Archive for December, 2011

December 30, 2011

Back to the Future–Predictions for 2012 in Tech

by Auri Rahimzadeh

A couple more days and it’ll be 2012. What a year! Let’s take a look at some new tech happenings from this year that got us pretty excited, and bummed, too:

  • Microsoft’s overall software reputation appears to be a lot better this year, with huge adoptions numbers for Windows 7… congrats on a great product, guys!
  • Windows Phone Mango (hey-oh! they shipped a great product, but it needs some company love!)
  • Android Ice Cream Sandwich (and the laughs that it was [legitimately] only on one phone!)
  • Plasma finally went on clearance, and good riddance (Sasha’s gonna kill for me this one)
  • iPads as laptop replacements (only to be carried around with keyboard cases)
  • AMD Fusion APUs (finally, low power processors that don’t suck)
  • *Still* no good office applications for Android
  • Large HDTVs are finally affordable *and* green
  • R.I.P. Steve Jobs – we will miss you

And here’s what will probably be declared dead in 2012, or so I hope:

  • Standalone portable game systems – who needs ‘em now that even media players run Android, have dual core processors, and play games from the Market?
  • Blu-ray 3D
  • Non-glasses-less 3D in the home
  • Non-LED backlit displays
  • Windows XP
  • IE 6, finally (although they’ll probably stick with IE8 and up)
  • Windows CE-based handhelds
  • ThunderBolt®/LightSpeed® ports on average consumer computers, with USB 3.0 being used instead
  • Google+ – does anybody use it?
  • Any iPod with a capacity under 32 GB

Things I’m looking forward to, or hoping are created this year:

  • Our 10th year in business – YES!
  • Windows 8, especially how it will run on ARM
  • Better Windows Phone advertising by Microsoft
  • Lots of interesting new things out of MS, now that their DOJ shackles are off
  • Windows Live Mesh integration in Windows 8, and a backup plan for using Live Mesh to auto-backup important files to the cloud, for free
  • CES 2012 (Vegas)
  • CEATEC 2012 (Japan)
  • Sprint’s Wi-Max based 4G, and a class action lawsuit for all those who paid the $10/month surcharge for a service Sprint didn’t offer in their area (ahem)
  • An Android interface building kit from Google that doesn’t’ stink, and helps you create great looking apps
  • A web service connectivity API for Android that doesn’t stink, either
  • A free utility to convert Flash to Android / iOS / Windows Phone apps, or at least get you a good way there
  • A free utility to convert Silverlight or Flash to HTML 5-based apps (I think Adobe’s working on this already, and Microsoft might beat them to it)
  • XCode for Windows (and I wonder if it won’t work on Windows8 when that’s released)
  • Superbowl 2012 in Indianapolis! w00t!

If I’m wrong about any of this, we may not be around to complain, since the world is apparently going to end before Christmas next year. Get your complaints in now!

My friend Andy Marken also has a great write-up about 2011 and 2012, which you can read here

December 28, 2011

Microsoft Free Antivirus May Save Your Day (or at least get you a free beer)

I’ve had to remove a lot of fake antivirus software lately. Microsoft has made my life incredibly easy now, thanks to the beta version of their new Microsoft Standalone System Sweeper (MSSSS) software. You download it (link below) on a CLEAN computer – shame on you if you create the boot media on the infected machine – and it walks you through the process of creating a bootable CD, DVD, USB thumb drive, or just creating an ISO file you can use anytime. The latest virus definitions are downloaded during the process, so you’re not instantly out of date, and are updated automatically if you run the install wizard again.

So, even if you’re not stuck with a virus, you probably know someone who is. Trade your few minutes of scanning for a night out, all from some free software from a company that lately is getting back its reputation for writing some darn good stuff.

image

Now, to be clear, this does not replace the need for full antivirus software being installed on a machine. Antivirus / antimalware software is good for keeping your system safe, no matter what OS you’re running. If you don’t want to pay for antivirus, which you generally shouldn’t have to, try the following:

If you’re running Windows XP or higher – and really, you should be on Windows 7 if you’re running Windows – turn on Data Execution Prevention for all programs and services. Right click Computer, Select Properties, then Advanced System Settings, then click Settings under Performance, then select the second option for All Programs and Services, as shown in the diagram below.

image

And, if you haven’t done so already, make sure your Adobe Flash, Adobe Acrobat, and Apple QuickTime (if installed) are fully up to date. It’s often vulnerabilities in these non-Microsoft products that get you infected, not vulnerabilities in Windows itself.

Link: http://connect.microsoft.com/systemsweeper

December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays from The Auri Group!

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to blow your holiday budget on as many gadgets you can get away with buying without getting into too much trouble. Oh, and to spend time with family and friends, and play with their toys, too. Seriously, though, we wish you the warmest holiday season and a happy new year.

If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy it yet, take a gander at our holiday video, or last year’s, or the year before that.

The Auri Group 2011 Holiday Video
December 20, 2011

Interesting Article: The Rise and Rise of JavaScript

imageI’m a big fan of computer history, and especially the history of the Web. Anybody remember LiveScript? Well, folks, that’s what Netscape – remember them? – called JavaScript before they licensed the name from Sun. If you’re only starting to get into JavaScript development, you’re lucky – the beginnings of it were horrible, plagued with incompatibility and lots and lots of swearing.

I came across a great article about JavaScript and its beginnings and where it is now. It’s always good to know the past, which will prevent problems in the future, or so we hope. Enjoy the read.

http://dannorth.net/2011/12/19/the-rise-and-rise-of-javascript/

-Auri

December 9, 2011

CSS Specificity: What It Is, and Knowing the Rules

by Nicholas Bannister Andrews, UX Engineer, The Auri Group

imageCSS specificity is not actually difficult to calculate once you know the rules. And knowing the rules can make it easier for you to construct efficient CSS selectors to target exactly what you want without making the selector convoluted and overly complex. This can lead to properties either matching more or less than what you want them to match.

