Windows 8

By Pete | @kingpetey | 03 Aug 2012

With all the negativity around Windows 8 I've not been in a rush to try it. Being a Mac user I already have a great OS and last week's upgrade to Mountain Lion again reaffirmed my allegiance to the Apple ecosystem.

Apple got a lot right with iOS, the security, the simplicity and the app ecosystem. We've seen a lot of these features ported back into OS X in Lion and Mountain Lion. Microsoft is going for a more radical approach of designing an almost brand new interface called Metro and making it the heart of Windows 8.

A lot of the criticism of Windows 8 revolves around Metro and how it's central to the OS, yet does so much differently from previous versions of Windows. We've seen hints of Metro in Windows Phone and in the Xbox interface which I've never liked - it's small annoyances like giving a four way input controller the option to go 6 ways.

Installation was very similar to Windows 7 and took around 20mins through Parallels.

Once rebooted you enter a few details and you're presented with the Metro desktop.

  

On the bottom left there is a link to the desktop, this takes you to a desktop that is very similar to Windows 7 but without a start menu. You can get back into Metro at any time via the windows key (cmd in Parallels).

Metro integrates with Facebook, Live Messenger, SkyDrive, Xbox Live and a number of other services. Feeds for News (below), Weather, Maps, Travel and Finance are automatically included by default.

      

Any additional programs you install that would normally appear in the Start Menu are added to the Metro Interface instead. All settings that were previously in control panel are integrated with Metro.

    

    

Metro is quick to use but takes a bit of adjusting to get use to, I like how you can easily get to it at any time through the Windows key. By rearranging icons within Metro you can quickly customise it to your work flow. As more developers integrate with Metro I imagine it will get stronger and stronger.

I will admit that I'm a fan of Metro, it's a refreshing change for Windows and coming from OS X it's good to see the simplicity that Windows often lacked shining through. 

With Windows 7 and XP It was hard to argue the benefits, in the past ten years we've seen so many great new features in OS X, from time machine, dashboard, mission control, expose and spot light yet you couldn't really say the same for Windows. With Windows 8 Microsoft had to try something different and whilst some parts work well with other parts don't.

Back in 2001 when Apple released OS X there was uproar, OS X did things differently, in a lot of cases it did things worse than OS 9 and did a lot less. Many of the Apple faithful resisted the move for years, yet today could anyone argue that those hard decisions were not for the best?

Microsoft is at the same cross roads now, it knows it has to do something different to stay relevant and keep up with the competition, it has to make hard decisions that it knows will upset some of its core audience.

Yet hopefully what will come from it is a much smarter, simpler OS, it will take time and I imagine at least another Windows release but the changes Microsoft are making now will set them up for the next decade, to compete with the likes of Apple and Google.

We've already seen parts of the puzzle come into place with the launch of Outlook.com, Skydrive and Metro. It's a massive gamble and one that I hope works out for Microsoft.

Digg Sale

By Pete | @kingpetey | 16 Jul 2012

With the sale of Digg.com last week it seems like the end of an era, a site which before Reddit, Facebook and Twitter is where I spent a lot of time online. A site where ImAFish got its first big break into mainstream blogging.

Digg 'died' a couple of years ago with the failed launch of v4 sending many of the users to Reddit however I would say a lot of my success on Digg back in 2007 has motivated me to keep blogging today and has been crucial in the work I do on other blogs including Iraq Business News and more recently Love Shrewsbury.

It's always sad to see such a key website lose its way but without Digg (and many of the concepts behind the site) the Internet would be very different today.

Draw Something Pictures

By Pete | @kingpetey | 07 Apr 2012

Some of the best Draw Something pictures I've either drawn or have been sent:

It's ten times harder to build your own website. With a customers site you can find out exactly what they want, make suggestions of what they could do and come up with a specification covering the site plan, design, structure etc.

When building your own website however you already know what you do as you do it every day yet it seems a whole lot harder turning that into an appealing website. 

