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Building Your Own Site? A Few Strong Words...

This post is aimed squarely at those people who are business owners, having a go at making their business website whilst having little or even no web design experience. Amazing tools such as Realmac Software's RapidWeaver, Karelia's Sandvox or maybe Wordpress (plus many more) make this more possible than ever. I have been responsible for quite a few answers to questions on boards like Realmac Software Forums and get pushed further and further towards the following collection of thoughts. They may well be viewed as harsh, but that's not the aim. I really want people to use their time in the most productive manner possible.

The General Issue.

Business owners doing their own website building, should really focus in the right place. They worry about trying to take on a designer at their own game, with little or no experience, whilst having simple access to awesome design from some amazing RapidWeaver, Sandvox or Wordpress theme developers.

Do you seriously think that's something you can beat these people at? I really don't, honestly. The placing of 'this image here, and a bit more space there' is unlikely to be what will make your site successful at what you need it to be. That part is all about pleasing yourself, not your visitors. The website should be there for your visitors. Do you buy in all the stock for a shop that you like regardless of whether it sells? No, you look at what your visitor's are going to want to buy, and try and make sure that's what you have.

Don't always spend your time working from a 'blank sheet of paper' approach when you really don't need to. People are afraid of themes. Why? Someone else might have a site that looks similar somewhere on the web, but does that actually matter? When was the last time you visited a website and thought "I'd like this if I hadn't seen something like this before"? I'd suggest virtually never! If someone makes a website look incredibly close to a huge site like Amazon, eBay (you really don't want to do that anyway do you?!), Apple or the BBC, then maybe that would notice to some. But that's really where it stops.

So, what should you be focusing on then?....

CONTENT!

I know I'm shouting with the styling of the title above, but I seriously feel like I need to!! This is the very things a business owner knows about their business, and can really get into their site. They know what their customers are looking for and/or buy, and what information or goods they are therefore trying to give access to. Get your mind solidly on this, and use a generally good looking theme, and you'll do better than putting your efforts into competing on the design front where you will not be at your strongest. Keep your site easy to use. So many strangely awkward sites are made by people struggling to get something close to some image they had in their head without the skills to even know whether their ideas are a practical target in the first place.

Put much time into the content that will attract visitors and keep them there. Imagine yourself as a customer visiting. You know what they normally are looking for don't you? Think how they would use your website to get that information, and supply the info and make it easy to find. Try not to concentrate on 'telling them what you want them to think', it's close to being the web equivalent of shouting at them! If you can furnish your customers with what they want in an easy way that makes the experience positive for them, you have happy customers with a positive view of your business.

Now, isn't that the point of your website in the first place?
Comments (1)

Android Tablets or iPod Touches:- Practical Uses.

Hello all!

A few months ago, we decided it was a useful idea to have something that made support and minor development tweaks possible, without having to take about £1k of MacBook Pro about to places where I wouldn't have my eyes on it, and the public nearby. It's not just the size (the 13" MacBook Pro is hardly a monster) but the cost in money and time/hassle of loosing my main machine with all the work and private information on it.

My first purchase to this end was a second-hand first generation 8GB Apple iPod Touch. Super-simple to set up in terms of email accounts, browser bookmarks, Address Book settings, calendars and more. Small, great battery life, and with the added purchase of FTP On The Go, ready to get in there! £70ish for the unit, about £10 spent on apps, & £10-15 spent on extras.

Downsides:- Very small screens (3 inch) are not the best thing to try and access a Direct Admin control panel on, and the small touch keyboard isn't practical either. Not easy to answer emails or support system threads on either. It really does take too long to do very much except read messages.

Fun sides:- Loads of great time-wasting games to be had! From the inimitable Angry Birds from Rovio Mobile (hugely popular and addictive). My son fell very quickly in love with this great little unit, and several of the great games we had on it. The Nintendo DSi was immediately relegated to second place for mobile/portable gaming! Not something we expected. He soon was using it more hours a day than I was, and would ask for it the minute I got home!

We decided that with various things being improved on the later iPods and iOS4 (which the first generation iPod touches won't run) that maybe an upgrade/update would be beneficial, but how much? Was there another option, maybe less game oriented (to reduce my son's possible involvement!) that would be in a reasonable price bracket? iPads were not an option here, as I'd end up taking around something that was getting too similar to the value I wasn't wanting to risk, and without file management to boot.


