iPad

Posted by & filed under General, Technology, Tutorials, Writing.

Our team got iPads for Christmas. They’re great for entertainment, as evidenced by the fact that we (to clarify, I) were instantly addicted to them. I would not have bought one for myself. I may have invested in a less expensive Android tablet, in fact, I still might get my kids one of thse, but now that I have the iPad, my life is changing for the better.

As I’m the tech guy in our organization, I’ve been tasked with rounding up the best apps and generally assessing the situation.

  1. SkitchSkitch
    Evernote  acquired these folks. This app is great because I can demo it in five seconds. I open it up, go to a website, take a screenshot, use my finger to scribble a comment in red, throw in a couple of cartoony arrows, tap the share button, and there it is. Oohs and ahhs from the audience.
  2. Flipboard for iPadFlipboard
    You’ll never look at a Twitter feed the old way. This turns your feeds into an electronic newspaper, and a beautiful one, at that. It’s “your pocket-sized social magazine.” Well, maybe the iPad isn’t exactly pocket-sized, but of course, there’s Flipboard for the iPhone as well. I’m amazed at how much information I can dig up that I probably would not have found otherwise.
  3. EvernoteEvernote
    “Remember everything.” It might be perfect if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a sync button. On top of that, there is a paid version, but I’ll let them slide. It’s great for syncing your notes, including audio and video notes, across all of your devices and desktops.
  4. Netflix for iPadNetflix
    Bottom line: Netflix has become a verb. We still get DVD’s shipped for the kids’ titles that aren’t available instantly, but all DVD’s really mean to me are wear and tear on moving parts. I won’t let DVD’s anywhere near my MacBook Pro. It’s all about the streaming. We have a Wii which ultimately gets used to stream Netflix 95% of the time. Happily, the iPad app is amazing. If you haven’t jumped ship because management came off like knuckleheads, give it a spin. It’s free (aside from your subscription, of course).
  5. Air Display (paid)
    Use your iPad as a second monitor. Maybe you can even use it for your graphic design apps. Or, you can always invest in one of these. I have yet to really use this app for anything other than impressing people with how cool it is. At some point, I’ll have to remind myself that it’s there when I’m actually in the middle of a graphic design project.
  6. Kindle for iPadKindle for iPad
    I might actually get some reading done. I was all set to grab a reading light for my bedroom. Problem solved. Electronic bookmarks, community highlighting, hyperlinks: traditionalists will argue that there’s something about ink on paper. I’m not burning books today, but the app is free.
  7. TripIt for iPadTripIt
    “TripIt drags travelling kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.” I’ve been using the web and mobile app for years. The iPad app, of course, is great. Their website works really well on the iPad – better, in fact, than the app (that’s just my opinion). This is also the type of app that works great in tandem with its web-based counterpart: setup all the details of your itinerary using your desktop and save yourself the fumbling with the iPad keyboard.
  8. Pulse for iPadPulse for iPad
    Pulse is a great magazine app, also on the iPhone and Android. It comes packed with some great magazines: The New Yorker, Fast Company, Popular Science, and more, totally configurable with a unique, innovative interface. In their words, “Pulse takes your favorite websites and transforms them into a colorful and interactive mosaic.” I was really into this app until I discovered Flipboard, but it’s still fun to use. It’s got some of the scribbly interface elements which seem to be gaining some popularity these days (see Dolphin Browser).
  9. WordPress for iPadWordPress for iOS
    If you manage more than one WordPress site, check out this app. It’s free, of course, just like WordPress itself. Being somewhat of a WordPress evangelist, I couldn’t help but include this one. In fairness, I wouldn’t recommend it for anything but basic posting and editing, but it’s certainly useful for that.
  10. Dolphin Browser for iPadDolphin Browser
    Safari on the iPad works very well, but Dolphin Browser offers a few more bells and whistles, notably support for custom gestures. It doesn’t hurt to have additional browser options, and this is a cool one. I give them points for incredibly responsive technical support over the holidays when I spotted a rendering issue with one of my web development experiments gone horribly awry. I haven’t checked back with them to see if the issue has been resolved, but even if it hasn’t been, they seem like the good guys.
  11. FoursquareFoursquare (web-based)
    For those of us who beg Big Brother (and Big Sister) to keep track of our every move, their website looks great. There’s a mobile version, but for the iPad, use the website.
  12. Google Apps for iPad
    There’s Google Earth, Google Search, Google Catalogs, and more. Generally speaking, I’m guessing the folks at Google are hard at work making web-based applications rather than native apps. Thank you, HTML5. Thank you, Android.

