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Simply, many people love to operate computer like those in Star Trek. May be, may be not. I have definitely love the regularity and expectedness of pressing buttons.

Until now, all voice recognition program is a great hobby. However, the only one useful use comes to iPhone voice recognition, “call John” – the only voice command I used when on the move – walking on a busy street – too busy doing something else.

Any Star Trek interface in the future ? may be, wait until the centennial of Personal Computer.

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148 Apps limit on the number of apps “displayable” is arbratry, I have seen no reason that must be so. May be, the nine dots between the dock and the apps look best, not 12 dots, not 7 dots, and with that spacing between and beside them. It gotta to Steve Jobs’ arsfectic – his strong sense of “middle balance”. The first ipod has the phone jack right in the middle. The 9 dots has the middle dot and 4 dots beside it; and nine dots just fill 2 icon column nicely. Anyway, to the marketing nine home screen page limit is —  Dear customer, “you have spent about $200 on apps, you should spend another $2oo something for an new iPod touch” if you like to house your additional investment.

Practically, nine pages of apps make search reasonably fast enough for human eyes. I have no scientific data to support that. However, one page home screen would be perfect. How can this be done?

A billion iPhone apps download is approaching. People definitely downloading the apps (I have some freebies) and soon page after pages added to the home screen. Until one day, I found out the app I have downloaded didn’t show up. Gee, there is a limit on the number of apps I can install in my iPhone! 9 home screen pages or 148 apps.

Why did Apple care about that and a limits needs to be set? Does Apple consider about how messy the home screen would become once the App Store opened (especially with so many free apps)? Is this a flaw in the home screen design? Alternative? Dose a solution exist but Apple solve it for later updates? Is there a way to solve this mess? Certainly, my answer is “stack”. In this series of posts, I will explore how stack is the answer to current mess in light with other methods, I didn’t think it will work.

“Seeing is believing” in software interface should be amended as “seeing is using”. You see a interface control element (a hind of a control), you remember to use that function that element brings. This almost is as basic as it could consider the first pillar of graphic user interface. The graphic user interface was to replace the text command line with an average user found implenarable. The graphic user interface take the necessary daily operation make the visusable and hence reveal itself to the users, as supposed to hidden from them.

However, this is exactly what many interface is doing. The irony is that the limited space really restricted the presentation of UI elements. A flat land total layout of element is as bad as hiding the elements. A good interface is cleverly presenting the elements in a limited space. The statement, hence, is “seeing the clue is using”.

The cover flow view is like a virus spreading from iTunes to now Safari. Coverflow is a great way to waste time when you have plenty. This interface is analogous to flipping vinyl records in music store shelves of the good old day. It was a great experience to choose music when browsing nicely designed cover arts one by one. Apple is right trying to duplicate this experience (the idea was not Apple brain child, but invented by Andrew Coulter Enright) in iTunes or iPhone. It was fun to play with, waste time on and feel the concreteness of musics. But as interface (especially for small computer screen) is ineffective.

Coverflow does have one good use for people with bad memory. When you don’t remember the name of a document read or webpage visited, search is no use. Visually browse through the huge thumbnails one by one, slowly, could finally help you reach the target. A very slow and ineffective search method – a last resort.

What made the Coverflow so ineffective is the animation and limited viewing ability of number of files together. A previewed icons view – that is, the icons in a given windows show all their contents – far superior for visual searching. This view show all they have at once, you can go after the suspected target by Quick Look. Previewed icons plus Quick Look is 100 times greater then Coverflow. Apple is losing its edge on UI innovation.  

P.S. Coverflow does let people admire their own “creation” one by one. people need that – a space to think.

After a few days of use, I removed it from my shared computer. The major complaint is that the tag arrangement is so “unnatural”. When old things work for them (to certain degree), people loathe changes. Other than this habitual reason, is there any things prevent people from upgrade? First, upgrade has to be proved having advantages out rate the downside. Safari’s good speed is the good side. If you can feel a great improvement in speed, the downside is may be overcame sooner or later.

Speed vs Habit…. I would choose speed if the site I frequent can actually benefit from it. If I am an hotmail user, no, no, speed is not even an issue. The site just doesn’t work. The upgrade is to be blamed. If sites I frequent is simple HTML site, not much Javascript, the benefit is marginal. I should wait until I am forced to upgrade or stay where I am.

Software interface is still evolving. The great idea can still be possible, even change the course of this evolution. Think of a hammer, the handling interface is fixed and complete. Designers may make more complete by varying the length of the handle, play with the shape or the thickness. Software interface is a different story.

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.