- Wing Man — Mac app for source control management with git, implements workflow rather than simply being a wrapper for git commandlines.
- CodeKit — Mac app for web developers, automates (invisibly, thanks to watching filesystem changes) much of the web site tools.
- LazyTruth — Chrome plugin for gmail that detects bogus forwarded email and gives you the option to reply with the truth. RoboSnopes for the win! (via The Atlantic)
- Verizon to Throttle Pirates (BBC) — unable to solve their business model problems though the courts, Hollywood “partners” with ISPs to extra-judicially punish alleged infractions. ISPs win when heavy downloaders are throttled, of course, because it lets them have higher contention ratios (sell the same upstream cable to many more downstream email-checking residences instead of just a few torrenters). These five ISPs are mall-cops, private tax collectors, and regional monopolists, all in one nasty bundle of evil.
Tips and tricks to squeeze the most out of your mobile UI
Editor’s Note: Mobile HTML5 is a book by front-end engineer and frequent speaker Estelle Weyl. It is packed with hands-on examples to make you a stronger web developer–including best practices for SVG, Canvas, and CSS3 tailored to fit mobile devices. In the excerpt below, Estelle walks you through five easy things you can do to improve battery life in your mobile web apps. As throughout the book, the tips she provides come from her own real-life experience with these technologies.
Unlike desktop computers that are tethered to the wall at all times, and even laptop computers that are generally used by stationary users, mobile users do not recharge their devices throughout the day. Mobile users expect their devices to last, at a minimum, 24 hours between recharging.
Your users do realize that calls and GPS usage consume battery power. However, if they think they’re just using their browser to surf the Web, they don’t consider that different websites will drain their battery faster than other sites. It is our job, as developers, to manage the power consumption of our code. Read more…
Targeting the highest common denominator
Some would claim that native is the best approach, but that looks at existing WORA tools/communities, which mostly target cost saving. In fact, even native Android/iOS tools produce rather bad results without deep platform familiarity. Native is very difficult to properly maintain in the real world and this is easily noticeable by inspecting the difficulties we have with the ports of Codename One, this problem is getting worse rather better as platforms evolve and fragment. E.g. Some devices crash when you take more than one photo in a row, some devices have complex issues with http headers, and many have issues when editing text fields in the “wrong position”.
There are workarounds for everything, but you need to do extensive testing to become aware of the problem in the first place. WORA solutions bring all the workarounds and the “ugly” code into their porting layer, allowing developers to focus on their business logic. This is similar to Spring/Java EE approaches that addressed complexities of application server fragmentation.
Increase your product engagement by telling users what to do.
As a consultant, I’ve talked to a lot of startups who have “social” products. You could tell that the products were “social” because they had comment sections and sharing icons that let people post to Pinterest or Facebook.
Of course, one of the things that the founders complain about is that too few users are actually making comments or sharing or doing anything remotely social with the product.
There’s a very simple reason for this: the founders have added features to their product that allow users to be social rather than encouraging them to be social.
OSCON 2013 Speaker Series: The importance of being whimsical
What makes a good app? Sure, it should do what it claims to do, intuitively and efficiently. But that is just the base line. How do you stand out from the sea of apps? You need to go above and beyond, and whimsy may just be the secret ingredient you need.
At the keynote at AnDevCon Boston, Chris Haseman and Zack Sultan showed us how they designed and implemented the Tumblr app. They shared many tips and tricks to make your app look good and work well, but the recurring theme is to delight your user.
There are many whimsical touches to Tumblr, one being the pull-to-refresh animation:
Tumblr could have gone with a loading text or a standard spinny, but this custom animation brings the app a notch above others. It entices users to refresh more, increasing engagement. This is the power of whimsy.
Android software development at a crossroads
Apps have to get bigger and more ambitious. A key question for the developer community is how do you create big, integrated, multi-functional, configurable apps for the mobile enterprise? Curiously, Facebook is providing some answers by not using HTML5 and not attempting to make a cross-platform app. Go native, go big, and go deep.
