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June 2010 Archives

June 28, 2010

Apple URL Scheme Reference

We're all used to hyperlinks to web sites (http://) and email addresses (mailto:), but as mobile devices become more popular, you might find yourself needing to use some other types of links. If so, check out Apple's short, succinct reference for creating links for some of the less common resources such as calling telephone numbers (tel:), sending SMS messages (sms:), or even linking to iTunes (http//: again, but calling Apple's phobos.apple.com server should open up iTunes on the user's device).


June 25, 2010

You'll need hubris to produce this demo

You've probably heard of Apple's HTML5 showcase by now, but not for the reason that Apple hoped. Instead of showing off the latest capabilities of Apple hardware and software, the site has garnered criticism for promoting HTML5 and web standards while requiring the use of Safari to view the demos.


Even though this issue hit the blogosphere last week, I just came across these entries in Apple's own Safari Web Content Guide which show just how hypocritical this move really is:

Follow Good Web Design Practices

You should follow well-established rules of good web design...
  • Be browser independent.
    Avoid using the user agent string to check which browser is currently running. Instead, read Object De- tection to learn how to determine if a browser supports a particular object, property, or method, and read Detecting WebKit with JavaScript to learn how to detect specific WebKit versions. Also use the W3C standard way of accessing page objects--that is, use getElementByID("elementName"). Only as a last resort, use the user agent string...
[Italics mine.]

There are better ways to promote Safari than to make users believe that Safari is the only browser that supports HTML5. I wouldn't blame them if they told users "For the best experience, use Safari", or if they directed users to download Safari without intimating that it was required.

June 23, 2010

Web app homescreen icons in Android

One of the nice features in Android and the iPhone is that you can save website bookmarks to the home screen with an icon that looks like any other app, giving web apps the same look as installed apps. But just how do you indicate which of your icons the mobile device should use?

When specifying an icon to display in a browser's tabs or address bar, we've long had a short and simple set of choices either a rel
<link rel="icon" href="/path/to/some.png" />
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/path/to/some.ico" />

But for mobile devices, there are a few more tags that you will come across. Besides the shortcut icon tags mentioned above you have these choices:
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/path/to/some.png"/>
<link rel="apple-touch-icon-precomposed" href="/custom_icon.png"/>

Android versions 1.5 and 1.6 will read the second tag (with "-precomposed"), and versions 2.1 and newer will read the first tag. Apple's and Google's specifications say that you should use 48x48 pixel PNGs, but you can use a large image, like Google does for its own apps, for a crisper result.

Unfortunately, even if you use these tags, your icon won't always show up correctly on Android. If your web site uses SSL but the certificate is expired or doesn't match your domain, then a standard bookmark icon will appear instead of your icon. And on HTC-manufactured phones with the Sense UI, you'll only see your icon as a small overlay on the bottom left of the regular bookmark icon. I hope that HTC and other manufacturers change this behavior in the future.

Lastly, there are a few configuration tags which Apple supports that Android has yet to implement (though I'm not sure whether they're each applicable).

Indicate whether to hide the browser's status bar on startup:
<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes" />

Indicate the color of the browser's status bar:
<meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style" content="black" />

Indicate an image to display while the mobile web app is loading:
<link rel="apple-touch-startup-image" href="/path/to/some.png" />

June 21, 2010

Boston CFUG's June meeting: Rob Huddleston on Flash Catalyst

This week we'll be hosting an event along with the Boston Flash Platform User Group (BFPUG), where Rob Huddleston will be speaking about Flash Catalyst (via Adobe Connect). If you are doing Flex development or hope to do Flex development, Flash Catalyst is likely to play an important role in your development in the future as it helps you convert actual designs into functional applications.

This event is being held Wednesday, June 23 at 6pm at the Adobe offices in Waltham. Please make sure to RSVP at http://www.eventbrite.com/event/725749737

Date and time: Wednesday, June 23, 6:00pm
Location: Adobe Systems Incorporated
21 Hickory Drive
Waltham, MA 02451
RSVP: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/725749737

June 15, 2010

Penalty Kick

If you weren't watching the NBA Finals tonight, you missed this hilarious "Penalty Kick" commercial from Budweiser. Enjoy!

