Archive for January, 2009

Suggestion of the Day: ack

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 21, 2009
PHP / 2 Comments

If you use grep regularly while you’re programming, try ack.  It’s easy to get setup in your shell account, and takes a short time to get familiar with.  Definitely worth the small amount of trouble.

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Cyberduck Support for Cloud Files and Amazon S3

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 21, 2009
Cloud Computing / 1 Comment

Cyberduck is a nice Mac FTP/SFTP GUI client that I’ve used in the past for moving files around between my desktop and some web servers.  Turns out they’ve added support for moving your files directly to Amazon S3 and Mosso (RackSpace) Cloud Files.  This means that you can use the same tool that you may previously have used for publishing content to your own web server to instead publish content directly to a self-service CDN.  Amazon uses it’s Cloud Front service to distribute files, and Mosso is supposed to be integrated with LimeLight networks for distributing content from the Cloud Files system.

Just wish I had these services available to me three years ago.  They would have saved me some serious cash on bandwidth commits for CDNs for those silly little projects I was working on.

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How to Improve JavaScript Latency in Mobile Browsers

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 20, 2009
Mobile / 2 Comments

Mobile browsers are really coming along.  Mobile Safari is built on top of WebKit and has just as much capability as the desktop version.  Same with Android’s browser.  Blackberry’s browser, I understand, has improved tremendously over previous versions.  The new offering from Palm centers application development around web technologies HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

As more applications and data grow to live in the cloud, then access to them via a browser must be easy and fast, which is often not the case with data on mobile devices.  A web site can take many seconds to several minutes to load all of the content required.  And at the heart of many sites these days lie some common elements — JavaScript libraries.

Personally, I have avoided heavy-weight libraries for mobile application development, because I know that they are a burden to the end-user.  This is less often the case for desktop users, who typically have broadband connections at home or at work.  So what do we do to improve this situation?

I propose that the mobile browser makers (or OS makers, in most cases) embed standard versions of common JavaScript libraries within their browsers.  Google already makes a number of these available as a hosted solution for web application developers: jQuery, YUI, Prototype, script.aculo.us, etc.  Other players, particularly in the CDN space, could also become involved in hosting these frameworks.  Nearly half of the libraries that Google hosts are larger than the 25 KB cache limit in mobile Safari (for example).  By embedding a handful of these libraries, mobile browsers could speed up some of the overhead of mobile applications that rely on Ajax or heavy DOM manipulation.

How would you do this?  Likely by inspecting HTTP requests by URL.  Google’s hosted libraries include version numbers, which allows developers to peg their work to a specific version, not having to worry about quirks in future versions that could upset their apps.  When an application makes use of one of these embedded libraries, the browser can simply execute the JavaScript library without having to make an external request.  If the application uses a newer version that is not embedded in the browser, the HTTP request would proceed as normal.  End users would get a slower experience than with an embedded framework, but that experience would be no worse than we have now.

I’m interested in hearing others’ thoughts about this idea.

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Why Android is Important

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 20, 2009
Google, Mobile / 2 Comments

I was in a conversation the other day about mobile platforms and the topic of Android, Google’s mobile OS, came up.  The general outlook was: new, interesting, but too few devices to be concerned about.

I’ve read a modest amount of material about Android, but the sense I have is that Google is at the tip of the iceberg right now.  Sure, only one device has been rolled out to date, and only through T-Mobile (bleegch).  But more devices seem to be in the works, currently abroad, but certainly more in the United States soon.

The thing that is interesting, however, is that this is an OS that is (or can be) geared for devices other than cell phones, including netbooks, TVs, and kitchen appliances.  It has great reach potential, which has not been demonstrated (yet) by other players.  That is something to be considered by developers who are thinking about the next big mobile application to develop — because you might just find yourself playing Scrabble on your fridge while you’re waiting for the water to boil.

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David Lee Roth Ringtones

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 16, 2009
Misc / Comments Off

Can you spell, “awesome”?

So we’ve been playing around with the David Lee Roth Soundboard all week, and honestly, it might be one of the funniest things I’ve seen in the last few years.  I figured the best way to continue enjoying Diamond Dave’s amazing vocals after this week is out would be to take these on my phone… yup, as ringtones.  So, for your enjoyment, the links below are for m4r (iPhone ringtone) and mp3 files.  These ringtones all come from the vocal track for Van Halen’s Runnin’ with the Devil.