Facebook Home is a harbinger of serious mobile apps
Facebook Home has earned positive reviews—in many cases from reviewers who had tired of Facebook and the intrusiveness of Facebook’s privacy policies and practices. Facebook Home is an example of a new kind of Android software development. It spans a variety of functions as a suite of cooperating software. It uses Android’s intent filters, high-level interprocess communication (IPC), shared databases (
ContentProvider components) and remote APIs to bond together a software product that replaces many of the standard parts of Android—as they are meant to be replaced.
Facebook Home isn’t some kind of rogue hack, nor is it a “fork” of AOSP, as Kindle Fire is. Facebook Home is a tour de force of correct Android application architecture. It takes over your phone, interface by interface, always playing by the rules, and it does so for justifiable reasons: for putting Facebook’s functionality everywhere you want to perform communications and social media functions.
Moreover, Facebook Home simply can’t be done on iPhone. iOS has a specific vision of apps that is separate from system software, while Android’s frameworks are the basis of both applications and system software. Facebook Home was built with this difference in mind: It replaces key elements of the Android system user experience. It is a suite of communicating apps. The word “app” doesn’t sufficiently describe it.
Mac git tool, Web Developer Tool, Bullshit Detector, and ISPs Join Devil For Baby-Eating Orgy
Developers and ereader vendors are missing an app opportunity
I read on my GlowLight NOOK much more frequently than I read on my Asus Transformer tablet. I’d say there’s at least a 10:1 differential, so for every hour I read on my tablet I read at least 10 hours on my Glowlight Nook. I’ll bet I’m not alone and people who own both an E Ink device and a tablet probably do much more reading on the former. So why is the apps ecosystem limited to tablets? Why are there no add-on apps for E Ink devices in general?
In a recent TOC newsletter we asked readers “What do you wish your ereader could do?” We received quite a few replies, but one of the more interesting ones came from a person who said they’d like to have apps like Flipboard, Zite and Pulse on their E Ink device. I found that interesting because those are the apps (along with News360) I use almost every day on my tablet. If there were Nook E Ink versions, that 10:1 ratio noted earlier would probably become 50:1 as there would be less reason for me to switch to my tablet for reading.
So why aren’t there apps like this on E Ink devices? One reason is tied to E Ink’s capabilities. Apps like Flipboard, Zite, et al, offer nice graphics and even a bit of animation. E Ink is limited to grayscale and no animation, of course. So why not create those apps without the animation and just show the images in black and white? That leads to reason No. 2: Amazon, B&N and the other E Ink device vendors aren’t encouraging third-party app development. That’s probably because they want those devices to have the highest walled gardens of all, which is a shame and a loss for consumers.
Is it too late for these vendors to reconsider and encourage third-party app development? Maybe. After all, the momentum has already swung toward tablets and away from E Ink readers. Nevertheless, as long as tablets weigh more than E Ink readers, their displays aren’t as easy on the eyes and they don’t offer significantly longer battery life, I’ll remain a two-device reading consumer. I suspect I’m not alone, so I hope an E Ink app ecosystem takes root at some point.
This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog (“Why Are Apps Only on Tablets?“). This version has been lightly edited.
Budget App, Health Insurance Data, Perl Release, and HTML5 WYSIWYG Editor
- New Zealand Government Budget App — when the NZ budget is announced, it’ll go live on iOS and Android apps. Tablet users get details, mobile users get talking points and speeches. Half-political, but an interesting approach to reaching out to voters with political actions.
- Health Care Data Dump (Washington Post) — 5B health insurance claims (attempted anonymized) to be released. Researchers will be able to access that data, largely using it to probe a critical question: What makes health care so expensive?
- Perl 5.16.0 Out — two epic things here: 590k lines of changes, and announcement quote from Auden. Auden is my favourite poet, Perl my favourite programming language.
- WYSIHTML5 (GitHub) — wysihtml5 is an open source rich text editor based on HTML5 technology and the progressive-enhancement approach. It uses a sophisticated security concept and aims to generate fully valid HTML5 markup by preventing unmaintainable tag soups and inline styles.
A look at the developer stories that will define 2012.
It's a brand new year, time to look ahead to the stories that will have developers talking in 2012. Mobile will remain a hot topic, the cloud is absorbing everything, and jobs appear to be heading back to the U.S.
Sweeping patent changes aren't likely, but small solutions may curb patent trolls.
Patent trolling could undermine app ecosystems, but who can mount a legitimate challenge? Here's four potential solutions.