Category Archives: Technology

The week of waiting

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I’m almost unnaturally excited about the iPad launching this week. There’s a lot that I’m excited about, but a short list would be:

  • iBooks
  • Digital comics
  • Games
  • Web-browsing
  • Video on the huge screen

The most exciting things are the ones that emerge as a result of the new form-factor combined with multi-touch. I’m maybe most looking forward to the apps and web experiences that I would have never thought of before…like this one, called iMockup:

Seriously, that looks awesome for quick and dirty UI work. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve gone to Caitlin’s office and been like “Give me a sheet of paper and tell me what you think about this…” This total fits that creative space in my head, and puts it into a digital form that I can reuse.

URLs as a measure of user experience

I’m spending part of my morning looking through tech specs on various desktops and laptops for use as exemplars for our new building. Finding, deciding, and then sending links to our architects  for the systems I’m interested in, so that they can track down heat loads and such for HVAC calculations.

Tell me…which of the following URLs shows a company that cares about User Experience:

Dell Studio One
http://www.dell.com/us/en/home/desktops/desktop-studio-one-19/pd.aspx?refid=desktop-studio-one-19&s=dhs&cs=19&~oid=us~en~29~desktop-studio-one-19_anav_1~~

Lenovo C Series
http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/catalog.workflow:category.details?current-catalog-id=12F0696583E04D86B9B79B0FEC01C087&current-category-id=00C718E6D6AB498383A1A2F8DFF428C3

Apple iMac

http://www.apple.com/imac/

Google Chrome OS on a Dell Mini 9

Google Chrome OS running on a Dell Mini 9.

Chrome OS on Dell Mini 9

Chrome OS on Dell Mini 9

It looks like most everything works (touchpad, including tap-to-click, sound, video at full rez)…except the wireless. Hardwired connectivity works fine, though. Maybe in an updated build they’ll add drivers for the mini 9 wireless.

Anyone else out there having success getting it running on a Dell Mini 9?

Why I love new librarians

So here at UTC we’ve hired a few new faculty and staff, and this week I’ve been blown away by one of my new colleagues. She attacked a problem that we were having, and found a solution that was elegant and awesome, all at once.

Here’s the setup: one of my reference librarians is maintaining a file that describes, for each of our databases, how you use Endnote Web…which filters, how to make it happy, etc. With dozens of interfaces, this is a non-trivial amount of info, and finding a balance of how to display it to users and keep it easy to update for the librarian became an issue.

Enter: Caitlin and Exhibit! Somehow, I had never seen or heard of this marvelous little tool! Exhibit will take data, and build you a webpage that can be manipulated and sorted in a myriad of ways. Best thing? You can use a Google Docs Spreadsheet as your data source.

So Caitlin worked to get the data file up as a Google doc in the appropriate format, got Exhibit working with it, skinned the results to fit our look & feel, tweaked the CSS, and generally went web-fu on the whole problem.

The final result is a page that’s easy for our patrons to use, and easy for the librarians to manage. Take a look at the result: here’s the Google Spreadsheet with the data, and here’s the final webpage using Exhibit.

I was really impressed with the way she handled this problem, and I can’t wait to continue to be surprised with the solutions she comes up with.

BiblioMashups – Reading Radar

There’s a ton of good work being done in libraryland with mashups and bibliographic data (I’m looking at you, LibraryWebChic!). But for user experience and overall awesome, I love this mashup by John Herren of just the New York Times bestseller list and Amazon APIs:

Reading Radar

ReadingRadar

He detailed how he did it in this great blog post, and it set my mind to racing with possibilities for libraries. For one, I didn’t know that the NYT bestseller list had an API! Public libraries all over should be leveraging this on their websites, with links to their holdings.

Homepage Update

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks monkeying with different looks and feels for a homepage update. For a long while, I’ve had my homepage set as a lifestream, running SweetCron, but decided awhile back that with my tenure dossier coming due that I would like to rework it into something more polished. Also, the lifestream presented me as what I’m doing, and didn’t adequately represent either what I’ve done, nor what I’d like to do in the future.

So: redesign!

I wanted something clean, without a ton of design overhead, but also something that was flexible enough to take whatever I thought to throw at it. I also decided that I wanted to try using a pre-existing framework, specifically as CSS framework, and then tweak it to my needs. After looking around a bit, I decided to use Blueprint, a lovely CSS framework that allowed me to not worry about positioning, other than to figure out how Blueprint does it. Blueprint is extensible, and I wanted tabs, so off I went to the Blueprint Tab plugin.

The basic icons for my “social” tab were found here, and I took the look/feel and created a handful that they didn’t have using Photoshop. I also created the “rollover” images for everything using photoshop, and am using a clever little javascript simpleswap to handle that bit. I also had to install jquery for the first time, for the tab fade effect.

Other tools used in putting this together include: Blip.tv and slideshare for the presentations and videos, scribd for my CV, FriendFeed for my Lifestream, and Meebo and Google Voice for the Contact page.

After getting all the pieces in place, it took some time to work out the bugs. My wife convinced me to stick with the black/green scheme that I’ve been using for years…I’ve used it since graduate school, and I like it because it reminds me of the good old days with the green phosphor CRT terminals.

See what you think, and I’d love to have any feedback, especially if it’s broken in some way. :-)