June 2010 Archives
Reading the about page would take maybe a minute or two, but after 10 seconds of taking Bounce for a spin you should get the picture. Spiffing interface, simple to use, not to mention the very fine bouncing ball you get thrown in for good measure.
It’s currently in private beta, but the video demo looks rather promising.
If you have a spare $400, Jack Zylkin will turn an old mechanical typewriter into the most spiffing iPad accessory you could ever imagine.
“A new and groundbreaking innovation in the field of obsolescence,” the USBTypewriter™ takes your old Underwood, Remington Portable or Blickensderfer and turns it into a retro-style USB keyboard for your iPad. Be sure to check out the short introductory video, but before you hit the shop, take a detour to the concise how it works page, it makes fascinating reading.
The generous folks at Teehan+Lax have released iPhone GUI PSD Version 4. In their own words:
Now in its fourth iteration, this version of the template has been completely redesigned from the ground up. Based on iOS4, it includes all the elements you need to design proof-of-concepts or production ready assets.
From the internet: Thank you.
Frank Chimero, who incidentally will be one of the speakers at this years Build conference in Belfast, is one of the contributors to the Italian signature series Un Sedicesimo, the brainchild of Maurizio Corraini, who explains:
Each issue has a different author, whose job is to create a sixteen-pages-long project. Un Sedicesimo will be a magazine different at each time, from the headline to the colophon.
Chimero’s contribution — subtitled “16 activities for creatives” — is truly a thing of beauty, and at mere €5, there’s absolutely no reason for it not making its way into your library.
Listen up. I know the shit you’ve been saying behind my back. You think I’m stupid. You think I’m immature. You think I’m a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I’m Comic Sans, and I’m the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.
Priceless and well worth the time invested in a short, five minute read.
The fine folks at FontFont are running a Web FontFont Discount Offer. Get 30% off FontFonts and Web FontFonts until July 15. As FontShop put it:
Web FontFonts are as easy to license as a conventional desktop font. One-time fee. No subscriptions.
With a discount and some lovely typefaces, now’s the time to give Web FontFonts a try. Add. To. Cart.
For those of you who may not have the same affection towards the current Vuvuzela-immersed World Cup shenanigans as others, there’s finally an alternative: RoboCup™ is combining competitive football with cutting-edge robotics. According to its founders:
In order for a robot team to actually perform a soccer game, various technologies must be incorporated including: design principles of autonomous agents, multi-agent collaboration, strategy acquisition, real-time reasoning, robotics, and sensor-fusion.
Hosted in Singapore, RoboCup™ 2010 is now only days away — it promises to be an enjoyable and exciting affair; one where any buzzing sound is assured to be originating not from the audience, but from the players themselves.
We’re both fathers, we’re both geeks, we both have children (see where this is going…?). When we heard GeekDad were reviewing the remake of The Karate Kid, we were intrigued (though, having mentioned this classic of contemporary cinema in our book, not a little unconcerned).
We weren’t mistaken. Though GeekDad conclude that, “‘The Karate Kid’ (2010) is a worthy remake of the classic ‘The Karate Kid’ (1984),”, we - it has to be said - have our doubts.
Call us traditionalists, but some things are best left well alone.
Celebrating the World Cup with 140 character creativity: Twitterartist.
This series of screenshots shows Apple’s questionably named HTML5 and web standards showcase pages displayed on a Newton MessagePad 2100.
The Newton was running Eckhart Köppen’s lightweight, text-only Courier web browser, as well as Steve Weyer’s more capable Newt’s Cape browser.
That’s called gracefully degraded content.
Graceful degradation indeed.
We’re evenly split over our love (or lack of) for the beautiful game. That said, we’re firmly united in a love for innovative uses of web technologies that present old things in new ways.
The Guardian - worthy of praise for its wholehearted embrace of all the possibilities the web offers for the distribution of information - has created World Cup 2010 Twitter Replay, a match replay service well worth checking out. Missed a match? No problem, find out what the Twitterverse had to say about it. As The Guardian put it:
Follow our high-speed replay of the World Cup and find out how Twitter reacted to every game.
Tracking hashtags - #goal!!!!!!!! - and plotting them along an animated timeline, the resulting information visualisations condense every match into a distilled timeline that makes for fascinating, information-rich and hyper-condesned viewing.
Phil Corbett, standards editor at the New York Times, has put his foot down; Times writers are no longer allowed to use the word ‘tweet’. In a memo issued to Times writers (published by The Awl), Corbett states:
Some social-media fans may disagree, but outside of ornithological contexts, ‘tweet’ has not yet achieved the status of standard English. And standard English is what we should use in news articles.