I learn best by doing so I created a small webapp to calculate the specificity of the CSS styles it is given.

It does not parse or validate CSS, so you should probably use the W3C CSS validator to make sure everything is copacetic. I also made the source code available on github.com for those who like code.

Specificity Rules

I used the rules published at http://reference.sitepoint.com/css/specificity as they seemed the most straight forward and easiest to follow.

The first rule on inline styles I ignore, as my webapp processes stylesheets rather than entire webpages. I personally stay away from inline styles as they can make debugging much more difficult down the road and make style upkeep difficult by multipling the number of places you have to search.

1. If one declaration is from a style attribute, rather than a rule with a selector (an inline style), it has the highest specificity. If none of the declarations are inline, proceed to step two.

2. Count the ID selectors. The declaration with the highest count has the highest specificity. If two or more have the same number of ID selectors, or they all have zero ID selectors, proceed to step three.

3. Count the class selectors (for example, ".test"), attribute selectors (for example, "[type="submit"]"), and pseudo-classes (for example, ":hover"). The declaration with the highest total has the highest specificity. If two or more have the same total, or they all have totals of zero, proceed to step four.

4. Count the element type selectors (for example "div") and pseudo-elements (for example, "::first-letter"). The declaration with the highest total has the highest specificity.

Examples

Now for an example. Say we are comparing two similar style rules that are targeting first-child list elements. The first is: "ul#special-list.inline-list li:first-child" and the second rule is: "div#main-content ul.inline-list li:first-child"

Let’s count the selectors!

IDs

  • Rule 1: one (1) ID; #special-list
  • Rule 2: one (1) ID; #main-content

Classes/Pseudo-classes/Attributes

  • Rule 1: one (1) class; .inline-list and one (1) pseudo-class, :first-child
  • Rule 2: one (1) class; .inline-list and one (1) pseudo-class, :first-child

Elements/Pseudo-elements

  • Rule 1: two (2) elements; ul and li
  • Rule 2: three (3) elements; div, ul, and li

This gives us the specificity matrix of [0,1,2,2] and [0,1,2,3]. Again, the "0" in the first column is for inline styles.

So, Rule 2 is more specific because it has one more element selector than Rule 1 does, while the other columns, for Inline Styles, IDs, and Classes, are all equal.

Now, let’s consider the following rules on level 1 headings: – Rule 1: "#main-content h1" – Rule 2: "body div article section h1"

The first has an ID of "#main-content" and a single element of "h1". The second consists of only five (5) element selectors: "body", "div", "article", "section", and "h1".

Since the first rule has an ID and the second does not, the first rule wins the specificity contest. A higher number in a same or preceding column will always trump any number in following column.

But what happens if they are equal on all columns? Well, that’s easy. The rule that comes last overrides the rules that came before.

Hopefully now, you’re beginning to understand the way specificity works. If not, fear not! Check out the resources below.

References

1. http://reference.sitepoint.com/css/specificity

2. http://www.w3.org/TR/CSS2/cascade.html#specificity

December 5, 2011

Why Aren’t You Syncing Your Stuff through the Cloud?

This weekend I had a rude awakening about backups. You see, I’m one of the rare folks who backs up every single night. My favorite laptop, an HP DM1Z, had a nice, pricey 240 GB SSD in it. The SSD took a dive. No worries, thought I – I have a backup! I use a Microsoft Windows Home Server from HP, and dutifully boot up my restore CD, only to find… I had only backed up the recovery partition. “***t,” thought I! Talk about a bonehead mistake – I never actually verified the stuff I wanted backed up was actually being backed up… I just assumed as much. So all was lost, and you feel really bad for me now, right?

Well, you shouldn’t. Yes, I lost all my original Israel photos and those I took in Japan this year. Yes, I lost my Kindle Fire review notes, and a few serial numbers. But you know what? That cloud thing is awesome. Here’s what I have:

· Microsoft Windows Live Mesh – All my music, important files, and so forth – even my Outlook signatures! – are automatically synced between all my PCs. All I did was sign on and all my files started rushing back to my laptop, ready to use. Note there are no storage limits as long as you’re syncing between PCs. Note that Live Mesh is only one of many great components of Windows Live Essentials.

· Firefox Sync – All my bookmarks, passwords, browsing history, were back on my machine in under an hour. Sync was included in FireFox starting at version 6.

· Windows Live SkyDrive – All the photos I had uploaded were all stored safely online. Yes, I lost the ones I didn’t send, and the online versions aren’t as high resolution, but hey, at least they’re not gone forever. Anyway, I can add my Photos to Live Mesh and not worry again!

· Facebook – Same thing for my photos again, cool. Still crappy Facebook quality, but then again, at least they’re there.

· Google Plus Instant Upload for Android – I may not use the service, but I sure do like the Android app’s feature where all phone images are automatically uploaded to a private album online. Sure, it doesn’t directly relate to this story, but should I lose my phone, I’ll be glad.

So, other than keeping my password as secure as possible, and hoping there’s no big breach of all those services (ahem, DropBox?), all my data is safely backed up in the cloud and on my other computers, automatically, for free. Talk about peace of mind. Can you imagine how this would have turned out ten years ago? You now have no excuse not to be backing up.

Thank you, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, for giving us all free software and services that make our lives easier. I may even click an ad today.

P.S. I still love my Windows Home Server, and you should, too. It’s awesome how it backs up every one of my computers automatically every night. Just make sure you select the right drives to back up Smile