# Thursday, 30 June 2005

Innovation in browser UI

I regularly use 5 browsers - in order:

  1. iMunch - news aggregator/blog writing and web browsing all in one - probably about 75% of all browsing.
  2. InfoDroid - a 'closed' browser with a small set of quick access favourites a couple of which give 'index' windows leading to some common pages I visit - about 20%
  3. Cuddler - a wrapper on the BBC Radio Player, running most of the day to access BBC channels for music and news.
  4. Internet Explorer - when opening links from emails and when going quick Google searches (longer research based searches are done in iMunch) - about 5%
  5. Firefox - if a web site won't play nicely with IE.

The first 3 are all built using Zeepe and available from the samples page but more to the point is using browsers whose UI is appropriate to the task rather than trying to 'shoe-horn' all possibilities into a single general UI approach. Given that we are now at least 10 years in, there has been relatively little innovation in the UI of browsers - the IE 7 visible in the Longhorn+RSS demo didn't seem to have much 'chrome' innovation other than moving toolbars around.

If 'AJAX' web applications are going to make progress I still think there needs to be a way to take greater control of the windows and their chrome than the browsers currently provide for. XUL was meant to do that but doesn't seem to have much traction, perhaps MS will provide more in IE 7/8, Google will use it and then it will become popular.

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More maps

Google Maps go satellite in London.  ... [via Whomwah]

and a load of other areas, but not yet everywhere. A ton of fun putting in your own and friends post-codes - at two levels of resolution too. Where I actually am seems to have been air-brushed out, not quite sure. There have been quite a few changes round us over the last few years; from the brown fields and green trees the pictures look to have been taken around September time but what year?

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javascript libraries

script.aculo.us provides you with easy-to-use, compatible and, ultimately, totally cool JavaScript libraries to [via script.aculo.us - web 2.0 javascript]

Libraries is perhaps pushing it a bit but some useful stuff here, as well as links to the useful stuff on which it is built.

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Atlas - more questions

Atlas Project: AJAX and more....  We'll be publishing our ideas in this space in much more detail shortly. ... and then further push the boundaries of what can be done in this realm ... and with new client capabilities. I am sure that last bit might result in more questions, and curiousity.

It sure does.

That is intentional :-). I'll be blogging more about that, Atlas in general, and related subjects this in the weeks and months to come... stay tuned... [via Nikhil Kothari's Weblog]

Will do.

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# Wednesday, 29 June 2005

Mapwars (continued)

I don't know when this appeared (today?), but Google Maps API looks jolly interesting. Yet another beta from Google requiring an API key, but interesting never-the-less. Over to you MS. Isn't it all much more fun when there's a bit of competition around.

 

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AJAX too hard?

Tim Sneath says: 

One of the greatest drawbacks of AJAX is that it's simply too hard to code. The very fact that I can count the number of truly exploitative public AJAX applications on the fingers of one hand is an indication of that. [via Tim Sneath]

Twaddle. Javascript DOM programming is some of the easiest there is - compare attaching an event handler to a button, or a paragraph of text with what you would have to do in WinForms. Where AJAX is too hard is when you try and use it with ASP.NET. It has always amazed me that given that MS implemented all this wonderful stuff in IE and had XMLHttp of their own invention  (and originally had the Java applet based RPC) that ASP.NET 1 made no use of any of this stuff at all and used a 'whole page refresh model'. It is one of the reasons I have stayed away from it, getting Ajax like behaviour into ASP.NET 1 just didn't fit the model that well. This is addressed in ASP.NET 2 and with Atlas they are finally getting round to some serious development effort in this area again.

What is still missing (from MS) is a really good IDE + Debugging model (it is implied part of Atlas' job is to address this) - I still use a text editor to write fairly complex apps and I am not a rocket scientist by any means, not a particularly talented programmer and not obsessed by the niceties of all your tags in lower case. But, I do use Zeepe which provides a great framework for doing a lot of standard UI gunk, saving the huge amounts of code that would otherwise lead to massive amounts of code.

