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Category Archives: Web

Interactive design (IxD) is study the interaction between the user and the designed target. Nowadays, it is most about the computer user interface, device specific screen elements… In its broadest sense, it also includes the artificial environment in which human interacts with its compounds. 

However, people does not usually think data presentation is IxD. The reason is obvious that human readable data has been presented in tabular printed page or webpage. Yet, the presentation is fixed in time. It is not so much the case with computer power increases, computer applications or webpage. The very simple example is that a list of item sorted by its attributes by simply a click of its attribute name. The items can be viewed in terms of date created or alphabetical order or so on. Another example is visualizing data in map. It was very powerful presentation.

You can treat DropBox as a regular folder for any file. Then the program does the rest- sync all the content with the server – hence the files are accessible everywhere, by different browser, any platforms including iPhone.

The biggest difference conceptually is that Dropbox is a folder and iDisk is an connected disk. Hence, there is no copying to create a new copy and no extra effort to take care multiple copies. iDisk in the old Mac is the pain in the ass. Even Copy small files leave the progress bar windows stay open for while, the larger the file the longer it stay open. Dropbox is no different than any moving action in the Finder. You move a file to Dropbox folder. It syncs in the background and he folder or file displayed with a small syncing arrows on the lower left corner. A blue tick when complete, very clear.

Most importantly, iDisk has left me too many times without a file when accessing the file in different computer. The syncing sucks in iDisk but it never happens in Dropbox, at least not yet. Best of all, Dropbox is free for the first 2 GB. Apple should seriously consider to buy the company and replace with it’s aging and annoying iDisk.

What are the ‘big’ things in the very near future?

  • Magazine in digital form
  • Publishing ‘industry’ in iTunes market style
  • Web productive apps in free/subscription mode (Google, MS, Apple)
  • Educational web apps and portal
  • Music Album

Simply put – reorganization of the old in the not-too-new.

People has been commenting on the Google Chrome’s User Interface refreshing – a fresh start from sketch. Some says it is more like a runtimes or OS. Meanwhile, the iTunes 8 came out, with some two new features – new album view and genius. I observe one thing in common – the recycling of UI strategy with twists.

Google Chrome’s tab feature is just like any tab feature in Firefox, Opera or Safari. Yet, by isolated each tab in their protected space – the tab is not just a tab for different webpage but web-application container, you “launch” new app in the tab, and move it away, creating new windows – all these are Operation System strategies. Google recycled a UI and twist to make its own OS basic units – we get a Application manager and a Finder.

iTunes 8’s new album view is a grid arrangement by category: album, artists, genre… One can quickly skim through what is inside each picture. In Mac terminology, a picture is the representation of an event. In case of sorting by artists, the particular album cover will be presentaton of all ablums you have for artist in your music library. The Mac user will immediately spot the similarity with iPhotos event. You can resize the album Even the sizing bar is the same. The best of iTune 8 implementation involves the small cycle-number indication on the number of new heard downloads (when in Podcast). This cycle-number reminder is not new either, a direct take from the Mail (OS X’s dock or iPhone). Apple has essentially adopted the visual management strategy for the audio management. When the UI element or strategy is good, I don’t mind it appears again and again.

iTunes8 screencap

iTunes 8 screen capture

Background reading: Straight out of Compton.

Why does Java have very limited use? Why did Adobe FLEX (make a runtime environment using Flash) fail? One word: SPEED. Why do I use something run a lot slower when I can run the same thing in my desktop much quicker and snappier?! The instant nature of things surrounding us conditions us to demand the result right of way. No waiting. Patient may be a virtue. When coming to a click to result, patient is overrated and ultimately worthless.

Speaking from the personal experience, clicking the mouse means something will happen right after. I, like many, have been conditioned to react so. When there is nothing happened, my first reaction will be – my computer hangs again. Damn it. Oh, the status bar is still moving… We have the network connection, the server responsiveness or the webapp to blame. However, to an average soul, the distinction among them is non-existing. With everything being equal, the ability to running the complicated JavaScripts with which the load and reload is done in the background is the key. The browser’s speed to execute complicated Javascript or render a page becomes the bottleneck.

