Archive for the ‘Software Development’ Category

Award winning promo site for flat TV

Monday 29 June 2009

I am going to congratulate my neighgbour who works at Tribal DDB. They have created an amazing video and site to promote the new Philips Flat screen TV‘s with an aspect ratio of 21:9. The movie itself is 2:19 long and contains the number 2:19. Watch the movie below or even better browse to the Carousel site to experience more detail and augmented reality.

And see how they did it:

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Content Management Vendor Map

Thursday 5 March 2009

CMS Watch released a new vendor subway map. A great to track who is who in the content managament vendor landscape.

cms-watch-subway-map-2009-large

Click image above to open a larger version.

Tilt sensors and accelerometers

Wednesday 4 March 2009

ihandyOne of the cool features of the iPhone and iTouch is the tilt sensor. Turn the device and your screen turns from portrait into landscape mode. The motion sensor is capable of detecting very small movements. A simple free application iHandy can detect very small motions and also without motion the device can tell the angle at which you hold the device.

The technology making this possible is called Microelectromechanical systems or MEMS. A relatively new field of electronics combining electronic circuits with very small moving parts embedded into the circuitry. Accelerometers used in the iPhone is just one type, other include pressure sensors, temperature sensors and mirrors to redirect light. MEMS technology is used in a wide array of applications for domestic use such as motion stabalizers for camaras, inktjet printers, automotive airbag sensors, gaming controllers (Wii), step counters and indeed motion sensors for mobile phones and other personel electronics. 

The basic principle used in a MEMS motion sensor is a small section of silicon that can move relative to another section of silicon. By embedding conductor material on both parts and applying a voltage to them you get an electrical capacitor. The capacitors electrical property varies with the relative position of the two elements. And since one can move a variation can be detected and processed. A bit similar to the workings of the car detection loops in the road, although they use the capacitors electrical twin brother, the inductor.

If you are interested in the technology and more applications you can read the not so short introduction to MEMS.

Credit crisis explained

Friday 27 February 2009

Having difficulty understanding what a CDO or a CDS is and why they affect your life? Have a look at this great explanation:

and another less graphic but equally entertaining and well done more focussed on CDO:

website performance during breaking news

Thursday 26 February 2009

crashBreaking news makes people turn to the internet for every bit of latest information. This causes enormous traffic spikes in news websites that report on the event and on organisations that are directly related to the event. After yesterday’s crash of a Turkish flight in Amsterdam we saw a multiple fold increase in traffic in one of the news sites we monitor. 

For the schiphol.nl site I estimate traffic yesterday was at least 100 times the traffic of a normal day. Handling such amounts of traffic requires special planning. Tweaking performance is then often not enough and placing excessive hardware is too expensive. An alternative option many websites have ready is to switch your website to a secondary state. Your pages should contain less content, must be simpler to load with less images, scripts and css. Also get rid of dynamically composed pages, make use of a small set of static pages you refresh each minute from your Content Management System. That way even a simple architecture of a few front end web servers must be capable of serving 100 pages per second. It also helps when you website is hosted in a professional hosting facility where there plenty of room to spike in network traffic. Hosting providers like Terremark are now experimenting with cloud type infrastructures where you can get capacity on demand.

 Schiphol put up a special site within one hour of the crash. This means this must have been part of their emergency response plans. So a job well done.

schiphol-term2

Website performance during a emergency situation requires you to plan ahead. You will see website visitor traffic levels you have never seen before. If you are a news organisation this is the time people need you most, be sure you are there for them. If you are an organization involved in an emergency situation, your brand is at risk, having adequate and available information on the Internet is of crucial importance. Handling these amounts of traffic is not very difficult, but it requires different setup and tools you normally use. So make sure you have them ready when you need them. And test them regularly to make sure they still work when you need them.

GMail outage and reliability

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Gmail has had an outage today. Being at home and doing some private business, this is a reminder just how accustomed I have become to this service being operational always. Internet connectivity has become a basic utility just like electricity and water. And this happened in a time frame of about 10 years. I got my first ADSL connection back in 1998, obtaining, activation and configuring the line to work was still an experience rather than something which happened daily.

The regular post is a system we have can rely on most of the time, it just works. GMail has the same promise. What we often do not realize is the technology and experience to run these online services is relatively new and experience is not easily found. Google has invented its proprietary architecture to run its search and many of its other services. They make heavily use of three concepts:

  • small units, that are easy to replace
  • redundancy, when one part of the system fails an other can take over
  • compartmentalization, when a failure exists the cause can be easily identified

Incidentally the normal post system uses the same principles to handle the enormous amount of letters each day.

The pioneering work from Google is now becoming a available from commercial vendors and service providers as well. Nick named cloud computing, the complete physical layer from the infrastructure has become an abstraction that well… just works. Always.

Choosing good passwords

Sunday 22 February 2009

passwordAuthentication on personal computers and on the internet is done mostly by using passwords. Other methods are available but for reasons of usability (too complex) and or cost (too expensive) still not widely used. Computer authentication has two goals; one is to keep strangers from using your account in and the second goal to allow you to login. The effectiviness of authentication using passwords is mostly determined by how well you choose your password. A bad password is one that is easily retrievable either by knowing the person (for example by trying spouse or cat name) or by running  a dictionary attack

The recent proliferation of the Conficker worm and the hacking of MySpace showed once again that many people are not very good at choosing a password that is effective. One of the ways the virus spread is by trying to authenticate by using a list of 200 common passwords; the list is public. If your own password is in this list or looks similar to words on this list I suggest changing your password.

Choosing a proper password is not difficult but requires a bit of thinking and creaitivity. Some excellent advice on choosing good passwords from Bruce Schneier. More interesting information on statistical analysis of the passwords used on phpbb.

The rules of the garage from HP

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Hewlett Packard started out in a garage. HP is now going back to their roots, by posting “the rules of the garage”. I like them:

HP Rules of the garage

HP Rules of the garage

Did not know the agile manifesto had a predecessor. Source: Alen Zeichick blog.

Steve Krug on usability

Tuesday 16 December 2008

One my favorite software development books is “Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug. It is a book that everybody even remotely involved in creating applications or websites for users should read. Practical and down to earth advice in how to approach the difficult subject usability. 

Steve gave a presentation  on the Business of Software conference this year. His presentation is now available as a video on blip.tv. A bit dry on tone, but great on content. Besides it nice to hear him speak and explain about some great and not so great examples of web design. If you have never seen eyetracking software at work watch around minute 14:00 and onwards, gives you a feel how people actually look at pages. In fact more scanning than looking.

More information and links on usability in webdesign at the usability first site.

LinkedIn new search platform

Wednesday 3 December 2008

icon-linkedinThe success of the networking site LinkedIn is by a large degree a result of its great interaction design. The network effect does the rest to leverage their investment in interaction design. Interaction design requires many trade-offs and choices. Good interaction design is not something that happens by sitting at your desk. You need to constantly monitor what works for users and what does not and change your interaction experience accordingly.

The LinkedIn web interface has gone through many iterations. The most recent upgrade are the search capabilities. Rather than explaining them here have a look at the Announcing LinkedIn’s New Search Platform post on the official LinkedIn blog. It shows how LinkedIn analyzed user behavior and modified the experience to deliver an even better experience to its end users.