WebKarnage.net in Android Browser
Screenshots taken by the M003 using the eye button in the menu bar!

In comes the Eken M003 Android v1.6 based tablet! Just less than £90 for the unit I chose, 8" screen (800x480) 128MB RAM, 600MHz CPU, 1GB internal storage, and good connectivity. These are available on eBay from a good number of China based sellers, we had a delivery time of just 8 days, arriving in perfect condition. I added for now an existing (existing in my possession) 2GB microSD card to it's dedicated slot. It still has a USB2 port which takes storage, keyboards and as it turns out mice too! The Android 1.6 operating system that comes installed, is very visual and logical to operate (many similarities to iOS as you would expect) and reasonably well rounded for basic computing (web browsing, Documents To Go for office docs, email, Youtube, Google Maps & more).


M003 Connections
L to R:- Power, MicroSD, 30pin Apple style, Headphone, USB2

Initial experiences were OK. Touch screen unsurprisingly not to the Apple standard at all. More pressure required, and both slower and less accurate too. Looks fine though, and dealt with Youtube videos, Google Maps and web browsing rather well. The zoom out to get web pages to fit the 800px wide screen (when held in landscape) was very practical, far more so than on the smaller iPod screen. The stated 1-2 hour battery life was very quickly proved to be incredibly conservative in most of my use, with the system telling me I had 46% battery left after 2 hrs 30 mins of use! A bit of a negative is the lack of a really good sleep mode in the system, meaning that if you aren't going to use it for a while, shutting it down it the only real option.


App Market on M003
There are more than games available.

Adding new applications brought some interesting points. There was an App Market app on the M003, but this was not the Android Market, but another 3rd party one! Here we start to see Google's version of 'open' they were trying to make a big noise about. Apps available (even when free) in the Android Market it would appear are not allowed to be available outside the market once out of beta. Not quite so open as Google would like you to believe.

Games on this machine would be the only real disappointment, not really for me but as far as my son is concerned! The response isn't really all that quick, and the processor and memory are probably not enough to go with the screen resolution for gaming. The iPod has this machine well taped when it comes to gaming. Maybe getting one with 256MB would make quite a difference, and certainly it would seem the 10.2 in bigger brother (mentioned again later) would be a much better match. I can't speak from personal experience.

I thought exploring the options of the USB connectivity would then be important. USB keys of various sizes proved to be very good! Finding free apps on the web for Android on another computer, and using the USB key storage for transfer was very straightforward. Installation was too. I also managed to download packages directly from both it's App Market app and the browser and install them.

Next I thought I must try using a keyboard. Wow! Now we're talking! Not just fast typing, but a mouse pointer on the screen that can be moved using the arrow keys on the keyboard, with return to click the virtual left mouse button. Browsing the web now becomes very quick and easy! The old Packard Bell keyboard I had plugged in for the test had a USB port on it to add a mouse. Well, it would be churlish not to wouldn't it?! One Microsoft Intellimouse later and I was operating something that felt much more like a full computing system than I had any right to expect. The scroll wheel actually scrolls down selectable items rather than normally down the page, but still useful for sure. Touch screen clicking and scrolling can also be used simultaneously, making this feel very slick in all.

The FTP app I had found, AndFTP is one of the most responsive apps on the device and very well thought out. The cost? Free! Brilliant and generous work from Lysesoft. Really works well from our tests here. Combine this with the File Browser Android has, and things are really good.


Apple.com
Apple's website in the Android Browser.

The fact that the Android operating system gives you simple access to files on USB devices and it's other storage makes things so much easier than on the iPod, the comparisons for this type of work stop being worth making. the iPod has been left a long way behind. Yes, the newest iPod Touches will probably use the Bluetooth Apple keyboard, but just look at it's price. Roughly 2/3 of the price of the M003.

Don't forget that the only way I can make these price similar, is to buy a old iPod and a new M003. A new iPod Touch 8GB here starts at more than the 10.2 in screened big brother of this M003 that also has 256MB RAM, a 1.1GHz processor and runs Android 2.1 as well. This is actually the machine I would suggest most people wanting mainly web development and surfing should actually go for, as long as the extra size isn't prohibitive.

