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Grokking SVG

I was researching on generating charts for web pages. Given the great experience in building HTML application, I would like something similarly light weight and text based without the overhead of a binary library like libpng.

Once I started looking, the answer is obvious. It is Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG)! Paul Prescod gave his optimistic view and in his article SVG: A Sure Bet on why SVG would sweep the hodgepodge of proprietary graphics formats in existence. The wikipedia's entry on SVG has a good background and a rundown on many things SVG. My Opera browser supports SVG natively and so is Firefox 1.5. There is free open source editor like InkScape available. Hard to believe it is not used by everyone already! (Insert your favorite IE bash here).

Anyway this really opens a new front for me. I'm excited for the possibility to enhance data presentation with graphics.

2006.02.19 [, ] - comments

 

Mobile User Interface

I have recently commented that a bar code scanning phone can be a great user interface to click an offline hyperlink. Given mobile phones' ubiquity, many people see it as the new computation device that might even supplant personal computer. But an open issue remains, how can we input and output efficiently on such small device? The tiny display and the digit keypad still leave much to be desired. Below is several ideas I have come across over the years.

Voice Interface

Rather than using a keyboard, just talk to your phone and have it talk back! Having worked on interactive voice response systems and speech recognition technology like VoiceXML myself, we know that users hate voice menu. Speech recognition suppose to improve its usability. But is it good enough?

Rapid Serial Visual Presentation

Would you like to read an article with a cellphone? How about a book? If you think this is too much to fit in a tiny display you may be interested in a technique called Rapid Serial Visual Presentation. The words are flashed rapidly on the screen one at a time. It best to see it in action in this video demo from BuddyBuzz. For the impatient, the real action starts around 2:50 into the video.

Offline Hyperlink

This is the idea I have drawn out in the Searchblog's comment. An URL is encoded as bar code. It can be printed and displayed in any location. One can point a cellphone equipped with a bar code scanner to it and have the web page fetched on the phone. The entire experience should be intuitive and seamless. Another commenter has pointed out that a similar technology caller paperclick is already available form NeoMedia, possibly by the way of pattern recognition of images taken from a camera phone.

Miniature Laser Projectors

R2-D2 has one. A projector would be great for showing details not possible on a small display. This Miniature Laser Projectors from Light Blue Optics is touted to be made for cell phones and PDAs. At 3.78 cubic inches with power consumption of 1.4W it certainly has a lot of potential, if not ready for the smallest of smallest cellphone yet.

E Ink

Flexible paper thin roll up display like this one from Philips or these from E.INK? It would be really cool to use your cellphone to connect to Google map and have it displayed on a sheet the size of a map!

2006.02.18 [, ] - comments

 

My take on the Ajax fad

My reaction on the fad of Ajax is posted in a comment to an O'Reilly article Is AJAX Here to Stay?


When people boast with the term 'ajax framework' I sneer. There is no framework in software development sense, no library, no API, no references. Ajax is primary a web applications look and feel. Part of it is a technique to overcome the page by page look and feel of regular web applications. Another part is a lot of client side coding to update the screen and simulate desktop widgets.

Before 'ajax' is coined, we have another term to describe these client side coding - DHTML, a collection of tools make up of HTML, javascript, dom, event, css, etc. As any DHTML partitioner can tell you, it is lots of hard work, trials and error, and hair pulling to get these trickery done. Ajax suggests we do this in a massive scale. Adding cross browser, cross platform support into the equation and you'll find it is not really for the faint of heart.

Now we have some very smart people pushing the envelope of existing primitives and built some very cool applications. Everybody else is trying to follow suit. What we really need is a higher level web application and widget framework to make this sustainable.

Two developments come into my radar screen. Both are browser independent. XForm poise to be the next generation of web forms and it could form the basis of richer user interface. The OpenLaszlo platform allows developers to create applications with the rich user interface. Although it currently requires Flash as the runtime engine.

As much as I like to see a rich user interface, it is also important to keep in the balance with simplicity. I'm rather weary of sending thousands of lines of javascript to be executed on client. It is not the efficiency as suggested in the article that concerns me. It is the complexity of those code that makes me feel uncomfortable.

2005.10.09 [] - comments

 

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