Download or Play Ringtones

Aahhaaaaahhhaaa yeeeaah whoohooooo ooo ooo m4r mp3
Aahaaahh yeah yeeaaaaah yeaaah yeah m4r mp3
Ooh god, oh god I’m running aaahhhh yeah m4r mp3
Oooooooaaaahh yes m4r mp3
Yes I aaaamm m4r mp3

Let’s face it… these are ridiculous.

How to use

For iPhone users, you should be able to add these to your phone by saving the m4r files, then importing into iTunes: 1. open iTunes, 2. select File > Add to Library…, 3. select the files from wherever you saved them.  Connect your iPhone and check the “ringtones” tab to make sure you are syncing ringtones from your library to your phone.

If you have something else, you might be able to use the mp3 files for ringtones, but don’t ask me how. :)

By the way, thanks to Chad for giving me a heads up on how easy it is to make these for iPhones, and “davak” for the tech recipe with step by step instructions.

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Mobile Connect: Call for Speakers

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 14, 2009
Mobile / Comments Off

TechWeb announced their Mobile Connect conference, which I’m playing a very small part in helping to organize.  The call for speakers is currently open through Jan 31 if you’re interested in being a part.

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Ladies and Gentlemen… John Goulah

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 12, 2009
Friends / Comments Off

John Goulah is a good friend of mine from Heavy where we worked together a couple years ago.  John is one of the best developers I’ve worked with, and we always clicked as friends.  He is an expert with LAMP environments, where the “P” stands for either Perl or PHP.

John kicked off his own blog this weekend which I wanted to promote.  His first post is a good one on branching techniques using SVK or Git.  Give it a read.

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Selecting a Mobile Web Site Domain: Choose Wisely

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 08, 2009
Mobile / Comments Off

I recently did some research on the web addresses (or, host names) that companies use for their mobile web sites.  Turns out, there are quite a few varieties.  That isn’t helping anyone who is trying to find on of these sites on their phone, which can be a painful experience as typing is more difficult and network latency (for mobile) is high.

This all stems from a discussion I was having recently about one company in particular who uses the subdomain “pda” for their mobile web site.  “pda” seems to be somewhat of an outdated name for mobile devices.  I’m not even sure that the “pda” subdomain was ever in vogue.

What I came to understand is that the term “pda” was used heavily by the company, maybe stemming from internal use.  I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before — corporate vernacular turns into marketing speak.  Often, the only people who understand the lingo are inside the company.  On their own web site, this company referred to their mobile site as their “mini browser”.  For me, a “browser” is a piece of software and not a web site.

I initially assumed that “m.example.com” and “example.mobi” were becoming the heavy favorites in this area.  When I started digging around, I also found some other URLs that turned up frequently: “mobile.example.com”, “example.com/mobile”, “www.example.com/m”, “iphone.example.com”.  The last is obviously device-specific, but worth noting.

The term “wap” is also used by some companies in their hostnames (“wap.example.com”).  It stands for “wireless application protocol”.  This is not very consumer-friendly acronym, and should be avoided.

I also looked at a list of “top mobile domains” (I forget where I found this) and the sites that came up were:

  • m.google.com  (google.com/m and google.com/mobile are also used for some of their mobile services)
  • m.twitter.com
  • m.cnn.com
  • m.flickr.com
  • m.yahoo.com
  • m.myspace.com
  • wap.aol.com/moviefone/  (I don’t know how anyone would guess this one)
  • restaurantrow.com/avantgo  (“avantgo” was one of the original mobile products back in 1998-ish)
  • mobile.answers.com
  • foreca.mobi
  • weather.mobi  (also hails under “xhtml.weather.com”, which is another terrible acronym to use in a domain name)

Notice some of the trends here?

The mobile industry is still quite young.  Usage of mobile sites is on the rise.  To be found, companies need to make sure they select the right URLs for their mobile sites.  Help out your customers — don’t buck the trend.  Additionally, you should be casting your net wide.  It’s not technically difficult to pick up three of four of these URLs and forward them to your primary URL (and I don’t care what your IT department says, it’s not).

My guess is that within two years, you’ll see 90% of mobile sites operating under “m.example.com” or “mobile.example.com” (“m” being short, it’s easier to type on a little bitty keyboard).  These will stick with consumers the same way that they figured out what URLs were back in the ’90s.  Remember the first time you saw “http://” somewhere and thought, what the hell does that mean?

With any luck, I’ll be able to find your mobile web site in one guess of the address.

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A Review of Mobile Web Sites

Posted by Mike Brittain on January 08, 2009
Mobile / Comments Off

mobiThinking put together a panel of mobile marketers to review some of today’s top mobile sites. Their reviews and quotes provide a lot of good insight for anyone building a mobile presence.

Best and Worst of the Mobile Web

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