Welcome to the Charcoal Design Weblog

Home to the random musings of our editor, plus aggregated Charcoal Design news and articles.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are those of the author and are not endorsed by Charcoal Design unless specifically stated.

 
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Book icon

Posted at 11:25am on 21 Jul 2013

Book Release

iOS Core Animation: Advanced Techniques is now available for preorder from InformIT.

Read more...
 
Pipette icon

Posted at 9:46pm on 27 Mar 2012

Upgrade Pricing on the Mac App Store

Will Shipley makes the case for upgrade pricing on the Mac App Store:

http://blog.wilshipley.com/2012/03/mac-app-store-needs-paid-upgrades.html

It's a solid argument, but he fails to mention the solution already in place for this - in-app-purchase.

To release a paid upgrade to an existing app, the developer can simply make it available as an in-app-purchase within the original app.

This may be slightly awkward for new users, who then have to first buy the app and then pay for the upgrade, but this can be solved by making the app itself a free "demo" and having all users buy the "real" version as an IAP.

So the process is:

  1. User downloads the demo
  2. User buys IAP to get the full feature set
  3. When version 2 is released, version 1 IAP is disabled and version 2 IAP is made available

New users just buy whichever IAP is enabled to get the latest version. Existing users can keep any IAP they've previously bought, but must pay again for the latest upgrade.

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Rainbow Blocks icon

Posted at 3:31pm on 06 Jan 2011

Rainbow Blocks on Mac App Store

Our popular iPhone puzzle game Rainbow Blocks is now on the Mac App Store.

Read more...
 
10K apart

Posted at 12:13am on 31 Jul 2010

Rainbow Blocks 10K

We've entered a cut down version of Rainbow Blocks into the 10K apart competition

Enjoy! (and vote for us please)

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Rainbow Blocks icon

Posted at 11:19pm on 16 Feb 2010

Rainbow Blocks Released

Rainbow Blocks, our first iPhone game, now available to buy from the App Store.

Read more...
 
Pipette icon

Posted at 10:02am on 04 Jan 2010

Singularity-Shmarity (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying About a Robot Apocalypse)

AI isn't just around the corner and it isn't going to bring about the end of humanity.

2 comments Read more...
 
ChromeFrame logo

Posted at 1:36pm on 23 Sep 2009

If it's Broke, Fix it

So this is amusing: http://code.google.com/chrome/chromeframe

Google have released a plugin for Internet Explorer that lets it render web pages using Webkit, the HTML engine used by Safari and Google's own Chrome browser. It's kind of like the final fuck you to Microsoft's consistently poor efforts at keeping their browser up to date with modern standards.

As amusing as this is, it doesn't really impact anyone though. Users who actually like IE (yeah, all five of you. You know who you are) aren't going to install it, and all other IE users either don’t know how to install plugins or don’t have admin rights, so I can't see that this is going to get much uptake.

Unless the idea is that Google are going to push IE users to install it with a "This page requires Google plugin, click here to download" message on the Gmail page or something, but I can't see them doing that just yet – it would pretty much be the last nail in the don't be evil coffin, even if it is for people's own good.

Now if Adobe ever bundle webkit with Flash, then we'll talk. Seems like a natural step for them given that it's already part of the Air runtime, but I imagine they’re too afraid of the big M to ever do something so cheeky.

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Android is now old hat

Posted at 8:42am on 08 Jul 2009

Choice is Good

Google has just announced Chrome OS, a new web-based operating system for netbooks and smartphones, built on their Chrome browser technology.

Google is keen to stress that the aim of Chrome OS is to provide choice for consumers who use their machines mostly for web browsing, and it is not a direct competitor to their previously released Android platform, which is just beginning to gain traction in the industry.

Google Chrome OS is a new project, separate from Android. Android was designed from the beginning to work across a variety of devices from phones to set-top boxes to netbooks. Google Chrome OS is being created for people who spend most of their time on the web, and is being designed to power computers ranging from small netbooks to full-size desktop systems. While there are areas where Google Chrome OS and Android overlap, we believe choice will drive innovation for the benefit of everyone, including Google.

...

In related news, Apple would like to announce Safari OS:

Safari OS is designed as a lightweight web-based operating system for running on mobile devices such as smartphones and wifi-enabled music players.

Existing iPod and iPhone owners and developers should not be concerned that we are dividing the market or confusing consumers because our analysis shows that the majority of consumers have a deep and complete understanding of the distinction between operating systems, browsers and search engines, and are in no way inclined to assume that the latest new shiny thing replaces the previous thing we announced that occupies the same space in the market.

Also, in response to the suggestion that we are copying Palm’s Web OS, we would like to say "pfft".

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Bing logo

Posted at 10:57am on 01 Jun 2009

I Can't Believe It's Not Google

Microsoft have announced bing, a new web search engine.

I know what you're thinking - another poor man's Google, like MSN search and Live Search before it, right? Actually, no, it's remarkable. It appears on the face of it to be a slightly superior version of Google, matching it feature for feature (including all those little extras you like such as image search and a built in calculator/unit converter) but with extra bits too. In particular the video search with integrated preview on hover is pretty cool, and it contains a number of contextual search features - search for two destinations and it will give you travel times and recommendations, for example (mostly US only for now).

What lets it down is the branding. Not just the look and feel (it looks for the most part almost exactly like Google, but with a rubbish, irrelevant stock photo blended into the design), but if the pundits are to be believed, the name bing stands for But it's not Google! I mean, seriously?!

Initially I thought that this was one of those "Microsoft beta" side projects that will quietly vanish, but it looks like live.com is now redirecting to bing, so bing really is the new face of Microsoft Live Search. So what the hell is with the branding? How do you build a brand identity around not being the current market leader? Why are they calling it "Not Google"? That's absurd! I'm surprised you can even trademark it. And what about all that money they wasted on the Live brand, is that going to all quietly dissapear now - should we expect Bing mail and Bing maps to be forthcoming?

It's hard to fathom how Bing fits into Microsoft's corporate strategy - or even if they have one. I fully expect them to now release a product called But it's not iPod to compete with the Zune.

Microsoft seems to have an alarming talent for getting incredible engineers to build amazing (if derivative) pieces of technology and then totally screwing up the marketing.

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Private eye

Posted at 11:49am on 24 Apr 2009

Opt Out

It turns out that a whole bunch of advertising companies you've probably never heard of have cookies on your machine and are tracking your browsing behaviour.

Of course most people know this in principle, but it's still a bit shocking when you see just how many of these faceless organisations have been keeping tabs on you. It’s one thing Google or Yahoo using a cookie to "improve your search results" or whatever, but just who in the hell are Undertone Networks or AudienceScience? I don't know them, but apparently they know me!

Anyway, you can find out just exactly who's been keeping tabs on you, and opt out of their snooping using this page.

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Pipette icon

Posted at 9:47am on 26 Mar 2009

Gaming in the Cloud

Interesting new subscription gaming service:

http://www.gametrailers.com/player/47079.html

The idea is basically that you connect to the service via a web browser or a dongle for your TV and then play the games remotely. Input from your controller is transmitted to the server, the game screen is rendered on the server side and then transmitted back to you.

Consequently, you don't need to have a particularly fast PC or graphics card because all the game processing happens remotely. The performance is purely limited by the bandwidth of your broadband connection. And the games on offer aren't crappy browser games built for the service - they're standard off-the-shelf Xbox and PS3 games running at the other end.

It seems hard to believe that the latency wouldn't make any twitch-reaction games like racers and shooters unplayable, but they claim that anyone with a 1.5Meg broadband connection should get decent performance at regular TV resolution, and 5Meg or higher will give you full HD.

They've also got some really interesting community/social networking features, for example you can watch anyone else playing a game remotely before you buy or rent it yourself, and they seem to be aiming to create the concept of "celebrity" gamers, where people might develop a following of fans who regularly watch them play.

Update: Richard Leadbetter at Eurogamer says it can't possibly work as well as they claim. I hope he's wrong, but he sounds right.

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Pandora's Pests icon

Posted at 8:55am on 30 Dec 2008

Pandora's Pests Released

Koingo Software has released Pandora's Pests, a game developed in collaboration with Charcoal Design.

Read more...
 
Refelctions

Posted at 10:24am on 08 Dec 2008

A Time for Reflection

Stunningly beautiful photographs created by exploiting naturally occuring reflections (or Photoshop, if you're cynical).

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An Apple-branded apple

Posted at 10:09am on 08 Dec 2008

Geek Fruit

A Japanese Apple fanatic and orchard owner has come up with an innovative way to express his love of all things Apple.

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PS

Posted at 12:12pm on 01 Dec 2008

MSPaint Adventures

If anyone ever played the LucasArts adventure game Sam and Max, this is similar

Only linear

And black and white

And on the Web

And possibly even weirder

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Give Up

Posted at 12:08pm on 01 Dec 2008

Give Up and Use Tables

http://giveupandusetables.com

Seriously though, don't.

