Sarah Allen put up screenshots of the new Earthlink’s new Personal Start Page made with Laszlo Presentation Server. The highlight is clearly the panoramas which visualize the incoming data in an unobtrusive, calm way. Sparcely populated text displays, with ambient information in the environment reduce the clutter and complexity in an interface. The Lawrence weather site designed by Dan Cox also has a Lawrence-skyline panorama that changes based on the weather forecast. The pods in cental have a lot to learn from ambient interfaces. I have related posts here and here. And if you are looking for ambient information in the physical environment, look at Ambient Devices. Lots of cool gadgets there.
UK based 1and1 is giving free webhosting for 3 years for anyone in the US or Canada who register before Jan 15. Kevin is setting up free MT installations using this offer. This is a part of the ad campaign before 1and1 enters the US market. According to Netcraft, “1&1 is the largest hoster in the world by a margin, and hosts fully 18% of the hostnames in Europe.” Another article on netcraft points to cheap domain name registrations.
Macromedia released more details on Flex, previously Royale, a presentation server that developers use to build a Rich Internet Applications without the flash IDE. “Flex is a presentation server installed on top of a J2EE application server or servlet container, a rich library of user interface components, an XML-based markup language used to declaratively lay out these components, and an object-oriented programming language which handles user interactions with the application.” Some links:
Flex site: on macromedia.
Christophe Coenraets’s blog: Macromedia Flex Evangelist
Overview of MXML: Macromedia’s version of XAML / LZX.
Design patterns and RIA’s: Article on Devnet.
“You can tell whether a man is clever by his answers. You can tell whether a man is wise by his questions.”
Naguib Mahfouz (Nobel Prize Winner). Denham Grey quotes this while explaining why the right questions matter. Via Emergic. Very true, answers can be obtained through deductions. Looking at all the current developments, deductive and repetitive tasks are being automated and inductive and design oriented tasks are what humans are doing. Design involves identifying the right questions and finding a solution within these constraints.
Looks like Yahoo! is getting into flash in a big way. Embracing flash player 7, so quickly for its rich ads. Using Laszlo RIA’s for SBC Yahoo! personalization settings. Now, a promotion for its ISP service with SBC in flash, one of the best flash pages I’ve seen. Also, Macromedia seems to be returning the favor by using yahoo for the central payment gateway.
Enough corporate theories, here’s another neat flash presentation, the LEGO factory demo. Makes nice use of video(?) to show details.
A post on Ray Ozzie’s blog makes a case for rich applications and why they are becoming more important than ever. “Agreement on common formats and protocols can yield powerful network effects and unintended positive consequences. We’ve been teasing ourselves and our users with the power of componentized function, rich object models, schemas and persistent storage in the form of integrated application environments. No single framework has achieved PC-like or browser-like ubiquity; as powerful as they are, these environments have and will likely remain islands of function and islands of users. WinFS is an attempt to get a higher level of interoperability between programs through agreement on schemas.”
The schemas in central also try to achieve the same goal. He also says, “the rich clients are back with a bang with two significant factors: storage and communications.” The storage and communications are not ony becoming richer, but also thicker. ‘Rich’ in Rich Internet Applications is there because of two reasons, richness of data and richness of content. Richness of data because, all the applications in the Central or WinFS framework will have many ways of creating, editing, viewing, publishing and otherwise manipulating this vast array of content and will demand and embrace the fact that such content is stored, indexed, and searchable in a way that is standardized, long-lived and open to our choice of application. Richness of content because of the thick storage devices and communication pipes that RIA’s have access to. We can now interact with large stacks of photos, videos, presentations, and digital media and get better experiences.
Also, in an interview with Dan Gillmore, he says, “Everybody is agreeing on: Objects on the client and services as a way of dealing with servers. It’s looking good for the customer, because it doesn’t matter what’s on the client and what’s on the server, we’re all going in the same direction. The client is still about moving from a world of APIs to a world of objects.”
IBM systems journal of this month is devoted to Ease of Use. Lots of interesting articles on wireless devices, remote usability, accessible visualizations and personalizing sites, but mostly dealing with IBM’s usability processes, User-Centered Design process(UCD) and User Engineering (UE). THe UCD process helps designing products with the single goal of making it easier for the users. The UE process builds on the UCD process with the objective of delivering value to all stakeholders: business, engineering and customers.