Here’s a running list of additional apps and sites which may not have made it into my top 12 but are still noteworthy:

Trello (web-based)
I just discovered this, thanks to Seth Godin over here. Put simply, it’s a “list of lists.” I looked for an iPad-native app, only to discover that it looks like they’re pretty focused on making their web version work amazingly well. I might have to dump my Google Tasks into this system and see if I get exponentially more productive.

IMDB for iPadIMDB
Of course, if you’re into entertainment, you need this.

Most of us are still living in the PC world, whereas I and a couple of my (I like to think “more enlightened”) colleagues work on Macs, which really means we work on both Mac and PC. What it really means is we’re the ones that bring in our own laptops so we can actually get work done.

My recommendation for our IT strategy over the next 3-5 years is to invest in MacBook Airs for the primary team members, then watch in amazement as our tech support costs plummet, but that’s another story. Back to the iPad.

iPad in the Workplace

The initial concern is with syncing. Any comments in that regard will be most appreciated. I confess that I’m a little confused myself. Here’s my scenario:

I got my MacBook Pro two years ago. I’d already been using GMail and Google Calendar, so I went ahead and synced up iCal and Mail. Eventually, I moved away from the onboard iCal and Mail, as I relied on my Palm Pre (remember those?) smartphone heavily. Google synced up just fine with my device. I’m not an avid iTunes user, so no issues there.

I opted to upgrade to an Android rather than an iPhone since Sprint wasn’t offering the iPhone yet. my Android, of course, works seamlessly with my Google services.

Enter the iPad. I got it all setup and synced with my iPad via wifi using iTunes on my MacBook Pro per all the instructions. Supposedly, I’m in the iCloud now, though I haven’t upgraded to the Lion OS yet. Plus, I don’t want to be tempted to pay for any extra storage just yet.

My company’s on Exchange server. I setup our e-mail and calendar with no problem. I also setup GMail using Exchange rather than the onboard GMail, which enabled calendar and contacts syncing. This also worked beautifully, except for duplicate calendar entries. I also noticed a couple of recurring events that I deleted a long time ago. Turns out, they were still attached to an old iCal subscribed GMail calendar. It took some head scratching to finally get rid of those. I still have some duplicate calendar entries, since I had subscribed to some of my Google calendars from within Outlook. I also went the other way and signed up for a Microsoft Live.com account to enable Outlook calendar syncing from within GMail. The result, now, is that my iPad calendar has a bunch of dupes. I’ll eventually get it sorted out.

Now for the roundup. I’ve already picked a few (IMHO) outstanding ones. This will be a running list, a living document. The focus will be primarily on productivity, though entertainment is not out of the question.

I will also list outstanding web-based applications. These are websites that look beautiful on the iPad, in some cases eliminating the need for a dedicated app.

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Posted by & filed under General, Scripting, Technology, Tutorials.

It started as a static image. I was provided with a PDF of an architectural diagram. Exhibitor spaces were being offered for an upcoming event. These numbered spaces would be filled in/grayed out as organizations reserved them. There is a corresponding table listing out the exhibitors and their corresponding spaces. I had yet to use SVG, jQuery, JSON, WordPress and Illustrator all together, but it sounded great in theory.

I ripped the PDF in Illustrator, maintaining the source .AI file, exporting to PNG, uploading it to the web server and editing the HTML table as edits came in. It occurred to me I could accomplish this in HTML5, perhaps using <canvas>, which would have probably required recreating the entire diagram programmatically in JavaScript. I considered that. It would be an interesting exercise, no doubt, though somewhat time consuming. Continue reading “Interactivity with SVG, jQuery, JSON, WordPress” »

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Posted by & filed under General.