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RBGL Sprites icon

Posted at 2:26pm on 08 Nov 2008

RBGL 1.6 and RBGL Sprites 1.2 Released

We've released major updates to RBGL and RBGLSprites, including better performance and some exciting new features...

Read more...
 
Typetester

Posted at 4:46pm on 29 Oct 2008

Typetester

Typetester is a brilliant online tool for web designers, allowing them to choose fonts based on what they will actually look like in a browser, rather than trying to guestimate the appearance in Photoshop by disabling antialiasing, etc.

Web typography is generally rather unimaginative due to the cross-platform constraints, but with typetester you can easily pick the best fonts for each platform and a default to fall back to, instead of just going with Verdana, Arial or Trebuchet, or doing everything with images as people have tended to in the past.

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Cocotron

Posted at 2:41pm on 29 Oct 2008

Cocotron

Cocotron is a port of the Cocoa libraries to Windows, effectively allowing cross-compilation of Cocoa applications to Windows.

It's not perfect, but if this takes off it could do for Cocoa what Mono has done for .NET - turning it from a proprietary single-platform development API to a sensible choice for cross-platform development.

Glen and Ken Aspeslagh from Ecamm have written a postmortem of their experiences using Cocotron to port their FileMagnet app to Windows.

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iPhone

Posted at 10:12am on 23 Oct 2008

PhoneGap

PhoneGap - an application container for building webapps for the iPhone that can access features of the native Cocoa APIs

Looks fantastic, but I worry that it violates Apple's "no virtual machines" policy.

Flash and Java are both banned on the iPhone because they would allow a backdoor through which developers could bypass the App Store and deliver applications without Apple's consent.

Obviously the iPhone already supports web apps through the browser, but exposing the Cocoa APIs through JavaScript seems to me like it's circumventing the spirit of the rules if not the letter, and Apple have a tendency to ditch such applications without warning.

Definitely worth a look, but be wary of investing a lot of effort into a PhoneGap app for the time being.

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Barcode

Posted at 4:56pm on 08 Oct 2008

Design Behind Bars

Japanese product packaging designers have come up with an innovative way to work around the design restrictions imposed by barcodes.

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PDC 2008

Posted at 3:13pm on 08 Oct 2008

I think it's meant to be ironic...

The Microsoft developer conference 2008 promotional video

One can only assume that as a young nerd, Bill (or whoever approved this monstrosity) learned to ward off the school bullies by pre-emptively making fun of himself in the hope that it would leave the others with no ammunition left to mock him.

Unfortunately when applied to a multi-national, trillion dollar software company, this approach doesn’t work. Even if you intentionally make yourself look ridiculous, everybody still thinks you’re ridiculous.

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Umbrella

Posted at 11:03am on 25 Sep 2008

Clever Umbrellas

An amusing collection of high tech and/or innovative umbrellas.

Sadly it seems that noone has yet managed to invent one that works even when you forget to bring it with you.

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Large Hadron Collider

Posted at 1:59pm on 10 Sep 2008

NOPE.

This is brilliant:

www.hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com

Those nerdy enough to view the source will also appreciate the JavaScript-based joke that controls the text. I would suggest that the following would have been funnier though:

if (typeof(world) == "undefined")
    document.write("YUP.");
else
    document.write("NOPE.");
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Esquire Magazine

Posted at 5:36pm on 08 Sep 2008

Esquire Brings <BLINK> to the Printed Page

In a move that will bring the printed word bang up-to-date with The Web (circa 1994), Esquire's October 2008 edition will be the first magazine ever to feature blinking content.

Some sources were unimpressed by this technological revolution, but the potential of this E-Ink technology and the flat, flexible battery that drives it is huge.

I can't wait to see what the second and third commercial applications turn out to be.

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Pipette icon

Posted at 10:03am on 02 Sep 2008

Parallel Processing

Not the most technical demonstration of the benefits of parallel processing you'll find, but certainly the most entertaining:

1100 barrel paint ball "graphics card"

Courtesy of Engadget.

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Pipette icon

Posted at 12:58am on 02 Sep 2008

Google Chrome

Google have announced that they're releasing a new open source web browser today. Using an innovative multi-process model for improved stability, and the Apple Webkit engine for fast, standards-compliant page rendering, this has a lot of potential. Read about it in their excellent comic-book-style blog posting.

I suspect that it will be the death of Firefox. Firefox's user experience and browser technology is better than IE (though Microsoft is catching up fast) but worse than Safari. It's a bloated memory hog, with a quirky non-standard UI, and it only exists because it's open source, has great plugin support and is arguably the only decent browser on Windows for the discerning web user (Opera is too complicated and Safari is too alien for the average Windows aficionado).

Google Chrome is open source too, and historically Google have encouraged people to build mash-ups with their technology, so one would guess that it will support plugins.

Google is not quite Apple when it comes to user interfaces, but the design they've outlined for chrome is simple and elegant - more so than Firefox. Chrome will probably never look as good as Safari does on a Mac, nor will it be as ubiquitous as Internet Explorer on Windows. But for the comfortable 15-20% of Internet users who use Firefox on Windows, Chrome could well become the de-facto choice overnight.

Update: Various sources are reporting that Chrome's maket share has surpassed 1% after a single day. That's already more than Opera which has been around for nearly 15 years.

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Asteroids ship

Posted at 3:07am on 29 Aug 2008

RBGL Sprites v1.1 Released

We've just released RBGL Sprites 1.1, a major update to our open source 2D game engine for REALbasic.

Read more...
 
Tearing out hair

Posted at 5:16pm on 28 Aug 2008

The Conversation I'm Always Having

What do you do?
I’m a web developer
A web designer?
No, a web developer
What’s the difference?
I don’t design sites, I build them
But you know how to make websites right?
Yes
My aunt needs a website for her home business selling knitted jumpers for cats...
If I build you a website it will look rubbish except in view source mode, take six months for me to build during my evenings and weekends and cost £2000
Erm... how about I pay you in beer?
Sigh... OK
Oh and can you make it green with flashing Comic Sans titles and animated cat clip-art?
No.
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A surprised-looking duck

Posted at 2:20pm on 20 Aug 2008

Duck Porn

Microsoft Adcenter demonstrates the advantages of inserting human moderators between user-generated content and customer facing systems, as well as providing an interesting answer to the question "who would use MSN Search instead of Google, and what would they use it for?"

It must be comforting for Microsoft to know that although Google is trouncing them horribly for general search mindshare, they’ve cornered the market in nude female midgets and duck porn.

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Ampersand

Posted at 10:12am on 15 Aug 2008

The Best Available Ampersand

This man really loves his ampersands!

Still, it's a simple trick and it looks nice so why not? I'll be using this on my sites from now on (when I remember to).

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Canyon

Posted at 11:38am on 14 Aug 2008

The Great Divide

A brilliant article about the importance of integrating engineering considerations at the design phase of a project.

The idea of design divorced from engineering is laudable, but the way it so often plays out makes it implausible. Yes, in theory, the design team should come up with a perfect solution and the engineering team should be smart enough to figure out how to pull it off and neither should ever have to talk to each other. The resulting product would look exactly as designed and would work perfectly. Keep on trucking you radical dreamer. Here’s a quarter for the jukebox.

I particularly enjoyed this:

As an engineer, nothing infuriates me more than hearing a designer talk about something as “an engineering problem”. You absolute bastard. Why are you designing something that you aren’t even sure will work? Why bother opening Photoshop if what you’re producing is little more than a fantasy-world mockup? Do you have any idea how little talent it takes to envision perfect solutions?

And on the flip side...

Not to let engineers off the hook. Guilty as charged, the lot of them. Oh yes, that problem is very hard to code. I’m so sorry you can’t Google a solution for it. Amazon no help either, huh? Forced to come up with your own solution to the problem. Well, that must just suck. Actual creative thinking. Whiteboards and late nights. God forbid you work for your paycheck.
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Lightning

Posted at 11:33am on 12 Aug 2008

Greased Lightning

Amazing slow motion video of a lightning strike.

The lightning can be seen slowly making its way through the atmosphere, searching for a conductive channel to the ground. When it finally finds the surface, a massive bolt discharges back up towards the cloud, following the ionised path of the initial strike.

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Dialogue box

Posted at 10:34am on 04 Aug 2008

User Interface Design

Old but brilliant post from Joel Spolsky on the subject of user interface design:

When you design user interfaces, it's a good idea to keep two principles in mind:

  1. Users don't have the manual, and if they did, they wouldn't read it.
  2. In fact, users can't read anything, and if they could, they wouldn't want to.
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Production line of robots assembling each other

Posted at 5:23pm on 01 Aug 2008

Shapeways

Another company offering mail-order bespoke manufacturing: Shapeways

I think it's safe to say that its only a matter of time before these 3D printing technologies become cheap enough to use at home. The jury is still out on how long it will take for them to be general-purpose enough to achieve widespread appeal however.