As with most of our projects we turned to our designer to put together the graphical elements. We've been slowly building on our marketing material over the past 18 months with folders, business cards and more recenltly our brochure so we had a good selection of branding material to base the design on.

Next we turned to our copy writer to help turn what we knew so well into content that would be informative and appealing to the reader. We spent a lot of time working through every paragraph to minimise the jargon and waffle.

Finally we needed to turn the design and text into a website. We went through several iterations with some of the finer elements, the block at the top that fades between services took us especially long to get right.

The end product we hope showcases the business in the way we want it to be seen, the balance between professional and business IT services works well and compared to the local competition we feel we've got a really strong offering.

Let me know what you think and find out more at www.info-sol.co.uk.

 

Here are some of the projects we completed at The Web Orchard in 2011:

AAIB Travel Insurance

The worlds first travel insurance website for people visiting Iraq & Afghanistan. We built a complex quoting, purchasing and policy generation mechanism allowing for the easy purchase of online policies.

www.aaib-insurance.com/travel

Build It International

The Shrewsbury based charity manage building projects in Zambia. We built a Drupal based content management system allowing them to easily update their website with the latest project news.

www.builditinternational.org

Alfaevac

Jordan based Alfaevac provide evacuation services to some of the most remote regions of the world. 

www.alfaevac.com

It's a nomad life

Shrewsbury based Its a nomad life sell a range of tribal art and antiques. The Web Orchard provided a Drupal & Ubercart based E-Commerce system.

www.itsanomadlife.com

Smoke & Pickle

Smoke & Pickle are a Shrewsbury based fine foods producer. They turned to The Web Orchard for a content management system to help their online presence.

http://www.smokeandpickle.co.uk/

Severn Magazine

A new exciting magazine for Shrewsbury. The Web Orchard helped bridge the gap between printed magazine and online publication.

www.severnmagazine.co.uk/

Iraq Business News Marketing

We've been working with Iraq Business News for almost two years now, in Oct 2011 we built a microsite specifically for marketing.

www.iraq-businessnews.com/marketing/

Be part of The Web Orchard 2012

Find out more today: www.theweborchard.com

Following on from my post at the weekend about Responsive Design, a fellow blogger Tristan Bettany has emailed in his example for detecting either the iPad or the iPhone and the screen orientation.

It uses a small amount of PHP to detect the device then CSS to detect the orientation. Copy and paste the following into the head of your page.

<?php
//Functions to check user agent for iPad, iPod, iPhone
function iPadCheck(){
return preg_match('/(iPad)/', $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT']);
}
function iPhoneCheck(){
return preg_match('/(iPhone|iPod)/', $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT']);
}

//Set correct css files based on detected device
//orientation property supported in mobile safari to change layout on rotation
if (iPadCheck()) {
echo'
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (orientation:portrait)" href="iPadPortrait.css" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (orientation:landscape)" href="iPadLandscape.css" />
';
} else if (iPhoneCheck()) {
echo'
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (orientation:portrait)" href="iPhonePortrait.css" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (orientation:landscape)" href="iPhoneLandscape.css" />
';
} else {
echo'
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (max-width: 1199px)" href="minDesktop.css" />
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (min-width: 1200px)" href="fullDesktop.css" />
';
}
?>

The script detects the device then includes the associated stylesheet depending on the orientation.

Any questions add a comment.

AttachmentSize
Package icon Apple Device Orientation Example4.56 KB

Responsive Web Design

By Pete | @kingpetey | 22 Jan 2012

Responsive design is the idea that web site layouts should change based on the users choice of device. Depending on the users environment the design may adapt to the screen size, platform or orientation. 

I've put together an example that you can use in your own web sites. Look what happens when you resize the page horozontally in your web browser or on your mobile.

View now - Responsive Design

Feel free to inspect with Firebug and copy into your own project where suitable.

It uses a condition to tell the web browser which stylesheet to include:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (max-width: 660px)" href="1col.css" />

In the above example we are saying to include 1col.css when the media is a screen and the maximum width is 660px.