Use Dreamweaver templates to develop and test your pages locally before publishing to your Content Management System.

 

In our case, our live site is running WordPress with a customized Graphene Child Theme. We’ll load a standard content page (our "About Us" page) which has all the components we need to develop a template, mainly the wrapper (including sidebar) and our variable content. We’ll save the page locally, open it in Dreamweaver, make sure we have a local site created to at least partially mirror our live site (you’ll need to do this in order to build site-specific templates), save the page as a template, and add a couple of editable regions. We will then create a page based on the template, fill it with sample content, and preview the local page in a browser.

We’ll click on <mminstance:editable> in the tag selector at the bottom of the Dreamweaver code and design window to select everything within the editable region, copy the selection from the code pane (not the design view!) to ensure we capture all the HTML, and paste it into the Source view of a new page in our CMS.

slider-wordpress-660x380

Posted by & filed under General, Technology, Tutorials.

Once you have started the process of integrating BuddyPress into your existing theme, refer to the step-by-step installation instructions for the listing of pages you will need to edit. For your convenience, here they are:

/activity/index.php
/blogs/index.php
/forums/index.php
/groups/index.php
/groups/create.php
/groups/single/home.php
/groups/single/plugins.php
/members/index.php
/members/single/home.php
/members/single/plugins.php
/registration/register.php

Towards the bottom of each file, look for:

<?php get_sidebar( 'buddypress' ) ?>

Comment it out:

<?php // get_sidebar( 'buddypress' ) ?>

Add the following to your child theme’s style.css:

/* BuddyPress style overrides */
div.padder {
padding-left:15px;
}
div.item-list-tabs, div.item-list-tabs#subnav, .padder div.pagination {
margin-right:0; margin-left:0;
}

See it working here. While you’re at it, go ahead and join the group!

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Posted by & filed under General, Technology, Tutorials.

Microsoft Outlook uses the Word rendering engine when displaying HTML e-mails, which makes perfect sense, considering Outlook and Word are part of Office. This doesn’t justify Microsoft’s decision, but at least it explains it. This means you’re bound to experience some quirks when testing in Outlook which will not occur in most other e-mail clients, such as the mysterious appearance of extra horizontal space, particularly between table rows, which can tragically disrupt your meticulously created layout.

It is helpful to note that Outlook adds text boundaries, which are sort of like page breaks for printing purposes, every 1,700 pixels or so. You’ll need to figure out your own design workaround for this, but as far as testing is concerned, you can speed up that process by using Word to preview your e-mail.

Save your e-mail locally as an HTML file, open it in your browser, Select All and Copy. Create a new, blank Word document, and paste the contents of the clipboard into it. View the document in Web Layout (View -> Web Layout). You’ll see the invisible text boundaries along with any undesired havoc Word has wreaked.

There’s a great, far more technical article on this phenomenon here.

 

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Posted by & filed under General, Technology, Tutorials.

Any content management system (CMS) these days should enable you to tailor your search engine optimization (SEO) on a per page (or post, if you’re publishing an article or blog in WordPress) basis. Permalinks are often overlooked, as a CMS will generally create one based on the page title. It is worth noting that a CMS may also strip out commonly used or single-letter words, often replacing them with hyphens if anything at all. Thus, a URL can easily contain a string of 3 or 4 hyphens in a row, such as:

http://www.skillzdesign.com/blog/explaining-why----useful/

This is suboptimal for a number of reasons:

  • It’s immediately obvious to anyone familiar with content management systems that you were either too lazy to take the extra step and optimize your URL, or you simply overlooked it.
  • The URL stub will not be conducive to any human-readable, "URL’s as Sentences" scheme (check your address bar for a live example).
  • The URL will be a challenge at best to speak to someone over the phone or voice recognition software.
  • Perhaps most importantly, it looks ugly.