Still, I'm cheered by how much the technology seems to have moved on even in the few months since I made my bold prediction.

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Something shiny

Posted at 2:47pm on 01 Aug 2008

Bright'n'Shiny

This may be the most insightful thing I've ever read on Rands' or any other website: The Taste of the Day

Humans suffer from bright'n'shiny complex, where we’re titillated by the new. Think of it like this: have you actually done anything with that last domain you bought? No. You had the idea for it on Tuesday morning and you got all fired up, so you bought the domain the moment you got in to work. At lunch you furiously doodled your design in your notebook, fully intending to get home and get started on the HTML/CSS, and then you got home… and watched Lost.
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Foot

Posted at 10:40am on 31 Jul 2008

Disarmed but not Defeeted

Impressive display of dexterity from a Chinese woman with no arms:

http://www.elegantbay.com/main/amazingwoman.htm

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Pipette icon

Posted at 3:09am on 30 Jul 2008

Unnecessary Knowledge

Fun little site: Unnecessary Knowledge

Charlie Chaplin once won third prize in a Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest.

Just keep clicking refresh until you get bored.

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StupidFilter icon

Posted at 12:50pm on 29 Jul 2008

StupidFilter

Similar to an automatic spam or profanity filter, StupidFilter attempts to provide automated filtering of comments that fall below a statistically determined intelligence level based on deviation from standard English.

It might be more politically correct if they called it StupidOrForeignFilter, but then again it might not.

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RBGL Sprites icon

Posted at 5:49pm on 11 Jul 2008

RBGL Sprites v1.0 Released

We've just released RBGL Sprites 1.0, a replacement for the now-deprecated REALbasic SpriteSurface control, used for making 2D games in REALbasic.

Read more...
 
Zombie

Posted at 4:25pm on 08 Jul 2008

Chainsaw Maid

Gruesome (but awesome) claymation remake of Night Of The Living Dead:

Chainsaw Maid

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Concentric circles

Posted at 4:32pm on 07 Jul 2008

Algorithm Ink & ContextFree.js

Context Free is a Logo-like drawing API implemented in JavaScript using the now-standard Canvas tag originally introduced by Apple in Safari.

You can read more about the language on Aza Raskin's blog.

It's a shame that Safari support is a bit sketchy, aledgedly due to missing features in Safari's Canvas implementation. It seems kind of odd that Apple's implementation of the standard is less complete than Firefox 3's, given that they invented it.

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E.T.A.

Posted at 5:17pm on 20 Jun 2008

E.T.A.

Brilliant animated spoof of the Alien(s) films: E.T.A.

Warning: The film is short, but the filesize is huge.

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Spore logo

Posted at 4:36pm on 17 Jun 2008

Spore Creature Creator

In advance of the hotly anticipated release of Spore - the follow up game to The Sims, which will allow players to create a whole species and lead them through their entire evolution from the primordial soup into space - Maxis have released a standalone creature editor, designed to give users a taste of what Spore will be like.

Requires Windows XP or an Intel Mac.

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Bacterium with Shell logo

Posted at 3:29pm on 17 Jun 2008

Bug Fuel

it sound almost too good to be true, but according to The Times, scientists have genetically engineered bacteria that eat waste and excrete crude oil.

Of course one might argue that the last thing we need right now is a way to extend the usage of fossil fuels. But running cars off bugshit has got to be better than buying it from the middle east (and directly funding terrorism in the process).

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Sproutcore

Posted at 3:16pm on 17 Jun 2008

Sproutcore

After we reported a few days ago that 280 North were using a Cocoa-inspired framework for their Keynote-like webapp 280 Slides, Appleinsider revealed that Apple has adopted a similar system called Sproutcore for their Mobile Me system (the replacement for .mac).

Sproutcore started life as an independent open source project, but like much of their technological foray into the Web (including WebKit itself), Apple has adopted it, hiring the lead programmer and taking development in-house.

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RBGL icon

Posted at 8:12pm on 16 Jun 2008

RBGL v1.1 Released

We've just released version 1.1 of RBGL, our open source graphics library for REALbasic that leverages the OpenGL library on Mac OS and Windows for hardware accelerated graphics.

Read more...
 
GINA

Posted at 10:47am on 11 Jun 2008

Fabrication

This is really cool – BMW have produced a concept car using flexible fabric instead of metal for the bodywork.

The car is called GINA, which presumably stands for something. I love her "eyelids".

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Snow Leopard

Posted at 4:22pm on 10 Jun 2008

Snow Leopard

Few people were surprised by the new 3G iPhone announcements at the WWDC conference yesterday. With many news outlets talking about the new iPhone as if it were an actual product (as opposed to just a rumour) for weeks beforehand, some people were more probably surprised to hear that it had not actually been officially announced until then.

More surprising and in some ways more interesting was the low-key announcement of Snow Leopard, Apple's next major operating system release.

Billed as a kind of maintenance release, Snow Leopard is going to focus on predominantly under-the-hood improvements to the OS, boosting performance and hardware utilisation by increasing the use of preemptive threading and GPU processing throughout the OS.

The Grand Central and OpenCS concepts in particular are intriguing. It seems that Apple has grown tired of waiting for developers to figure out how to utilise the multiple processors available in modern machines, and so has decided to do most of the work for us. Consequently Mac OS may become the first platform to truly utilise the power of modern computer hardware effectively.

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280 North

Posted at 10:35am on 09 Jun 2008

Objective-J

Interesting new JavaScript-based technology from an outfit calling themselves 280 North:

Objective-J is basically an implementation of Objective-C language constructs on top of the JavaScript language (Objective-C is the native language used by the Mac OS X application runtime – kind of like .NET for Mac OS).

On top of this language they have basically re-implemented the Cocoa GUI framework as a web-based technology (they call it Cappuccino – they're evidently not tea drinkers). Their flagship application using this system is a web-based slideshow authoring program called 280 slides, which has already been compared favourably to the Macintosh Keynote program (Apple's competitor to Powerpoint).

There's an interview with 280 North here

You can play with 280 Slides here

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Production line of robots assembling each other

Posted at 8:01am on 06 Jun 2008

A child is born

A few weeks ago we told you about the RepRap rapid prototyping machine.

Well, on 29 May 2008 the machine managed to print a replica of itself. One would assume that this just means it printed the parts which had to be assembled, but still, it's a significant step towards a general purpose, automated 3D replicator.

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The Eco Zoo

Posted at 2:20pm on 05 Jun 2008

Eco Zoo

A cute little 3D Flash website. If you ignore the ecotard message, the popup book idea is very cool, although it's a pity the popups haven't been done in a way that could actually be made with real paper.

The site is significant because Flash still can't actually do native 3D graphics. Unlike web plugins such as unity, Flash provides no 3D drawing commands, nor any way to leverage the built-in 3D graphics hardware in modern computers. The site was made possible by the Papervision3D, an Open Source 3D engine for Flash that implements 3D rendering and texture mapping from first principles.

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A thingamajig

Posted at 3:46pm on 04 Jun 2008

Widgets 2.0

Has anyone noticed now that the term "widget" has become a catch-all phrase for describing more or less any software component? I now hear the term used to describe any of

  • A user interface component or control
  • An application built using some nonstandard technology, e.g. JavaScript
  • A plugin for a web site
  • A panel or sidebar on another window
  • A web service for providing any or all of the above

As far as I can tell, "widget" basically means "something I haven't got a name for", like doohickey, or thingamajig, or whatchamacallit. So why is it that Yahoo can announce a "widgets API" and we are supposed to know what that means?

Coming soon: Google doohickeys and Microsoft thingamajigs, for all your unspecified software needs.

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OpenLayers

Posted at 10:50am on 04 Jun 2008

OpenLayers

Interesting new Open source JavaScript mapping API aims to break the coupling between the implementation and the data provider.

As a framework, OpenLayers is intended to separate map tools from map data so that all the tools can operate on all the data sources. This separation breaks the proprietary silos that earlier GIS revolutions have taught civilization to avoid. The mapping revolution on the public Web should benefit from the experience of history.
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SquirrelFish

Posted at 10:49am on 03 Jun 2008

SquirrelFish

Apparently not content with having the fastest JavaScript engine on the market, the Safari/Webkit developers have just announced Squirrelfish, the improbably-named new JS engine for Webkit that is more than half-again as fast as the version included in Safari 3.1.

This speed bump is signficant not just for Mac users and the ~3 users of Safari on Windows, but for mobile Internet users, where Webkit is rapidly becoming the dominant browser platform. On mobile devices, where processors are slow (Safari on the iPhone, one of the most powerful handheld Web-capable devices, was benchmarked as being 100x slower than its desktop cousin) this speed boost could mean that a whole generation of "Web 2.0" sites now become usable on today's hardware.