 

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A Vision Rather Like This Was Originally Set Out By A Man Called Blair Who Later Changed His Name To Orwell And

“A vision rather like this was originally set out by a man called Blair who later changed his name to Orwell and wrote a book called 1984. It was supposed to be a warning. This Government has used it as a textbook.”  [via Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online#cid=rssfeed&attr=Britain]

Indeed.

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# Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Can it take the wait

Microsoft to debut Atlas development framework at PDC.  Microsoft will debut a new object-oriented framework aimed at simplifying the development of client-side browser applications at its annual PDC (Professional Developers Conference) in September...."The benefit of this style of development is you get more interactive, more responsive Web pages," Fitzgerald said. "Atlas is just a big chunk of standard Javascript code that lots of developers can incorporate into their Web applications so they can create a richer, more interactive user experience." ... Developers will be able to use Visual Studio 2005, which is due to be generally available Nov. 8, to build and debug Ajax-enabled applications, Fitzgerald added. [via InfoWorld: Top News]

It would be nice if we could get this to play nicely with Zeepe.

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# Monday, 27 June 2005

Couple of bits of comment on the IE 7 RSS

Longhorn and RSS interview now up.  I just posted the hour-long interview I had with Microsoft's Longhorn Browsing and RSS team. More shortly after the announcements get made. [via Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger]

I skipped to about 20 minutes in where the demo starts of IE 7 on Longhorn.

  1. The 'RSS' button lights-up. The process going on here is the same as with iMunch and I presume others (RSS Bandit et al); look for a link tag that points to an rss feed (and pick the first).
  2. Clicking the RSS button gives a styled view, a 'preview' of the rss feed (will one be able to customise that, probably not) with a side panel one can use to search the current feed content.
  3. To subscribe, click the "Big Plus" button - normally this button is "add to favourites", and is when when in web page view. This would imply that to subscribe to a feed you have to 'preview' it and then click the 'add to favourires/subscribe' button.
  4. Subscriptions goto the "common feed list" that manages downloads (according to the feeds stated update period, skip hours etc - that should reduce the bandwidth since I'm not sure that many aggregators do obey this stuff). User's can override these settings but not clear how.
  5. IE 7 does not (or doesn't appear) to have an "aggregator view" - will they ship RSS Bandit with Longhorn or leave it to users to go find something?

Couple of other things that aren't clear:

  1. The feedlist API - COM or .NET?
  2. How much (or little) of the feedlist API makes it into XP along with IE 7 (and if the feedlist API is .NET that means IE 7 will require .NET ..... hmmmm!)

In summary - RSS button, worth doing, tick. Feedlist API, sensible.

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# Sunday, 26 June 2005

Hype-mania

... Frankly, I'm really surprised that MSDN has a section in their RSS overview entitled "How to enable RSS in your application" that contains some pretty half-baked examples. Instead, they should have had a section entitled "Limitations of RSS" ..  and that RSS won't cure world hunger. [via The Furrygoat Experience]

There are times when I wonder whether I'm the only one who thinks "errr, lot of fuss guys" and it always makes me feel better when I read someone is thinking along similar lines:

"Personally, I feel that having a 'centralized store' for your subscription list, downloading of RSS feeds and parsing is a good thing"

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# Friday, 17 June 2005

The stuff of nightmares

"If Apple decides to open the Mac OS to others, we would be happy to offer it to our customers," Dell wrote in an e-mail.  [via Dell founder thinks different about Apple | CNET News.com]

We are going through a phase in this house at the moment that I am the only person able to turn the (Windows) PCs on - others do it and they fail to boot/die. I dunno what I do different, perhaps I have a calm aura and the machines detect nervousness/fear in the others and play-up. If Dell were to give the choice of two OSs on every box what would the outcome of that choice be?

