The Quick & Dirty:

  • 9+ years in the biz, 10 messing around
  • All the latest in HTML, CSS, JS & PHP (Sorry, no .net or Ruby skills yet)
  • Cross-browser compatible code from Photoshop or Illustrator files.. or napkins!
  • Custom Specialities in Wordpress theming & plugins, Twitter & jQuery
  • Subversion, server-log analysis, and blocking hack-attempts (of late).
  • Data/Project Geek. I ♥ timelines.

I’ve compiled some handy PHP functions I’ve had to whip up. More extensive code-samples are also available.


Wordpress-from-static HTML


The Future is half-way here ..both halves

Everyone wants the future to get here quicker. Awhile ago it was battery life for laptops. That dissatisfaction allowed explosive growth for ARM-based devices (iPad, Tablets, etc). But on the software side, the iPad & Android tablets are only halfway there: they’ve got the UI, tonnes of “apps” & user-buy-in, but the ability to do work quickly & efficiently is sorely lacking. Oddly enough, Microsoft’s Windows 8.1 is in the exact opposite position: no user buy-in, few apps, but a naescent ability to labor well. Intelligent screen-splitting with the industry-standard Office could help it win the its uphill battle.

There’s one ultra-important generalized use-case for multiple apps on-screen: Needing to reference one document/website/list, while writing another. Similar to that for my workflow: I need a list of files on the left, and a text-editor on the right. Double-finger swiping to another workspace that has 2 browsers up, and I’m sold. 

However, this split-screen/limited-screen future suggests a need for either solid inter-app communication (Android’s model), or one-app that does everything (iOS’ model).

With iOS’ model, we can no longer have one app that does one thing well – there’s just no room for them all on screen. With the visual-space being limited, the need to window-switch for actions like drag-and-drop becomes immensely important; and without that OS/GUI-level functionality, we need to have an FTP app that is also a file-manager (like the olden days). We need a text-editor with a terminal session in it. The consequence: I can only labor as much as the app supports.

This creates a need for inter-app communication – limiting the amount of user-encumbrance, and allowing app-switching to become automated, if not irrelevant. This way, a user can labor not just as much as an app supports, but as much as each app supports + as much as each app can communicate/share.

Android’s Intent system is lauded for this – I can choose which app to use for many activities: playing music, editing a text file, downloading a file. But at present, Android’s Intent system is often limited to a one-step off. Share this on Facebook & return to app.  I have yet to find a file manager which understands that opening a text file from an FTP server in another text-editor app means it needs to auto-upload when changes are saved. Instead, most only allows editing in it’s own crappy text-editor. Yet again, the each-app-does-one-thing-well is being replaced by a one-app-does-everything.


History Repeats

The original one-screen “app” is the command line. UNIX relies heavily on inter-app/command communication: the output of one can be the input of another. But the user-experience of this is to edit one thing (a text file), then after the editing, apply a command-on-command to combine. That’s exactly where we are today with labor on tablets. I can edit a file, but I must (at least visually) close the app/end it’s session to do another command, no matter how related it is.

For us everyday, all-day terminal users, touchscreen tablets just don’t let us type out the detailed commands we need to, as fast as we need to. Every single command gets converted to a visual ‘app’ (read: screen-space). SSH becomes JuiceSSH, svn becomes OASVN. FTP gets integrated into ES File Manager.


As for the Future

So what of the future? Android, of course, will be the first to fall to the split-screen. Will Apple bow to the split-screen, or continue on, promoting all-in-one apps? There’s still another use-case unmentioned: using another device’s screen. Plenty of people are now holding phone and tablet in each hand – address (detail) in one, map (extension) in another. Inter-device communication has also a long way to go, since it’s one more thing for an app to communicate with.

Apple’s need for developers to create higher quality apps will certainly serve it well in the future. There’s a monolithic simplicity in not having to connect app to networked app all the time (as with Android). For those who see the world as simpler, Apple will be their choice. As for those who see the complexity in the world, and appreciate it, Android’s model will be theirs. Microsoft however, has 2 solid decades of dissatisfaction to overcome. It’s always been the middle-ground between the no-choice Apple and all-is-option UNIX. Being in the middle is tough, and it’s great leap forward into split-screen is a big bet, one that I see no reason why it won’t pay off.


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Posted in design, desktop theory, Futurism, interaction design, limited computing Comments Off

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