Why not both?

Posted in General at 9 am

This is what I don’t get. Why didn’t Apple, when announcing the new MacTel platform, say that it was adding the Intel chip base to its machines? Why say “We’re going to switch completely!” when they could have just as easily said, “We’re adding Intel chips into the mix. You can expect to see PowerPC and x86 chips from us in the future.”

This makes so much more sense. If Apple sees Intel’s power/watt ratio improve, then great. They ship more Intel-based machines. If IBM/Freescale get the PowerPC to the levels that it should be today, then also great and Apple sticks with the current platform. The key here is that with both Apple has the ability to mix and match, leaping from one to the other as the winds of technology change. Talk about super powers!

The only reason I can think of for going to a full, pull the switch, cross and burn the bridge approach is to scare prompt the developers to get into Xcode and add the Intel-specific portion of the code. (Rather than relying on Rosetta?)

But that seems like a small gain compared to the number of sales that Apple will lose in the next 2 years due to this switch. Fewer and fewer people will purchase PowerPC-based machines as the next generation Intel-based machines get closer and closer to release.

Apple knows this and has even updated the SEC on the fact this switch will cause a significant drop in revenue over the next two years! This just seems like a bad thing. Even if Apple was keeping the ‘switch-back’ in its back pocket in the event that the Intel things don’t go as smoothly as they hope, this seems like the wrong face to present to their income-making customers.

The only silver lining I can see would be ongoing price drops on the PowerPC-based machines in order to prop up the sales. That could lead to some sweet deals on a platform that Apple has already condemed, but will still support for the next 6 to 8 years.


Filenames for downloadable files

Posted in General at 12 pm

When you’re linking to a set of PDFs or Word docs in a web site, it is important to remember to name the files so that they are usable once someone has them on their virtual desktop. Here are some guides:

The name needs to:

  1. be under 31 characters.
  2. have no spaces in the name (important when a URL might be handed out, or mailed or retyped).
  3. identify the project very briefly (this is a memory trigger rather than a full name).
  4. group the files from the site together alphabetically (when someone downloads more than one file, they should stay near each other).
  5. be distinct from other files so that individual files can be identified easily when they’re in a group.
  6. avoid cryptically numbered or abreviated names that can only be deciphered by someone involved with the project.

This is a good example here: Confluence Project Newsletters

Spring 2005 edition — (Confluence_Spring_2005.pdf)
Fall 2004 edition: Part I — (Confluence_Fall_2004_p1.pdf)
Fall 2004 edition: Part II — (Confluence_Fall_2004_p2.pdf)
Fall 2003 edition — (Confluence_Fall_2003.pdf)
Spring 2003 edition — (Confluence_Spring_2003.pdf)
Fall 2002 edition — (Confluence_Fall_2002.pdf)

Note that the naming convention still leaves room for flexibility such as for the Part 1 and Part 2 of the Fall 2004 edition. Also Spring and Fall are much better than “Q1” and “Q3” or “sp” and “fl”. Potentially the year and the season could be swapped so that the years would line up together, but that would also place Fall before Spring, so it’s not a huge improvement.

Here are some bad ones I’ve come across recently: “2005-1164.pdf” “158STR197B.pdf”. Seriously unfriendly.


Proper Auto Tabbing in Forms with JavaScript

Posted in General at 7 am

As part of a big project coming up, we’ve been asked (by the users! Hooray for users!) to implement an auto tab function for some of our forms. What is auto tabbing? When you are using a multiple input fields for a single piece of data that is split up into sections (such as phone numbers or dates or social security numbers (ssn’s) or other structured strings), the cursor should automatically jump forward or auto-tab to the next input field.

The scenario is when you type in three numbers for the area code of a North American phone number, the cursor should automagically go from the area code field to the three digit local exchange field. Again the cursor should jump forward to the text input for the line number once the three numbers are entered.