Apart from being great news for web developers and users, the article includes a facinating discussion of the engineering process for virtual machines and bytecode interpreters.

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BBC iPlayer

Posted at 10:43am on 03 Jun 2008

iPlayer Downloader

Handy open source program for downloading DRM-free content from the BBC's iPlayer service (Mac OS X only):

iPlayer Downloader

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Google Code

Posted at 11:49am on 28 May 2008

Google adds common JS libraries to CDN

Google has added a number of popular JavaScript libraries such as Mootools and jQuery to its CDN (Content Delivery Network).

These files can be loaded via the Google AJAX API, or directly by including the URL in a web page, e.g.

http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/dojo/1.1.1/dojo/dojo.xd.js.uncompressed.js

The advantages of this over using a local copy for each site are obvious: Not only do you save bandwidth by not hosting the files yourself, but files on the Google CDN are edge cached, meaning site visitors will experience much quicker downloads. Also, if they visit multiple sites that use the same library then they will benefit from browser caching as the files will be shared.

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Micro$oft OOXML

Posted at 11:01am on 28 May 2008

Africa objects

South Africa have launched an objection against the ratification of the OOXML standard.

We've written a number of times about the travesty that is OOXML, and whilst it comes from an unexpected quarter, South Africa's sudden outbreak of common sense is a welcome one.

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DimP

Posted at 9:58am on 28 May 2008

DimP

From the department of cool, but what's the point? comes DimP, a system that allows you to fast forward or rewind video by dragging any moving objects that appear in the frame.

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3D rendering of the Earth

Posted at 10:46am on 27 May 2008

3D Canvas

More impressive technology from the guy who brought you JavaScript Mario Kart:

Javascript/Canvas Textured 3D Renderer

Hard to believe but all these amazing JavaScript graphics and game demos seem to be the work of just one person.

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Mario Kart

Posted at 10:02am on 27 May 2008

Mamma Mia!

Continuing the recent trend of ridiculously awsome things done with JavaScript, check out JavaScript Super Mario Kart.

It joins the proud ranks of JavaScript Super Mario, DHTML Lemmings, JavaScript Wolfenstein 3D, JavaScript DOOM (more of a tech demo really) and the venerable Wolfenstein 5K.

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Burning PHP logo

Posted at 12:31pm on 22 May 2008

PHP Sucks...

...but it doesn't matter - at least according to Jeff Atwood.

It seems that a good proportion of all the most successful web apps are written in PHP (Facebook, Digg, Wikipedia, etc.). Not bad for a language whose primary fault is that it doesn't scale well to high-load applications.

The similarities drawn between PHP and Basic have nothing to do with language structure as far as I can see, and everything to do with bloated namespace. There are a lot of built-in PHP functions, most of which have silly names and use inconsistent naming and parameter conventions. This is curse because I find myself having to look up every function, but a blessing because nine times out of ten the function I want is in there somewhere.

For what it's worth, this site is written in PHP, and it it wasn't it would probably never have been written at all.

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SmallWorlds

Posted at 11:45am on 22 May 2008

SmallWorlds

An intriguing new online virtual world: SmallWorlds

Currently in closed beta, but due to be released to the public at large on Monday, SmallWorlds differs from other virtual environments such as Second Life by being based entirely within the web browser, and integrating with other social networking websites. In effect it is more like a 3D facebook than a traditional MMOG.

SmallWorlds is the first web-accessible, casual virtual world which is designed for mass market appeal ... for ages 13 to 103
One of the coolest parts about SmallWorlds is the close integration it has with other Web 2.0 services. You can buy picture frames that load up images from Flickr, radios that play stations from Last.fm, and billboards that let you post and view Twitter messages.
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Wii

Posted at 3:26pm on 20 May 2008

WiiWare Hits Europe

Good news for indie game programmers and Wii owners alike, WiiWare is now available in europe.

the new WiiWare system enables videogame developers - no matter how big or small - to create exciting new downloadable games for the Nintendo Wii console.
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Helicockter

Posted at 1:08pm on 20 May 2008

Helicockter

At a summit protesting the Putin administration, chess grandmaster and guest speaker Gary Kasparov was interupted by a flying penis.

It was noted that the incident, known in the VR world as griefing, was similar to an attack launched on a CNET interview hosted in Second Life in 2006.

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Belly

Posted at 10:43am on 20 May 2008

This Will Make You Feel Better

It turns out that celebrities have wrinkles too:

Room Post Production reel

Who knew?

Seriously though, it's quite eye opening. Everyone knows that celebrity photos are airbrushed (Photoshopped), but I'd always kind of assumed that it wasn't practical to do this for full-motion video. Seems I was wrong.

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Sand

Posted at 4:03pm on 19 May 2008

Hell of Sand

Amusing particle physics game: Hell of Sand

There's no goal as such, just play around with different materials, then set them on fire.

Pity it's a Java applet though. I'd like to see a pure JavaScript implementation using the canvas tag or some such.

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Cubescape

Posted at 8:39pm on 16 May 2008

Cubescape

Nice little Flash app for creating isometric pixel art-esque images: Cubescape

Except that it's not a Flash app at all - this is all done with JavaScript and CSS. Amazing!

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Bat hat

Posted at 12:30pm on 16 May 2008

Bat Hat

Dr. Kevin Warwick from Reading University has developed an echo location hat for blind people. Using the same principles as a bat, it allows them to navigate via utrasonic sonar.

For those not familiar with his work, Warwick is the guy who's famous for using himself as a human guinea pig for microchips implanted into the nervous system:

Kevin has carried out a series of pioneering experiments involving the neuro-surgical implantation of a device into the median nerves of his left arm in order to link his nervous system directly to a computer in order to assess the latest technology for use with the disabled
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gwap logo

Posted at 12:17pm on 16 May 2008

Games With a Purpose

Interesting new site: gwap.com, purports to solve difficult pattern recognition problems by repackaging them as a game and getting humans to do the work.

This is similar to something Google did with their image search service: Google Image Labeler

It's also similar in concept to Amazon's Mechanical Turk, which makes micropayments to users in return for solving simple processing tasks.

This all seems like a brilliant idea - I really love the concept of seemless web services where you can't tell if a problem is being solved by a computer or a person. It's similar to a concept in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, where a girl's story book automatically outsources voiceover work to an actor via the Internet.

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The Axiotron Modbook

Posted at 6:02pm on 15 May 2008

Flat Mac

This is a pretty nice idea - a tablet conversion for the MacBook.

It's been under development for a while, but they seem to have refined the design a bit since it's inception.

People have been clamouring for Apple to make a decent tablet Mac since around the time that Jobs canned the Newton. The fact that Axiotron actually went as far as to build one suggests that the market for such a thing is a reality, not just a lot of hot air.

The only thing that puts me off getting one is the sneaking suspicion that if it's really any good, Apple will be releasing an official model any minute now, and if they don't, it's because it isn't.

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Mac

Posted at 11:11pm on 14 May 2008

How to Buy a Mac

Advice on which Mac to buy from Macworld.

Aimed at old-gen Mac users looking to upgrade, but probably applicable for Windows users looking to make the switch.

The important thing to remember when buying a new Mac is that even the cheapest consumer models are now pretty powerful machines - the Macs are expensive myth seems to have sprung up because PC users are used to buying over-specced machines to compensate for all the malware, anti-malware and other crap using up processor cycles.

If you want to, you can easily blow 10 grand on a Mac, but you'll be buying a server or a supercomputer, not a home PC. The only upgrades worth buying for your machine are a bigger hard disk and more RAM, and if you're smart you'll buy the latter from Crucial, not Apple.

Follow that principle and most machines will leave you change from £1000 (~$2000).

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VBA

Posted at 6:12pm on 14 May 2008

VBA's Back, Baby

The Mac Business Unit (Microsoft's internal Macintosh development team) announced today that VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) scripting would be making a return in the next revision of Office for the Mac.

This is great news. I'm not a huge fan of Office, but like Photoshop it's the dominant application in its field right now, and until something better comes along, I'd like the Mac version to continue to be the best it can be.

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MUTO

Posted at 10:00am on 14 May 2008

Animated Graffiti

MUTO: a wall-painted animation by BLU

This is an incredible example of stop-motion animation done on a grandiose scale. I particularly like how the creature interacts with its environment, kicking over objects and eating papers on the wall.

The artist seems to have taken his influence from John Carpenter's The Thing, as well as the "biomechanoid" works of H.R. Giger.

A shorter version was released under the title Fantoche a few months ago.

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Pair

Posted at 1:12am on 10 May 2008

Pair Programming

Those who've delved into the depths of this site will have noticed that my programming language/development environment of choice over the years has been REALbasic.