Except for special effect, we try to avoid colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon. And ‘tweet’ — as a noun or a verb, referring to messages on Twitter — is all three. Yet it has appeared 18 times in articles in the past month, in a range of sections.
Of course, new technology terms sprout and spread faster than ever. And we don’t want to seem paleolithic. But we favor established usage and ordinary words over the latest jargon or buzzwords.
There’s no need to worry, however, in closing the memo, Corbett states, “‘Tweet’ may be acceptable occasionally for special effect.” So, good news, panic over.
In an effort to stem the flow of needless and time-consuming questions coming their way, Fictive Kin - who are “currently working on something awesome” - have a created a highly effective FAQ that essentially states: “We don’t do client work.”
Well crafted words, well worth reading.
Are you, “one of Europe’s most passionate geeks?” Then you could do worse than checking out HackFwd, a European pre-seed investment company which launched earlier this week.
Likening themselves to, “a Klingon Warship, but on a friendly mission,” HackFwd offers financial, administrative, marketing and moral support for emerging geek startups, in return for a 27% equity stake.
If you’re creating an innovative, technology-based, business to consumer product and you think that you can launch a beta in 6-12 months, the HackFwd Offering (PDF) is certainly worth a gander.
Earlier today O2 announced its new UK iPhone Pay Monthly Tariffs, ditching existing unlimited data for new caps of 500MB on the lower tariffs, rising to 1GB on the highest tariffs.
Sadly, the removal of the unlimited data option creates an increased awareness of data usage as far as the average Joe is concerned, leading, in many cases, to a hesitation in using this data, as it’s counting towards a - now defined - total allowance. This, in turn, only increases the guilt and diminishes the enjoyment you might get out of using your shiny, new iDevice.
The argument that it’s entirely feasible that the vast majority of iPhone users would rarely reach their allocated 500MB per month is irrelevant to this point. The fact that the cap is there, and the psychological impact this cap has, is what’s important.
By completely removing the unlimited option, O2 are making a bad decision as far as its customers’ emotional happiness is concerned, making the iPhone 4 a subtly less enjoyable experience for the majority of its users. Pity.
Utilising The Guardian newspaper’s Content API - a part of The Guardian Open Platform which enables developers to leverage the newspaper’s content to build innovative, new applications - Phil Gyford, a freelance developer based in London, has created Today’s Guardian a beautifully minimal re-imagining of how news might be delivered. Think The Guardian meets the new Safari Reader, putting content first and foremost.
Gyford has written extensive notes about the site’s development which make fascinating and very worthwhile reading.
Should you have missed our tweet yesterday, you might want to fire over to Focus, to take a look at their excellent WTF is HTML5? infographic. It’s everything you ever needed to know in one handy and easy to reference diagram. Download it and peruse it at your leisure.
(It goes without saying that we still have a soft spot for Mr Lawson’s equally accurate What HTML5 Is and Isn’t infographic, executed in the tried and tested medium of pen and paper. An equally handy cut-out-and-keep diagram no self respecting web designer or developer should be without.)
Joey Roth’s luxurious Ceramic Speakers are beautifully wrought and the perfect complement to that shiny, new iPhone 4 you’re about to buy. Noted product design journal I.D. describes them as follows:
Tapping an organic vein, employing acoustically neutral materials such as porcelain and cork, [Roth’s] hi-fi units nest at a slight angle in maple plywood stands, like bottles of wine.
As connoisseurs of fine wine, amongst other things, there’s no need to tell you we have instantly added these to our wish lists.
In an excellent article titled Better Screen, Same Typography, noted typographer Koi Vinh offers some pertinent points on the relationship between Apple’s new, high resolution Retina Display and the typography it sports; typography that remains, stubbornly, poor. Vinh states:
Apple continues to lay claim to being a purveyor of excellent typography merely through hardware innovations like the Retina Display, which to my mind address only one aspect of the problem of getting us all to a richer typographic environment.
Openly critical of the lack of typographic control that remains Apple’s Achilles’ heel, Vinh flags up one “perfectly awful” typographic moment in the “elaborately produced, incredibly self-congratulatory promotional videos” that the company has created to herald the arrival of the new iPhone.
Singling out one particularly outrageous frame, featuring dreadful typography (certainly nothing to be proud of), Vinh lambasts Scott Forstall, Apple Senior Vice President for iPhone Software, for stating, “The text… is just perfect!” Vinh, more accurately, states:
While the letterforms on that virtual page may look gorgeous, it’s apparent to any designer that the text is far from perfectly typeset. It’s hideous, scarred as it is by unsightly ‘rivers’ of bad spacing within the text. No self-respecting typographer would dare call that perfect.