Immediacy. That is, the response time of webapp is the same or faster when you click the mouse for local app. Then, the cloud computing and abandoning the fat PC will be an everyday reality.

Let just hope Google Chrome the web browser will smash IE. Let’s hope the competitive environment will nurture innovation. Removing the IE from the browser domination, Let Safari, Firefox, Opera and Chrome reveal their brilliance in a standard compliant web. Perhaps, IE may be come back with standard compliant, light weight, snappy browser. Who knows.

F… stands for the web future for which everyone expects to be the desktop of today’s computer. The Operation System (like Windows) we takes for granted will only be part of the equation. The Web Browser is another part. Who produces better browsers take the high ground for the future battles. That’s the reason Google’s own browser makes such a noise. That’s reason why the new JavaScript engine matters.

Who is on the table at this moment. Internet Explorer (IE) is the fat happy guy, take 70-80% of the market sure. Firefox comes next (8-19%, depending on which stat you look). Safari (3.5%) and Opera come next. Safari and Opera are very aggressive to be standard compliant, in their attempt to pass Acid3 is fun to watch. Both Opera and Safari suffers from the Javascript hiccup. Safari has the solution in place – a new Javascript interpreter — SquirrelFish.

Firefox are working on new JavaScript engine — SpiderMonkey. They all said the new engine is much faster. SquirrelFish claims the 4-5 folds increase in rendering speed. The new Google Chrome‘s new Javascript engine V8 (make me think of a health drink) has more impressive speed, supposedly 10 times faster than IE’s Javascript engine.

The speed of Javascript really matters, it is the engine for “making the desktop into the cloud” and “running all the application on the web”; to make the “thin-client” a reality in a largest scale; to remove the pirated software; for software company to have unprecedent control over their app; to enjoy for practice-shift of PC ever. The bottom line is, people staying with their desktop application is simply the desktop application is snappy and responsive. It is the same reason noone like to do the Flash based web app. A speedy Javascript engine hence is the key.

At the end, it is because the Microsoft’s non-standard approach hold us back for a decade. The monopoly really speed thing up at the beginning. However, when IE became the de facto standard, innovation stops. It is because Microsoft only care about making money, not cashing on the innovation.

Let’s cross the finger for Google Chrome.

Extended reading: WIRED MAGAZINE – Inside Chrome: The Secret Project to Crush IE and Remake the Web.

Once upon a time, Apple implemented a technology called OpenDoc in their OS. The idea is simple, everyone write a piece of app, an applet. The applet contribute to the overall function of a container. If you need a word processor, buy a container program with this function. You could just add the spreadsheet functions easily with other applets. Most importantly, the files saved by that container should be readable by other container program,  and editable if same function applet existed.

It is a technical idealism just like Java; the file format becoming an open standard, interchangeable among programs. The problem is that such approach required many abstract layers. The speed and the response of the container program suffers.

Today’s internet is the new OpenDoc ! Website / web-app is the new applet. The sites or web-app is created with specific function. The function, however, is not narrowly defined in turns of what you can achieve in your PC. It is by the imaginations and experiments. Daring venture by some capitalists. Google, Yahoo, youTube, Flickr … You can make your Blog could be container, inserting the applet in your blog.

The new OpenDoc combines the power of computers out there — the servers process the data and serves the html and manage all XMLHttpRequest , Your PC may only need to be fast enough to run a modern browser, that is, good enough to effectively run Javascripts and sometimes Flash. Now, “running an app” is shared by both server and the home PC together.

To remind Apple, the container is the Safari or Firefox. For better or worse, the data is not in your Mac, neither in “tangible” files. The underlying structures of this Internet “OpenDoc” are not designed by some programmers. It responds to the needs of popular demands; evolving over time. An organic evolution that is.

