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Some interesting reading this morning.

Shirt Pocket software is working on fixes for SuperDuper!, the state-of-the-art backup software for OS X. The biggest issue right now seems to be the unconventional system that Apple is using for hiding file compression from applications (which seems to be necessary for backwards compatibility). The great news is that even without these fixes, SuperDuper! is not experiencing any data loss. Dave Nanian’s article is here.

If you want to learn more about Snow Leopard’s file compression or ANYTHING ELSE, check out John Siracusa’s massive 23 page review at Ars Technica. While I understand that some users are finding Snow Leopard more of a Service Pack than a new OS, I have to say that I’m loving some of the features. The new changes to Expose alone are worth the $30 bucks to me. You can read up on the Expose features and other cool bits over on the TidBits blog. Try hitting the Expose key and then tabbing through your applications. FUN!

It sounds like the new hero Massively Multiplayer game, Champions Online is off to a rough start. They ratcheted down the effectiveness of players who participated in the beta. This is called a ‘nerf’ in the MMO world. Matt Franklin contrasts this with the rate at which the lead MMO (World of Warcraft) is making game play (especially beginner game play) easier and easier.

This Commodore 64 Visual Debugger is incredible. You start out with a window that shows EVERY address in memory and then zoom in to look at specific locations. The waves of memory changes during file loading are neat! I can’t wait to run this thing while playing Paradroid!

Backblaze has a how-to article up about the homebrew storage solution they’ve created. 7 terabyte 4U servers for $7,867.

JKK checked out the Nokia N900. It merges the best work they’ve done on phones and the work they’ve done on Internet Tablets (Nokia 770, N800, N810). It looks great and has a lot of power in the OS (Linux/Maemo) and the hardware. The Internet Tablet community must be really excited!

PAX, Penny-Arcade’s SOLD-OUT Video Game and Geekery convention (which started yesterday) just added 1,000 tickets.

Alex King spent some time these past few weeks trying to figure out which Network and BlackBerry Phone to use. He wanted to use a BlackBerry Bold, but ended up with a Tour on Verizon. His story is full of the idiosyncrasies of various carriers and devices. Part one. Part two.

Jack Shedd has some things to say about HTML 5. If you are watching the HTML 5 changes closely, Jack’s sentiments will likely resonate with you, including the frustration AND the respect for the team.

Lifehacker has an article on creating a Snow Leopard Hackintosh for $900 (plus the price of Snow Leopard standalone which is $169). I’d be interested in seeing a $500 model.

Fuelly: Google Analytics for your Car

A few minutes ago at the Start 08 conference, Matt Haughey got on stage and demoed/launched It’s a social network around cars, mileage, etc. Seems timely and useful.

Twitter discussion is here.

Seems to be pretty solid. My profile is here.

Some quick notes from the presentation:

  • “I’m a big no-funding guy.”
  • Mobile version available (good call)
  • Coming soon: nike+ style challenges, API, i18n, facebook app, openid, car sharing, group formation/discussion.
  • Available now: Threads, trends, activity screen, filter to friends, calculate savings with small changes
  • It’s built on the metafilter code.
  • Built with 2 people, a few weeks, $1000.


Update: Looks like comments are starting on Metafilter, Digg and the Fuelly forums.

A New Way to Help Kids Learn to Read

LeapPads and the like have been around for a while. Put a specially configured booklet into an electronic pad. Tap a button or two with a special pen. Then let your child page through the booklet tapping on pictures and sentences to hear the story and learn the words.

Tag is different.

With Tag, the books themselves are printed on Anoto paper. The Tag pen reads tiny dots on the paper to know which book, which page and which word or picture is being tapped on. No need for a special electronic pad, just a pen and specially printed books. No need for special instructions, just tap.

How is Tag better than current solutions? Well, nothing is better than a parent sitting with the kid, but this is better than the other electronic solutions out there because it’s easier to use and less bulky. I think this will be an effective tool for teaching kids to read who are much younger than the kids who are helped by the options available previously.

Tag has another innovation. Plug the pen into your computer and the parent gets an interactive look at what their kid has been doing with the pen and how much he is learning. Nice!

Watch the video!!!

Links: LeapFrog Tag at Demo (with video), LeapFrog Tag official site, my 2004 review of the Logitech IO (also based on Anoto tech).

