Programming + Design

Why didn't I think of that?
Written by Brett Brewer   
Saturday, 14 August 2010

From the dept of "Why Didn't I Think of That?" comes yet another useful site:

It's just a page of links to the latest versions of the most common open-source script libraries hosted on Google. The developers added convenient "copy" buttons for all the major script libs that you can just click to copy the relevant javascript library includes to your clipboard for easy pasting into your web pages. Not a game changer, but a handy site to bookmark anyway. Contains script src info for jQuery, jQueryUI, Chrome Frame, SWFObject, MooTools, YUI, Ext JS, Prototype, Dojo, and and show the number of times each has been copied, giving you an idea of the relative popularity of each library. No surprise, JQuery is vastly more popular than any other JS framework. After several years of somewhat serious javascript work, I can confirm that JQuery makes me wish I'd never heard of Prototype and when I first started working with JS libraries. Anyway, check out the next time you're wondering what the Google CDN locations are for any major JS lib. 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 August 2010 )
Two Android Apps for Easier Typing
Written by Brett Brewer   
Thursday, 12 August 2010

I stumbled across a couple of neat apps for my Android OS phone (HTC Incredible) that offer two new approaches to speed typing on a touchscreen.

The first is called Swype (UPDATE: It's not actually available yet for the HTC Incredible or most other phones). It allows you to slide your finger from one letter to the next, tracing out a geometric shape with your finger as you do so. This allows words to be recognized by the shape you trace out on the phone's screen as you slide from letter to letter, so you theoretically don't need to be as accurate, so long as you're consistently innacurate. I've read some reviews of Swype and people generally either seem to love it or hate it. The demos I saw made the software look somewhat sluggish at recognizing words, and if it's not sure about the word you still have to choose from a list just like the word recognition built into the standard AndroidOS keyboard. Here's a video that shows how it works:


The other app that aims to make typing easier is called ThickButtons . ThickButtons watches what you're typing and tries to increase the size of the letters you are most likely to need next. For English and the romantic languages, it actually doesn't require much processing power to do something like this since most western language words have common prefixes and word stems. Anyway, it seems like another decent idea and most reviews I've read seem fairly positive. Check it out the video:

Of course, I haven't tried either app myself. I try to avoid typing on my phone at all costs, but I plan to try them both eventually and report back. Maybe I'll even start typing more on my phone.

UPDATE: I have finally gotten around to trying ThickButtons on my HTC Incredible and I definitely like it. Anxiously awaiting the arrival of Swype. 

Last Updated ( Saturday, 14 August 2010 )
Avast once again my favorite free antivirus program
Written by Brett Brewer   
Tuesday, 03 August 2010

Earlier this year I stopped using the free Avast antivirus program that was once my top pick for free antivirus software in favor of a relative newcomer, Avira Antivirus. I switched because I was having trouble with Avast and ClamWin conflicting with each other and Avast missed a web-based exploit that infected my computer after I clicked the first link in a google search gone bad. However, recently Avast revamped their free product and got rid of a few annoyances, including the inability to play nicely with ClamWin. They streamlined the free registration process so you no longer have to wait for an email, you just fill out a very short form inside the program and you're done. Kudos to Avast for being one of the few antivirus makers out there to actually improve their product over time. So, in lieu of a real review on the competing options, here's my short list of free Antivirus software for fall 2010:

  1. Avast Antivirus free home edition
  2. Avira Antivirus  (free version displays a single ad for the paid version each day) 
  3. ClamWin  - A windows GUI version of the excellent Linux ClamAV project....I run it alongside my main Antivirus. 
  4. Microsoft Security Essentials  - This is the official free antivirus/antispyware program from Microsoft and it is surprisingly good. You'll need a valid copy of WindowsXP or higher to run it, but I run this alongside my other both Avast and ClamWin and it sometimes catches things the others don't.  

And of course here's my short list of anti-spyware progs:

  1. Safer Networking's SpyBot Search & Destroy  
  2. Lavasoft AdAware - since they are making the free version increasingly hard to find on their site, here's a link to it on 

 So what are you waiting for. Protect yo-self before you wreck yo-self. 

HTC Incredible Beats iPhone 3G in CNET People's Choice Prizefight
Written by Brett Brewer   
Monday, 07 June 2010

CNET pits the HTC DROID Incredible against the iPhone 3GS and determines that the Incredible is "The best phone we've seen". The kicker, just like I've been saying since the release of the iPhone, was call quality. Going into the final round, the phones were essentially tied in terms of overall features, construction, performance, etc. It was that crappy AT&T network that lost the iPhone the top spot. That's the #1 reason why I don't own an iPhone. Of course there's about 10 other reason that are just as important to me, but the #1 reason is still that it runs only on the horrible AT&T network. 

Check out the full prizefight on YouTube.

