BrowserLab

The web is wonderful but coding for different browsers and operating systems is a major pain. There are many testing tools that will help a developer test their code in a variety of scenario’s or you could use VMWare to boot into various O/S and browser combinations. BrowserLab from Adobe is a free (with paid for options) tool that will help test your website without having to reboot or launch and O/S.

BrowserLab

You can load up any website and test it from within your current browser. The current browser and O/S combinations are as follows:

  • Firefox 2.0 – Windows XP
  • Firefox 3.0 – Windows XP
  • Internet Explorer 6.0 – Windows XP
  • Internet Explorer 7.0 – Windows XP
  • Safari 3.0 – Macintosh OS X
  • Firefox 2.0 – Macintosh OS X
  • Firefox 3.0 – Macintosh OS X

Not a massive list but helpful all the same. You can compare a website side by side or use the onion skin option to overlay two versions of the test site. If your a Dreamweaver user you can also download an extension and run Browserlab directly from the app.

This is a really nice tool for a developer but it will ultimately become a paid for option. It will remain free until the end of 2010 but Adobe will then start to apply a monthly charge while extending the functionality. If they increase the browser support and O/S options (no Linux?) then it could be very powerful indeed.

DigitalOutbox Episode 12

DigitalOutbox Episode 12
In this episode the team discuss this weeks tech news.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
1:06 – UK Stance on Illegal File Sharing
– ISP’s angry at Government stance that repeat offenders could be cut off from net
– Seems that accusations alone could be enough to cut off someone’s connection.
– Proportional punishment? You can be a hacker, spamer, fraudster or other criminal and still have access to the internet. Seems if you share a Myley Cyrus track over the internet – someone whom clearly adds immense value to the creative landscape of modern culture…. Mmm – you can have, what is in effect, an essential service cut off.
– Where is the balance of proof? What about people who share an IP? What about parents who have no idea that their child is sharing files?
– Mandelson ordered an amendment to the digital Britain report – an unelected member of parliament throwing his weight around. Proposals are:
– Blocking access to download sites
– Reducing broadband speeds
– Temporarily suspending the individual’s Internet account as a last resort
– Most downloaded TV (4% is uk) – http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2009/08/28/heroes-tops-file-sharing-list/
– Top 10 Worldwide TV Torrents
– Heroes; 54,562,012 (2.18 million UK)
– Lost; 51,151,396 (2 million UK)
– 24; 34,119,093 (1.4 million UK)
– Who would police this? Can evidence and proof be 100% guaranteed?
6:44 – Pirate Bay Takedown
– The court ordered the site’s major bandwidth supplier, Black Internet, to disconnect TPB from the Internet or face penalties of 500,000 kroner ($70,600). The ISP complied, saying that it had no choice but to uphold the law.
– Shares in GGF suspended
– GGF chairman resigned
– Owed money to taxman
– Goodbye, it was fun whilst it lasted. Next.
– Alternative pirate bays already appearing… plus it’s not as if this was the only site out there anyway. Closing one site will not remedy the problem.
8:12 – Nokia Ovi and Netbook
– Ovi
– Appstore for Nokia
– http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/nokias_ovi_to_compete_with_iphone_app_store.php
– Applications for all 75 of it’s handsets – challenging
– Booklet 3G
– http://mashable.com/2009/08/24/nokia-laptop-booklet-3g/
– Their first pc – Netbook – wifi, 3g, bluetooth, sim card slot
– 10.1 inch screen
– 12 hours battery life – wow (if true)
– Windows 7
– Looks quite nice!
– Fingers crossed for a sensibly priced, sensibly specified data bundle
12:30 – Bing and Wolfram
– Microsoft has apparently struck a licensing deal with Wolfram Alpha to include some of Wolfram’s search results within Bing.
– No comments yet from either MS or Wolfram.
– MS really do appear to be chasing the search market hard… with Yahoo taking the large majority of ad revenue you’ve got to question why? Longer term I expect they want to cash in on the Google billions that they collect through paid for advertising once the Yahoo agreement is over
14:14 – Microsoft Suck At Photoshop
– Polish version of photo has black head removed replaced with a white head but keeping the black hands
– What were they thinking?
– But this probably happens a lot
16:16 – Microsoft STILL amending prices for Windows 7
– From 1st Sept, no longer upgrade price for full version.
– There are now separate prices for upgrade and full
– Have now confirmed the family pack for install on 3 machines
– Doesn’t affect those already pre-ordered
– SORT IT OUT!
19:19 – Facebook Changing Privacy Policy
– Facebook has agreed to change its privacy policy in response to recommendations made by courts in Canada.
– Existing policy is in violation of Canadian law – specifically its holding onto users data for an indeterminate length of time
– Amends will be put in place that allow users to not only suspend their accounts but offer an easy option to delete their account and permanently delete data.
– However, Facebook has said this could take 12 months to implement… REALLY… 12 MONTHS!!! Facebook must really respect users privacy and the Canadian courts for it to be so high up their development schedules to only allow it to be rolled out in 12 months.
– Facebook 3.0 released on the appstore
– very nice update
– much more refined interface, easy to use and logical
– create your own iPhone-like pages
25:14 – Apple News
– Apple Care about your apps…
– http://crave.cnet.co.uk/software/0,39029471,49303437,00.htm
– Apple’s App Approval Team spend, on average, 6 mins per app to make a decision to approve/reject if Apple’s figures are to be believed.
– This process is carried out by 2 people, therefore a total of 12 mins per app.
– Victim of their own success? Stretching their staff a little thin?
– Yelp
– First augmented reality app
– Hidden option – shake three times and a dialogue appears offerring to enable ‘monacle’
– Once enabled, see reviews as you spin around iPhone – 3GS only
– Awesome 🙂
– Spotify
– annual subscription increased to £119.88
– adds social networking – share your music on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious
-iPhone app approved
– should be available to download soon
– will be interesting to see how it performs over 3G and wifi
– App is free but you need to be premium member to use the app to stream. (£10 month)
39:24 – Xbox Price Drop…and increase!
– XBox price cuts anounced
– Arcade = £159.99; Elite = £199.99
– No HDMI cable in Elite box.
– Possibly new Xbox Super Elite in October. 250GB HDD, includes 2 wireless controllers + Forza 3?… going to be an expensive bundle.