I have now ordered a few more cheap extras, a flexible silicone USB keyboard and a 32GB microSD card being among them. I could go on for far too long on how well these little chaps work. Very competent for what we needed at WebKarnage, but not for the world's gaming community. My son now has the iPod Touch, and I have this Eken tablet, both of us feeling we have the unit that suits us best.

What should you buy? Well, that totally depends on what you need the unit for. I expect many will love the iPad (my sister certainly loves her's) but that's not right for me, as was referred to earlier. Many of you might have an iPhone (I'm not more than doubling my contract to get one) that will do for you, but it won't compete for me with a larger screen + portable keyboard. Would I buy the exact model I have for children wanting to play games? No, you want either a similar one with more RAM (it's not upgradeable by the way), a faster processor, or both! You will have to decide for yourselves.
Comments

Battle lines everywhere..

Everywhere I look, companies aren't happy just positioning themselves per se, but seem to feel it vital to be positioning themselves against another company, or opposite them. Apple seem to be one of the main favourite targets for this negative campaigning here, with not just Adobe, but Google spending much of their effort earlier this year positioning themselves against Apple.

Doesn't this effectively spend much of your companies energy and capital publicising someone else? Apple for example, weren't the first to have a mobile platform not supporting Adobe's Flash, no-one else did at that point either! Adobe saw the massive growth of Apple's platform, and rather than making tools directly for that platform, tried to use negative sounding publicity to get Apple to take Adobe's proprietary platform for Adobe's benefit. That was quite a hiding to nothing, and only made more people aware of HTML 5 and Apple. Own goal on Adobe's part? In my opinion, YES!

Google then talked so much about Apple at the Google I/O this year, it was quite astonishing. Popping at Apple for not supporting Flash, and then not showing an Android able to run Flash on a mobile device. Adobe and Google getting together to make a kick-ass solution from Flash and Android would do this in a positive way. OK, so only if they can do it, and I think it would take proprietary hardware like is out there for H264 video, but surely that's not impossible? Adobe could have looked at this a few years ago, and Apple might even have been quite likely to get on board. Not now. Hardly convincing is it? It almost backs up Apple's stance!

Look, I know this is looking very 'pro Apple' right now, but that isn't my point, and Google do some amazing stuff nearly all of us use every day. I'm looking here at the effective or otherwise outcome of negative campaigning or causing a battle. I really think it so often doesn't work. Surround your company in negative campaigns and guess what? People start to associate your company with negativity. It's just a subconscious thing.

Get into positivity people, and stop doing yourself a disservice with crass negativity. Just saying something is crap is rarely a real opinion, and usually a lack of one. Reasoned positivity will get a good vibe going around you and/or your business.

WebKarnage.
Comments

Coding Languages, How Many Do You Know?

Are you a heavy coding type? Do you happily write HTML and CSS? Maybe you take it further into programming style languages like javascript, PHP and ASP? This has become more of a point of consideration for us recently. As the coder in the team, it all falls to me to make the technology work for us the best I can. The big question I'm feeling is,

"By spreading yourself thinner (learning more languages) do you dilute your focus too much?"

Now I understand there are people out there who don't just design websites but take on the building process without much coding knowledge if any, and that's a contentious thing in itself. In a bigger team of people, your designer can work with others that have coding knowledge and there is little point in duplicating the skills the team already has access to, but how about the freelancer?

We've always felt that some knowledge is pretty much vital when taking on the website of someone else's business and accepting payment for doing the job. There are so many pitfalls that can be avoided from some knowledge particularly of the basic structure of an HTML document, and the contents of a CSS file. We are not stating that someone who can't hand-code a site can't build one, I've personally seen too many good sites put together by people who aren't proficient coders to say that, but those neglecting to understand what type of things the head of the document usually has in it and the like, are not taking their job seriously enough for my money.