June 9, 2010

What to do if your car doesn't have Bluetooth or an audio jack

As I was getting out of my car this afternoon, I noticed that the owner of the car next to mine had found a very creative solution for enjoying the music on their iPod while driving. Yes, they mounted their iPod speaker system on a plank and wedged the plank it into their center console. I can't say it strikes me as elegant, but if you don't have any other way of connecting your iPod, at least it works. Hats off to you for hacking a solution, mystery iPod docking station driver.


Save the date for Google I/O 2011

Christine Tsai of the Google I/O team has posted a note about next year's I/O conference: May 10-11, 2011 at Moscone West. As an attendee of the most recent conference, I can definitely say this conference is well worth going to. It's a great place to learn about the latest technologies such as web fonts, web video, mobile platforms, and HTML5.

Do Android and iPhone users really want different things?

Jon Gruber has an interesting insight on his blog with the thought that Apple and Google do seem to concentrate on different aspects of their respective mobile experiences:

One thing that I've been thinking about today is that yesterday's announcements really showed how different Apple's priorities are from Google's. What Apple has focused on is making the iPhone feel and look better. It's about how it feels in your hand, about how amazing the new Retina Display looks. It's about even better battery life.

People who prefer Android over the iPhone value different things. I'll bet Android users were more likely to expect that Apple would announce a new UI for notifications, for example.

This reminded me of a conversation that Steve Bryant and I had through the comments on another one of my blog posts regarding "open" mobile platforms (like Android, where you can load any app you want) versus closed mobile platforms (like iPhone/iPad, where you can load only Apple-approved apps). Steve thought that users on each platform consciously wanted a different experience from the other platform, but I wasn't so sure. Steve, maybe I'll have to rethink my position. It's a lot easier to read the public intents of competing companies than it is the mobile masses.

Just what is HTML5?

Brad Neuberg gives an excellent summary of just which specifications and technologies are part of the concept that's been given the nebulous label of "HTML5". If you ever wanted to see a definitive list of what's new on the web without trying to slog through the specification, read his post.

June 4, 2010

You had me at "jumped."

I only discovered John Gruber's blog Daring Fireball about two years ago, but lately my enthusiasm for his posts has waned. I think that Hank Williams put it perfectly:

...for me, John Gruber has officially jumped the shark. And while his often insightful analysis will still be in my regular rotation, just as I still occasionally watch George Will on the latest incarnation of This Week, it will never be the same. I used to trust John Gruber. Now I will just read him.

I don't think that Gruber has been less logical in his arguments, but I get the feeling that he's posting more selectively these days. Sure, he's still critical of Apple at times, but I feel that he reports on anything negative about Android or positive about Apple. No insult to an enemy of Apple seems to escape his attention.

And if Gruber really wants examples... does he really need to mention this?

Should Apple open the iPhone?

There's a lot of discussion going on today about whether Apple should open up the iPhone so that customers can "sideload" apps-- meaning, install them no matter whether they come from the app store, the web, or the customer's own computer. There are questions from both sides of the issue about how such a move would affect Apple.

Some of the reasons that Steve Jobs brings up for keeping the iPhone platform closed are porn, malicious apps and their affect on the platform's reputation, and control over the application development environment. Well, despite Jobs' best efforts there is already porn on the iPhone; and while only Android users can get malicious apps right now, it hasn't affected the reputation of the platform as evidenced by Android phones outselling iPhones in Q1 of this year. Lastly, I think developers would agree that having a choice of development environments suits them just fine.

I think there's one easy answer to the question of how opening the platform would affect Apple: look at Android. It's an "open" platform that has an app store and allows sideloading. So instead of just conjecturing about what would happen to Apple if it opened the iPhone platform, let's look at how the Android platform has fared. Given that sales of Android devices continues to grow, and that entries into the Android app market are surging (do customers really care whether there are 50,000 or 100,000 apps available to their device?), I think it's safe to say that an open platform has served Android quite well-- and it would Apple, too.

Android app of the week: doubleTwist media player

One of the complaints commonly voiced about the Android platform is its lack of desktop media-syncing software (like Apple has with iPhone and iTunes) and with its less-than-handsome built-in media player. Well, the company who built the best solution to the first problem has now built the best solution to the second: introducing the doubleTwist Player.

doubletwist-media.jpgThe doubleTwist player has a much cleaner (and frankly, more iTunes-like) interface than the clunky Android player. But it also supports videos and podcasts as well. So until Google deploys its over-the-air music streaming functionality, or if you can't get the signal quality necessary for streaming, this new player is one of the best you'll find for Android.