Bay Area Pub Crawl on Sunday!

The WetYourWhistles team is arranging a Pub Crawl this Sunday, February 18. The party kicks off at 3pm at the BBC in Menlo Park. The crawl will also hit the Tied House in Mountain View and the Firehouse Brewery in Sunnyvale!

From the WetYourWhistles site:

Welcome to Wet Your Whistles, the on-line guide to watering holes along the San Francisco Bay Area Caltrain railway line. You can ride Caltrain from San Jose to San Francisco to have a good day out without designating a driver. Our quest is to create a comprehensive list of brewpubs, microbreweries, bars, and well-stocked restaurants along the Caltrain line.

CeBit is Blocking Pro Bloggers?

Given how fast the tech world changes, I’m surprised that a conference like CeBit would not grant press passes to electronic journalists. Specifically, it sounds like Steve Paine, who lives right there in Germany and has been one of the most consistent and fair news sources on UMPCs, won’t be invited to CeBit. It’s a shame, if you ask me.

BloggerCon IV – Tuning In is EASY!

If you aren’t going to be at BloggerCon today and tomorrow (I was planning to be there, but had to take my name off the list this morning so I can help out around the house), consider participating over the web!  There’s an IRC channel and a WebCast.

The Ajax Experience, 2006, San Francisco

Here’s an email I sent my team with notes about the conference. About the formatting issues – I blame Word and Outlook!

Here are some of my thoughts on “The Ajax Experience”. It was a great conference with a very technical audience and SERIOUSLY knowledgeable speakers.


· The speakers all had great attitudes. I was impressed by both their technical and speaking ability. Additionally, most of them were influential members of the Ajax/DHTML community.

· At registration, we were given a CD with the slides for almost all of the presentations. This was very helpful in deciding which sessions to attend. There were 5 parallel tracks with 7 sessions each, so choosing was tough. The slides made it possible to avoid any session that would just be review for me.

· The WIFI was OK. Several times, I had trouble connecting, but it worked most of the time.

· Power outlets were limited to the sides and rear of the rooms. Some rooms only had 4 outlets. That was a bummer.


· Opening Keynote – Dion and Ben, the Ajaxians – Very good. The humor and polish they bring to their podcasts was here, too. A fun introduction to the conference.

· Expert Panel Discussion 1,2,3 –

· Immediately following the Keynotes, 6 or 7 experts took the stage and answered questions. They did this with a different group of people each day.

· The topics ranged from the future of browsers to where is Ajax headed to what developers can do to convince IE to catch up to FF.

· Without exception, these discussions were excellent. The questions asked demonstrated the range of technical ability of the attendees and most of the questions were intelligent. 🙂

· Important messages, broadcast by the panels:

· Accessibility is hard, but Ajax doesn’t make it harder.

· Ajax now means DHTML applications with an asynchronous feature or two. Ajax is no longer spoken of as just XMLHttpRequest and Iframe tricks. “Get over it”.

· Don’t build DHTML/Ajax apps without using a cross-browser toolkit. There is a good selection now, you can get precisely what you want. Big toolkits, small toolkits, toolkits highly integrated with your server language (DWR for Java, etc), toolkits that are independent of your server language (dojo, mochikit, etc)…

· Message to toolkits: The toolkits that are well integrated with specific server languages should find a way to bind to other languages as well. RoR and PHP users should be able to use DWR for instance.

· Message to browsers: Adopt a standard for storing large amounts of data on the client. Adopt a standard for cross browser XML and JSON to facilitate mashups.

· Never trust the client.

· Track 2, Session 1: Intro to Dojo with Alex Russell, Track 2, Session 2: Dojo in Depth with Alex Russell

· Based on panel discussions and conversations with attendees, Dojo seems to be the most mature / most powerful toolkit available.

· The latest version, .3, has a lot of cool features including lfx. lfx is a system for chaining animations to create very smooth, custom animations.

· Dojo is huge, but the build system creates small js files by only including the functionality that your code uses and also by obfuscating/shrinking the result.

· The build system also manages dependencies correctly.

· Yahoo is using Dojo heavily and has been giving a lot back.

· You can use cross site scripting to overcome the 2-download-thread-per-server limitation. Dojo will be using this technique soon to reduce the download time associated with their toolkit.