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# Monday, 13 June 2005

Take aim, fire....

There is a very good observation on Scoble aiming both barrels at his left foot here: Robert Scoble vs. UPS [via The Post Money Value: Robert Scoble vs. UPS]

So, what does Microsoft do? Slap Scoble? Probably. Fire em? Probably not. Actually, definitely not.

Too right definitely not. Scoble does not take risks every time he posts, in the way that he claims, but the gentle 'nudges' are going to be adding up in gently steering the overlarge tanker into calmer waters.

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The Floyd

Classic Pink Floyd line-up to reunite for Live 8 concert - 24 years after their last stage performance. [via BBC News | News Front Page | UK Edition]

Good 'evans, the last time I saw them was the last time they performed together. Have they run out of money or something? Is it me or is the Live 8 line-up looking very, um, 'Radio 2'? Perhaps that is the idea, the decision makers probably listen to R2, they are of that generation, and they probably missed out on Live Aid, being too busy furthering their careers. Give 'em 'their turn' and they might do something about Africa? Perhaps it will work, in which case good, but at the same time a bit sad.

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# Friday, 10 June 2005

No .NET again

Acrylic has gone live!.  Greetings from within Microsoft!  I'm excited to let you know that we've just released the beta for Acrylic, an application for professional graphic designers.  ... and you can expect to see some posts from me regarding the issues I've faced trying to automate an unmanaged application with VS 2005 (Whidbey).  ...  If there are any specific topics feel free to suggest them. [via MSDN Blogs]

Specific topic - why isn't it a managed application? On and on and on and on they go about how managed is the *only* way to go and yet once more eat their own dog food not they do. Clearly this app is written with VS 2005 and given that it is in beta now, .NET 2 was a possibility - why was it not used?

According to the blog, because it was acquired as an unmanaged app. And yet also according to the blog, flip /clr on the whole thing and it compiles and works flawlessly - so, why wasn't the beta shipped compiled that way? (Or have I missed a meaning on "flip /clr"?).

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# Thursday, 09 June 2005

Turnabout - another Greasemonkey for IE

Dare says:  ... Earlier this week, there was a post to the Greasemonkey mailing list pointing out the existence of Turnabout. ... First of all, Turnabout doesn't require the .NET Framework like Trixie does. Secondly, Turnabout comes with source code but not with any licensing information which means it is not Open Source.  [via Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life]

And jolly nice source it is too. A pleasure to see good old fashioned ATL + Win32.

Given the interest in this stuff it is getting tempting to add Greasemonkey features to the Zowser or upcoming Infodroid. If you look at the source to Turnabout essentially all it is doing is waiting for the window onload event and then injecting a script block for execution. Obviously, there's also a load of code to enable watching for the event and a load to unwind and a load to provide a UI to manage scripts etc. But, as they say

"... we’re not done yet. Oh, no, not by a long shot. Watch this blog for product updates— they’ll probably be frequent!"

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Are you insured to protest?

I'm loosing the will to live here, or dying of laughter, I'm not sure which:

A G8 protest rally near the Gleneagles Hotel will only go ahead if ministers agree to meet the cost of insurance. [via BBC News | News Front Page | UK Edition]

 

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# Tuesday, 07 June 2005

Human being and fish ....

.... can coexist equally. After all these years, still one of the funniest things on any media - BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue.

 

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# Monday, 06 June 2005

Mixing music

Steven Levy of Newsweek takes a look at MusicMagic Mixer, which analyzes your music library and creates playlists that match your current tastes after you pick just one “seed” song (a version of the software is also available built into some audio players, like the Entempo Rubato),... Levy comes away impressed: Digital DJs Are Turning the Tables [via Engadget]

Looks like MusicMagic might be worth a look into - for the premium version there is also an API. What I would find most interesting is can it take one of one's own tracks as a seed and then build a playlist that includes stuff you don't own but is available on say 1p per play streaming servers?

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