For our thoughts, even that's not enough, and I am happy enough coding HTML in a text editor (Espresso on the Mac is our current favourite) and also CSS, but that's not the end of modern web pages is it? How many web pages out there, are built without any inclusion of javascript? Not exactly a high percentage. OK, so it is commonly said amongst developers that pages including javascript should function without the javascript running, so you could claim that it's not quite as deep in the 'core' of web pages, it's just additional 'behaviour', but is that just taking the easy way out?

I have been working on my javascript knowledge of late, and with how different this is as a language, I'm beginning to wonder what good I'm doing for myself. I have used many javascript 'plugins' without knowing any javascript code over a number of years, relying on plugins based on libraries like jQuery to give us the results needed by only understanding how to tie this into the HTML document. Does understanding the basic syntax of javascript really help here? Not so far to be honest. This ends up feeling like you're spending time knowing how to make a clock when all you want is to wind it up and tell the time.

This just sounds like wasting a little time perhaps, but by doing this are you trying to squash too much into your headspace and time? Are you going to weaken your focus on what you do really well? After all, no-one can be everything to everyone.

That's the concern here, and while I'll be pushing on with this for a little while yet, we're keeping aware of this as I go along. I am responsible for a lot of the visual design and layout we have to do (far less often photography and copywriting etc) and must make sure none of this focus suffers as I try and move forward in any other areas. We can't afford any weakening as a small outfit in what is working for us to add something that we can't see any benefit from as yet.

As the work into web programming languages deepens to PHP too, we will keep up to date on here as to what we feel the consequences are.

Please leave comments as to how you all feel about this, as I'm sure it's very different for different folks. While I'm far from worried about diving into coding, it's amazing how different languages feel like they do or don't work with your head/thinking, and HTML has always felt easy, and javascript really not here.

Best,
Karn @ WebKarnage
Comments

New year, more blogging? More something else? What about Fresh Thinking?

Hi all! Karn back on the loose again.

Wow, it's been a long time since my last post, far far too long really. I always think I should put more posts up, but about what? Should I just post anyway?

How many times have we all read posts about the value of 'good' content and regular new content being good for your site and profile? Many many times in truth. Isn't that just a symptom of a glossed over issue? How much of this 'good' content being posted everywhere is actually fresh content? Is most of it the same 'advice' as we have seen in almost the same guise somewhere else...

This is a dilemma that stops me from posting more. I'm not going to find someone else's great advice, re-package it and call it mine 3 times a month. There are already many people doing this, and don't mis-understand me, it's not all wasted time as it does spread the message, I just worry when I see whole blogs with no fresh thinking: 'How many more of these do we really need?' It's not what I want this site to be seen as.

We have all been made well aware of lots of IE quirks, like the 32 linked sheet limit (still happening in IE 8) and many more, but how many times can we be told these things before we think of the blog saying it as an 'also typed' and ignore it? There are some brilliant large resources out there I respect hugely like Sitepoint (whose podcast I have had the privilege to produce on a semi regular basis of late). With serious resources like that out there, what's the point of me repeating them in a small blog? Collated good resources are far more useful to us all.

Getting more software specific, there is the awesome Realmac Forum with loads of information regarding RapidWeaver and web design in general. Even there when answering questions you can find you are repeating yourself several times in one day. Do I need to be repeating that stuff here too?

Perhaps I am setting myself the impossible task of fresh thinking in my blog, but that's what I wanted it for in the first place. It's not here just to drive more random traffic to the site or increase my page ranking a bit. I wanted it to speak of my personal vision of things without just repeating what I've already said in other places. Is that just being too fussy?

The big thing I find myself repeating is the idea that web design isn't DTP, although the number of people I see trying to treat it as such is increasing all the time. Apps like iWeb that are wonderful to make a simple personal site actually increase that perception with those trying to move past it's limitations and seem to leave people shocked to find that every app doesn't just work that same way. I feel that the average visitor has less patience on the web than with any other type of media, and if the information they want can't be found double quick, then they are off back to the Google search to find another site.

Getting the most picturesque layout gets very nice responses when you ask how it looks, but who actually notices that when they are looking for the information on the sites they visit with a purpose? It generates an almost subconscious feel for the owners of the site, but that only get's a chance to be a positive thing if the visitor hangs around for long enough. If in a stubborn effort to stick to a design the SEO is significantly compromised (large amounts of text as images for example) then what is the design worth if no-one can find the site to read it?

