Nokia E72 – Optical Navi Key success!

January 7th, 2010

For what it’s worth, here are a few notes and ramblings about my experience with Nokia’s new flagship business phone, the Nokia E72.

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A practical guide to designing for the web (Book review)

May 20th, 2009

Mark Boulton’s Five Simple Steps: A practical guide to designing for the web has to be my favourite web design book of the year. One of the many things I really love about it is the personalised anecdotal style applied throughout. It’s the kind of book that will age gracefully as it doesn’t dwell too much on current trends or techniques, supplementing them with solid age-old design theory from someone who has had formal training in typography, layout and colour theory.

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Milton Keynes Tyre and Brake (MKT & B Centre)

May 20th, 2009

If you live in Bletchley, Milton Keynes or anywhere nearby and you’re looking for a good, honest, family-run garage to get your car serviced then I suggest look look no further than Milton Keynes Tyre and Brake (MKT&B).

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edweb09 facilitated by Headscape

May 20th, 2009

The edweb09 workshop was held over two days, 14-15th May 2009 and was facilitated by Headscape, a web development company based in Hampshire, UK. The workshop was aimed at those web managers working in the UK higher education sector and covered four distinct topics: usability, accessibility, content management systems and writing for the web. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend.

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What’s so great about Second Life?

April 14th, 2009

I paid a visit to SecondLife a couple of years ago to find out what all the buzz was about. It was a bit like the Sims meets Grand Theft Auto but with no missions to do. After a while I felt it was a bit of a glorified chat room albeit one where you could actually laugh-out-load or roll around on the floor laughing rather than write the instant message equivalent. It didn’t really grip me at the time. Then I found out the the Open University was getting seriously involved in the “game?” and I decided to pay it another visit.
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Flickr: All Rights Reserved

March 31st, 2009

I recently received an email from a photographer who was a little perturbed about her Flickr photos appearing on one of the website my team maintains. She was adamant that, since she had set the licensing to All Rights Reserved, her photos should not appear on any other website without explicit written permission. This reminded me of something that Jeremy Keith had highlighted a few years back.  He created a PHP $stroppy_users array to deal with that particular problem!
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Random ring tone

March 30th, 2009

Picture the scene. I’m sat in the open plan office and I get a text message. My message alert sounds. Everybody laughs as the 70s Open University motif from the BBC trills through the tiny but impressively loud speaker of my Nokia e51.

As the day progresses I receive a number of other messages at fairly regular intervals. I reply, prompting the message originator to reply back. Message tennis ensues.

My colleagues grow weary of the once-amusing tune. I start to get a bit embarrassed. What to do? I could silence the phone but wouldn’t it be cool if the phone could select a message tone at random for each incoming message? Me and my colleagues would be treated to a selection of incredibly slick and retro themes to bring a smile and lighten up the day.

I realise I can assign different tones to different contacts in my address book but what I’d really like is a random tone per incoming message regardless of sender.

I’ve found a product called Best RandomRingtone which appears to do what I want but I’m not sure it will extend to message alerts too. I’ve not yet managed to shell out the $6.95 to find out. The lack of customer reviews or the fact that my phone isn’t listed may be putting me off.

Am I alone in thinking such a feature would be rather nice? Is there are product out there that will do what I’d like on a Symbian s60 phone? Do let me know.

jQuery UI 1.6: The User Interface Library for jQuery (Book review)

March 27th, 2009

jquery-uiDan Wellman’s book jQuery UI 1.6 (ISBN 978-1-847195-12-8) from Packt Publishing is the kind of book I wish I had when I first started tinkering with jQuery.

Firstly, I’m a web designer, not a developer. Scripting scares me. I’m really out of my comfort zone when I need to bring a web page to life with things like Flash Action Scripting or, in this case, Javascript.

Secondly, I’m a fairly practical kind of bloke who would rather just get something done as a proof of concept and work out how to improve it later. I don’t want to learn a language like PHP or Javascript from the ground-up before I can do something like tab interfaces, resizable boxes and drag and drop widgets. So I never have.