It’s a point worth echoing: turning the resolution up to eleven is not a typographic cure-all, and for Apple to claim that it might be misses the point entirely. Vinh summarises the point neatly:
Building a great display for typography without building great typographic tools is a dereliction of duty.
There’s no question, we have a long way to go before reaching the screen-based typographic nirvana we all want to inhabit; with luck, articles like this one by Mr Vinh, might ensure we arrive there sooner, rather than later.
Can’t afford an iPad? Daniel Gray at Swiss Cheese and Bullets has the answer.
With a stunning Retina display, support for multitasking and a considerably improved camera; all wrapped up in a minimalist design Dieter Rams would be proud of, it looks set to sell, as usual, like hot cakes.
In Apple’s words: “This changes everything. Again.” In ours: “We need to buy new iPhones. Again.”
section); support for geolocation services; and full screen HTML5 video.
That’s not all… Safari 5 includes plenty of other features too, not least Reader, designed to allow you to cut the clutter from busy web pages (removing your finely wrought designs in the process). What the Safari 5 upgrade didn’t deliver, however, was the option to automatically restore the tabs from your last session. That said, we did at least get Bing!
Whilst it’s encouraging to see Apple throwing its considerable weight behind HTML5 and the development of open web standards, it’s unveiling late last week of an HTML5 Showcase was, to put it mildly, somewhat disingenuous.
The copy is well written, careful to mention that what’s being promoted, is being promoted in the context of, “the latest version of Apple’s Safari web browser”. (As an aside, it’s interesting that Apple announced this just days before Safari 5 was released.) Apple state:
Standards aren’t add-ons to the web. They are the web. And you can start using them today.
However, to herald the benefits of web standards in a showcase that requires Apple’s very own Safari browser to access, is so contradictory that one wonders who in Apple thought this might be a good idea. (Not least as it comes hot on the heels of Steve Jobs’ open letter outlining a number of Thoughts on Flash which was openly critical of Adobe championing “100% proprietary” products.)
Moments after the announcement, @beep (Ethan Marcotte) summarised the Apple HTML5 Showcase ironically as follows:
I love Apple’s new ‘download Safari’ page: http://www.apple.com/html5/
In a thoughtful piece, writing on Intellectual Honesty and HTML5, Christopher Blizzard (who it should be noted works as an Open Source Evangelist for the Mozilla Corporation) stated forcefully, “It’s time to expose the emperor,” (the language he uses is telling). Blizzard goes on to state:
Apple [has] come out with something that [is] so brash and misleading it deserves a good tear-down.
Sites [like this] entirely miss the point of the web, interoperability and standards… The demos that they put up are just filled with stuff that Apple made up, aren’t part of HTML5 and are only now getting to the standards process.
Whilst it’s true that standards don’t always lead - and with the increasing role the WHATWG is playing in evolving HTML5, standards are, in some cases following browser innovations - the manner in which Apple has presented its showcase, as a signpost to the benefits of standards (implicitly the benefits of open standards over closed, proprietary systems like Flash) is contradictory.
Blizzard summarises his thinking neatly, noting that there’s nothing wrong with browser vendors showcasing browser-specific innovations as long as they are labelled as such, stating: “Apple’s message is clearly meant to say, ‘we love the web’, but the actual demos they have and the fact that they actively block other browsers from those demos don’t match their messaging. It’s not intellectually honest at all.”
That this showcase, “isn’t intellectually honest at all,” goes to the heart of the matter. It’s the paradox - of ‘standards’ that are ‘browser-specific’ - that lies at the heart of the reaction that Apple’s showcase has given rise to.
Writing at Webmonkey, Scott Gilbertson states, “Apple’s HTML5 Showcase is less about web standards, more about Apple.” This sentiment is also echoed by Charles Arthur in The Guardian, who writes, “Insisting that people have to use Apple’s Safari when plenty of other browsers can cope with HTML5 isn’t the best way to persuade people that you’re pushing a standard, is it?”
Apple deserves to be celebrated for its relentless innovation within the browser space, but should take care in how it highlights this innovation. There are few web designers that aren’t excited at some of the Safari specific innovations that Apple is developing, but all look forward to the day when these innovations are truly standards: written once and delivered, seamlessly, to any browser.
We’re delighted to announce that we’ll be playing an active role in this year’s Build Conference, supporting the inimitable Mr Gordon Paper, in his quest to position Belfast on the world stage as a centre of excellence for web design.
In addition to a workshop we’re running on paper prototyping we’re working on a couple of fringe events, which are free to conference pass holders. One is a closely guarded secret, the other - The Standardistas’ Open Book Exam - promises to be one of the most exciting events in this year’s geek calendar.
