All posts filed under “Design

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New theme & general spruce-up

If you see this post on the web, you’ll see that this blog finally looks a bit different. After having the same theme for well over a year, I finally updated it.

Normally I wouldn’t write about it, but I have to tell you about the Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha. I first heard about it from David Pennock on his “Oddhead” blog. What’s incredible about the theme is a) it’s free and b) it’s incredibly customizable.

The Suffusion theme supports a wide variety of layouts, with sidebars, various headers and footers, and widgets everywhere. And then those widgets can be customized. In fact, it looks like every single element of every feature of WordPress can be customized. It’s even got a variety of standard icons built in (for Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.) and supports key products like Feedburner, Google Analytics, etc.

So if you’re looking for a new theme for your blog, check out Suffusion.

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Switching from the iPhone 3G to the Nexus One and Android – my story

I was lucky enough to have joined Google in enough time to receive a Nexus One as the company’s holiday gift to employees. Though it has been written about extensively, I wanted to share my perspectives as someone that switched from my previous iPhone 3G to the Nexus One.

(Note that enough though I got the Nexus One, the experience will be very similar for anyone switching to a modern Android phone, such as a Droid or any of the cool new HTC phones that have come out recently.)

The wicked awesome

Power widget / battery management – When I first saw the power widget on my phone’s home screen, I honestly didn’t know what it did. There were five icons, which seemed to toggle on/off. But this widget is fantastic, and allows you to quickly turn battery hogs (such as GPS, WiFi, push notifications, etc) on and off. Compared to digging in a variety of various iPhone menus in the “Settings” app, I can quickly change how much power my phone is using.

And it might be my usage patterns, but I get a LOT more use out of my Nexus One battery than I got out of my iPhone. It was getting to the point where my iPhone would barely last until after lunch, where my Nexus One can easily last all day and my commute home. Not only that, but when my Nexus One battery degrades, I can replace it myself!

Google Maps – This app is just amazing. It’s even got StreetView, and I personally think that the StreetView interface on the phone is superior to the interface on the desktop. I find it hard to describe exactly how fantastic this app is, and how useful it can be. Every time I go somewhere I haven’t been before I use this app.

Flexibility – I love the flexibility of the Android platform. Just the concept of adding widgets to your homescreens is awesome. I’ve been traveling quite a bit recently, and I have little 1×1 widgets on my homescreens that constantly update with the latest exchange rates. There are built in widgets to control music, to search (big surprise there), see news headlines, twitter, etc. Fundamentally there is so much more flexibility in what you can do with an Android phone, and I love it.

Multiple apps – The biggest feature I love is that multiple apps can be running at the same time. This didn’t seem to matter that much when I first switched from the iPhone, but I’ve slowly come to realize how brilliant this is for users. I can click on a link in my Twitter client (I use Seesmic; it’s awesome), open it in a browser, get a notification that I’ve got a new e-mail and open the Gmail client, and then switch back and forth with little or no wait since all the apps are running at the same time. It just makes the experience of using the phone so much faster, particularly for “power” users.

The really good

Unlocked – The Nexus One doesn’t come locked to a carrier. While you may or may not have a contract with that carrier which could be expensive to break, the phone itself is unlocked. I really like that.

Form factor & display – The display is amazing, and really vivid. It’s got an 800 x 400 pixel display, which is over twice the iPhone (which has a 480 x 320 pixel display). It feels great in your hand, and it amazingly thin. While I don’t see the need for a trackball, it’s there and has occasionally been useful to select/edit within a paragraph of small text. It’s just a really solid phone.

Speed – The Nexus One is fast. I switched from an iPhone 3G, and the 3GS is probably a better comparison, but I love the speed of my new phone.

Google integration – I’ve been a Google user since it was still hosted on the Stanford servers. I’ve been a Gmail user since 2004, and have since switched to Google Calendar and Google Contacts. If you use *any* of these products, the Nexus One is amazing. The apps just simply work, and work the way you want them to. Any changes sync back immediately, and you can be much more productive. (Certainly much more productive than I was with my iPhone.)

The needs improvement

The Nexus One and Android isn’t exactly a “Jesus” phone… there are some things I wish it did better.

App Market – Searching and purchasing in the App Market is great. Browsing, however, isn’t. I personally feel that browsing for new apps is something best done on the desktop, and that’s not possible with the App Market as it stands. Hopefully it’ll be something that will change someday.

Sync music – So far I’ve been using DoubleTwist, and certainly recommend it. (And highly recommend getting the DoubleTwist app for your Android phone- it eliminates some annoying steps you would otherwise have to do manually when you plug your phone into your computer.) But it’s not perfect and not quite as slick as iTunes is for the iPhone. That said, I think there’s a lot more I can learn and get configured within DoubleTwist, so I don’t want to be too harsh.