The intension here is to treat the autotab set as if it were a single input field. I’ve observed a number of interface elements and behaviors should be present:

* The input boxes should have a visual bounding box that shows they are linked together.
* Between the boxes should be all of the puncuation that would otherwise be typed in.
* When the auto-tab activates, a dramatic highlight around the next input field of the auto-tab set should be displayed. (preferably through CSS).
* When the user types a backspace delete and is at the start of the second or following input field, the cursor should be auto tabbed backwards to the previous field. (In the first field, the cursor should not move.) The last character of the previous field should also be removed.
* Similar functionality should hold for the left arrow key.
* The right arrow key should be available to move through the text that has already been typed. It should automatically advance to the next field unless the current field does not have the required number of characters.
* Optionally the tab key could be disabled for all but the first and last input fields. However the following behaviors must also be implemented.
* Power user scenario: When a user types in the first field and is autotabbed to the second, they may not be watching the screen and may hit the tab key expecting a ‘dumb’ input field set. Instead of forwarding the cursor to the third field the cursor should remain in the second field.
* Multiple tab scenario: If, however, a user types tab multiple times in a number equal to the number of fields remaining in the auto-tab set, the cursor should be advanced to the next form input following the auto-tab set.
* Final field tab scenario: If the user types tab when the cursor is in the last field of an auto-tab set, the cursor should be advanced to the form element following the auto-tab set.

Some of these behaviors may change if the auto-tab set already has existing data in it. The circumstances and the resulting behavior will vary depending on the context of the auto-tab set.

Again, the intension here is to treat the autotab set as if it were a single input field and to not interfere with power users’ understanding of what to type when they are not looking at the screen.

And finally, if these behaviors are to be implemented, they must be implemented for all forms that can use it and the visual indication of the auto-tab input set must remain consistent throughout the site.

If you or a project you have worked on has implemented these behaviors, please let me know so that this can be shared with others. I would love to see a .js file that can be called to generate the auto-tab set’s behaviors simply by IDing, CLASSing or NAMEing the individual field of the auto-tab set.

Read the rest of this entry »


Meet the World

Posted in General at 2 pm

From Meet the World: Flags as graphs

Icaro Doria is Brazilian, 25 and has been working for the magazine Grande Reportagem, in Lisbon, Portugal, for the last 3 years. He was the author of the flags campaign “Meet the World” that has been circulating the earth in chain letters via e-mail…

Seriously you’ve *got* to see this. I particular the last flag is terrific.


Segway Demo at OEVA Meeting

Posted in General at 11 am

If you’ve wanted to see a Segway demo in person with the chance to try one yourself, come on down to the Oregon Electric Vehicles Association meeting this Thursday at 7pm. It’s downtown at Portland World Trade Center, 121 SW Salmon St.

It’ll be a blast!


Sparklines by ET

Posted in General at 8 am

No, not ET, the Extra Teresterial, Edward Tufte previews a section of his new book…

Here is a much-revised and extended draft of the sparkline chapter for Beautiful Evidence (2005).

I just hope that one day he (or his staff) beings to learn how to apply these print thoughts to the nuances of the web. The site design of edwardtufte.com has always been sadly lacking.


Electric Ghia Monster

Posted in General at 2 pm

About that Electric Karmann-Ghia:

“It also, albeit more peripherally, occurred to me that many people would only see EVs as viable alternatives to the internal combustion engine if some could be built that could beat gassers in the ultimate test of automotive testosterone – the drag race.”

And so the journey begins. A journey I hope to take one day.


Top 12

Posted in General at 9 pm

Top twelve most frequent English letters in print, in order, are “etaoinshrdlu” or “e-tao in shrd lu”


South Mode

Posted in General at 7 am

So, I’m guessing here, because they’re all the same height: Martin, Andy, Dave, Alan.


Cute! Super cute!


Days of Wires and Roses

Posted in General at 4 pm

Lately things have been really busy with work, classes, taxes, other groups I’m involved with, etc. Couple of tech items to note:

Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil + radio show archives + Airport Express + stereo = “This American Life,” on demand.

My iPod is a constant companion. 90% of the time I’m sitting at a desk, I’m plugged into it. Still haven’t gotten it half way full. I’m planning on moving all of my MP3s from my laptop to the iPod and keeping a back up on my B&WG3 at home.

Still looking for a Bluetooth split-layout keyboard. All SLK’s have either been wired or use a customer non-Bluetooth wireless channel.

The sudden rise of interest in Bluetooth supported by new cell phone that I have for a subcontracting job (ie, I don’t use it for personal calls.) which is a Nokia 6230. iSync on the Mac OS X Panther does not support the device directly, through there’s third party solutions for Nokia Apple iSync issues. Maybe 10.4 (Tiger) will bring support for this cool phone.

The other day, Amy was telling me that the new Crest mouthwash is easier on the mouth, but has a curious side effect.

She said, “I thought you’d like to know that your wife now has a mouth full of Bluetooth.”