Articles in the ‘Ramblings’ Category

Post drought = busy

You know those days, the ones that turn into weeks, and when the weeks can quickly turn into months you start thinking I really should have stopped the rot when it was weeks (and before that, days). That feeling, is what I have now. Over the past few weeks (actually, nearly a month), I’ve been rushing around trying to get projects sorted, doing extra projects and starting new ones. Therefore, I haven’t had a chance to post. My bad.
Steve has writer's block
Good news is, I’ve found 10 minutes to write, so, here’s my last month:
1. I’ve been asked to write articles for UX Magazine from an industry perspective. I’ll be posting once every few months, with my first one due in a week or two. I’m really pleased to be able to write for these guys who are just trying to spread the word of UX
2. I’m at a new client, doing standards-based SharePoint work. I know, those two words don’t go well together, but just go with me on this one.
3. I’m finishing an iPhone demo too. This could be really big so fingers crossed
4. I’m going to buy an iPad. I had previously said that I won’t buy one til the 2nd generation, and, like with my 1G iPod Touch, I’ll probably regret it in the end, but I want one dammit!
5. Finally, if you didn’t know already, I’m now engaged to my girlfriend/now fiancee Emily. We had a very good party last weekend and even 8 days later are still not fully recovered

Here’s a promise that I’ll have an on-topic post for next week.

I could really do with an iPad right now

I’ve found my use case for an iPad: working without wi-fi.
iPad
I’m sat on my sofa watching the superbowl and my Internet connection is down. I’m left trying to write blog posts on my iPhone, which, by the speed of my typing, is not going to be fun. At this point, I’d like an iPad. I’d like a laptop which isn’t quite a laptop, it just does what I need it to do. Thanks to lots of apps, the only thing I couldn’t do on an iPad would be code, and I’m sure that won’t be far away. All I want to do is write a blog post from the comfort of my sofa, without getting cramp in my hands or the battery running out.

The wi-fi only version is an interesting prospect, though wouldn’t solve my current internetless problem unless I could tether the iPhone to it. I wouldn’t be against the 3g version, though the data would have to be allowed to be shared with my current plan, or I simply couldn’t justify the expense.

I’d also love it if it was intelligent enough to use the home sharing feature that iTunes 9 introduced. Music over wi-fi seems like a no brainer to me.

Well, will I get one in April? Maybe. If the price isn’t as silly a conversion as Macs are, it may be worth a look. Otherwise, it looks like i’ll make do with my old laptop

Apple product roadmap 2010-2011 (prediction)

If you’re like me, with an eye on Google Reader even over the holidays, you won’t have failed to notice the upcoming Apple event at which the Apple touch-screen tablet, likely to be called iSlate or the Slate, will be announced. Such is the predictability of this event, given the number of rumours that have appeared, it is now completely without interest. Even the stock market takes more notice of Apple’s rumours, rather than their product announcements.

So, I’ve gazed into my crystal ball, looked at the last few years of product announcements, and have come up with the major headlines for the next two years of Apple products.

Apple product roadmap 2010-2011

Apple product roadmap 2010-2011

The major events, spread throughout the year, all have very specific themes. January is iLife/iWork and major product announcements, March is a developers preview of new software, WWDC in June is a major product launch, September is a big iPod event and November is pre-Christmas product refresh time. For those reasons, the above list shouldn’t be too surprising to most people in the know.

I’m predicting next year will be the Slate’s year, rather than the iPhone. It’s too soon for a form factor change and it’s got all the features it could have at this time, so 2011 will be the next iPhone update. The Slate will fit into the iPhone’s product release schedule, now being Apple’s flagship product, with yearly updates for the first few years depending on its success. The Macbook Pro line will be somewhat ignored until the end of 2010 when it gains Intel quad cores like its iMac brother. At this time, I believe the first details on OS X 10.7 will come out, probably with a new UI paradigm, potentially merging with the Slate’s modified iPhone OS.

2011 will see “Westmere” Mac Pros, though it’s possible that this will be quite a quiet event, given i7 iMacs are more cost-effective than Mac Pros. An updated iPhone/Slate OS will follow in March, and a second generation Slate in June (which will be the one I’ll get). Some controversy to follow then with a new iPod on the horizon; my thinking goes that the whole product line there needs a kick to keep people buying them, and by this time, technology will be good enough for something amazing. Finally, after that will come Intel i9 iMacs, with those processors being available for Macbook Pros by the end of 2012.

Honestly, you could probably try and predict further ahead than that with some accuracy, but forecasts become quite hazy more than two years down the line. Still, if there’s any betting shops out there willing to give me good accumulator odds on this, drop me a line!

Update 1 (March 2010): I got the Slate/iPad right, though not the release date. Still, by the time it reaches the rest of the world it probably will be July. Not so sure about a March “Town Hall” event, though I’d still expect iPhone OS 4.0 with the iPhone update this year. Also, people keep going on about potential Core i3/i5 updates for the Macbook Pro line. This hasn’t happened yet and I still think I’m in with a shout of November. The problem will be power consumption and heat, which may need a bit more work to keep the 8 hour battery life promise that Apple have made.

Update 2 (April 2010): it seems I got the iPhone 4.0 OS announcement right at the town hall event, just seems that it was in April rather than March. Unfortunately, the i5/i7 Macbook Pro announcement was in April, not November as I said. Better luck next time for that one

Recent work – entirely non-UI focused

When I created this blog, I wanted it to be about user interfaces, CSS, and maybe a bit of client script and design. That’s what I do and what I love doing, truly it’s what I got into this business to do. My last few months, however, have been spent dealing with all sorts of other technologies that exist nowhere near the front end.

The technology I’ve been using has actually been quite fun. I’ve been dealing with the .NET Entity Framework, which is an auto-generating data access layer similar to LLBLGen or Hibernate for Java. It’s free, works very well and has saved me a heap of time on this project. There are quite a few problems with it though, namely handling of scalar stored procedures, mediocre data model updating and the usual Attach/Detach context problems that it shares with Hibernate. It could do with some “scaffold” functionality too, but I think that’s included in .NET MVC Framework.

I’vealso  been playing with .NET AJAX which works ok, though it’s not as lightweight as doing the posts to another page (or in another language, damned viewstate), it has built-in fallbacks for non-javascript users, which is exactly what you want to do when making a AAA accessible site! I’ve had exposure to iTextSharp, a .NET PDF assistant. I found it very easy to use and getting .NET to populate some PDF form fields was very easy. Having to use Adobe Acrobat Pro to make the PDFs was not as fun 🙁

I’ve also been playing with SQL database mail, SQL’s bcp function,  and fighting with Visual SourceSafe and IIS. Yes, I’m working for a client who likes Microsoft 😉

In reality, I’ve been sidelined from what I like doing because I can also do the server-side gubbins. Some days I’d rather not know how to do it, but I’ve now been a programmer for nearly 6 years (!!!) and I’ve realised that I know quite a lot about the entire process of building a system architecture that works (I know the following languages, Java, C#, CSS, HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, SQL, Objective-C, Haskell, Prolog, and lots of specific libraries like DirectX, OpenGL, jQuery).

My next project looks like it will be iPhone based, so whilst I need to brush up on my Cocoa, I may get back to doing what I love: creating beautiful, usable interfaces that improve the way we work with technology.

I’m looking to complete work on an article on “Designing for Touch” soon. Looking good so far…