Sound/Vibrate – When I first drafted this list, I wanted to point out that there’s no “silent” switch like there is on the iPhone. However, I’ve since learned about the “Ringer Toggle Widget” which is now on my homescreen. It lets you quickly toggle between normal ringer, silent ringer, and vibrate modes. And even though it’s on the home screen, with multiple apps it means you don’t have to quit out of an app to get to it. With all that said, I do like having a physical switch so I can reach into my pocket in a meeting to make sure the ringer is off!

Summary

I love my Nexus One, and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a new smartphone.

But more broadly, I’m now a convert to the Android platform. As the iPhone becomes more of a walled garden, I’m really loving the openness and flexibility of the Android platform. Where there are certainly some user experience things I find a little annoying, overall I love the sense that I can make my phone do what I want it to do, and not what Apple thinks I should do with it. Now clearly I’m biased, not least because I work with a team of engineers who also do Android development and work with the community of Android developers. But the trend toward openness and flexibility is something I really look forward to experiencing in the coming years.

PS

For an example of a video I created/uploaded to YouTube directly from my Nexus One, see below. (It’s MGMT in concert in London this last week… on a side note their next album “Congratulations” should be awesome!)

(Not too bad considering how close I was to the speakers.)

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UPDATE: Keynote to YouTube and keeping cool transitions

i made a step by step series of screenshots here of these notes here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/7601158/Uploading-Key…

and

http://www.slideshare.net/joshuascottpaul/uploa…

Originally posted as a comment by joshuascottpaul on Jed Christiansen’s Blog using Disqus.

A little over a year ago I had been having some problems uploading Keynote presentations (slides and audio) to YouTube and keeping some of the cool transitions between slides. After playing around with Keynote and iMovie for a bit, I detailed a workaround here.

Just a few days ago “joshuascottpaul” put my written instructions into a series of screenshots with everything you need to take a fully-featured Keynote presentation and upload it to YouTube. I just wanted to say thank you to him, and share his work with you below.

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iPhone – Impressions after a bit of ownership

3Giphone.jpg

So I’ve had my iPhone for a little while now, having never owned or used an iPhone or Blackberry before. These are my thoughts:

The Great:

  • REAL web browser. This is just such a killer app. Whether a website has been “optimised” for the iPhone or not, it looks awesome, can be navigated easily, and is pretty damn quick! I use this extensively.
  • App Store: infinite possibilities. I love the potential that’s wrapped up in the Apple App Store. Right now I’ve downloaded a bunch of different applications, though I only use a few regularly. (New York Times reader… awesome when it works!) As the iPhone ecosystem expands, there will likely be more and more very valuable apps here that will make the iPhone much more powerful.
  • Push e-mail. While I have it turned off most of the time (I prefer to get e-mail on MY terms, not on a timer), it is fantastic when I’m expecting something important to land in my inbox. With this, who needs a Blackberry?
  • GPS. This is awesome, especially when I’m out and about in London and need to figure out a) where the hell I am, and b) how to get home or wherever else I’m looking to go. The integration with Google Maps is fantastic.

The Horrible:

  • SMS. Ouch, this is bad. I mean, yes you can text. You can even text multiple people. But you CAN’T save a draft text, you CAN’T setup standard template texts, and if a phone number is wrong, you CAN’T tell the status of a message after it’s been sent. (Or if you send it to one person with a correct number and a different person with an incorrect number, it will throw up an error, but won’t tell you if anything got sent at all.)

    This is really pretty damn bad. They are all features that I used a lot on my old phone, which was a Motorola RAZR I bought nearly THREE YEARS ago. I really hope this gets sorted out soon.

  • MobileMe. I signed up with .Mac when it was still free so I could get the username that I wanted. I’ve paid for it since then, with decreasing value every year. I was initially really excited about MobileMe… push e-mail/calendar/contacts to the cloud, etc. But Apple’s roll-out has been AWFUL. I couldn’t access e-mail at all for the first 24/36 hours after MobileMe went live, it still acts up at times so reliability is still a problem. And then one day most of the phone numbers and a good chunk of my iPhone contacts just disappeared! They were still in the cloud, but no longer on my iPhone!

    Luckily this has since been solved, but I’m still very wary of MobileMe. I hope they actually get it to a point where it’s reliable enough for me to depend on day-to-day.

  • Copy-and-paste. Everyone has been complaining about the lack of copy-and-paste on the iPhone since it came out. I don’t think it’s a horrible issue, but there are times (such as when I can’t forward a text) when I really wish I could do this.
  • GPS. Yep, I listed it as one of the best things, but it’s also one of the worst. When it works, it’s awesome. But there are too many times where it just can’t seem to pick up a GPS signal worth a damn, even when I’m not near tall buildings or other signal blockers. I don’t know what the hell is going on with this, but I don’t like it very much.

So those are my opinions about the iPhone. Overall, a fantastic phone with a LOT of potential. (I can’t wait for the next software update to get rid of the 2.0 system bugs, though.)

What do you think?