In the last few months, I have noticed that a lot of the websites that I have visited have been offering apps. It gets quite annoying after a while, as every time I visit the website, I am greeted by a modal pop-over asking me if I would like to install their app. The pop-over, invariably has a very large button to take you to Google Play Store (formerly known as “Android Market”) with a quite small link underneath it with a “continue to website” text. Continue reading
I remember when Firefox was called Phoenix. At that time, when doing web design, everyone was testing on Internet Explorer 5, which was the de facto standard in HTML and other web technologies. If the client wanted a website that was a little fancy, then you would recommend that it was built using Flash. We all knew then that Flash websites were bad for search engines and usability, but everyone was doing it. Continue reading
Although it’s not my main occupation, I have dabbled in front-end development for sometime. I have enjoyed working with new front-end techniques, such as those provided by features included in the HTML5 and CSS3 specification. Compared to the way things were 10 years ago, these features look like designers’ dreams. They greatly simplify the development of front-end interfaces that are not only easy on the eyes, they are also more mobile-friendly with some great features added for accessibility.
However, I am beginning to see a trend with front-end designers trying to apply too rigid a control on their designs, resulting in the loss of accessibility for the end users. While it might be fine for twenty-something designers to use 8pt text to render a whole article in a web page and then disable zooming so that their layout can “look good”, it is not fine for everyone, especially those over the age of 40.
When smartphone browsers (starting with mobile Safari) implemented a “pinch to zoom” feature to allow people to view web pages with larger text (which is then reflowed), I thought that this was the beginning of an accessibility trend which would allow people to view hard to read text a little bit closer. However, it seems that a lot of designers responded to this by disabling the end users’ ability to zoom the viewport, supposedly to maintain the layout. While I understand that need to maintain a layout, I don’t think that sacrificing usability is the answer, In the end, the content that is supposed to be delivered to the end user does not get the message through, because the layout might “break” if the user zooms the page in. This is why I have enabled the “force zoom” feature in my Chrome for Android browser, so that at least I might have a chance to read what’s on the page, rather than looking at a pretty layout and not being able to read the article.
I have been working with a lot of documents since late last year and I must say that over the last few months I’ve grown accustomed to working on my documents online using Google Documents. It is the one application from Google that I have used consistently and constantly and I think it is simply brilliant.
Sure, I have had a few funny formatting issues that have cropped up every now and then when I upload and convert microsoft document formats such as PPS and DOCX, but they are minor issues compared to the convenience of having your documents accessible from anywhere and the ability to instantly edit and share them with people of your choice, think collaborators and people who might want to know what your thoughts are on a particular document.
The recent ability to upload any kind of file has added an extra level of convenience. I have been able to upload zipped packages containing documents and images for particular events and classes without having to convert them to Google Document format.
The convenience of editing your documents at home and then downloading and distributing them where you need them (such as lesson plans and tutorials for my students in the class room) has been the winning feature for me. It definitely beats even carrying them on USB sticks and HDDs wherever you go. If you have not yet been using Google Documents for managing your documents, then you definitely should!
Since I have been having some performance issues with Firefox 3.1.2 on my Windows XP laptop, I switched to using Google Chrome experimentally, to see if it was some issues with my hardware or just something I picked up from upgrading to a newer version of Firefox. During the experiment, I grew to love the snappy performance of Google Chrome on my Centrino Dell laptop. It seemed to just start without much hesitation and it would quickly chew through my browsing history as I am typing a URL, without the hiccup that Firefox seems to go through at startup.
Naturally when I went back to using my MacBook running Leopard 10.5.8 I felt that I was missing something. Even though browsing the net with Firefox on the MacBook was generally pretty snappy, I felt a longing for something similar to the Chrome experience on Windows XP. Since I heard that the Chromium team was releasing experimental builds for Chrome on Mac OS X, I thought I would download it and check it out.
I went to the Chromium website and downloaded a zip file containing the latest build of Chromium (version 126.96.36.199 (29381)). I unzipped the file and run it from the folder on the desktop and it asked to be the default browser, so I let it be the default browser. After that, I decided to move it from the desktop to the Application folder and just put a link in the Dock so I can run it without having to search through the folder.
Keeping in mind that this was an experimental build, I was prepared to encounter some bugs and crashes, but so far I have not found any serious ones. The only thing I have noticed is that it makes my MacBook spin the fan hard whenever Flash content was encountered. While this could be a bug in Chromium for Mac OS X, having worked with the Flash player for a while and having witnessed its voracious appetite for system resources on OS X, I am not at all surprised if the bug is in the Flash player itself rather than in the Chromium browser.
All I can say is that this build of Chromium is almost ready for prime time and I have been using it daily for the last four weeks without any major issues. It kind of makes me forget to use Firefox and Stainless for a while. It would be really nice, though, to be able to import all your settings (cookies, bookmarks and all) from Firefox into Chromium.
Having been stuck on Nokia’s Web (the default browser on the E71), I have always been on the lookout for an alternative to this often used piece of software on my phone. It’s not that Web is particularly painful to use, but sometimes it can be a little annoying. While it has some good features like the RSS reader and the ability to automatically resize web content (looks like it’s done with a custom CSS) and a few other nice touches, I often find it a little short in places where it counts.
One of the things that irks me about Web is when the screen goes blank after I click on a link. It first shows a text-only view of the web page, then it goes blank until the whole page and the majority of the graphics have loaded. This little habit of Web‘s is quite annoying on its own. It might be fine if I am looking at the mobile version pages of the large internet sites like flickr and facebook and so on, but some sites do not have any mobile version and they regularly exceed 1MB in size, so on my E71, that means quite a few seconds (with a very good network connection) sitting idle waiting for something to load, staring at a blank screen. This is compounded by the fact that even when the same graphics are involved (eg the second page of a website with the exact same graphical elements), Web still makes you wait a few seconds (while it reads the local cache? How slow!). This is also true when you hit the back button to view a previously loaded page.
Having put up with Nokia’s little browser for a year, I have decided that I have to find an alternative. I first looked at Opera Mobile, but it is only available for platforms such as Windows Mobile. However, inspired by the good experience I had with Opera Mobile on my HTC phone (imate Jamin), I wanted to see if Opera made a browser for the Symbian platform. After looking around the Opera website, it turns out that they make Opera Mini, which is available for the Symbian phone, including my Nokia E71.
Download and installation was a snap and using the browser is such a joy. Pages load up so quickly and the zooming function works really well. Opera’s technology for the mobile browser has really created a nice user experience. Hitting the back button to view previous pages loads them in such a snappy fashion that I feel so compelled to write about it here. It seems that the use of server-side compression has really paid off for Opera in the mobile space.
So if you are on a symbian phone, make sure you give Opera Mini a try!