get really messy: in the past few days, HTML5 got disorganized as a specification even more, with Microdata (er, Microdata?) and 2D Context (er, 2D Context?) being isolated into separate sections. Furthermore, it now exists under several confusing identifiers: there is the WHATWG HTML (Including HTML5) HTML5 (including next generation additions still in development) spec, the perceived-as-offical HTML5 spec, and the subsets or sub-specifications: Web Workers, Web Storage, Web Sockets API, The Web Socket Protocol and Server-sent Events.

Why half of all this lives and is developed on the WHATWG website but some of it on the W3C site, or why the spec was dissected even more, or why some of it got renamed (from “HTML5” to “WHATWG HTML (Including HTML5)” to, two days later, “HTML5 (including next generation additions still in development)”[1]), is all completely beyond me. It feels, as Jeremy Keith aptly pointed out in the WHATWG IRC channel, very “bureaucratic and Kafkaesque”.

It seems the WHATWG and W3C are in a power struggle over who gets to dictate the future of web technologies, but it has gotten to a point where the web designers and developers, i.e. the very people this entire thing is ultimately in service to, are so far out of the picture that their best interests are not only not being served anymore, they have become the innocent bystander getting injured.

Sure, I know, the HTML specification is meant for the browser makers, not the people making actual websites, but that oft-repeated argument is flawed. Any web developer worth his or her salt will rely on the specification, be it directly by wanting to know the truth of the matter (like wondering which browser is doing something right), or indirectly by learning from tutorials written by people like myself who read the specification and interpret it into words more understandable by designers and developers.

Evangelizing HTML5 was already difficult; between keeping up to date with the ongoing changes, browsers implementing parts of it and fixing bugs between versions, and trying to contribute with suggestions on why certain implementations work or don’t work, there is very little time left to actually explain to people just how it’s all supposed to work. Jeremy’s frustration is therefore very understandable, as is my own (I evangelize much less these days, but Modernizr requires me to keep on top of all this just the same).

The reasoning given in that same IRC chat was that “HTML is an ongoing development”, but that doesn’t work for the Web. Yes, these technologies are constantly changing and yes, it’s important to stay flexible to adapt to new technologies that emerge from creative people, but no, this current, highly disorganized process does not work.

It does not work for web designers and web developers who want to learn about the next wave of web technology, thus far popularized as HTML5.

It does not work for browser makers that are less involved in the process than others, forcing their hand (which may end up going in a direction the other browser makers may not like).

It does not work for the Web as a platform, as that “ongoing development” gets stunted by the confusion this process is creating, and adoption of new technologies will suffer.

It does not work for the consumers, the people browsing websites by the billions every single day, as their sites are not being updated to use these more efficient and much more powerful techniques as rapidly as they could have.

It only seems to work for the handful of people working in the WHATWG and W3C, but their goal with this process has started to elude me.

HTML5 has become a battlefield, and the people most excited to use it are the ones stuck in the crossfire. So what can we do?

There are several things we can do; first of all, the WHATWG wiki has a What you can do page, but it’s written for people wanting to contribute to HTML5 in its current direction, not so much for people wanting clarity in the process. What then? Peter-Paul Koch suggests that HTML5 is whatever you want it to be; similar to that is Andy Clarke’s suggestion: Keep calm and carry on (with HTML5). The latter two ideas have one important thing in common: they both recommend that you just ignore the politics of the WHATWG and W3C and simply use whatever parts of HTML5 you want and are available in browsers. This is sound advice because as a web developer, what really matters to you is what features are useful to serve your needs and are also implemented in today’s browsers.

I’d like to propose another option: full modularization of HTML5. Real, official, proper modularization.

Modularized HTML5

The obvious question that arises from this suggestion is: “Why?”

The reason this current fragmentation of HTML5 is such a problem right now is because different parties are trying to appropriate different pieces of the spec, and it keeps being adjusted as a whole for the sake of “ongoing changes”. This is a real problem that won’t go away, but one that modularization could actually fix. Look at CSS3: it is a massive, massive specification, but because it was broken down into individual modules long ago it has undergone very clear and steady development (compared to HTML5, anyway). It also proved flexible enough to go along with new developments in the industry, such as CSS Transforms and CSS Transitions that were proposed by a non-W3C entity (Apple is a W3C Member, but they proposed these specifications independently).

The benefit for CSS3 was that browser vendors could easily choose which modules to implement and which to wait out on, which was not really clear-cut with CSS2 and only slightly so with HTML5. A proper modularization could clear up the mess from a vendors point of view[2].

It would offer a solution for the political situation, too: rather than trying to appropriate the entire specification, each party can simply focus on individual modules they care deeply about. True, this breaks the battle down into smaller chunks, but it’s better for everyone when an individual module gets pulled at by opposing parties, rather than the entire HTML5 specification.

How does modularization make this work for the Web?

The trick here is in perception: HTML5 as one gigantic specification, with bits and pieces being rolled in and taken out, is much more difficult to make any kind of sense of (for your average yet cutting-edge web developer) than a modularized specification that clearly identifies itself as consisting of many individually developed parts. CSS3 has reaped the benefits of that, and HTML5 can do so, too.