How can we move ourselves to fresh thinking if we spend our time repeating on forums and then do the same thing in our blogs? Doesn't sound like a positive move forward to me. Newer methods like FontStyler allowing a wider range of fonts and looks that work in all major browsers give us new design options that inspire, we just have to make sure we keep the importance of getting the information across isn't lost in the use of all these great new technologies.

I am looking to give myself a new focus in web design and coding in 2010, as are others I know. I think we need to make sure we are not going around in familiar circles at the end of this new year. Let's burst out of this loop and make a break for it! Make 2010 a year for fresh projects and fresh thinking!

All the best,
Karn @ Webkarnage.
Comments

Will I ever learn not to penny pinch?

Hi all, Karn main tech @ WebKarnage here.

This is a typical story of hardware frustration where you try and save a bit of cost, and end up with no result and a huge time cost to go with it!

The problem to be solved:- Easy wireless Time Machine backup for all users in the house so no-one can forget to do it.

The secondary aim:- Spend less than buying the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station & the HD, or a Time Capsule.

This doesn't sound too difficult does it? The hard drive cost will be the same, I just need to beat the cost of the Airport Extreme B.S. of around £130. I find a great deal on a Netgear DGN 2000 802.11n Wireless Router, now I just need a little unit to make the USB HD (in this case a 1TB Toshiba drive) 'talk' to the ethernet port of the router.

At this stage, everything still looks good, but looks can be deceiving. I find a Belkin F5L009 Network 5-Port USB2.0 Hub which looks the part, and between that and the Netgear router, I've only spent just over £110! That's not too bad is it? Now, all we have to do is get it all working.....

I have set up many Netgear routers with little trouble, and this proved to be the same. The networking was a little quicker than the previous g+ (108Mbps) unit, with a stronger signal reaching certain areas of the house too. Brilliant! Another step completed. Using the same network name and password as before, and copying the mac addresses across, means everything connects without a hitch.

Now, on to the Belkin Network Hub. Here is where the 'fun' lies. I connect the Toshiba 1TB HD to it, load the software for the Network Hub and connect to the disk. The icon wasn't coming up at first, so I double-clicked the HD in the app, to see it connect then disconnect in a flash, leaving me unable to re-connect without a re-start! Oh well, let's not do that again for now and move on. There is software on the disk, which I decide to copy to the Mac for now (only later to realise it's nearly all MacAffee Antivirus for the PC and delete 98% of it) so I can re-format the drive to HFS+. I thought I'd test it, and try and format the drive whilst connected through the network. After a little time, the connection to the HD was dropped, and I couldn't re-connect. Sod it I thought, so I connected the HD directly to the Mac and sort the formatting. I also downloaded the latest software I could find on belkin.com and installed that.

Reconnected through the network, I tried copying some files to the disk. 60MB or so into it, the connection to the HD was lost, re-made quickly, leaving the system looking at 2 copies, neither of which I could eject, so I had to force the Mac shutdown with the power button in the end. Changing drive didn't help any either. Wonderous!! Several full system lockups later (hadn't had any of those for a good long while) I was considering if it would make an attractive door retainer....

While tweeting my evident frustration, @Belkin asked if they could help. My details were passed on (with system and issue details ie. drops connection to HFS+ drives) and I would apparently get contact Friday. Late Friday, I had contact from the head of Customer Support for Europe, just to ask where I was, I replied in 10 mins, and that was it until Monday. Obviously that was an easy way to move me from the list until after the weekend! I then get another email, merely asking for my telephone number. I supply that, and then wait while the week disappears.

Friday I finally get a call in the short period while I have to turn the phone off during work in an audio studio!! Geez! I go through the usual automated nonsense at lunchtime trying to call back, and then eventually speak to Paul (nice enough chap) and tell him exactly what was in the original email sent to Belkin about 9 days before, that he had been forwarded. Sound efficient to you? No, it doesn't to me either. He then tells me his team for Belkin in Europe have produced a newer driver a month or 2 ago, and he would send me a link to it. Would that have been tricky to do last Friday? No, not in the least. Well, that was a lot of wasted time for both him and me.

