2011-03-29

Amazon Cloud Drive: online storage with one new idea

The latest development in cloud computing: Amazon is entering the ring with the Amazon Cloud Drive [via fscklog]. Summary:

Barcoo: mobile barcode scanning can be useful

Mobile technology inspires an incredible amount of social applications and location-based services. Not all of them are useful. That’s why I was delighted by a talk on Barcoo that I attended yesterday. The basic idea: You scan the barcode of a product to get data on it from their server. So far, so boring. Things become interesting and useful due to Barcoo’s clever ways of aggregating data.

2011-03-27

A first look at the upcoming JavaScript modules

Update 2012-10-22: Note that this feature is still actively being worked on and in flux.

Judging by a tweet by David Herman, he is excited about something (he is shouting!) and so should we be:

MODULES FOR ECMASCRIPT, Y'ALL. MODULES FOR ECMASCRIPT. THAT IS ALL. [@littlecalculist]
This means: ECMAScript Harmony (or ECMAScript.next [1]), as it is currently being planned, will have modules. This post gives you a first look, summarizing the material at [2].

The sound of program files

Someone took MS Paint and interpreted it as an audio file:

2011-03-25

It’s official: LOL means “laughing out loud”

The traditional meaning of LOL is “lots of love”. In online communication, LOL has become popular as an abbreviation for “laughing out loud”. With it, the writer expresses amusement about something. I usually prefer alternatives such as :-) (smiley) or “hehe”. Now the Oxford English Dictionary has been updated to reflect the more prevalent use of LOL.

The original ending of “I Am Legend”

YouTube has the ending of the movie “I Am Legend” [amazon.com, itunes.com] as it was originally planned. Video embedded after the break.

2011-03-23

JavaScript: how it all began

This post presents a brief history of how Brendan Eich created JavaScript and what influenced its design decisions.

2011-03-22

Mac tips (not only) for switchers

If you are new to the Mac, everything can feel a bit off. This post tries to help. And might even teach you something new if you are already familiar with the Mac. I am also mentioning some advanced things which should be interesting for programmers and people coming from Linux.

2011-03-21

Nike commercial is an entertaining mini-movie with several stars

Keywords: 5:48 long, starring Kobe Bryant, lots of action, funny, great visuals, surprising guest stars, embedded after the break. Watch it! [Source: io9]

2011-03-20

Augmented reality can make you see things that are not there

Brilliant installation by Lynx (Axe in many countries): A giant screen at London’s Victoria train station showed a live video stream of passersby. Embedded in it were the “fallen angels” from the marketing campaign. People were able to somewhat interact with them. Picture and link to video after the break.

Fringe: prequel comics and “Green Lantern” in the alternate universe

Cool: Fringe wanted to show comics in the alternate universe that were different from ours. And they asked DC Comics (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, etc.) to draw covers for them. DC Comics also publishes a Fringe prequel comic mini-series. Picture and links after the break.

2011-03-19

Make node.js code pretty via a generator-based library

The JavaScript server environment node.js has an intriguing approach to coding: Do other things while waiting for results from, say, a database. But don’t use threads to juggle those things, use continuations. This is similar to what client-side JavaScript code (such as Ajax calls) already looks like. Not having to create threads saves a lot of overhead when loads are high. Multi-core and multi-processor systems can still be supported, by scheduling one “instance” of node.js per core/processor.

The only problem with node.js code: You get one nested function expression for each outside request you make.

2011-03-18

Enable (vertical) side tabs in Google Chrome [Windows, Mac]

Warning: Old post, may or may not work, any more.

Tabs for web pages in browsers are usually arranged horizontally, on top of the browser window. This arrangement has two disadvantages: First, with many tabs, it becomes impossible to read their titles. Second, horizontal tabs take up valuable vertical space on widescreen displays. The obvious solution is to arrange them vertically. Firefox has several ways to do this. It is one of three features I still miss from Chrome. But there now is a way to turn on a beta version of this feature in Chrome. This post explains how.

2011-03-17

Mac tip: remount an ejected storage device (without unplugging)

If a storage device is connected to a Mac via USB or Firewire, you can eject it so that it disappears from your Mac. This post explains how to remount it, without unplugging it and then plugging it back in. This is mainly of interest if you use an external (non-SSD) hard drive with Time Machine: After a backup, if you don’t want it to make any noise, you can eject it and it spins down. Then the problem is how to remount it for the next backup.