REALbasic is by no means a perfect language. A crude description would be Visual Basic, only cross-platform and with more bugs - hardly a glowing review.

But the reason I use RB, apart from the ridiculous ease of creating a program and compiling it for Mac, Windows and Linux, is that it keeps extending the language with fascinating new features, borrowing not only from Java and C++, but occasionally coming up with obscure but ingenious things found only in more esoteric languages such as Ruby or Python.

The latest addition is a new feature called pairs, sometimes referred to in other languages as a tuple, but essentially a form of isolated hashkey/value pair.

I think any hardcore software engineers out their would be well served by taking a look at RB. For all its faults (and there are many), it is much more than just a buggy VB clone, and how many other languages offer the raw low-level structs and pointers of C, the classes, interfaces, introspection and automatic memory management of Java, the simple and accessible API of Visual Basic, and offer single-click cross-platform compilation from a common code base all in the same package?

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Pixel art

Posted at 2:19pm on 06 May 2008

One for Pixel Art Fans...

An entire city created using pixel art (drawn by hand on a computer with a limited colour pallete and without antialiasing. Similar in the style to videogames from the 80s and 90s).

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Wind-up robot toy

Posted at 4:01pm on 02 May 2008

Broken Robot

A modular robot that re-assembles itself when broken apart:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIn-sMq8-Ls&eurl

Not the most impressive demo I've ever seen; It seems to take a really long time, even with the speeded up video, and it's particularly amusing at the end when it stands up and then immediately falls over and breaks into bits again.

Still, it's one step closer to grey goo, and that's both scary and cool in equal measure.

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Exit Sign

Posted at 8:57pm on 30 Apr 2008

Quit IT

An excellent article about quitting your job:

Up or Out: Solving the IT Turnover Crisis

I think it rather nicely puts paid to the job-for-life, career-minded attitude of a lot of companies, and suggests that constant movement is a good thing in technical organisations because it avoids stagnation and encourages knowledge sharing.

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Euphoria

Posted at 5:51pm on 29 Apr 2008

Euphoria

Incredible new animation system that combines artificial intelligence with physics simulation to create lifelike character movement without the need for motion capture.

This is really impressive. The characters dodge projectiles and grab ledges to save themselves from falling. Check out some of the videos of Euphoria in action in LucasArts' upcoming games.

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99 designs icon

Posted at 10:51am on 29 Apr 2008

99 Monkeys on 99 Typewriters...

The evolution of the stackoverflow.com site is an interesting example of "branding 2.0".

After selecting a name for the site by polling the developer community, they have now enlisted the help of 99designs to come up with a logo (my money's on #141).

Normally I'm not a fan of the community design paradigm - it's too similar to design-by-comittee, and we all know that never works. But the 99designs approach avoids this issue because whilst the designs are submitted by the public, the voting is entirely controlled by the person or persons who intitiated the competition.

Looking at the quality of the submissions, I think this has got to be the future of branding. A company could easily pay $500,000 to an agency and get a worse design than some of the ones here. Jeff and Joel are stumping up a mere $512 for the winner, and get hundreds of choices.

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R2D2

Posted at 2:32pm on 28 Apr 2008

Nikko R2D2

Nerdy, but awesome: R2D2 Projector & Webcam

This is a really nice piece of kit, it looks like it has pretty much every imaginable feature. In fact if it didn't look like R2D2 it might well be the best Projector and Webcam respectively on the market.

Realistically though, I suspect the Star Wars theme will put a lot of potential consumers off. Shame.

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Square Watermelon

Posted at 2:46pm on 25 Apr 2008

It's Hip to be Square

Not new, apparently, but I hadn't come across these before:

Square watermelons (no, really!)

Apparently the idea is to make more efficient use of fridge space, as well as avoiding damage due to unfortunate rolling-off-table incidents.

I think it's brilliant - I wonder what other things we could make into cuboids for efficiency (or amusement). Square cows perhaps?

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Eastern Europe

Posted at 2:05pm on 25 Apr 2008

Eastern Europe

I love this: Visualisation of Eastern Europe

From Dresden Codak's, LiveJournal page.

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Microchip

Posted at 10:10am on 23 Apr 2008

Chip Shop

In a surprise move, Apple has just purchased P.A. Semi, a microprocessor design company.

It's unclear how Intel are going to take this news - after cozying up to Intel for the past year or so, Apple's sudden decision to see other people is unlikely to go down well.

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googleDrive

Posted at 10:05am on 23 Apr 2008

Grand Theft Google

Nice little flash game where you drive around a Google map: googleDrive.

Reminiscent of the the old top-down GTA games (minus the cop-killing and exploding cars).

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Bill Gates as a Borg

Posted at 1:01am on 23 Apr 2008

Microsoft Drops Support for MSN Music

Microsoft once again demonstrates its commitment to its valued media customers by ditching support for the MSN Music DRM service. This basically means that anyone who bought tracks on MSN will not be able to play them on any future PCs they purchase.

The message here in case anyone missed it is do not buy media protected by DRM unless you have a clear path for removing it, or you don't mind losing the ability to play it at some unspecified time in the future.

If that's too complex, don't buy any media from Microsoft is probably a good rule of thumb.

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Airstrike

Posted at 3:06pm on 22 Apr 2008

Airstrike

LM3Labs has created Airstrike, a gesture-driven hologram system.

I'm not quite sure what the point of it is, but it's all very Star Wars.

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Pet

Posted at 10:10am on 22 Apr 2008

I Want One

Some whimsical cuteness from XKCD.

Every nerd secretly wants a pet with a serial port (and that doesn't shit, shed, or chew on the network cables).

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Micro$oft OOXML

Posted at 1:18pm on 21 Apr 2008

Hooray for Bureaucracy

Just over a year ago we wrote about Microsoft's OOXML format, a dreadful specification that they were trying to get ratified as an ISO standard.

Anyone who has been following this sorry and sordid story will know that after initially rejecting the spec on technical grounds, almost every party eventually gave in and voted yes to the standard, despite the fact that none of their concerns had been addressed.

Now at least part of the mystery of how this happened has been revealed. It turns out that (in Norway at least) an 80% majority of experts is overruled by one bureaucrat.

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REALunit

Posted at 4:20pm on 20 Apr 2008

REALunit

We've added REALunit, a new open source unit testing framework for REALbasic to our open source software page.

Read more...
 
Paypal

Posted at 7:08pm on 19 Apr 2008

Paypal

Paypal is apparently planning to ban web browsers which don't provide anti-phishing features.

Since phishing typically takes the form of a site pretending to be Paypal to get user's details, wouldn't they somehow need to persuade the phishing sites to block these browsers?

Otherwise they'll end up with the ridiculous situation that the only Paypal branded sites that some users can visit on their browser will be phishing sites.

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Milliways

Posted at 8:45am on 19 Apr 2008

The Videogame at the End of the Universe

A fascinating account of the aborted development of Milliways, the sequel to the Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy adventure game. The best bits are the design documents, written by game designers who were evidently geniuses, but quite possibly insane:

On Magrathea is a crater left by the impact of the whale. (You don't remember the whale? Then you'll be even more confused by the petunias...)

Even more incredible is the tale of how the author came by this information - he's somehow gotten a hold of a complete backup of Infocom's company network drive circa 1989, including all the company emails, financial documents and source code for all their games.

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Coding Horror logo

Posted at 4:39pm on 18 Apr 2008

Your Session Has Timed Out

Jeff Atwood hits the nail on the head with respect to session timeouts.

This is a typical example of technology driving a usability consideration. Session timeouts are not good enough as a solution to this problem. We need something better.

Programmers doing the same stupid thing over and over again just because it's what everyone else does is exactly what's wrong with software interface design as it stands today.

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Dilbert

Posted at 2:30pm on 18 Apr 2008

Now Requires Flash

Dilbert has gone all "Web 2.0".

The prominent Beta at the top of the page hardly excuses turning a simple, fast-loading site into a processor-hungry JavaScript behemoth that requires Flash to be enabled before you can view the cartoon.

But that's just my opinion.

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Ghost in the Shell

Posted at 2:32pm on 17 Apr 2008

Dreamworks Acquires Ghost in the Shell

http://www.variety.com/VR1117984029.html

If you can get past the toe-curling insistence of the characters to wax philosophical for minutes on end about the nature of humanity, the original Ghost in the Shell anime is one of the finest examples of the genre, and a gripping high-tech thriller in its own right.

By removing all the Japanese cultural elements that don't translate well to a Western audience, and converting to a live action format (which the intended "adult" viewer will relate to better than a cartoon), Spielberg could have real winner on his hands here.

Should be interesting to see how they screw it up.