So, I download the new software, and I can immediately transfer much larger files to the drive without a hitch. Ahhh! Much better!. Now for the 'acid test'. I decide to get Time Machine going. I haven't backed up for a few days, and set it off. It takes a very long while to prepare, then starts transferring 4GB of files. I feel we're on the right track, and tweet the happy news, and even send a message to Paul saying the driver appears to work on Mac OSX 10.5.7. I periodically check on the progress, and wander off at a point where it has got well past the 3GB point. Suddenly as I start to answer a forum question, the connection to the drive is lost, Time Machine crashes and I get the official message to hold the power button down to turn off the computer! Boy did I get happy too soon!

Re-booting, I decide it got a long way, and I'd try to do this again. After 40 mins of 'preparing' Time Machine decides to try and backup the remaining 572MB of files. This process is also running the MacBook hot and the fans are going like crazy, even though it is transferring files so much slower than normal!! I am now looking at it failing to go past 1.6MB, but as Time Machine doesn't tell me which file it doesn't like, I'm gonna have to connect directly again to finish the job.

This is a seriously inefficient app you are forced to run to 'talk' to this Belkin unit, and it doesn't cope well with large data volumes either. I have now wasted over 6 hours messing with this unit, and that equates to about £3GBP/hour for my time and it's not finished yet. The connection just isn't solid enough, and the resources it takes to do a relatively slow data transfer are nothing short of astonishing. Even if I do get this unit to work, it has already not been a good decision.

So, the conclusion? I use an Apple computer because of time efficiency and solid results when using it beyond the basic. Why the heck did I think avoiding the Apple solution was going to be good value this time? Sure, if it was only a Wifi connection, the Netgear is cool, but using a drive on the network for automated backups is taking it that bit further, and I should have known better. Lesson learnt? I hope I have! Think twice if you are buying new hardware about what you're buying and if saving a few.dollars or pounds will really work.
Comments (3)

The MacHeist Effect

Well, the end of another MacHeist season has drawn to a close. This was our first one, but the third one, held once a year at roughly the same time each year.

What Is MacHeist?

MacHeist is the brain child of John Casasanta (himself an independent software developer) , Phill Ryu and Scott Meinzer. There are many articles about the 'history' of MacHeist, and have a look at their About Page for some details on these three guys known as the Directorate and the Staff who work alongside them. I'm here to write about the after effects of what they do.

The essential MacHeist idea is to entertain the Mac community (referred to as 'Agents') with great online puzzles and games, get them software licenses for completing these (referred to as 'Loot'), building up a huge amount of publicity, all pointing toward a stunning software bundle deal at the end of it all. The publicity this year included a 'reveal show' streamed out live featuring Veronica Belmont, Lisa Bettany and Chris Pirillo (technology correspondent for CNN), extensive use of Twitter (including 2 'Tweetblasts') and offering extra apps for successful referrals to the bundle purchase.

The bundle this year had a retail value of and astounding $1000 or so, with a crazy price tag of $39. Then, 25% of all takings are given to a list of 10 charities, with the purchaser able to choose their portion's destination, either one sole charity from the 10, or equally between all of them. Agents involved from the start ('The Giving Tree' in late December) could get a total of over 60 apps through taking part and buying the bundle, all for the one payment.

After Effects.

So what ripples are left in the Mac software pond after all this is over? The MacHeist community is huge (over 300,000 members) and 88,000 or so bundles were sold this year. Obviously, developers are supplying huge numbers of licenses for the money they receive, but they are brought to the attention of many more users, and sales of other products they have usually benefit significantly. The users taking part get to try complete pieces of software without short or otherwise limited trial restrictions, and get extra assistance from a very active forum community in MacHeist. The 'Loot' licenses are often only for a MacHeist version (may get updated a few times), but all bundle licenses are the same as those bought direct from the developer's website.

Some developers are dealing with many many thousands of new users, without the amount of revenue that would accrue from that number of sales normally. That sounds a little negative at first, but would anywhere near that number of users have bought the software otherwise? No, not at all! The user base has been significantly changed, and the word of mouth recommendations that will come later when people ask the MacHeisters 'what do you use for this job' will be significant too. Against that you have the serious increase in support the developers have to deliver just after the Heist, and some detractors would claim a devaluing of the software too, although we don't buy that argument, having bought Pixelmator after recommendation from someone who got it in MacHeist 2. We didn't think it had devalued it at all.

