Monthly Archives: October 2014

Mac OS X Yosemite

Mac OS X Yosemite

A few days ago I got around to installing Mac OS X Yosemite. Here are some quick thoughts (mostly complaints really)…

  • During the installation process the status bar said “less than a minute remaining” for well over an hour. I know it’s notoriously difficult to have an accurate status bar for long running processes but it’s still egregious. In the end the installation took well over two hours.
  • The look and feel is largely the same as Mavericks. iOS 7+ styles such as icons that are brighter and flatter and the frosted transparency effect are brought over but that’s it really.
  • The window controls to close, hide and expand / contract windows have been moved from the top right of windows to the top left. I find this change counterintuitive.
  • There are new bugs with the mission control virtual desktops. Switching between windows can often cause the application to be hidden and in its place an empty black screen. The most annoying thing is that you are stuck with the black screen among your virtual desktops until you restart.
  • The upgrade broke my Ruby on Rails and Homebrew settings. There are workarounds available thought I had to do a few custom changes to get one of my projects working.
  • I’ve had a weird wifi issue where I couldn’t connect to a network. I’ve had some issues in the past and normally turning off / on wifi or restarting my computer as a last resort would fix the issue but this time it just plain wouldn’t work for the whole day.

Since last year Mac OS X has been a free upgrade which is a nice change. At the same time, even when it’s free I feel like there is no real point in releasing a brand new OS every year when the improvements are minimal and there are lots of bugs. I have this same opinion on iOS and with the rampant problems with that release I don’t think I am alone in this opinion.

Micro Men

Every Sunday morning I am blogging about the history of technology. As my fifth entry, here is my overview of the 2009 movie Micro Men.


Micro Men is a 2009 BBC Four movie about the British home computer industry of the 70s and 80s. The movie is focused on the two English companies Sinclair Research and Acorn Computers and their respective leaders, Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry. I have very little knowledge of these two companies or the British computer industry as a whole besides a slight familiarity with the ZX Spectrum so I can’t speak upon the accuracy of the film. The portrayal of Clive Sinclair, while very entertaining, is so outrageous and over the top that it’s no surprise to find out the role was played by a comedian. A large focus of the movie is both companies trying to court favor with the BBC, which strikes me as somewhat akin to how IBM was viewed in the US at the time. In the end, both companies were pushed out of the industry by bigger players and thus are mostly footnotes of history but it’s nice to get a view of the history of the home computers outside of United States. Give it a watch.

Accidental Empires

accidental empires

Every Sunday morning I am blogging about the history of technology. As our fourth entry, here is my overview of the 1992 / 1996 book Accidental Empires.


Accidental Empires is a 1992 (republished in 1996) book by Robert X. Cringely. This book covers the history of the personal computer industry and is the basis for the 1996 documentary Triumph of the Nerds that I wrote about last week. If you enjoyed that documentary and you want to get more in depth information on the subject then I highly recommend Accidental Empires. Last year Robert Cringely published the book in its entirety on his blog with a new introduction so now there’s no excuse not to give this a good read. Read the book in its entirety via Robert Cringely’s blog here:

2013 Intro
Chapter 1A
Chapter 1B
Chapter 1C
Chapter 1D
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17

JavaScript Table Sort Library jDynamicSorter

jDynamicSorter is a new repository I have added to my GitHub account. The JavaScript library dynamically sorts Twitter Bootstrap row based tables simply using its custom HTML attributes.

What’s nice about this project?

  • Simple, easy to understand and commented source code
  • No unnecessary formatting of data using custom attributes. You simply specify what type of data is in each column and the library takes care of the rest.
  • The header sort UI is updated alongside the sorting process
  • Handles columns where each column div is wrapped in an HTML “A” link
  • Handles date sorting with any type of separator such as “/” or “-” and one or two digit days/months

Getting Started

To get started simply include jDynamicSorter.js, jDynamicSorter.css and the /img folder into your existing JQuery + Twitter Bootstrap project. You may want to apply other CSS attributes to your table as seen in the example project base.css. Next create a row based table with the required class, data-type and data-desc attributes as shown in the example jDynamicSorter-Example.html.

Possible Future Enhancements

  • Ability to have multiple tables on a single page
  • Handle additional date formats
  • Animations
  • Further simplify the code

View a live demo here.

Here is a screenshot:

jDynamicSorter screenshot

Apple Watch Set to Disappoint?

apple watch

 

Apple officially unveiled the Apple Watch on September 9th and while the excitement has cooled down somewhat, hype will undoubtably pick back up as the device gets closer to launch sometime early next year. There does not seem to be a consensus as far as whether the Apple Watch is expected to be a huge hit for Apple just yet but I personally am starting to get the feeling that it will end up being a bit of a disappointment. I should clarify what I mean by disappointment: Apple will likely sell many millions of Apple Watches at launch but I expect the long term appeal to be rather limited compared to the iPod, iPhone and iPad. I reserve the right to change my mind as we get closer to launch, and future revisions of the Apple Watch could certainly change my stance, but here are two indicators that I see as problematic for Apple…

  1. A recent Piper Jaffrey survey shows that only 16% of teens plan to buy an Apple Watch. This compares to 73% of teens which say they plan to buy an Apple iPhone.
  2. Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and lover of all things technology, is apparently not interested in smartwatches at all.

If Apple can’t entice teenagers and can’t entice technology fanatics then who exactly is their core market for the Apple Watch? I guess we’ll find out next year.