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Stackoverflow cartoon

Posted at 11:53am on 17 Apr 2008

stackoverflow.com

Intriguing new site from Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood: stackoverflow.com

Not much to see yet, but on his blog, Joel describes the site as...

a programming Q&A site that's free. Free to ask questions, free to answer questions, free to read, free to index, built with plain old HTML, no fake rot13 text on the home page, no scammy google-cloaking tactics, no salespeople, no JavaScript windows dropping down in front of the answer asking for $12.95 to go away"

Sounds pretty good to me.

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The Vista Street Band

Posted at 11:29am on 17 Apr 2008

Rockin' Our Sales

There's something very wrong with Microsoft.

Here is a recent internal promotional video for Vista.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great when a company can poke fun at itself. But to paraphrase Krusty the Klown, "it's only funny if the sap's got dignity"!

Update: In case you were thinking that this depravity was some kind of recent phenomenon at Microsoft, think again.

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Virgin vendetta

Posted at 10:11am on 16 Apr 2008

V for Vendetta

Virgin Media has stepped over a line, and Charlie Stross and pals aren't happy about it.

Amid allegations of sniffing for router hardware and intentionally providing an inferior service to anyone using one, the CEO of Virgin Media has come right out and said that he's in favour of throttling the bandwidth of sites that don't pay a premium for data delivery.

And all this after the previous fiasco whereby Virgin somehow managed to fall out with Sky, resulting in Virgin's customers permanently losing access to Sky One, and with it shows like Lost, 24 and Battlestar Galactica.

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Samorost

Posted at 10:06am on 15 Apr 2008

Samorost

Cool, quirky Flash puzzle/adventure game: Samorost

Reminds me a little of Cosmic Osmo and the other early Hypercard games for the Macintosh.

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Google TV

Posted at 9:57am on 15 Apr 2008

Google TV Ads

Google have just announced that they will be selling TV slots for their Internet advertising service.

Now anyone with a Google ads account (and a big budget) will be able to advertise their service on TV without any additional infrastructure.

It's a great idea, but it only serves to make me more certain that this arbitrary distinction between Internet and TV is destined to be very short lived.

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Five Minutes icon

Posted at 5:58pm on 14 Apr 2008

Five Minutes to Kill Yourself

Original (if somewhat morbid) Flash game:

http://www.adultswim.com/games/game/index.html?game=fiveMinutes.

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Production line of robots assembling each other

Posted at 12:20am on 12 Apr 2008

Open Source Self-Replicating Printer

A few months ago we wrote an article predicting the impending rise of bespoke manufacturing technologies, specifically the 3D printer.

It's happening. An open source group split across the US, UK and New Zealand has just announced the RepRap, a 3D rapid prototyping system capable of printing its own components. It's a long way from a general-purpose home manufacturing system, but it's definitely an important step closer.

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AppEngine icon

Posted at 9:26am on 08 Apr 2008

Google App Engine

http://code.google.com/appengine

Google App Engine enables you to build web applications on the same scalable systems that power Google applications.

Looks pretty sweet. Based on Python/Django, it provides all the back end services for building your web app + they'll host it for free (until it gets popular).

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Zerg Hydralisk

Posted at 3:11pm on 07 Apr 2008

Starcraft 2 "fansite kit"

Blizzard are offering a downloadable "kit" of resources so that Starcraft fans can build their own fan sites:

http://eu.starcraft2.com/downloads.xml

This is a breath of fresh air compared to the heavy handed tactics of other companies/individuals over the unauthorised use of their copyright material by fans (Apple, Prince).

Between the accessible and innovative use of technology on the Starcraft 2 web site (unobtrusive JavaScript and Flash, client side XSL), the innovative approach to product development and quality control and the friendly and encouraging attitude to fans, I’m absolutely blown away by Blizzard. I think a lot of companies could learn a thing or two from them.

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Blizzard logo

Posted at 2:10pm on 07 Apr 2008

11 Innovation Lessons

Innovation lessons from Blizzard (makers of World of Warcraft):

"9. DEMAND EXCELLENCE OR YOU'LL GET MEDIOCRITY"

They don’t say what to do when you demand excellence but still get mediocrity – still, seems like some good thinking here.

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Smashing Magazine logo

Posted at 1:45pm on 07 Apr 2008

Calligraphy

Smashing Magazine mourns the death of hand-penned calligraphy.

If only there was some way to simulate beautiful calligraphy on a computer...

Oh well.

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20 pence piece

Posted at 10:20am on 03 Apr 2008

Beautiful New Coinage from the Royal Mint...

… and a new five dollar bill in the States that looks like a kindergarten finger painting experiment:

http://www.typography.com/ask/showBlog.php?blogID=93

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Meadow

Posted at 4:02pm on 02 Apr 2008

Outside

A candid review of the popular game Outside:

The physics system is note-perfect (often at the expense of playability)... The real fundamental problem with the game is that there is nothing to do.

Brilliant!

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Micro$oft OOXML

Posted at 1:36pm on 02 Apr 2008

Oh... Bollocks

Well that’s all we needed: ISO approves OOXML

If only Microsoft had spent half as much money on actually fixing the giant, man-eating holes in their specification as they have on bribing state officials into ratifying it...

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Fat lady

Posted at 12:12pm on 02 Apr 2008

Who Ate All the Pies?

Today is officially the fattest day of the year.

Funny, I don't feel any heavier...

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Mushroom cloud

Posted at 5:02pm on 28 Mar 2008

Quantum Sleeper

Rest Well in the Face of Terrorism

I loved this, from the comments below the article:

In a really bad disaster we remain both superpositionally alive and dead inside the Quantum Sleeper until someone opens it up. Especially if you take your cat inside.

Genius!

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Wind-up robot toy

Posted at 11:47am on 20 Mar 2008

BigDog: Amazingly Lifelike Robot Dog

The motion of this thing is incredible

It does look ever-so-slightly like two blokes in a suit though.

Update: Seems I wasn't the only one who noticed

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Word

Posted at 9:17am on 28 Feb 2008

The Big Word Project

A kind of viral marketing dictionary... or something...

Pay $1 per letter for the ad word of your choice:

http://www.thebigwordproject.com

Stake your claims now, it may be the next million dollar homepage.

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Lego Universe

Posted at 9:06am on 26 Feb 2008

Lego Universe

Best idea for an MMO ever:

http://blog.wired.com/games/2008/02/lego-universe-l.html

The best part is that you can take any model you build virtually in the game and Lego will send you the parts and instructions to build it.

Is it possible that Lego has finally found a way to make itself relevant in the digital age? I hope so.

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Swirl

Posted at 9:05am on 25 Feb 2008

Castle in Colour: Optical Illusion

This is a nice trick:

http://www.johnsadowski.com/big_spanish_castle.php

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Source fource

Posted at 3:44pm on 22 Feb 2008

Source Fource

Ill-conceived marketing concept from Microsoft:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/events/hero/sfbio

Is it me, or do they look like Lego people? Only... you know... shit.

Update: It seems they've improved them a bit. You can see the woeful originals here.

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Solar eclipse

Posted at 12:39pm on 18 Feb 2008

Slow News Day?

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/45792

Millions of eyewitnesses watched in stunned horror Tuesday as light emptied from the sky, plunging the U.S. and neighboring countries into darkness
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Warning

Posted at 11:09am on 07 Feb 2008

That's Not a Warning Message...

This is a warning message!

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NetNewsWire icon

Posted at 9:49am on 29 Jan 2008

It's Fast, and it's Free

Brent Simmons describes the creative process behind the UI for NetNewsWire's syncing interface:

http://inessential.com/?comments=1&postid=3468

Interesting reading for UI junkies.

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NASA logo

Posted at 10:20am on 28 Jan 2008

NASA MMO

NASA is making an MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online videogame)

http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/01/nasa-seeks-inpu.html
http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/01/would-you-play.html

First thoughts: Cool and... er... why?

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Charles Darwin

Posted at 2:39pm on 14 Jan 2008

The 2007 Darwin Awards

http://darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2007.html

Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, the Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it.
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iPhone

Posted at 11:42am on 11 Jan 2008

Story of the iPhone

http://www.wired.com/gadgets/wireless/magazine/16-02/ff_iphone

Engineers, frazzled from all-night coding sessions, quit, only to rejoin days later after catching up on their sleep.
A product manager slammed the door to her office so hard that the handle bent and locked her in; it took colleagues more than an hour and some well-placed whacks with an aluminum bat to free her.
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3-column layout

Posted at 9:22am on 17 Dec 2007

Three Columns of Idiocy

This is going to be unpopular, but the man has a point...

http://www.andyrutledge.com/bad-layout-conventions.php

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Microsoft vs Opera and the EU

Posted at 8:07pm on 15 Dec 2007

Defending the Indefensible

Many users and developers alike would like to see Microsoft improve its browser, or replace it with something better, but should this really be a legal matter? Is it right to force them to do this in a court of law?

4 comments Read more...
 
Roach

Posted at 4:52pm on 14 Dec 2007

Infestation

Eww...