All this puts lots of productive software in the hands of people, many of whom are productive with their machines. I also think the cash injection into these indie developers has to help their software move forward, and with an extended user base, hopefully with far more constructive feedback to help the direction too. Given the number of developers returning to MacHeist from one year to the next, they must feel this works for them too.

What does this mean to WebKarnage?

I have been thinking about how this changes things for us here. We are now the proud owners of several pieces of awesome software that we not only would have shied away from in terms of cost, but some we simply weren't aware of. Kinemac is one such piece of software. Brilliant 3D animation with a price tag of $300. This will definitely get used during the year. BoinxTV is another.

Espresso is possibly the most directly related piece of software the bundle contained. This is MacRabbit's new web developer's and web designer's complete text editing and coding tool. It includes the FTP client side of things, as well as live previewing. We have been spending some time with this app, and feel is certainly shows potential, but isn't quite what we expect for a version 1.0.1 which it is at at time of writing. Too many obvious issues unresolved as yet, possibly the release being hurried to coincide with the MacHeist bundle release. V 1.0 was only released one day before the bundle reveal after all! Many on the MacHeist forums were hopeful of Espresso's inclusion in the bundle (I was one) so there should be quite an increase in Espresso users from this. But due to the hurried nature of it, I hope it doesn't provoke a kind of negative impression being spread out that has long term effects on MacRabbit's reputation.

All in all, I think this has added to the possibilities we have available to work with in quite a positive way. As it stands we remain working mainly with RapidWeaver, Taco HTML, CSSEdit and Cyberduck directly for web site files, Pixelmator, Picturesque and Image Well for images plus BannerZest Pro, Art Text and more for other additional work, but Acorn has some nice features (web export) Process for project management (across the network, it particularly useful), Espresso, Kinemac and BoinxTV as mentioned earlier and more. These are now apps we will seriously consider future paid updates for, that we would never have owned otherwise. This is the whole idea of MacHeist in action.

We wait to see the effects on several developers, but for us it's been great, and we look forward to MacHeist 4 with anticipation.

Karn @ WebKarnage.
Comments

Safari 4 Beta, other Betas and support for them.

Hi all!

Been a long while, but we need to put a few thoughts to you about Beta browsers and developers/users responses to them. This was all brought into a new focus when, just a couple of weeks ago, Apple released the Public Beta of Safari 4.

Wow, what a browser, but what an even more amazing response to it! Let us try and put some perspective onto this, which we think shows how unique the response to this Safari Beta has been.

Internet Explorer 8 Beta has been with us for a while, and has some users, but not really a noticeable amount from the view of the world of development and support, and with Microsoft's track record of changing things dramatically after the release of a Beta, who could possibly afford to put work in to support it, only to have to redo that work in the near future? All developers were turning out the standard response of "We don't support browsers while in Beta". And why wouldn't they. Standard practice we all say, then....

Apple release the Public Beta of Safari 4! The Mac world in particular goes rampant on it, getting Safari 4 reaching over 1 percent of active browsing in a matter of days! In todays market, that is an unheard of response to a Beta, and this isn't just a 'normal' beta from the Mac perspective either. Safari 4 Beta replaces some core parts of the system, namely the WebKit system used by not just Safari, but apps like RapidWeaver (web authoring), DEVONnote (information gathering + browsing), LittleSnapper (screen and web shots with library and browser) and more besides. Other browser plugins were affected too, like 1Password (auto form filling & password generator, a constant companion to many Mac users).

What would be the response? Would we see the expected "We don't support browsers while in Beta"? Not so in this case. A matter of hours, and a little article was produced be Agile Web Solutions on how to get 1Password to accept being used by Safari 4 (a simple plist edit), and in less than 48hrs an update could be downloaded with a permanent fix. These solutions were made public through the use of Twitter very quickly. RealmacSoftware, not far behind, were quickly at work on fixes for RapidWeaver. RapidWeaver uses the WebKit system extensively for previewing sites during building. This meant some internal code changes. The first available fix was again a matter of just a few days. LittleSnapper seemed to work straight out of the box. This is just a quick look at 2 particularly 'on the ball' developers, and more responded too.

