Smashing Magazine – Maps in Modern Web Design

Smashing Magazine – Maps in Modern Web Design

Geo-location was a hot topic in 2009. With so many applications on GPS-enabled smartphones, more maps than ever were accessible to the average person. But how can Web designers and developers take advantage of an increasingly location-aware user base? This article explores existing trends, conventions and the possible future of interactive maps online…

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15+ Free Abobe Air Applications for Designers and Developers

Great Adobe AIR-based tools for web design and development!

15+ Free Abobe Air Applications for Designers and Developers | Admix Web:

Adobe AIR, which stands for Adobe Integrated Runtime, is a cross-functioning system runtime engine that allows web designers and web developers to create rich internet applications, and Adobe AIR is compatible with Windows, Macs and Linux. Adobe AIR is a very functional and useful system for web designers and web developers because it permits Flash, Flex, JavaScript, HTML and AJAX code to look like traditional desktop applications by running without the Web browser. Adobe has created an official Adobe AIR Marketplace which essesntially trys to show all of the Adobe AIR applications that exist. These applications range from tools useful for designers to developers to bloggers to the average person using the web. These are great tools and applications because they can make our lives as designer and developers easier, and best of all they are free. I have compliled a list of 15+ great Adobe AIR applications for you all to use. Remember, this list is not a best of or all inclusive, just ones that I have found to be helpful! Click on the images for links to the application. Enjoy!

ASP.NET Logging to the Visual Studio Output Window with log4net

OK this one has been baffling me for a long time but I just ignored it. We have been using the open source logging library log4net for a long time, and for the most part it was working fine. But the one thing that I wanted to do but could never get working was logging to what my brain wanted to call “The Console,” AKA (to me) the Output window in Visual Studio.

I tried using the log4net appenders ConsoleAppender and ColoredConsoleAppender, to no avail. Turns out there’s a different appender that works with the Output window, and it’s not ConsoleAppender.

The appender in question is TraceAppender!

So here’s a little snippet of XML from my web.config files that handles output to the Output window (basically the same markup as appears on the log4net examples page):

  </log4net>
    <appender name="TraceAppender" type="log4net.Appender.TraceAppender">
      <layout type="log4net.Layout.PatternLayout">
        <conversionPattern value="%d [%t] %-5p %c %m%n"/>
      </layout>
    </appender>
    <root>
      <level value="ALL"/>
      <appender-ref ref="TraceAppender"/>
    </root>
  </log4net>

To those familiar with the way the log4net section looks in your web.config this will make sense, but the key concept is that, per the log4net documentation, “Events are written using the System.Diagnostics.Trace.Write(string,string) method” — and it turns out that one of the listeners is the Output window!

A colleague of mine and I were very confused by all this (I’m glad I wansn’t alone in that feeling either!), but we were both very glad to figure this one out.

Thanks go to Google (of course), and this post on the SharpDevelop forums.

The Remote is Dead! Long Live the Remote!

Imagine my dismay when I discovered that my Apple Remote had taken a ride through the clothes washer and dryer a couple of weeks ago… As you may imagine, this journey rendered the remote inoperative and useless (albeit totally dry).

Additionally, searching on the Apple Store was a bit more depressing since the device is evidently no longer available… yikes.

eBay to the Rescue

Thankfully there’s eBay.

After nosing around a bit I was able to find several vendors who had very reasonable prices on basically brand-new remotes. I think mine ended up being $6.99 USD.

At any rate, it arrived today and I was very pleased to try it out while listening to iTunes and it works perfectly. At that rate I probably should have purchased a few extras just in case this happens again…

Let’s hope not.

Strange Behavior

My next task was to resolve a very strange and annoying problem if you have more than one Mac in the proximity while using the remote. This happened to me while on vacation — the remote was pointed at my MacBook Pro, but in addition to controlling it, my wife’s MacBook was also responding to the controller, starting and stopping iTunes while a movie was playing on my computer. Very interesting.

Thankfully it is possible to pair up your remote to your computer, and I’ve already paired the new remote with my laptop and will do the same with our other MacBook and its respective controller…

Whew!

