Chris McGrath’s Blog

Just another Developer’s Blog

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Another cool thing about chrome

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Chrome is a great example of how an user interface should be done. There’s so many small things about it which are so useful. My current favourite is the ability to resize text areas (aka multi-line textboxes).

They put a subtle gripper on the corner which you can grab and increase the size.

I can’t believe how many sites provide you with ridiculously small text areas. They ask for a detailed description then give you 3 lines with enough space for maybe 40 words. Of course a scroll bar appears but they’re annoying with only 3 lines.

I hope all other browsers copy this function, it is a brilliant idea.

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Written by Chris McGrath

July 29, 2009 at 2:13 pm

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Application Data

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I’ve never really got Window’s AppData concept. Local, LocalLow and Roaming. What the hell do they mean. Admittedly, I haven’t bothered researching it much, but to me how it should be handled is quite clear.

Some background…

I’m a big believer of 2 partitioned systems – the system partition and the data partition.

The System partition holds the windows files and program files, while the data partition obviously holds data including the desktop and documents folder. The most important part of the system partition is that it should be treated as volitle – I should be able to format it at any time and not lose any data.

This makes it great for create an image of the drive – if something goes wrong, I can restore it and have a fresh install without losing any data.

There is one problem with this and that’s the AppData.

From the name AppData you’d think that it should belong on the data partition. And definitely some does belong there, but it is used for so many other thing that could potentially be causing the problem you want to restore your image to get rid of. As such we have to leave it on the system partition.

And how it should be done…

AppData should be treated to support this distinction between Applications and Data. So AppData should be divided into…

  • Volatile App Data
  • Non-Volatile App Data

Volatile App Data would remain on the system partition and Non-Volatile on the Data Partition.

A great example is a web browser. A web browser has temporary internet files since they are temporary they are volatile. But they also have bookmarks which the user will want to keep. Also I want to keep a history of where I have been so that should be non-volatile.

This system is very clear what the meanings are. It is also an important step in what I consider a critical issue – the standardisation of the 2 partition system.

Written by Chris McGrath

July 26, 2009 at 12:21 pm

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The facebook phone

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I’ve been thinking about the future of phones lately, mainly mobiles and it has lead me to some interesting ideas. Pretty much at the moment the phone companies are ripping us off. And like many I think it is inevitable that mobiles will become voip phones and we will be charged for data not calls. But that’s an evolution of mobiles, how can we create a real revolution?

I think the revolution will be a merger with a fast evolving trend – social networking. I’m not talking about second class apps or sending sms messages which go on your profile, I’m talking about making the social network the primary purpose of the phone.

I see this as completely replacing phone numbers. The profile represents the person instead of a number. And since I’m calling a person not a number, I don’t care how it is answered. You could answer using your mobile, or on your computer.

And just imagine the integration this brings. When you call me I could see your latest status update, maybe see where you currently are.

I think this would push social networking to a level where it is completely integrated with your life.

But which social network, since phone carriers will most likely oppose such an idea it has to be a well established site. That really gives us three options. MySpace, facebook and twitter.

MySpace I don’t see this working for, and it’s dying fast. If they did invest in this it could save them (and put them back on top) but I don’t see this happening.

Twitter has potiental. It’s very much written as a service instead of a website, which gives it an advantage over facebook. The thing is twitter is great because it is simple, it says with tweets and doesn’t add anything else. So such services would need to be third party (like twitpic). This gives it an advantage of not one company being responsible for it all (which is anti competitive) but I question the reliability and how we can really integrate everything with it.

Now Facebook seems to be the clear winner. Huge user base, lots of functionality we want already. But there is one thing which really makes facebook the winner. On Facebook you are identified by your name. It seems simple but this really setup how facebook would be used. And it’s that culture a social networking phone needs. I don’t want to see that I’m getting a call from BuZzKill337, I want to see I’m getting a call from Greg Black.

If I was facebook this is what I would be investing in. It truly is a system that could make facebook one of the biggest companies in the world.

Written by Chris McGrath

July 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

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Firefox 3.5

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Overall I was disappointed with Firefox 3.5. It’s not that it’s not good – it is and it’s better than Firefox 3. It’s more the lack of new features that I actually care about. And the real surprising thing is that a big shake up happened in the browsing space after v3 which I would have thought would influence 3.5 more. That shake up was chrome. Now chrome might not have much of a market share but it did bring fresh new ideas. There are three in particular I would have thought would influence Firefox 3.5.