What a different response to a normal Beta release! We have to say we find Safari 4 Beta to be at least as stable as Safari 3.2.1, and perhaps this also was part of the reason for such a good reception and a phenomenal take up. It also seems to reduce the system resources required while increasing speed of rendering. For those of us doing web development, there are also awesome tools to help troubleshoot websites including some Javascript debugging. All without any extra plugins required. We even noticed there are significant improvements in the Windows version, running well even on some old machines we tried it on.

Does this set a different standard for Beta release, or is it just a one off? Time will tell. we haven't seen a response quite like it.

WebKarnage
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Cross Browser Testing... Getting Easier?

Hi one and all!

This is just a few thoughts on how the movements and growth in the internet might have an effect on the work we all do trying to get our pages to render as best we can on all platforms.

We are now seeing the evolving world of browsers gathering pace, with Internet Explorer 8 (from now on referred to as IE8) gathering pace and looking like a significant improvement over IE7 (OK, we all know that's not the greatest challenge, but it is still progress), Firefox 3 curing some long standing anomalies of Firefox 2 along with great speed improvements. Although some issues with Flash 10 and Firefox 3 appear to be surfacing at the moment, I can't believe they will be long lived. Safari use is on the increase, particularly in the mobile sector with the success of the iPhone, and Opera is common place on mobile phones and even in consoles like the Nintendo Wii as well as a solid browser on both Mac and PC. Linux is now available easily as a pre-installed system on budget PCs with Konquerer providing the browsing power. The percentage of users still brandishing IE6 is dropping month on month so we are regularly informed. Could this be significant for those of us developing websites and tools for this job? Could our life be about to get easier?

The thing that strikes us, is do we know how much the actual numbers are changing? If the numbers of IE6 users remain fairly static, or at least not in fast decline, wouldn't we see this change in percentage due to sheer numbers of other internet users being on the increase anyway? Even those of us who have been on the internet for a number of years, if we compare the number of devices connecting to the internet in our homes now with 4 or 5 years ago, hasn't this changed dramatically? From one computer on the internet in my house, we have 3 computers regularly on it, one occasionally, 2 mobile phones that can (but rarely do to be fair) and even a games console with the ability. All these units fed by a wireless router. This in a household with 2 adults and a six year old. I don't know how typical this is in a worldwide sense, but it is typical of our wider family and friends. What other support do I have for this idea of fast growing numbers? How about the increased number of Apple Macs being sold, and the crazy uptake of the iPhone not managing to push the Safari user numbers to where those sales would suggest? That would suggest the numbers as a whole are growing strongly to compensate.

Despite the growing number of theme and application developers wishing to drop support for IE6, I have a strong sense we will be dealing with it for several years yet. Certainly more that we wish to believe anyway. Would that really be the end of our troubles of it did happen?? Not a chance! IE7 is here to stay for a long time yet, and with Microsoft never following standards too closely (after all, wouldn't do to admit they should have done it 10 years ago would it?) coupled to more and more competing scripts to fit into your webpages there will always be many a challenge to overcome.

We must try and keep a clear view of the reality of the situation, not try to make things fit how we wish them to be. Here, we think that reality will include IE6 for the foreseeable future, unless you wish to alienate a significant percentage of visitors.

WebKarnage.
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Google Indexing Flash...

Hi Everyone!

Google has now stated it is crawling Flash content in their Blog HERE. There is still the same caveat, that it only reads text and not images. SWF files are read, but not FLV (like YouTube) files as they contain no text.

How will this change things for SEO? Not massively for most of us, but it will help to push the use of Flash forward. This will lead to some more interesting sites, but some more garish ones too! It will be intriguing for me to see if this changes how programs like BannerZest construct their code or not for our advantage. It will surely please Adobe, who have improved Flash considerably in the last few years.

Our other hope at WK, is that smaller useful applications creating Flash (like BannerZest) will be inspired to push their boundaries as their use base may well increase. This with the inevitable upward speeds of the internet itself, will keep us all on our toes to provide the websites our clients want.

WebKarnage
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