For instance, the Geolocation API is not part of the HTML5 specification, but you’ll be forgiven if you thought it was. Conversely, things like Web Storage are part of HTML5 but—especially with these recent changes—seem only somewhat related, if at all.

With a modularized HTML5, new developments can be rolled into the spec as new modules (like Geolocation), and the ongoing development of the Web won’t suffer. We can collectively consider “HTML5” the spec-brother (or sister) to CSS3, which continues to be used and re-used as a catch-all for new proposals and technologies.

And Web designers & developers?

They’re already used to modularized next-generation specs. This improved clarity would make things much more understandable for people who make websites, and thus encourage them much more effectively to use HTML5.

Modularization is but one option for the HTML5 specification, of course, but while it won’t please all parties equally, it would at least put an end to this battle and restore some sense to the specification.

One can hope, anyway.

  1. I apologize if the specification has suffered another name change by the time this article is published.
  2. Though with 3 out of 4 major browsers behind the WHATWG, it is unclear how much they actually care that it’s getting messy.

The Third & The Seventh

This twelve and a half minute film by Alex Roman is done entirely in CG; no real footage was used for any of this. To say this is anything short of amazing would be an understatement; the use of light, the camera panning and Alex's editing is easily on par with the very best work from Pixar and ILM. Don't miss the Compositing Breakdown and Making Of videos either.

How Long Will It Last?

Created by Armin Reller of the University of Augsburg and Tom Graedel of Yale University, this infographic shows the rate of consumption for materials on earth, what they're used for, and how U.S. consumption plays into it.

Add HTML5 Features to Browsers That Can't

Rather than just using Modernizr to detect whether a browser is capable of certain HTML5 features, this Gist [snippet of code] goes a little further and adds jQuery-powered support to the browsers that don't have those features natively. Great work.

52: A Prime Number (That Isn't A Prime)

A couple of years ago I started participating in the already-popular Project 365, an online and ongoing project wherein photography enthusiasts aim to take at least one photo each day for a full year. I kept at it as best I could but, sadly, the combination of work overload, a depression and lack of inspiration caused me to miss a couple of days throughout the year.

Ever since then I realized that doing something as immensely disciplined as a daily project requires a much more structured lifestyle where such disciplined activities can be fitted into. That structured lifestyle was not one I was familiar with, as the past nine years of my life have been more whirlwind-like than anything resembling the life built on a foundation of education that so pervasively depicts most people in the Western world. My decade of the Aughts (that would be 2000–2009) was also my first decade spent being a working man on the world wide web, kickstarting a career that saw both a sudden rise to (very moderate) stardom as well as a quickly-followed disappearance into obscurity.

Put another way, "structured" was not a word commonly associated with my lifestyle.

Since 2009 was not a grand year for me, I decided to make sure I wouldn't be saying the same thing about 2010 one year from now. Fortunately, there are much better things than New Years resolutions to help me out with that.

Getting into a more structured—and thus, more disciplined—lifestyle takes either one or both of two things: a strong sense of self-disciplinary motivation, or the encouragement of friends. The former is obvious, but if one possesses that already they're not likely to have this kind of problem in the first place. The latter can come in many forms, peer pressure being a perfectly valid one at that. Enter from the left: Project 52. Enter from the right: 52 Weeks Thing.

To say that I am blessed with the friendships of so many, many, very many fantastic, creative and inspiring people would be akin to saying that the universe is "kinda big". Epic complementary chit-chat aside, thanks to a couple of well-placed friendships I am now participating in not one, but two weekly projects that challenge me to be creative. One of them (P52) is decidedly focused on writing—an activity I aim to do a lot more this year—whilst the other (52WT) is much more ambiguous about the execution of your creative endeavor each week. Want to take a photograph of the theme of the week? Go for it. Draw something? Go for it. Write, film, sing, play—go for it.

I've set myself a large number of goals this year, but most of them will be kept under wraps for as much as possible (because announcing your plans is bad). One I'm happily sharing with the world is my participation in these two weekly projects, as they will help bring more structure to my life—not to mention the great output they'll encourage.

So herewith I start my 2010 Project 52, wherein I'll write a post for this blog at least once a week, every week for the rest of this year—and perhaps, hopefully, for much longer after that. Tomorrow the 52 Weeks Thing will see its first week's theme posted, but I'll be using my Tumblr to participate in that one.

If all of this has sounded interesting to you, why not participate? Both projects are open to all; Project 52 is pretty serious about your committing to it whereas 52 Weeks Thing is very much non-committal. The most important thing to remember, however, is those three simple words that made a shoe company world famous:

Just do it.

Evolution of every medium

Seth Godin:

TV used to be driven by the guys who knew how to run cameras and transmitters. Then it got handed off to the Ernie Kovacs/Rod Serling types. Then the financial operators like ITT and Gulf + Western milked it. And finally it's just a job.

Same thing happened to oil painting and it'll happen to your favorite slice of the web as well.

I'm not convinced it will. One of the great things about the Web is that it is democratized and bureaucratized by the same people. The Web, even much more so than the world, is what we make of it and the complete freedom of the platform will ensure that anyone with an ounce of creativity and a bout of dedication can freely do what they want with it. We're control-limited consumers of TV, but we're in total control of our own slice of the Web.


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