Triumph of the Nerds

Every Sunday morning I am blogging about the history of technology. As our third entry, here is my overview of the 1996 documentary Triumph of the Nerds.


Triumph of the Nerds is a 1996 documentary written and hosted by Robert X. Cringely (born Mark Stephens). The basis for the documentary is Cringely’s book Accidental Empires, which covers the history of the personal computer industry. Triumph of the Nerds was produced in a three part series and aired in December of 1996 on PBS in the US (Channel 4 in the UK).

Back in 1996 I was in eighth grade enjoying my Packard Bell PC running Windows 95, a hefty upgrade from my old 1980s Macintosh. I was just learning to program in Pascal and I even had my own AOL homepage, a braggable feat at the time. I remember watching Triumph of the Nerds at the time of release and being quite fascinated. I had grown up with computers but Triumph of the Nerds was my first introduction to the history of the industry. In the end it was one of many things that ended up pushing me into further Computer Science education and eventually a career in technology.

Triumph of the Nerds covers it all: Intel, the Altair, Microsoft, The Homebrew Computer Club, Apple, VisiCalc – and that’s just part one! Like Startup.com, I find myself revisiting Triumph of the Nerds every few years. In some ways it is very dated (Excite@Home anyone?) but overall it is still quite entertaining. Check it out.

Robert X. Cringely still actively covers the technology industry – you can read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

Javascript Pie Chart Project FlotPieChart

FlotPieChart is a new repository I have added to my GitHub account. The project shows how to build a customizable Javascript pie chart based off the Flot Chart library. The pie chart has been assigned custom styles, hover logic and click event logic. It is a nice sample project for those getting familiar with Flot charts and want to dive into some customizable features. This project also uses JQuery & Bootstrap. Here is a look:

FlotPieChart screenshot

Wikipedia Article Search iPhone App

Wikipedia Article Search is a new repository I have added to my GitHub account. This iPhone app searches Wikipedia for relevant articles and then displays those articles upon user selection. The app consists of two screens: one with a search box and table view to show results and then next to show the article’s webpage upon selecting it from the table view.

This app use the Wikipedia API to perform article searches. In future versions I hope to include logic to query DBPedia and Freebase to show how you can use these databases to get additional data about an article. I may also convert the NSURLRequest and NSXMLParser logic into RestKit or AFNetworking code. For now, it’s a nice simple app to get any developer started working with Wikipedia in iOS.

Here is a look:

Wikipedia Article Search iPhone App1

 

Wikipedia Article Search iPhone App2

Google Analytics Tips & Tricks

Google Analytics is installed on pretty much every website in existence and there’s a reason for that. It’s free, easy to use and offers powerful website traffic monitoring tools right out of the box. Beyond the basic reports such as sessions, page views and geolocation, Google Analytics also offers a wide range of in depth content as well as simple configurations that can help improve your understanding of your website visitors. I started using Analytics back in 2008 and since then it has grown in features by leaps and bounds. Below are a few examples of my favorite custom configurations and reports. Note that I assume you are already familiar with Google Analytics.

Filters

Filters allow you to exclude traffic from being included in analytics. When setting up a website the first one I configure is to exclude traffic from specific IP addresses. I include all of the IP addresses associated with my home, places I work, coffee shops I frequent, etc. Not sure what your IP address is? Google “ip address” or even “what’s my ip address, Google?” will work too :) . If I am working as part of a team or organization I include those IP addresses as well. For large teams and organizations you can also filter on an entire IP address range. Here is a look at a simple IP address filter accessed via Admin/View/Filters:

google analytics ip address filter

Site Speed

Navigate to Behavior/Site Speed to view the change in average loading time of all pages on your website over time, the average loading time for each of your website’s pages individually and even view some optimization suggestions for each page, such as minimizing CSS files or retrieving JavaScript files from a CDN. Here is a look at the average loading time for one of my older websites with an admittedly cheap hosting plan:

google analytics site speed

In-Page Analytics

Another one of my favorite features is the In-Page Analytics menu which shows the percentage of clicks per link on any given page on your site. This can help with quickly optimizing the homepage without building or integrating an A/B testing platform. Here is a look at the landing page for one of my websites with the In-Page Analytics showing the percentage of clicks per link in orange:

google analytics in-page analytics

Analyzing Mobile Traffic

Every day more and more internet traffic is coming from mobile devices and therefore it is critical to make sure that your website offers a quality mobile experience. Thankfully, Google Analytics provides an abundance of information on mobile device usage. Take a look at Audience/Mobile/Overview to get a quick breakdown of how much traffic is coming from mobile devices, Audience/Mobile/Devices to see exactly how much traffic is coming from specific device models and Audience/Technology/Browser & OS to breakdown desktop and mobile technologies further. My favorite report though is the benchmarking devices report which is found under Audience/Benchmarking/Devices. This will show you not only the number of sessions and quality of those sessions coming from tablet, mobile or desktop but critically the change in trend. Here is a look at a report for one of my websites which clearly shows that while a majority of traffic is still coming from the desktop, tablets and mobile are growing fast:

google analytics benchmarking devices

What’s Next?

This article is just a brief overview of some of my favorite reports and tweaks for Google Analytics. There are lots of resources online to show you have to create custom reports, track conversions, measure your sales funnel and more. Ultimately, if you want to get the most out of Analytics then you need to customize the platform to meet your specific website and business goals.