New Look

I’ve been experimenting with some new WordPress themes, and I took a shine to DailyPress by Blog Oh Blog!

I haven’t decided if this is going to be the permanent design, but it’s much better than the old default look I was using, especially with all the links back here regarding the iPhone wireframing templates.

Please don’t add debug messages to your customer-facing application

Debugging messages are for developers/engineers, not for humans (I can say that since I’m a developer). But I can’t believe that it’s 2009 and I still encounter things like the following example…

Every time I log into one of my online banking systems, I get a message like the following:

This is just intrusive and rude behavior (as Alan Cooper might say). First of all, the message first off tells me when the last unsuccessful attempt was made to access the account… HUH??? Then it tries to be helpful and tell me when the last successful attempt was made.

It just makes no sense at all to me why this message exists at all. Why would I ever care about these particular statistics, and even if I did care about them, is it really necessary to pop up a message box every time I log in???

I vote no.

Fine. If you want to have that information accessible, provide a log of all accesses tucked away in my account settings or somewhere I can get to if I think I have a security concern. Don’t show this message to me, please. What this message boils down to is a debug-ish message in the clothing of security (I could be wrong, but that’s what it smells like to me).

Interestingly, as a side note, I happen to know that this system is from a company that is now owned by Intuit (my former stomping ground), and in the two or more years since that acquisition, this message box has surprisingly still not disappeared.

HP printer driver gets subtle usability upgrade

I just noticed when printing up a document today that my [Windows] HP printer drivers must have been upgraded recently. As a result, the Printing Preferences dialog that used to have an entry entitled “Default Printing” (or something to that effect) now reads “General Everyday Printing,” which, while a little confusing in itself, is a lot less TechnoSpeakish than using “Default…”, since non-software-development professionals don’t generally know that word.

iPhone Wireframe Templates for Sketching

In the spirit of Open Source, I have posted some iPhone Paper Prototyping and Design templates, and you can Download The .Zip File Here.

There are two layouts, and both layouts are in PDF and Viso (VSD) formats.

Feel free to download and tweak them as needed.

Have fun with them!

UPDATE: With all the recent activity following the Smashing Magazine article on Wireframing, I’ve added the PDF files on their own, so if you’re viewing this page on an iPhone or other device that doesn’t like .zip files, then you can at least view them.

Enjoy!

ASP.NET Forum Tags: Semicolons as Separators?

Ummm… OK I know Microsoft is trying to give the illusion of being user friendly and all, but when the delimiter for tags that categorize a post on the ASP.NET developer forums, they chose semicolons.

Is it just me or is that a ludicrous choice? Why not a space (my preference – a la delicious) or a comma?

In addition, there is no example visible to show you what the legal delimiter is! You have to miraculously divine what it wants, or let it show you what it wants, as I chose to do.

To find out what the delimiter is, I had to do the following:

  1. Open the “Select Tags…” dialog.
  2. Select two (short) tags. (I notice lots of other folks thought that a space would be a logical delimiter too…!)
  3. Close the dialog.
  4. Oops. Closing the dialog didn’t populate the text box with my selections. Awesome.
  5. Trying again… Open the “Select Tags…” dialog.
  6. Select two (short) tags, this time at the end of the list where I notice OK and Cancel buttons (yes – you heard that right. The buttons are embedded in the list itself… and at the bottom of the list, no less! They’re not on the dialog “window.”)
  7. Click OK.
  8. Observe that text box has the new selections delimited by semicolons.

The auto-populating text box is another usability nightmare deserving of its own article, but I’ll let someone else write that one up. 😉

User-Friendly Nissan – Now with Wi-Fi!

I have always dreaded going to my local Nissan dealer (Northbay Nissan, Petaluma, CA) for service in the morning before work, since it was like being in an information vacuum since they did not have wireless for their customers (isn’t this 2009????).

However that has now changed. I went in this morning and lo and behold… the “Would you like to connect to ‘Nissan Customer'” message appears when I opened up my laptop (expecting dead air)!

So this is great news, and they have yet again proved their superiority in my opinion – from the usability in their cars to the usability now in their lobby!