Wednesday, April 29, 2015

hiding things overrated

It's always tempting to hide clutter behind things - like in UI, to tuck stuff behind a drop down.
But even on mobile: don't do that. There's an argument that navigation options should always be visible.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

life before youtube

It sometimes strikes me as weird that the first half of the '00s didn't have Youtube - this history of Youtube touches on that dark era, and generally does a good job painting the broad strokes of its evolution.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Kirk 15K!

It's my 15K Day - I am 15,000 Days Old, exactly.
To commemorate this, I revamped an old Javascript toy, and am launching it as http://TIMETOY.net/
Plug in a birthday or other big date, and it will show you the upcoming interesting superday milestones, or you can use its calculator to figure out the seconds / hours / minutes / days / weeks between 2 dates (or vice-versa)

The design isn't as responsive as I hope to make it yet, and I didn't bother to wrap the Javascript, but I think I really did good work on the interface, especially the milestone "superdays" calculator. When I observed myself showing off my original javascript date toy, I realized I was plugging in random powers of 10, and hoping there was an "interesting" day in the near future. (I also realized how important a "reset to today" button was.) That seems like something a computer could better than human!

First I had to figure out what milestones were "interesting"... eventually I realized it was powers of ten that happen rarely, but not TOO rarely... between 2-3 years.

My first thought was to print up a list of upcoming superdays, and then have a next arrow to get the next set of ones happening after that. (Or maybe a previous arrow to go back) But I was worried the list would be uneven... 10,000 hours happens every year or so, 1,000 days happens every 3, roughly. I then decided giving each its own little widget would work better:
Later, I realized moving the widgets so the presented dates were in chronological order made more sense than any other arbitrary ordering. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

js / stackoverflow quickie: number with commas

This came up for me twice recently, so I'm archiving this stackoverflow solution for pretty-printing a number with commas:
function numberWithCommas(x) {
    return x.toString().replace(/\B(?=(\d{3})+(?!\d))/g, ",");
}
I know ideally it would check what the local separator character is, but this is ok for some hacks.

Monday, April 20, 2015

mobilegeddon: mobile design more important than ever for search

Google is changing its algorithms (I think mostly just for people as they use mobile?) to favor mobile friendly sites.

There's a useful tool page to see how mobile-friendly or unfriendly it considers your site.

One of the biggest factor seems to be adjusting the viewport initially....

Saturday, April 18, 2015

life's too short for normal speed youtube videos

For a few months now, I've been appreciating Youtube's feature of playing back a video at 1.5x or 2x speed - it's great for almost anything but music, and I really miss it when I'm watching long TED-style speech heavy videos streamed from elsewhere.

I used to go to the Settings widget and select the speed from the dropdown, but today I realized the greater than  / less than signs get there just as well.

Friday, April 17, 2015

on the iWatch

(This is my response to a Shaun McGill blog entry on the Apple Watch)
As a person who has never regularly worn a watch, it's tough for me to gauge this.
That Jony Ive quote talks about the parallel with early iPhone:
“It was different with the phone — all of us working on the first iPhone were driven by an absolute disdain for the cellphones we were using at the time. That’s not the case here. We’re a group of people who love our watches. So we’re working on something, yet have a high regard for what currently exists.”
Still, 2006-era cellphones were useful, if often not beloved. The genius of iPhone was packing in what PDA-users had been enjoying for a decade - the hand held computer, but supercharged with previously unfathomable styles of always-on connectivity. (This leaves aside things like the Treo and the Windows phone; here Apple's sense of hardware design and seeing the potential of capacitive touch screens, along with leveraging what they'd done with iTunes/iPod, let it blaze a trail.)
Does the Apple Watch have that same kind of value-add? My gut is saying no; our phones already staked out that space, and at the risk of being myopic to where this could go (in a "what people really want is a faster horse" sense) it's just a strap-on extra screen for your phone.
Gruber argues notifications aren't the biggest sell of the Apple Watch but I don't see it. What is the killer app for this thing? If it's notifications, stuff like Pebble argues that other watches could provide just that. Already there are some hybrids that some screen elements behind traditional physical watch hands.
In terms of other things that might sell the Apple Watch: some of the cutesie communication stuff it does is dependent on the "Fax machine effect", it only works if people at both end of an exchange have it - the taps and doodles and stuff. iPhone was pretty effective with calls, SMS, and then at looking at the normal, non-mobile web. (Though I do know people who get subconsciously snobby about blue text bubbles vs green in texting these days)
Also, y'know... it's bad enough all the laptops I see around Boston (mine included) have the Apple logo, and 3/4 of the phones. People branding themselves with these damn blank black squares on their wrist - but then again I think watches and short sleeves looks weird, so what do I know ;-)