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2007/12/14/wii_attracts_cockroaches

Who'd have imagined that leaving wii on your carpet would be a health hazard?

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Windows logo

Posted at 4:48pm on 14 Dec 2007

Fun with Windows

Here's some fun things that you can (or rather can't) do in Windows:

Try creating a folder called "con". Try it, anywhere on your desktop or inside any folder. You can't. Same goes for any of the following:

prn, aux, nul, com1, com2, com3, ... com9, lpt1

You can't make a folder with any of these names. Think that's strange? Try this:

Create a new text file and type "this app can break" in it without the quotes or any leading/trailing space.

Now open the file in Notepad (if you created it in Notepad, close it then open it again).

Weird huh?

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Airbag Industries logo

Posted at 9:24am on 10 Dec 2007

Corporate Blogging

Airbag Industries discusses the new corporate blogging thinktank The Blog Council:

http://www.airbagindustries.com/archives/airbag/fail.php

That's perfect! As long as you keep doing that, you'll always need your stupid councils to discuss why the cool kids think you're an idiot. Well played, asshats.

Ouch.

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Jumpchart logo

Posted at 9:15am on 10 Dec 2007

Jumpchart - Interactive wireframing tool

This seems pretty cool: http://www.jumpchart.com

An online tool for designing the structure and content of a web site without any messing around in Visio.

Once you're done, it exports a clean XHTML/CSS framework from which to begin building the site itself.

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Google logo

Posted at 11:59am on 07 Dec 2007

Google Optimised for iPhone

A look at Google's new iPhone portal

Looks pretty sweet, but doesn't appear to work on the iPod Touch yet.

Update: I stand corrected. In the UK you just have to go to http://www.google.com/m, otherwise it redirects you to google.co.uk, which doesn’t have the new interface (yet).

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DMCA

Posted at 8:16pm on 06 Dec 2007

An Analogue Lock

A nice slideshow illustrating both the illogicality of software licence agreements, and the terrifying implications of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act when applied to the real world.

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Flickr logo

Posted at 1:43pm on 05 Dec 2007

Flickrshop

Flickr adds photo editing tools:

http://blog.flickr.com/2007/12/05/edit-your-photos-on-flickr

Nice.

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BBC logo

Posted at 12:11pm on 05 Dec 2007

Not Invented Here

Perl on Rails - why the BBC fails at the Internet

If the last 60-odd years of software engineering science have taught us anything, it's that software problems are hard enough to solve already without needing make extra work for yourself.

If a tool already exists that will solve your problem, use it. I'm sure Perl is great, but if you want to use Ruby on Rails then use it, don't rewrite it.

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Mac &#38;#38; PC

Posted at 11:09am on 21 Nov 2007

Cheeky Mac Banner Ad

Captured on YouTube: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRAUlK8_2VE

Note that I say this as a long-term Mac user:

  1. It is a very bad idea to advertise yourself by saying how bad your competitor's product is. People don't buy something just because an unrelated product is shit.
  2. It is especially pointless since the Mac platform doesn't directly compete with Vista - they even advertise the fact that you can run Vista on a Mac as a selling point.
  3. Leopard could have been a lot better - they really dropped the ball on that one, promising a lot and delivering very little (at least from a consumer standpoint).
  4. The ad was still funny.
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Habbo Hotel

Posted at 9:12am on 15 Nov 2007

Software Thievery

'Virtual theft' leads to arrest

A Dutch teenager has been arrested for allegedly stealing virtual furniture from 'rooms' in Habbo Hotel, a 3D social networking website.

It's not that strange if you think about it, "stealing" virtual property is no different from "stealing" an mp3 file or a copy of Photoshop, and there are people serving jail terms for doing the latter.

In fact one might reasonably argue that the term "theft" is more accurately applied in the former case, since the rules of the game world make it impossible to copy someone’s sword without depriving them of it, whereas in the real world one can duplicate digital goods without depriving their original owner of their use.

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Pong

Posted at 11:31am on 14 Nov 2007

Human Pong, Tetris

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QNI3W8UB-s

(Headphones or speakers needed for full effect)

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Facebook logo

Posted at 9:32am on 14 Nov 2007

Facebook Ad Profiles

Coca-Cola, Dove and The New York Times are among a cluster of brands who have signed up to a new ad system on Facebook which enables advertisers to have their own profile page.

Apparently, the future of advertising is being repeatedly "poked" by a company until you agree to buy their product.

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IMVU Avatar

Posted at 4:10pm on 08 Nov 2007

The March of the Avatars

http://www.collings.co.za/2007/11/the-march-of-th.html

Gives some credibility to the prediction by Gartner Consulting that by 2011, 80% of active Internet users will have an avatar.

Okay, try to set aside the idea of Gartner having credibility for a moment. If 80% of people will have an avatar, does that extend to brands as well?

I have a sudden mental image of a virtual Ronald McDonald getting cornered in a dark alley in Second life and having the shit kicked out of him by the Burger King mascot.

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Guinness

Posted at 1:29pm on 08 Nov 2007

Domino village

New Guinness advert - Domino village

I thought it was a bit disappointing to be honest. I much preferred the Honda ad, which was filmed as a single shot.

The Guinness one just seems to be a collection of loosely related sequences - it doesn't even appear as if there is any attempt at continuity.

It also completely spoils the message - "Good things come to those who wait... but we couldn't be bothered to wait so we'll just cut to the final scene".

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Carrot

Posted at 1:04pm on 07 Nov 2007

Stick Shift

A driving instructor had a 12-inch carrot in his trousers when he gave a woman a lesson, a court was told yesterday.

The woman, who accused him of groping her breasts on three occasions between August 2005 and February last year...

He must have been a fantastic instructor if she got in a car with him again after he'd groped her on two previous occasions.

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Oily Earth

Posted at 2:31pm on 06 Nov 2007

Three Legged Legs animation

It's not exactly An Inconvenient Truth, but it's very nicely produced:

http://www.threeleggedlegs.com/repertoire/humans

...we hate the human species. Really we do.

You've gotta love militant environmentalists!

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3D TV

Posted at 3:31pm on 05 Nov 2007

3D TV becomes reality

3D television without glasses or headsets

It’s annoying that there’re no pictures to go with the article.

I mean, I understand if Orange didn’t let them take photos, but they could have at least put in some pictures of an ordinary TV as an illustration – it’s not like we’d know the difference…

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LED wheel

Posted at 1:15pm on 02 Nov 2007

Rimvertising

Let no empty space go unsponsored:

http://ledwheels.com

...and a similar idea for bike spokes:

http://www.ladyada.net/make/spokepov

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Eye-Fi card

Posted at 1:38pm on 01 Nov 2007

Sci-fi Wi-fi

You can now buy a 2GB SD memory card with built-in wi-fi to upload/download your images:

Eye-Fi Card, Wireless 2 GB SD Memory Card

Did I miss a couple of generations of technology or something? I mean, seriously, how is that possible?

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Zune logo

Posted at 5:01pm on 31 Oct 2007

New Zunes

Microsoft raises the bar in incomprehensible tag lines:

"You make it you"

…I make what me?

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Ear

Posted at 5:04pm on 11 Oct 2007

Ear, What're You Lookin' At?

What is it with artists and ears? First Van Gogh, and now this...

Performer gets third ear for art

Cyprus-born Stelios Arcadiou, known as Stelarc, says his extra ear, made of human cartilage, is an augmentation of the body's form.
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Cheerleader

Posted at 11:14am on 11 Oct 2007

Human LCD

Korea unveils its new widescreen display technology:

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=453_1191345802&p=1

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Zero Punctuation logo

Posted at 10:27am on 10 Oct 2007

Zero Punctuation

Without doubt, the best review you will see of Halo 3:

Zero Punctuation: Halo 3

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Scary eyes

Posted at 9:54am on 05 Oct 2007

How did THAT get in there...

Schoolchildren in the US state of Ohio were left bemused after images of nude women were shown in a politician's lecture on the legislative process.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7028389.stm

His eyes... my God, look at his eyes...

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Steve Ballmer - One attractive man

Posted at 9:01am on 04 Oct 2007

Ballmer Sells Windows

Would you buy a used operating system from this man?

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=tGvHNNOLnCk

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reCAPTCHA logo

Posted at 1:39pm on 02 Oct 2007

reCAPTCHA

Nice idea - using spam CAPTCHAs to aid in the process of digitising old documents:

http://recaptcha.net

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Retro Rocket Ship

Posted at 11:31am on 11 Sep 2007

Technology of the Future

...from the point of view of the past:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=479667476202599810

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MagiCal icon

Posted at 2:21am on 15 Aug 2007

MagiCal 1.1 Released

We've just released a major update to our popular MagiCal menu bar clock and calendar. Almost every feature has been enhanced and polished - even the icon!