Once the AppStore open, we can foresee the apps with capability to edit files, with current iPhone, the files only stored as mail attachment is unsatisfactory. In previous post, I speculate on an iDisk-Finder hybrid for how files could saved and accessed to different apps in iPhone.

A “place” is needed in the long run to store files to which apps have access. An iDisk-Finder solution will be the best. Let play devil’s advocate. We are absolutely fine without an open filesystem. To the solution of accessibility is very simple. Saving files is even easier.

Let the apps save their files like Safari saves its bookmark. Let apps assess other app’s space where “files” are “saved”. Afterall, App is the master, the data or if you prefer call them files is only the slave. Why should we let the user worry about their data. When people open the apps, they will see their data. We can’t never allow people lie their hand on the sacred data, and personified it with icons. Given people the false impression that data are free to share. Icons are just facade for format slaves.

There are much true in it. We do see it happening in Adobe CS which comes with a file browser (Adobe Bridge). Aperture and Lightroom are both the excellent example of apps that management and modified file in house. Obviously, the universal purposed Finder cannot fully meet today’s need. Specific method of managing is tailored for different file type. In iPhone’s case, a general purposed Finder is not definitely out of the question.

Then, let the app manage their own files/data. If data needs to be exchanged, let it export in a file format and place it into the cloud where the iDisk located. Such method is using by all the webapps. The wordpress here let you manage your posts or pages. They will be not called the post or page a file. The idea of a files is simply non-existing. All there is data; managed by the webapps/apps themselves.

iPhone is like that, should always like that. Info you create is data, not file. Let’s keep it that way. Once you need to share it – place it in the cloud – never forgotten – never needed to search. It makes life simple, doesn’t it.

P.S. If you like to share your data, you will have to pay for MobileMe. Hahahaha…

We had eWorld then all the “i” products and now we have “me”, what is the significance?

A good read: WhyMe.

I offer evidence only in my strictly unacademic impressions of the differences between ‘I’ and ‘me’.  For instance, ‘I’ implies activity, a doing and a being of something.  Ideologically, this meshes well with Apple’s provenance as the tool of the artist and its aim to imbue the user with the identity of Unique Creator of Digitial Artifact, of curator and distributor and master of his or her digital hub …. By contrast, ‘me’ implies passivity, an identity of self-evident existence without the burden of activity.  In the ‘me’ model, I exist by the token of my relation to my Contacts and Calendar.  In the ‘I’ model, I exist by the token of my photos, which I sync from my camera in iPhoto and upload to my iDisk.

It has been said that there is a paradigm shift from files centric to app centric application design. File centric simply means that application saves your work in a file. App centric is to mean all work done is “saved” in the app itself.

The classic example for file centric is Words document. You save your text in a file saved it somewhere in your harddrive. The files is independent of the app itself. You can send it to someone in email, upload it to server. In the age of internet, a file is the basic unit to share information across different computer system. The web page itself is an html file located in the server.

The app centric application can be small. Mac’s Scrapbook or Stickies let you type text without worrying to save your works. Once open, your work will be there. Scrapbook let you flip through pages just like the real object. Instead of put the data in a files, the app saves it in a database (less fancy way to say it), app put the work in location an average user would not find it. iTunes is in fact an app centric piece of work, you import your music to the database like interface in which you manage your music many ways you want. The music file is copied to the new location, it doesn’t matter if you delete the original files. No alias (Unix symbolic link, Windows shortcut) is created. App centric application manages / creates according to its own internal logic.

The app centric is in fact website centric, that is one website is one app. Your emails on the server somewhere. Your game setting is in your login in the game site.

That’s the future? Files centric is disappearing but will be around for a long time. The file centric environment is rooted in our day to day handling of object. A book, a CD, a pair of jeans. The files one of object to be manipulated, work with, play with…