Picks
Shakeel
Your camera and the Law

Ian
TripIt
– Itinery planner
– E-mail travel e-mails to plans@tripit.com
– So far all my travel plans have imported well – if there is a mistake then you edit
– Free tripit iphone app to view all travel details, booking numbers and contact phone numbers – no paper required
– Stats on how much you’ve travelled and where each year – geeky but nice
– Social too – friends can see your travel plans, where your staying etc
– share plans via iCal feed, rss, linked in, blog etc
– Other app’s can import data automatically

Chris
Let the “Internet” decide what music you should listen to!
– Dynamically generated Spotify playlist generated by wearehanted.com by trawling as many social networks, blogs etc as possible to see what music people are talking about most at any time.
– List of about 99 tracks.
– Like this for the mashup aspect as well as the fact that the tracks I’ve heard through it have been good – and different from the char

Pixlr.com

With Google’s new operating system promising to be browser based, applications delivered through the browser / cloud need to step up to the mark. I have to admit to being sceptical that this can truly work and that the tools for web based development are mature enough to support application functionality and usability that we have come to expect from the desktop.

However, there are more and more offerings out there that are starting to shift the playing field. Google’s office type application suite are leading the productivity front, but we’re also starting to see the creative needs being met.

Pixlr is an online graphics application that offers some pretty sophisticated photo editing and graphic manipulation functionality. I found this application when reading a post on the net about online Photoshop alternatives.

I certainly wouldn’t want to give the impression that this is a photoshop killer! It’s not. However, it is incredible. Hugely impressive. And has a feature set that is far in excess of the requirement for most users. And all for free.