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Some program source code (for parsing)

Posted at 7:26pm on 29 Jul 2007

Parsing and Tokenizing Libraries

We've added new open source libraries to our REALbasic source page, including classes for tokenizing and parsing complex formatted strings such as programming languages and structured data.

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Coffee maker

Posted at 8:07pm on 23 Jul 2007

An Unachievable Goal?

According to Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple), "we never will see a robot that makes a cup of coffee". Could he be right? Is it possible that AI is an unachievable dream? That we will never see robots that can even perform basic household chores, let alone outsmart us?

0 comments Read more...
 
Broken television set

Posted at 7:21pm on 20 Jul 2007

The Forecast for Broadcasts

Just as video killed the radio star, the Internet is set to kill radio, TV, and telephone, or at least change them beyond recognition. It's just a matter of time. This article details why scheduled broadcasting is about to fall hard, and what we can expect to replace it.

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iPhone showing Dashboard logo

Posted at 9:12pm on 19 Jul 2007

Where are the Widgets?

When Steve Jobs announced that Apple had provided a 3rd party development environment for the iPhone, he was met with rapturous applause. This soon turned to scorn when he revealed that the "development environment" was really just a web browser. But was this scorn justified, or are web apps the future for the iPhone?

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KITT - the sentient car from the 80s TV series Knight Rider

Posted at 1:11pm on 17 May 2007

The Drive of Progress

Acclaimed science fiction author Charles Stross has published his predictions for how our future will be shaped by technology. In his books he describes a fabulous utopian future, but his vision of how imminent technologies will change our lives demands a sacrifice of personal freedoms that I find difficult to stomach...

1 comment Read more...
 
Mac Mini with TV antennae

Posted at 1:20am on 11 May 2007

It's a Mini Adventure

When Apple released the new line of Intel Minis a year ago I decided to take the plunge and buy one for use as a media centre or living room PC. In some ways it has surpassed my expectations, and in others I've been bitterly disappointed. Here is the good, bad and ugly of the Media Centre Mini...

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Microsoft logo on fire

Posted at 7:55pm on 11 Apr 2007

How the Mighty Have Fallen

According to Paul Graham, Microsoft is dead. So if he's right, what killed them? And what conclusions can we draw from this? Was Microsoft just too slow to keep up with the advances around them, or was their vision of the future fundamentally flawed from the start?

3 comments Read more...
 
Ladybird

Posted at 1:30am on 23 Mar 2007

New Bug Tracking System

We've overhauled our bug reporting and feature request systems with a brand new interactive bug tracking database.

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Mozilla logo in a desktop window

Posted at 6:13pm on 20 Mar 2007

Spacial Awareness

Mozilla has been used as the basis of a revolutionary web browser and email client. Now it seems set to take on the operating system too. But is the Mozilla brand of innovation really what is needed to inject new life into desktop operating systems, or do we need to look backwards, not forwards to make progress...?

7 comments Read more...
 
Subscriber icon

Posted at 12:11am on 19 Mar 2007

Subscriber 1.1 Released

Subscriber 1.1 is now out of beta, and comes loaded with a few new goodies including full support for Intel macintoshes, and a shiny new icon!

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PicTiles icon

Posted at 6:25pm on 16 Mar 2007

PicTiles on MacZot

Our Popular puzzle game PicTiles will be appearing on macZOT this weekend, at the special discount price of $9.99!

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Light bulb

Posted at 8:07pm on 07 Mar 2007

Patently Ridiculous

For 500 years the patents system has protected innovation by allowing inventors to capitalise on their ideas. But with the changing pace of technology, and the rise of patents for software concepts and algorithms, are cracks appearing in this venerable institution...?

3 comments Read more...
 
Production line of robots assembling each other

Posted at 8:07pm on 05 Mar 2007

The Next Big Thing

In the last 25 years we have seen a number of key technologies emerge that have revolutionised how we work, play and interact with each other. Could these innovations be part of a grander design? And if so, what's the next piece in the puzzle...?

4 comments Read more...
 
Apple Matters logo

Posted at 9:55pm on 28 Feb 2007

Review on Apple Matters

Apple Matters has posted a review of our freeware utilities MagiCal and Shades, along with a mini-bio of Charcoal Design's founder and chief software engineer Nick Lockwood.

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PicTiles icon

Posted at 12:35am on 02 Feb 2007

PicTiles 1.1 Released

We've just released a major update to our popular PicTiles puzzle game, which includes Intel processor support, as well as many other enhancements.

Read more...
 
Bill Gates as a Borg

Posted at 9:48pm on 29 Jan 2007

Standard Bearers

For most of its history, Microsoft has relied on a mix of secrecy and litigation to protect the workings of its software and file formats. In light of mandates prohibiting the use of proprietary formats for government documents, Microsoft has pledged to change its ways... but has it?

1 comment Read more...
 
Amiga logo

Posted at 10:46am on 23 Jan 2007

Viva Amiga

The Amiga, a cherished computing platform from the 80s - 90s era, which was finally killed off by the dominance of the PC market, may be about to undergo a revival with the release of Amiga OS 4. But is a new OS release really the best way to continue the Amiga legacy?

2 comments Read more...
 
MagiCal icon

Posted at 6:31pm on 06 Jan 2007

MagiCal 1.0 Released

We've just released MagiCal, a FREE menu-based clock and calendar program for Mac OS X. MagiCal provides a range of time and date display options, and can operate in conjunction with, or as a replacement for, the system menu clock.

Read more...
 
Shades icon

Posted at 1:29am on 18 Dec 2006

Shades 1.1 Released

We've just released a major update to our popular Shades application, which includes many new features requested by our users.

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Shades icon

Posted at 6:45am on 24 Nov 2006

Shades 1.0 Released

We've released a new software product called Shades. Shades is a FREE utility for adjusting monitor brightness on your Macintosh. It can be used as a compliment to the built-in brightness controls of many Macintosh machines, offering a greater dynamic range and finer control.

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GNU Logo

Posted at 6:15pm on 22 Nov 2006

Open Source

We've added a new open source page to the software section of our site. We believe that open source software is a great way to encourage innovation and progress within the developer community, and for this reason we have decided to provide the source code for our in-house tools and experiments...

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IE7 logo (crossed out)

Posted at 9:14pm on 09 Nov 2006

Just Say No!

When Microsoft announced that they were finally updating the aged Internet Explorer with a new version, many were initially skeptical. Could this be a glorious turn in the road for the world's worst (and most popular) browser, or would this be just another rushed-out bodge job like IE6 before it...?

5 comments Read more...
 
Graphical presentation of some of the Wired entries

Posted at 6:13am on 26 Oct 2006

Six Word Limit? That's Easy, I'll...

Wired recently ran an article in which they challenged some contemporary sci-fi and fantasy authors to produce interesting literary works in a maximum of six words, with some amusing results. I thought it might be fun to join in, so here are my efforts...

1 comment Read more...
 
Apple-branded capacitor

Posted at 9:48pm on 23 Oct 2006

A Hard(ware) Act to Follow

Gartner, a prominent industry analyst believes that Apple would be better off if it abandoned the hardware business and concentrated on selling OS X to the established PC user base. Is this really the way forward for Apple? And if not, why do people keep thinking they know how to run Apple better than Apple does...?

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Pink for October badge

Posted at 12:11pm on 13 Oct 2006

Pink for October

Pinkforoctober.org has been set up in order to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month, get people talking about breast cancer, and raise money for research. Like many others, Charcoal Design will be adopting a pink hue for the duration of the month of October...

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Charcoal Design logo

Posted at 2:22am on 13 Oct 2006

Web Site Relaunched

We hope you all like the new-look site. After languishing in development hell for several years, and after several redesigns which never saw the light of day, Charcoal Design is now officially open for business. The new site features a number of enhancements, which we will be adding to over the next few weeks...

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Pipette icon

Posted at 10:00pm on 07 Oct 2006

Pipette 1.0 Released

We're proud to announce the release of a new product called Pipette. Pipette is a FREE utility for web developers and digitial artists that allows you to take colour readings from anywhere on the screen, and return the colour value in the right format for pasting into Photoshop or any web page. Download it now...

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Sony Reader device

Posted at 7:02pm on 27 Sep 2006

Read it and Weep

Sony recently unveiled its new e-book reader, imaginatively entitled the Sony Reader. I have to admit that when I saw it my first thought was that this was the coolest thing I'd seen. Sadly, a closer examination reveals a lack of design forethought - a shame because it is clear that the technology has real potential...

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No-www.org logo

Posted at 9:32pm on 14 Sep 2006

So Wwwhat's the Point?

No-www.org have taken a stand against the largely redundant requirement of many websites that you prefix their domain with www. While I applaud their efforts to save us all several characters worth of typing every day, I believe that they have missed out on some more subtle benefits of the www prefix...

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