2011-03-16

How the iPad 2 Smart Cover performs its magic

iFixit has figured out how Apple’s Smart Cover for the iPad 2 works. This blog post summarizes the findings.

One way in which Android really is more open than iOS

This post explains the tricky meaning of “open” with regard to Android: Sometimes Android is not open at all, sometimes its openness has negative consequences. The post concludes with one aspect of Android that is more open than iOS, in a manner that is only beneficial to programmers.

2011-03-15

The Smithsonian captures intriguing wildlife pictures via automated cameras

The Smithsonian has captured 201,000 pictures via motion-activated automatic cameras in places around the world, such as the Peruvian Amazon or China [source: Engadget]. See five of them after the break.

DZone: a great news resource for software developers

DZone is a great website with news related to software development. It has the following advantages:
  • Topic-related subsites. These subsites are called zones and allow you to focus on what you want to know about. There currently are zones for the following topics: Agile, Cloud, Mobile, .Net, Java, Web Builder, IDEs & Tools, Languages, Architects, Books, Servers.
  • Friendly and knowledgeable community. DZoners tend to “get it” and to be courteous. In many other public web places, ignorant and hostile behavior is common.
  • Keeping up with trends. Many people contribute to DZone (some of my blog posts are republished there) which ensures a broad perspective.

Should Macs still have DVD drives?

Is there still a reason for Apple to provide DVD drives in Macs and MacBooks?

2011-03-14

JavaScript values: not everything is an object

Update 2012-08-14: Rewrote most of the post, added Sect. 4 explaining typeof and instanceof.

This blog post explains that JavaScript has two main kinds of values: primitive values and objects. There are several things one needs to be aware of when working with them.

Do tablets make sense, yet?

In his blog post “Moving on from iPad ‘office productivity’ apps”, Marco Arment makes the case that even Apple is still in the process of figuring out what tablets are really good for. He mentions the keyboard dock being discontinued (others say it’s not). But his argument still stands: The iPad isn’t good with keyboards. Furthermore, Apple seems to have backed away from office productivity apps:

2011-03-09

Movie: Conviction (2010)

Picture by Amazon
Conviction” [amazon.com, itunes.com, amazon.uk] is a movie about a woman that dedicated her life to proving her brother’s innocence, after he was convicted for murder. It doesn’t make it easy on us, because the brother does have some disagreeable traits, so we only hesitantly root for him and are never quite sure whether he is really innocent. The movie has a great script and a great cast with many familiar faces (Minnie Driver, Peter Gallagher, Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis). The New York Times article “Betty Anne Waters, Real-Life Heroine of ‘Conviction’” has more on the real events behind the story.

Fringe: safe for now, actors’ input on roles

Two tidbits from a interview with John Noble (Walter) and Jasika Nicole (Astrid):

2011-03-08

Four things that Apple should add to iOS

Update 2011-06-08: Several of my wishes have been fulfilled.

There are still enough things on iOS that add up to make it the best choice for non-technical people who just want a hassle-free experience. But, the competition is improving and bringing out tablet-specific editions:

  • Android Honeycomb has many user-interface innovations and improved looks.
  • WebOS apps can now also run in a browser (and probably as stand-alone desktop apps before long).
There are four instances where Apple is the one doing catch-up and needs to improve iOS (listed in order of urgency).

2011-03-07

The sequel to “Last Airbender”: “Legend of Korra”

Don’t let the anime visuals and panned live-action remake fool you: “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is great TV. It rivals “Lord of the rings” in epic-ness and easily trumps it in character development. Now there is news about a sequel mini-series called “The Last Airbender: Legend of Korra”.