The following screenshots show some steps towards creating the graphic shown at the end of the post. I’m no artis but what it does show is Pixlr’s ability to open up Photoshop format files (PSD). To work in layers. To manipulate and import graphics and finally to use the built in brushes to create additional creative content.

If you’re impressed with what you see, head on over to http://www.pixlr.com and have a play.

screen1 screen2 screen3 screen4 screen5 screen6

Pixlr

DigitalOutbox Episode 11

DigitalOutbox Episode 11
In this episode the team discuss Sony PS3 Slim and Apple.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
– Android
– Developers finding switch from iPhone development to Android .. lacking .. severly – http://daringfireball.net/2009/08/the_android_opportunity
– the Android state-of-the-art is today further behind the iPhone state-of-the-art than it was when the G1 debuted last October
– must do better
– iPhone needs decent competition to benefit everybody
– Layar – Augmented Reality Browser
– http://mashable.com/2009/08/18/layar/
– On android, iPhone coming soon
– Data layed on top of real world
– Shopping, finding places, games, house prices, restaurant reviews, find friends, geo-tagged images, tours
– Imagine translation layer – foreign country and the phone translates

– Twitter
– Geolocation API
– http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/location-location-location.html
– Tweets near you
– tweets about a location – trending places?
– Users can connect locally – on the web site etc
– Retweet rework
– http://blog.twitter.com/2009/08/project-retweet-phase-one.html
– did this need to be re-worked?
– Business accounts
– With analytics and other metrics to help businesses

– Windows Mobile OS – 2 “current” versions next year?
– It’s looking likely that MS will run with 2 mobile operating systems concurrently
– WM 6.5 as an incremental upgrade over the current 6.0 edition
– WM 7 as a radical overhaul to for high end, touch based devices which MS will work in collaboration with manufacturers.
– MS have said they know they have been slow to respond (Version 7 has been in development or a long time) but they are solving this.
– With hardware development ramping up across the board and with Android / Windows Mobile development being focussed on – can Apple keep up? Do they want/need to?
– Could the same thing happen to phones as happened with MP3 players? I.e. iPod wasn’t the best player available but best infrastructure locked people in… This isn’t an issue whilst the iPhone remains the best phone on many levels but that’s not going to last forever(?!).

– Video adverts in print media!
– http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8211209.stm
– Slim-line screens, roughly size of mobile screens, sat in traditional paper magazines.
– Chip can hold up to 40 mins of video!
– Pepsi and CBS first to advertise in US based Entertainment Weekly magazine.
– Wowsers! Feels like something out of Minority Report.

– Apple
– FCC Inquiry
– AT&T – not involved in Google Voice rejection
– http://www.engadget.com/2009/08/21/atandt-tells-the-fcc-it-had-no-role-in-removing-google-voice-fro/
– Apple – http://www.apple.com/hotnews/apple-answers-fcc-questions/
– Not rejected, still looking at Google Voice app’s
– Says it has not rejected the Google Voice application and “continues to study it.”
– Apple’s concerned Google Voice alters “the iPhone’s distinctive user experience” and “disables Apple’s Visual Voicemail.”
– “The iPhone user’s entire Contacts database is transferred to Google’s servers, and we have yet to obtain any assurances from Google that this data will only be used in appropriate ways.” [Doesn’t Mac OS X do this when it syncs Address Book to Google? What’s the issue? — ed.] GV Mobile, GVDialer, and VoiceCentral all have the same issues.
– Says its “covering new ground and doing things that had never been done before,” and that “many of the issues we face are difficult and new.”
– Apple did not consult with AT&T about whether to approve Google Voice, and Apple alone makes the final decision on whether or not to approve iPhone apps, although part of the AT&T / Apple contract forbids Apple from approving VoIP apps that run on the cell network.
– “Most of the review process is consumed with quality issues and software bugs.”
– SlingPlayer Mobile was “initially rejected because redirecting a TV signal to an iPhone using AT&T’s cellular network is prohibited by AT&T’s customer Terms of Service.” [That’s pretty much the opposite of what AT&T promised us. — ed.]
– There are more than 40 full-time trained iPhone app reviewers, and at least two different reviewers go over each app. There’s also an App Store Executive Review Board that meets weekly to determine procedures and sets policy for the review process, and also reviews apps that are escalated to the board because they “raise new or complex issues.” [Hello, Phil Schiller!]
– Apple gets 8,500 new apps and updates a week, and it claims only 20 percent are not approved as originally submitted.
– Googles Response
– http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/08/21/googles-response-to-the-fcc/
– Redacted content
– What will happen? I think Google Voice will soon become an accepted app
– Apple are lying – they told the other Google Voice developers that their was rejected – not what they’ve said here
– App Store is changing – Qik now can upload over 3G, Obama art app which was rejected is now accepted with an expedited route through approval, developer of C64 emulator contacted by senior Apple rep and told him big news is coming soon