Unlike the typical pub quiz, where consulting your shiny internet-enabled mobile device would lead to instant disqualification; the Open Book Exam demands the use of iPhones, iPads, Androids - even Zunes - to avail of the internet’s wealth of knowledge, required to answer many of the formidable questions.
Played in teams of four, the exam will feature ten rounds of ten questions on topics ranging from the history of 68K Assembler to the experiments of Dr. Lawrence Angelo. As with any event worth its salt, there will be plenty of beer and plenty of prizes, including a shiny, new iPad for the Last Geek Standing.
We’re looking forward to catching up with friends, old and new, in Belfast in November and we hope to see you there.
Tickets are going fast, you should get one now, before they go.
Kaleidoscope is a file comparison tool with a difference: it’s very nice to look at. Created by the people who brought the world Versions — the first pretty Subversion client for the Mac, Kaleidoscope offers advanced text and image comparison as well as integration with most version control systems, including Git and SVN.
The image comparison tool is particularly impressive, although the consideration and craft that’s been put into the text comparison screens probably deserves even higher accolades.
Unlike the comparison tool built into BBEdit, which allows you to make changes to the documents as you’re comparing them, Kaleidoscope is “view only”. Saying that, it’s a pretty impressive view.
Designing user interfaces? Fancy four hundred and eighty six hand crafted, royalty-free vector icons? Look no further than Drew Wilson’s Pictos. Scrumptious.
However, the question that comes to mind when perusing the Smokescreen demo pages is: Do we actually want the type of content usually delivered by Flash on our mobile devices in the first place?
Looking at the examples on the site and reading through the blog entries and the about page, it’s clear that Smokescreen isn’t intended to be a solution for intricate dynamic Flash ‘experiences’, rather it’s going to be a platform for mobile advertisement.
When “the guys” at the ad agency RevShock - the people behind Smokescreen - talk about their motivation for creating the tool, the reasons include, that the lack of Flash on iPods, iPads and other devices paints, “a bleak picture for mobile advertising,” and further, that, “as an ad network, we believe that dynamic, interactive ads are much more fun than boring static ads.”
So, let’s ask the question again: Do we really want Smokescreen?
Reducing the well-known movie star-rating system to its logical conclusion, The Fella has created a base-2 work of geek genius. The binary reviews are either a 1 or a 0, and of course, the whole thing is built in exemplary HTML5.
We’ll give it a 1.
If proof were needed that Fontdeck has been a labour of love, look no further than the lengthy period of gestation that the service has spent in development (a period characterised by ruthless attention to detail, an unflinching commitment to deliver a world class service, and a desire to deliver only fonts enhanced and optimised for viewing on-screen).
The brainchild of Jon Tan and Richard Rutter (and backed, formidably, by Clearleft and OmniTI), Fontdeck launches with a small, but perfectly formed collection of foundries including Exljbris, URW++ and Veer offering a number of classic typefaces including Clarendon, Futura and Museo Sans.
A brief look at the service’s designers reveals a who’s who of type designers - Max Miedinger, Paul Renner and Hermann Zapf, to name but three - many exclusive to the service.
Unlike existing services like Typekit, Fontdeck embraces a different model, where type foundries set typeface prices themselves, allowing the service to grow - working hand-in-hand with foundries - to offer a service that is second to none.
Offering individual fonts or competitively priced bundles, Fontdeck is scalable with a simple licensing model, better still, its free to try, and quick to set up.
Tan and Rutter, both renowned for their commitment to well-crafted typography on the web, are the perfect partners to establish a web typography service and Fontdeck looks set to establish itself quickly as a quality focused addition to the web typography landscape.
Continuing the theme inspired by our annual student assessments, this article by John Nunemaker - posted in January, 2010, but timeless advice nonetheless - on his “lack of talent” is well worth reading. Nunemaker states:
The other day someone thanked me for my open source contributions. They then said something about wishing they had my talents. I didn’t miss a beat and informed them that I have no talent.
It is true. I have no talent. What I do have is a lot of practice.
A great point. There’s a difference; and it’s a big one. The age old saying is true: Practice makes prefect. There’s no substitute for hard work and perseverance; it’s not about talent, it’s about practice (and anyone is capable of practising).
Anyone familiar with Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 Hours rule (which we touched on during our recent presentation at FOWD London) will appreciate this is a sentiment close to our hearts. Indeed, it’s no surprise to discover we expressed it in our very first post when we launched this website in January, 2009.
As we approach the end of our annual student assessments, this quote by Salvador Dali seems particularly apt:
No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist.
Chances are you’re not a superhero. Chances are you don’t live in Brooklyn. Chances are, however, that you’ll appreciate the The Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company web site.
With capes, secret identities and invisibles on offer, they’re bound to have something to get you started on your crimefighting career.