Last Updated ( Monday, 07 June 2010 )
This IS the Droid I'm looking for.
Written by Brett Brewer   
Wednesday, 02 June 2010
My Droid "Incredible" arrived yesterday. So far it has lived up to almost all my expectations. One of the first things I did was check out my own web site with the built-in Chrome browser. I went straight to my music section to see if Steve Jobs was right about Flash not being viable for smartphones. Well, my Flash based audio player works fine. Too bad for all you iPhone users out there....Flash works fine on a mobile OS. Strike another victory for open source platforms. Steve Jobs can get bent. According to him, I should have to waste my time rebuilding a 5 year old web page just becuase his OS can't play back the single most ubiquitous media format ever invented? Me, rebuild a page for the iPhone that has been working fine on every other platform for over 5 years? I think not. Apparently Steve Jobs' hubris is just as vast as his genius and when he's wrong, he's big-time wrong. Every day now I'm seeing further proof that Google is going to teach Apple the same lesson Microsoft tried to teach them a decade ago. Don't piss off developers...embrace them and make their lives easier. Too bad Steve Jobs was so busy blazing new trails in digital movie making at the time that now he doesn't remember what happens when you start dictating things to developers from high atop an ivory tower. They leave and make your competitor's products way better, really fast...faster than you would believe if you didn't witness it yourself.  So, despite having a few good points in his anti-Flash tirade, Steve Jobs has basically only disserved himself and Apple by disrespecting one of the single most influential groups of technologists on the planet -- veteran web developers.  Johnny-come-lately web developers out there seem to think HTML5 will magically work better than HTML4 which still isn't even fully implemented in the newest browsers, while those of us who have been around a while know that Flash is the single most ubiquitous piece of software ever distributed and is a totally viable and useful platform for a variety of purposes. Even if nobody ever made another Flash video, Flash would still have dozens of other uses for which there is no other ubiquitous alternative. It's not going away now any more than it was when Adobe tried to kill it with SVG and "Live Motion" a decade ago...they ended up buying Macromedia just to own Flash and then they completely fumbled the ball by failing to address some of its shortcomings. Now, if anything, I see Microsoft Silverlight being a bigger threat to Flash than HTML5  over the near term for the same reasons that Flash did so well....precisely because it's closed offers a way for developers to implement things in a web browser that couldn't be done before due to inconsistent implementations of competing technologies by the browser makers. It will be no different this time around with HTML5. HTML5 will result in a more fragmented market for a while. Maybe in 5 years it will work right in 80% of browsers. Flash won't be disappearing, at least not in the near term. You're gonna pay Stevie and so will your stockholders and your increasingly sandboxed iPhone/iPad userbase. As for me, my money is on Google and the Android platform.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 02 June 2010 )
iPhone OS drops to #3 behind Android and Blackberry
Written by Brett Brewer   
Monday, 10 May 2010

Last week I took the plunge and finally ordered my first smartphone. I went with the HTC Incredible, which runs the latest version of the Android OS. I was hoping the iPhone would come to Verizon in time, but I gave up waiting and now I'm even happier that I went with the Android OS -- according to a story posted on Slashdot today, the iPhone OS is #3.

Seems to me like Apple is quickly painting itself into the same corner it always does. Regardless of the whole Flash controversy, developers really don't appreciate the way they are being manipulated and manhandled by Apple. Developers are being told they can't use particular development tools such as Flash even though Adobe spent the past year creating a way to compile Flash apps to native iPhone apps, thus negating the whole need to run Flash on the iPhone, but Apple killed that, saying they won't approve any app that was not created on their platform with their tools. So, developers are also being forced to buy a Mac even to run the development tools. Then they have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get an app added to the iPhone app store, assuming it doesn't compete with one of Apple's own apps or contain some feature that Apple doesn't want users to have. I see the beginning of a massive market slide for the iPhone as more and more developers focus on the truly open Android platform.

Apple has done this kind of thing every time it gains a foothold in a new market and it has always hurt them in the long run, forcing them to come up with yet another new market for another new gadget every couple of years just to stay ahead of all the bad will they create by taking an "Apple knows best" approach with the geeks who ultimately influence decision makers. I can see corporate customers moving completely away from the iPhone in the next 12-24 months as developers jump on the Android bandwagon. Of course, Apple's never had this much cash in the bank before either, so maybe they will be able to throw enough marketing money at the problem to prop up their platform for years to come, but if it remains a "closed" platform I wouldn't be surprised if the iPhone platform ends up becoming a small and shrinking niche within 3 years. Consumers are already somewhat annoyed about Apple's strong-arming the publishing industry (Amazon in particular) to increase pricing for e-books to coincide with the release of their iPad. Apple is always making enemies out of those who should be their's nothing new for them. I suspect that the Apple koolaid won't taste so good once there's a bunch of other comparable devices available on open platforms.  

Remove BING toolbar from Firefox in WinXP
Written by Brett Brewer   
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
I recently installed some software that gave me no option but to install the BING toolbar alongside it. I assumed I'd be able to remove it from Firefox via the Firefox addons control panel, but couldn't find it. I then checked my add/remove programs control panel and couldn't find it listed. It turns out it's called "Search Toolbar" (or something simlar to that...I wasn't paying attention before I uninstalled it). The uninstaller has no Microsoft branding to clue you to it's purpose. MSFT is obviously trying to make it difficult to remove the BING toolbar by hiding their branding and naming it something other than "BING Toolbar". Typical. Just another reason not to use BING.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 30 March 2010 )
YouTube killing IE6 on March 13, 2010
Written by Brett Brewer   
Wednesday, 24 February 2010

In keeping with my tradition of IE-hating, I just noticed this post on SlashDot claiming that YouTube is stopping IE6 support on March 13.

Can I get an A-MEN?!

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 24 February 2010 )
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