– iPhone 3GS best selling phone in Japan!!!! Reason? it’s free!!!

– iPhone to become most popular camera on Flickr
– http://mashable.com/2009/08/17/iphone-flickr/
– Despite poor image quality
– Watch it boom if iPod touch and nano come with camera
– iPhone, the number 1 camera on Flickr – surprise? I think so …

– TomTom GPS car kit will work with iPod Touch and other 3rd party S/W apps (CoPilot?) http://gizmodo.com/5339070/confirmed-tomtoms-gps-car-kit-will-work-with-ipod-touch-third-party-apps

– Event scheduled for Sep 9th?
– http://digitaldaily.allthingsd.com/20090817/apple-event-scheduled-for-wednesday-sept-9-music-only-no-tablet/?mod=ATD_rss
– iPod’s, iTunes, no tablet
– Beatles – how many times have we heard this now?
– What is the massive data centre Apple is building going to be used for?

– Twitterific 2.1 update
– video recording and uploading
– updated contact sheet for better viewing
– numerous bug fixes and tweaks

– Gadgets n’ Games
– Sony Gamescom news
– PS3 slim unveiled – http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=221475
– launched first week of September worldwide
– €299 worldwide, $299 in US, £249 in UK
– Talk of shortages from retailers but denied by Sony
– 30% lighter, 32% smaller, 34% less power consumption
– current PS3 to get price cut
– looks like a matte finish (less of a dust magnet)
– hi-res pics here http://www.joystiq.com/photos/playstation-3-slim/2216305/full/
– $24 for a stand! Slim can’t stand vertically without another peripheral
– Faster gaming (improved chip speed?), supports Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio bitstream output to your receiver
– HDD is removable – http://www.engadget.com/2009/08/21/video-another-look-at-ps3-slim-and-its-removable-hdd/

– PS3 video store to launch in in Eur in Nov
– rent or buy SD/HD videos
– PS3 firmware 3.0 out on 1st Sept
– animated themes – hurrah
– “What’s New?” section
– BBC iPlayer
– ‘other’ interface tweaks
– PS3 Home 1.3 this september
– http://blog.us.playstation.com/2009/08/19/playstation-home-v1-3-coming-this-september/
– Universal Game launching form within Home
– From Home to Start menu of game without signing out of home
– In store item previews
– Additional portable Objects
– Everyone will get a free camera – snap from 1st or 3rd person view, photo’s saved to photos in XMB
– More to come like…a bubble machine
– More gestures and poses for your avatar
– PS3 drops price immediately – £249
– LBP to get water levels – maybe time for me to dig it out again
– New Heavy Rain trailer reveals new character and ‘love’ theme
– New Uncharted 2 video looking as amazing as before – cannot wait for this
– Stunning GOW III in-game images from Gamescom http://www.joystiq.com/photos/god-of-war-3-gamescom/2217198/full
– more motion control goodies to be revealed at TGS in September
– PSP GO buyers in first 10 days of release to receive GT for free (register your PSP GO before Oct 10)
– PSP mini games available on PSN from Oct
– limited to 100MB each
– low dev costs
– iPhone inspired ??
– Fieldrunners, Hero of Sparta, Tetris and MiniGore and others successful on the iPhone will appear as mini games
– 50 titles by year end