Ars reviews the Motorola Xoom (Android Honeycomb)

Quoting from the article:
If you compare the Xoom against the iPad 2 today, there isn't much of a case to be made in favor of the Xoom. If you make the same comparison four or five months from now when the Xoom has all of its features intact, the story is going to look rather different. LTE and Flash are both desirable features that would make the Xoom look really appealing to a decent-sized mainstream audience.
[...] If you are looking for the best tablet available today, then look no further than Cupertino [=Apple]. If you are an Android enthusiast and you want a good tablet that runs the same software as your phone, you should wait a few months for everything to solidify before you decide which Android tablet you want. Don't jump for the Xoom just because it's the first—they rushed it out prematurely hoping to capitalize on exactly that.
Related posts:

How you handle conflict might be determined in early childhood

The article “Early Attachment May Affect Our Ability to Resolve Conflict in Relationships” describes that early attachment (the relationship you had with your parents as an infant) determines how well you handle conflict later on. Interestingly, handling conflict well is not about avoiding it, but about letting go after it happens. It makes sense that being clingy with people would imply being clingy with thoughts and emotions. The article describes a lab experiment:

2011-03-06

Visually comparing the sizes of Earth, other planets, and stars (video)

The video “Star Size Comparison” (duration: 2:34) nicely visualizes how tiny Earth (diameter 12756 km) is compared to the Sun (diameter 1,392,000 km, 109.1 times Earth’s). And how tiny the Sun is compared to other stars. Factoid from the video:
VY Canis Majoris (a red hypergiant) is the largest known star. It has a diameter of 2,800,000,000 km. It would take an airplane 1100 years to circle it, if it was flying at 900 km/h.
Video embedded after the break.

2011-03-05

Lightweight JavaScript inheritance APIs

Creating objects via constructor functions is fairly straightforward in JavaScript. But as soon as you want to do inheritance, things become complicated. This post examines how inheritance works in traditional JavaScript. It then presents four APIs that make things easier, without adding too much bulk to the language: ECMAScript 5, YUI, Prototype.js, and John Resig’s Simple Inheritance.

2011-03-04

What keeps me from switching from Firefox to Chrome

It feels like Firefox has lost some of its edge. Conversely, Chrome seems to move faster [1]. My main complaint about Firefox is that it still doesn’t have per-tab processes (they are working on them, under the name Electrolysis). Chrome has them and generally feels more responsive; Safari will get them soon [1]. But, until Chrome provides the following two features, I will stick with Firefox.

Why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit

Since 1989, DNA analysis has been used to prove that people who have been convicted are actually innocent. This post lists interesting facts about these exonerations and then describes a study on why some of them were due to (false) confessions.

2011-03-03

Movie: Everybody’s fine (2009)

Everybody’s fine” [amazon.com, itunes.com, amazon.uk] is a quiet, emotionally satisfying drama. It has many small twists that keep things interesting and – thankfully – are not contrived. Most of the film is a little depressing, but things get better later on.

10 newborn baby animals (with pictures)

A post on UPI shows pictures of 10 baby animals that have been born in zoos around the world. Three pictures after the break.

Web sites: dynamic page extension versus paged navigation

Recently, more and more web sites are showing their content via dynamic page extension instead of paged navigation.
  • Dynamic page extension: New content is appended to the current page. Examples:
    • DZone and normal Twitter recognize when you are close to the end of the page and add new entries.
    • Mobile Twitter has a link at the end of the page to “show more”.
  • Paged navigation: New content is shown on a new page. Example: Google’s search results.
But good old-fashioned paged navigation has several advantages:

Summary: Apple’s iPad 2 introductions

Today, Apple introduced the iPad 2, more of an evolutionary than a revolutionary improvement to the original iPad. This post summarizes what is new.

2011-03-02

John Siracusa on the Apple strategy tax

A strategy tax applies to one product of a company that becomes worse in order to help another product. A historic Microsoft example is where “the Internet Explorer team is not allowed to fix the DHTML editor because it might compete with Word.”

Two new Chrome dev features: OmniBox extensions, background pages

Google is currently developing two new features for Chrome: extensions for the OmniBox and background pages for webapps.

Crowdsourcing language translations

Crowdsourcing is the practice of asking the public to help perform a given task. These days, the internet is often used for the asking and for the performing. The most recent example is Twitter crowdsourcing the translation for its international editions, via a “Translation Center” website. Here is how it works:

2011-03-01

Gender-neutral pronouns in English

Fill in the blank, with a possessive pronoun such as “my” and “your” to express that it’s the user’s name:
The user has to click on _____ name.

Fixing Mac OS window management

Window management on Mac OS X is currently a bit confusing: You have applications, Spaces, Exposé, and Dashboard. Mac OS X Lion will add Launchpad (an app launcher) and full-screen apps to that arsenal. This post lists ideas for simplification.