· Tons of widgets.

· Custom widgets are built by writing an html template, some css and overriding javascript hooks, if necessary. Looks pretty simple.

· Custom widgets can inherit functionality from other widgets – I don’t know how easy/hard/maintainable this is.

· Dojo’s drag and drop system knows how to set up drop targets to filter what draggable object types they allow. Dojo claims to have the best drag and drop system of all the toolkits.

· KeyNote: Ajax and Flex – Adobe

· Basically, later versions of Flash allow ActionScript better access to graphical functionality.

· Also, the JavaScript-to-ActionScript bridge is working better in later versions of Flash.

· Some cool samples of using JavaScript on the page to create animated graphical effects in an embedded Flash component.

· Google Finance is an example of these techniques.

· Track 2, Session 3: Writing Advanced Ajax Applications with DWR with Joe Walker

· DWR has a Comet / Reverse Ajax implementation. The server can trigger events on the client. 2 ways: the client can keep a connection open to the server OR the client can poll the server for commands to execute.

· DWR is tightly integrated with Java on the server. It cannot be used without Java on the server.

· Java to JavaScript conversion of complicated objects is fairly automatic. To a point.

· Some applications will not need any hand-written Javascript. Widgets can be set up by writing Java code and the corresponding JavaScript glue is plugged in by DWR.

· DWR provides a java API for adding scriptaculous effects to the resultant HTML pages.

· Track 2, Session 4: JSON with Douglas Crockford

· JSON is a subset of the JavaScript language intended to express complex data for transport between two computers.

· JSON parsers are available for TONS of languages.

· JSON is lighter weight than XML. The parser is less code and the data has less overhead.

· JSON is also requires an agreement between the parties involved related to the format of data types. Data types are not standardized in JSON. Data types are standardized in SOAP.

· Both JSON and XML/SOAP have pros and cons.

· JSONP is a cross-site scripting technique.

· All of Yahoo’s APIs are exposed using JSONP. Basically, your DHTML code adds a script tag to the dom with a URL at Yahoo that includes a query string parameter telling Yahoo the Javascript variable name it should use for the data. The result is then accessible to your Javascript without requiring a signing dialog, etc.

· The JSON proponents are trying to get browsers to agree to allow for cross-site JSON in a more standardized way.

· [I’ve heard that Zimbra chooses JSON over XML for their email app because of the lower overhead.]

· Keynote: Lessons and Tips from the Ajax Frontline with Scott Dietzen (founder, CTO, Zimbra)

· Zimbra’s toolkit is being adopted by the Apache foundation as their official DHTML/Ajax toolkit.

· Mashups are the future.

· Zimbra’s DHTML libraries are based on SWT conventions, so Java people should be comfortable.

· Track 2, Session 5: Google APIs

· Lots of Mashup examples. This presentation was not technical enough.

· Track 5, Session 6: Beyond Cookies: Persistent Storage for Ajax/DHTML Apps using Dojo.Storage with Brad Neuberg

· A set of functions related to storing information offline.

· There will be many storage implementations. The first is Flash. Others will include cookies, form saving, ActiveX, Firefox’s offline storage API (coming soon).

· Flash lets you store 100KB of data on the client without asking the user.

· The user is asked when you go past 100K, then again when you go past 1MB, etc.

· Flash 6 is the minimum for the Flash storage implementation. Flash 8 is required for Safari.

· Cross platform, cross browser was really hard, but it works now. Flash has a lot of gotchas in various browsers – especially Flash 6.

· Flash 6 install base is 97.1.

· Takes advantage of Dojo’s existing io library for serialization of objects.

· Some browser/Flash version combinations: storage is slow.


· Keynote: Brendan Eich, the creator of Javascript

· Very, very dense presentation involving the future of the LANGUAGE, not it’s integration with DOM, etc.

· A lot of what was discussed is still being decided.

· The most important issue with the future of Javascript is memory management and he discussed some things that will help.

· Track 3, Session 7: GreaseMonkey and Ajax with Jason Hunter

· All review, for me.

· GreaseMonkey is a Firefox extension that lets you run Javascript on pages after they have been loaded by the browser, but before the onload event fires.

· 1 million GreaseMonkey user scripts are now available. (REALLY?)

Thoughts on the conference from other attendees can be found here.