(Also, one downside to reviews of the Apple Watch is clear: way too many closeups of way too much arm-hair)

Monday, April 13, 2015

osx: change your screenshot folder for cleaner desktops

PROTIP: Most "powerusers" know about cmd-$ (i.e. shift-4) to grab a window screen shot (cmd-shift-3 for the (less useful) whole screen version). By default these get dumped to the Desktop... however, you can change the default screenshot folder

For a long while I wasn't a big fan of specialty folders, like "My Documents" or "My Music" on Windows. My preference was to put everything that made the computer special to me (save for the applications) into subfolders of "C:\data\" - that way I had one stop shopping for backup or moving to a different machine. "My Documents" was at some arbitrary place deep in the file system, and I didn't like all my "stuff" being so scattered, difficult to jump to in a DOS window.

On Mac I've come around, however. For one thing, all of these folders are under my home directory, so are easy to get in Terminal - and the general Unix-y nature of "~/Downloads" appeals to me. I still rely more on Dropbox for media, however. 

Anyway, this is just a ramble talking about how I've found it better to embrace "Downloads" as a generic temporary file space, vs "Desktop".  Saving Desktop for things I really want to be nagged about makes for a more pleasant and uncluttered desktop experience... the screenshot location was the last holdout, but now that's fixed for me.

PROPROTIP: A final note about screenshots: after you do cmd-$, you can hit space to say "select a whole window" and then click to take the shot. By default this includes the gray shadow of the window. If you want a "cleaner" shot of just the windows itself, hold the option key when clicking.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

osx desktop management philosophies and hyperdock

OSX has had some wonkiness with its window management buttons (the ones at the top right of each window) for a while.  The green button was "zoom". I kind of liked this button, and its behavior of (more or less) "make this window take up the usable space on screen".

The behavior was a bit wonky; browsers, especially Chrome, seemed to widen the screen to an arbitrary width (I was never sure if this had something to do with the content it was trying to display, or what) and not the full area. The result was people didn't like or trust the green button, because the results were wonky and hard to mentally model.

To fix this, in OSX Yosemite Apple has replaced the zoom function with a link to full screen mode. I'm not a fan of this. Maybe I'm too much of an old Windows user, but hiding the menu bar seems weird to me, even though I don't use the menus much - I miss having the at-a-glance clock and battery indicator. Worse, cmd-tab'ing to another app is much more jarring. If you "just" zoom a window, then cmd-tab or cmd-` to another window for a jot, returning your main task is just a click away, peeking out from behind what you just brought to the front. If you go full screen and cmd-tab (cmd-` "switch to another window under this app" functionality gets disabled) then the WHOLE DESKTOP slides over. It's terribly asymmetric: Merely zoomed, I hit cmd-tab once to swap to a window, then I can let go and hit cmd-tab again and I'm back to what I was working on. That symmetry is utterly broken with full screen mode, and I have to use the 3 finger swipe to get back to my "fullscreen space". (In general, multiple Virtual Desktops have never appealed to me, I prefer a single context to keep track of, so this full screen mode seems more trouble than its worth. It makes more sense on unitaskers like iPads, but less on powerful laptops.)

Enter Hyperdock- a free (UPDATE - wrong, $10... I got confused by the licensing-- in the comments Jeremy suggests Spectacle has the same key-based window reshaping but is free) application that just adds a few subtle features to OSX. Most notably, Window Snapping. Personally I find "drag window to border to snap" to be difficult to wrangle, so I disable that, but now that I have cmd-option-arrow mapped, making windows hop around is literally a visceral pleasure. It does a great job making windows take up all the available space (or half the space, left and right arrows help setup half screen usage) leaving just enough room to see the dock and the menu bar. Perfect!

Hyperdock has some other cool features - the signature feature might be how now hovering over a menu on the dock shows you thumbnails of all the open windows.  Years ago I wrote how Windows Taskbar beats OSX Dock and I'm not sure I was wrong back then; the default of one icon per window (and task context, so to speak) still feels a little more logical than one icon per application. (Especially for people who use the Dock heavily as a program launcher, so their Dock has dozens of icons, only some of which are active... I tend to use the cmd-space spotlight launcher for everything) Anyway, this Hyperdock preview feature helps split the difference, and it's easier to remember than whatever wacky swipe or keypress shows me all my open windows.

UPDATE: installing it on a new machine, I lost track of the System Preference window Hyperdock needs for permissions; as outlined here it's System Preferences | Security & Privacy | Accessibility

Friday, April 3, 2015

drag and drop scheduling p.o.c.

Continuing this as a Work in Progress, here's the first Proof of Concept of a Drag and Drop scheduler - stripped down enough to be a good snapshot to act as a foundation to build similar things in the future, without having to take out a lot of project-specific cruft.