– Dante’s Inferno trailer looking promising ..
– Pre-order Guitar Hero 5 from Amazon, get GHWT (game only) for FREE!!!! (game is £70 with guitar)
– PixelJunk Shooter looking awesome

– XBox360 Arcade to get £30 price hike? http://www.computerandvideogames.com/article.php?id=221412
– Fable 3 in 2010
– Fable 2 goes episodic this year
– Logitech G27 steering wheel – looks awesome but £329.99. http://www.trustedreviews.com/peripherals/news/2009/08/18/Logitech-G27-Steering-Wheel-Debuts/p1

– Batman Arkham Asylum – played demo, rather bloody enjoyable, great atmosphere, detective mode is very cool, can be a button basher though

– Do UK Retailers Limit Game Market?
– http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8210622.stm
– US market also depressed – http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=24837
– Exchange rate and pricing structure makes it difficult to break into UK
– Second hand market hurting game companies, restricting innovation
– Madden 10 – Online franchise needs code from within the pack when bought – second hand have to pay $10/800 MS Points to join
– Madden also has VIP lobbies, game type and server access – $4.99 or 400 points – I can understand the server access but not an increased difficulty.
– Digital Distribution the answer? Kill of Game etc?

– Your average hard-core gamer is no longer a teenager, but a 35 year old, over-weight, sad bastard http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/08/gamers-are-sad

– Sony stalling mass production of OLED displays due to recent losses they’ve sustained

– James Cameron’s Avatar – looks fantastic
– District 9 – a most welcome, low budget, low hyped spectacle. compared to the usual Hollywood, high-budget bores dished out by the ton

Picks
– Shakeel – PS3 Media Server
– no nonsense, free, easy to use media server for PS3
– best feature – streams MKV’s, allowing use of subs and DTS, all on the fly
– no encoding required

http://code.google.com/p/ps3mediaserver/
– Ian – BrowserLabs
– http://browserlab.adobe.com/
– Compare a web site in a variety of browsers without launching them OR booting into a different OS
– Firefox 2.0 – XP, Firefox 2.0 – OS X, Firefox 3.0 – XP, Firefox 3.0 – OS X, IE6 – XP, IE7 – XP, Safari OS X
– Not extensive but easier to hit this than use parallels or multiple machines
– Compare side by side or onion skin – overlap two browsers
– Chris – Sumo Paint & Pixlr
– http://www.sumopaint.com/
– http://pixlr.com/
– Wowsers! Online alternatives to Photoshop?
– Serious pieces of Flex coding. These kind of applications make you realise that we could one day spend life in the cloud.

CoPilot Live

For all of the App Store restrictions, the lack of proper turn by turn sat nav software seemed to cause the most grief. The iPhone was more than capable of running the software but Apple restricted the sale of turn by turn navigation software until OS 3.0 was launched. Alongside that announcement was the news that Tom Tom would be coming to the iPhone with a software and hardware add-on. Many have waited for Tom tom due to it’s history and market share but I plumped for CoPilot Live, partly due to it’s good reviews and partly it’s price of £25.99, less than half that of Tom Tom.

Even though the price is excellent this isn’t an under featured sat nav. The features include (yes, lazy cut and paste from their website):

  • Full spoken turn-by-turn voice directions
  • Detailed street maps of UK and Ireland with full UK post codes stored on your iPhone
  • Clear 3D and 2D driving views with SmartZoom™ speed-variable zoom and street names
  • Navigate to a house number, street, intersection or address book contact
  • Automatic portrait and landscape display switching
  • Comprehensive multi-stop pre-trip planning and preview
  • Route optimizer works out the best way around multiple stops
  • Intelligent navigation provides guidance in tunnels and underpasses
  • Automatic day/night mode
  • Navigate to thousands of Points of Interest
  • Lane indicator & CoPilot ClearTurn™ provides a more realistic view of motorway exits and junctions
  • Real Signpost display matches real-life signs
  • LiveLink™ location sharing and messaging: keep track of your CoPilot friends, live on-screen!
  • Live 5 day weather forecast for your location or destination
  • Roadside Assistance helps you contact your breakdown company and tell them your location
  • Huge range of customization features to suit the way you travel
  • Customized trip status displays, including eta, distance remaining and more