The New Tab Screen

Let’s compare this across browsers. Firefox has always made it a blank white page, Internet Explorer improved on it to provide some information about tabs. But chrome really took advantage of it and placed heaps of meaningful stuff on it. Most importantly was a list of most visited websites. This was probably my biggest disappointment with firefox 3.5.

Lack of Chrome

Admittedly the way my Firefox is set up makes it almost as good as chrome, but Mozilla hasn’t put in any effort to improve this.

Dialogs

I’m a strong believer that you should avoid dialogs where ever possible. They interrupt the flow of a process. The Chrome team also shares this view. But the really cool thing they do is when a dialog is needed, it is held in a tab. As such it doesn’t stop you from using other tabs. That’s just a well thought out idea.

Written by Chris McGrath

July 4, 2009 at 7:59 am

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Can we stop using the term “Next-Gen”?

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Why are people still refering to Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii as “Next Gen”? Each console has been out for over 2 years.

And it’s not just the consoles which use this term, Apple are saying their computers have “Next-generation Intel processor”.

Let’s get back to basics and refer to “Next-Gen” for stuff that has not come out. If it is out, it’s current gen. If “current” isn’t exciting enough for your advertisements use “new” or “latest”.

Written by Chris McGrath

April 21, 2009 at 4:16 pm

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Prison Break

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Just finished rewatching the first season of Prison Break. What a great season it is.

The following seasons had quite a variance in quality. I thought season 2 started out strong and was as good as the first season. But about halfway through it lost direction and the rest of the season was the worst episodes of the show. Season 3 and 4 (so far) are interesting but require you to accept some pretty ridiculous  things.

But back to season 1. One thing about the first season is it easily the most graphic. This instantly means it’s not for everyone. I was wondering how popular it would be because of this, but most people were able to handle it and made it the success it was.

One thing I really noticed this time was how the portay the death penality. Some people might look at it in a simple light of, “what if the man is innocent?” but it goes so far beyond that. It shows it as the humiliation, creulty and barbarism of it. It goes as far as showing how it hurts and humiliates their loved ones. In fact it shows that they are the ones that get hurt the most. In this case the man is innocent, but what it shows makes you think that even the guilty don’t deserve it and the families definately don’t.

To clarify, I have always been against the death penalty and am proud to live in a country without it.

I am glad Prison Break is ending soon. Although I still find it quite enjoyable I think the show has suffered from trying to keep it going. During the first season I thought it was only going to be one season. This would have given the show what a lot of shows don’t have – direction. Stories are best told when they have a start and an end and everything in between moves you in the direction of the end. I think this is why 24 is such a great show – It continues to move the plot forward but when the day ends the threat is over and all important story lines are finished. Yet it has reason to bring the characters back for another story.

For Prison Break to do this would involve cutting back story lines that couldn’t be finished within the first season. And that’s pretty much the conspiracy. See if they broke the conspiracy and brought they people responsable to justice, there would be no need to break out of prison. So I think the conspiracy should have been shown as an unknown force and enough shown to prove that Lincoln was innocent and it wasn’t worth trying to take them down. The season would then just be the prison break and end with them escaped in Mexico.

Written by Chris McGrath

April 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm

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User Experience problems with iTunes.

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It’s quite amazing that a company like apple which has a reputation for creating products with great user experiences haven’t done anything about the major problems iTunes has. iTunes is the only apple application I use, so I have to wonder how true a lot of what’s said about OSX is true.

Responsiveness

This is a concept so simple and best illustrated with a button. When your cursor goes over a button the look changes, generally it is a change of colour. Then when you press the mouse down the look changes again. It tries to immitate reality so it looks like it has been pressed in. These states provide interactivity and shows that program is doing something.

Now let’s look at iTunes. When I want to go to podcasts I click the podcast button, but…

  • Nothing happens on mouse over. Which makes you ask can I actually press this?
  • When I press the mouse down nothing changes.
  • When I release the cursor, it highlights the item, but not immediately. It can take over a second for it to highlight.

This makes it seem very sluggish.

Doesn’t look like a Windows program

This really seems like Apple arrogance to me. And the result is iTunes looks really ugly and out of place.

Automatically stopping podcasts from updating

I have my iPod manually managed for reasons I won’t go into. But what this means is I manually copy the podcasts to my iPod and listen to them on it. But iTunes doesn’t count that that as listening to a podcast so it decides once every month or so to stop updating each podcast because I haven’t listened to it for a while. It is the thing about iTunes that frustrates me more than anything else.

Written by Chris McGrath

April 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm

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