The jQuery User Interface (UI) Library is preceisely the kind of thing that I need in order to rapidly prototype web interfaces. It’s a set of well tested widgets, compatible with all modern browsers (and some old ones).

This book explains in great detail, with full code examples, how to quickly get cracking with every part of the library. This includes tabs, accordions, pop-ups, sliders, date pickers, auto-complete, drag and drop, resizing, selecting, sorting and various animations.

What I most enjoyed about this book was the rapid pace that Wellman moved me through each of the widgets. First he explains the purpose of the widget followed by the default implementation, how to style of ‘skin’ the widget to your own requirements and then onto the more intricate details of chaning how it behaves. This kind of approach is very accessible to me.

As a designer I’m quite interested in making the widgets fit the look and feel of my design. It’s rare that I ever want to use the default style and if it’s not easy to change the chances are I’ll look elsewhere. Each and every jQuery UI widget can be styled to exacting requirments and Wellman is keen to highlight this fact.

I get the feeling I’ll be frequently referring to the chapters on tabs, dialogues, resizing, selecting and sorting the in my day to day work. This is the kind of book you can confidently dip into when you have a specific problem to solve and one that will be a valuable addition to and web design bookshelf.

jQuery UI 1.6 by Dan Wellman is published by Packt Publishing and is £27.99

Read a sample chapter or buy the book direct from Packt Publishing.

Learning jQuery 1.3 (Book review)

March 19th, 2009

Learning jQuery 1.3A lot of web designers, myself included, are mostly concerned with the way things look when people visit the web sites we create. We’re all about the design — layout, typography, colour, graphics and how they enhance the user experience. We start with some sketches, do some wire-frames and rapidly move into software like Photoshop or Fireworks in order to get a pleasing aesthetic result that we’ll eventually piece together on the web using HTML and CSS. Whilst most designers find markup and stylesheets relatively easy to master, javascript sits firmly in the programming camp. It’s all about integers, boleans, strings and other scary sounding bits and bobs that often require a logical and mathematically able brain to understand.

Yet javascript opens up a world of exciting behavioural options to us. It enables us to bring our pages to life with all the wizzy and cool stuff that clients love. Things swishing in and out of view, dropping down, sliding, expanding and contracting. Javascript brings our flat designs to life. But it’s difficult. That’s one reason why jQuery was invented — to make life easier for web designers. If you’ve already mastered HTML and CSS then you’ll find jQuery a logical next step. It uses a similar code style to CSS rather than the all out alien language of raw javascript. Learning jQuery 1.3 from Packt Publishing (ISBN 978-1-847196-70-5) is the only book you’ll need to get started with the library if like me you’re a web design who wants to add a little extra umph to your designs.

You’ll realise that this is definitive tome when you see that it contains a glowing foreword by John Resig, the creator of jQuery. He praises the authors, who he knows personally and gives Karl Sedberg a particular thumbs-up for his excellent knack for the English language. Indeed the themes in this book are relayed to the reader in accessible chunks of to-the-point tutorial that will immediately have you eager to boot up your PC and get cracking with showing and hiding, fading, bringing content into the page by the power of AJAX, sorting tables and all manner of glittering delights that were hitherto beyond your mortal reach.

I was in the process of building a new website using the usual solid webstandards that have kept me in work with my current employer for the last seven years when this book landed in my in-tray. One chapter in and I was hooked. My original pretty and functional site was soon awash with plenty of little jQuery effects and goodies. Probably overkill for what was actually needed but once you start playing it becomes pretty difficult to leave alone. Remember when you discovered all those photoshop layer effects? Remember how you used them in earnest way back when? You’re going to do the same again here. But as time goes on you learn to use where appropriate and go throwing everything including the kitchen sink into a design. JQuery is another set of tools to add to your ever expanding web design toolbox and this is the manual.

Learning jQuery 1.3 by Jonathan Chaffer and Karl Swedberg is published by Packt Publishing (ISBN 978-1-847196-70-5) and has a recommended retail price of £24.99.

Read a sample chapter or buy it direct from Packt Publishing.

links for 2009-02-20

February 20th, 2009