CoPilotNot a bad list of features but does it work? I tried it last week when I was away on business and driving between Bristol and Bath I had no issues – in fact I was really quite impressed. Once the GPS had locked onto my location I entered the postcode of my destination and CoPilot quickly worked out a route. One issue I do have is that you can’t easily see an overview of your route. You can move around the map and zoom out but it would be nice to see the total route before commencing your journey. For the first journey CoPilot recommended a different route from normal – I trusted the normal route and pleasingly CoPilot recalculated in 2-4 seconds which I was happy with. I read some comments on the App Store reviews that people thought this was slow but I don’t see it as an issue.

The rest of the journey went really well – clear instructions on both vocally and on the screen and the GPS positioning was excellent. Chris also picked up CoPilot and felt that when the car was stopped, CoPilot would ‘shut-down’ and would take 10-20 seconds to start working again once he had started moving. I haven’t noticed this issue but others are reporting it and it will allegedly be addressed in the next CoPilot update.

Other journeys have worked really well. I found the controls a bit odd though. Unlike other app’s on the iphone this doesn’t really take advantage of iPhone controls. It feels like a sat nav – big buttons and a non qwerty keyboard (fix in next version). I’m mixed on the looks – it’s functional but isn’t the best looking. Looking at Tom Tom they seemed to have delivered an ap that looks and feels like other iPhone app’s. Time will tell which design approach makes most sense.

CoPilot 2Despite reservations with the menu’s, I think the map graphics are excellent. Clear in either 3D or 2D modes with support for different colourings and night modes. No complaints there. The audio is also very clear with six different voice options. The maps display Points of Interest and they can also be selected and navigated to. One update for the next version is the ability to call a Point of Interest like a hotel or museum which will be handy. One large omission is speed camera’s which CoPilot’s rivals do have. Again this will be addressed in the next update. It looks like CoPilot decided to get this release into the App Store as quick as possible ahead of Tom Tom. Ultimately this is a smart move as the software is more than capable on this release and at this price is an absolute steal. There are also some Live services included – you can see friends on the maps as long as they let you follow them, see a 5 day weather forecast for current location and also contact emergency services with your current location. One Live Service which will be a paid for (I guess monthly subscription) is traffic reports, similar to other sat nav systems.

After using CoPilot for two weeks I have no regrets picking this over Tom Tom or the other sat nav app’s available on the iPhone. CoPilot works well, it’s location searching hasn’t failed me yet and the software has a lot of features that work well. It also removes the need for separate sat nav hardware and at £26 that a bargain thats hard to ignore. Hopefully the 1.1 update will address the shortfalls mentioned above and there is one niggle that I haven’t seen mentioned elsewhere – will map updates cost money i.e. yearly updates? Only time will tell.

To see a comparison of all the iPhone sat nav app features, see this comparison chart.

The Edge of Flash

As a developer, it’s easy to concentrate solely on the technical aspects of creating applications. Often, technical people are not creative by definition – with the reverse also true. However, there are groups of people out there that can meld both technical and creative brilliance into something truly special.

But where to find these nuggets of web joy? Well, the Adobe Edge newsletter has a section in it called “The Edge of Flash” and every edition sees more of these fusions uncovered.

You can find an online archive of all the previous editions of the Edge Newsletter as well as a link to subscribe should it take your fancy at: http://www.adobe.com/newsletters/edge/

And, just to wet your appetite, I’ve picked out a couple of direct links to just two applications that blew me away.

An interactive music experience:

http://soytuaire.labuat.com/

Pictures can’t do this fully interactive experience justice. But I’ll post one anyway.

pick3

And here’s a video if you can’t be bothered visiting the site. Soytuaire

You never knew t-shirts were this much fun:

http://thankyou.thisisgrow.com/TFWA

Again, it’s interactive so piccies are ineffective – just visit the site!

pick4