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="screen and (min-width: 1000px) and (max-width: 1200px)" href="2col.css" />

Here we are saying to display 2col.css when the media is a screen, the minimum width is 1000 pixels and the max-width is 1200 pixels.

Any questions I will try to answer in the comments.

Update: When setting the viewport you might want to detect the device with PHP first otherwise the viewport will be set too small on the iPad.

 

An Updated Path

By Pete | @kingpetey | 03 Dec 2011

Back in November 2010 a new iPhone app launched with a fair amount of publicity called Path, its aim I thought was to link together the various social networks making sharing easier; besides did we really need another social network platform? Path's ideas didn't feel complete and as a consequence apps such as Instagram filled the void for cross network sharing.

Last week Path 2.0 was released, tech journalist MG Siegler summed it up nicely and I agree that what really stands out was how well thought out and designed the updated app is. 

With Path 2.0 you can now share anything, from photos, messages, location, music or even when you're sleeping. 

A really nice touch is when you scroll through you path, the way the clock spins as you go back and forward in time. 

The new Facebook application has so many features, there are so many updates from people, companies, organisations, news sites that its easy to get overloaded, Path doesn't feel like it suffers from this clutter.

When web development moved into the Web 2.0 era the empathises was on the interface detail, I'm not talking about gradients and big margins but the way design and JavaScript could be used to make small usability improvements. We saw the same sort of improvements in OS X over its iterations, Path feels the same and I hope it ushers in a new movement in app design.

Path 2.0 feels a fresh start, its simple, well made and a pleasure to use - now I just need more than two friends using the service. Path is available for iPhone or Android. 

www.path.com

We've had a busy week at The Web Orchard with three of our projects going live:

Tuesday - Libya Business News

With the National Transitional Council putting together an interim goverment the oil rich country will soon be a hive of business activity. Based on the sucess of Iraq Business News, getting over 100,000 monthly visitors, we were asked to design and develop the platform for Libya:

www.libya-businessnews.com

Wednesday - Sports Booker

An exciting midlands based startup has developed online software allowing gyms, personal trainers and a range of other sports activities to take bookings and payments online. We were asked to develop a website to help demonstrate how easy to use and powerful their software is:

www.sports-booker.com

Friday - It's a Nomad Life

It’s A Nomad Life is an ecommerce website showcasing an eclectic collection of globally inspired goods from the ancient Neolithic period to the edgy 1980’s. Using Drupal and Ubercart we developed a sophisticated ecommerce website allowing easy viewing and purchasing of products as well as an easy to use administration system allowing for quick management of products.

www.itsanomadlife.com

To see what we can do for your website - visit us online or call 01743 367927!

Tim Barnes and Simon Berry, both 24, have raised almost £600 for The Alzheimer’s Society with a 24 hour podcasting marathon.

The podcasters, both from Shrewsbury, began their marathon at 10pm on 27th September, recording and releasing a new podcast on the hour, every hour, right through until 10pm on Wednesday 28th, with no sleep.

Tim and Simon’s Podathon gained an army of followers across the world and found itself on iTunes, as one of the top 20 comedy podcasts in the country, by the time the marathon had finished.

 “We like to keep our shows light and funny, the real challenge for The Podathon was keeping the podcast funny when we had been awake for 30 hours” said Simon, of the challenge.

The pair, who recorded The Podathon from Tim’s flat in Shrewsbury, have set a target of raising £1,000 for The Alzheimer’s Society.

“£600 is a lot of money, but we know we can raise more, if every listener donated just a pound we would smash that target to pieces, and probably raise a lot more” Said Tim, of the money raised so far.
Tim and Simon are already successful in the podcasting world with their other podcast ‘Tim and Simon’s Brain Spill’, which has now been downloaded around 100,000 times and has itself been featured on the iTunes podcast page.

For more information on how to donate and to listen to The Podathon itself, please visit www.timandsimon.co.uk/podathon.

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