One of the big differences we found between iOS and Android
development, is handling the multitude of screen sizes that come
with Android devices.
The Android solution to this has changed in Android 3.2. Prior
to this, different screen layouts could be specified for small
(~<4 inch), normal (~4 inch), large(~6 inch) and xlarge (~10
inch) screens. In Android 3.2, you can specify layouts based on dp
(density-independent pixel) units.
What we like most is that layouts can be specified for different
available screen widths, meaning that layouts can be
specified for different screen orientations. The YouTube app on the
GalaxyTab does this very well; in the portrait orientation, the
related videos section appears at the bottom, but when switched to
the landscape orientation, this section appears on the right,
making maximum use of the space available.
The android documentation contains detailed
information on screen support, including how to handle screens of
differing pixel densities.
Listening to users considered harmful?. A really great post
with lessons from another industry, but ones that can be applied to
This doesn't mean that you don't listen to
users--because the truth is embedded in what they say ... but
you have to look for the deeper meaning behind what they ask
I've droned on about this topic for many years to anyone who
would listen. Since "becoming" a software developer in 2004 I have
been given a lot of contradicting advice on how to treat
customers/users regarding internal systems, software and general
The general consensus is the that the client is always right, they
are experts in their field and we should make software that they
ask for and move on.
Experience tells me otherwise. Clients may request specific
features be added to a piece of software, because they are trying
to solve a specific problem. This problem, however, may have many
solutions with differing results. Diving deeper will help tease a
better solution out.
Lee Munroe has a nice post about diving deeper into the problem
by asking "why". Ask your client
"why" 5 times.
[...] make sure you understand the root of the
problem and explore all possible solutions before
time and effort is wasted.
The customer (read: user) doesn't always know what they want and
the developers first instinct should be to understand the
underlying problem, rather than getting started on the
I have always found spending time with the users as they use the
system can be very useful for seeing how they use a
system, which can be vastly different from how they should
be using the system. By learning users habits and techniques for
accomplishing tasks, we can really understand how to develop simple
and intuitive tools to help them solve real problems.
Always ask why. It can't hurt.
There is a theory doing the rounds about the
global financial meltdown and it goes like this: the western economic model requires
growth but there has been no "real" economic growth for
the last ten to twenty years.
And, ten or twenty years ago, government, staring impotently at
an unstoppable but gradually emerging recession, looked in
desperation to the financial sector and wondered if that could help
stimulate the economy. The financial sector eagerly responded and
speculating with savings in the way it used to gamble only with
As "real" growth further tapered off,
western governments leaned heavier upon the financial sector which
in turn asked for leeway so it might devise ever
more complex money-creation schemes.
Competitive deregulation resulted
and soon the economic system transformed from its historic
reliance on traditional "real" productivity to its new dependence
on very cheap credit created by banks. This mutation is sometimes
referred to as "the
financialisation of capitalism".
The arcane financial instruments that were created by the banks
to generate all this growth
became farcical: In the US, subprime mortgage loans were
split up into bits and pieces that were strewn in with fragments of
better assets. The contaminated bundles were then passed off by
the banks as low-risk collateral. As the poor quality
components were ignored, these securities obtained greater leverage
than they should have, propounding the original exposure.
And that was just the start of it: sub-prime has been estimated
as a $1.5 trillion bubble. In 2008 an organisation known as
the Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance estimated
the total size of all the credit bubble devices to be $1
Money was magicked into existence with no regard to the
underlying risk. Cheap credit flooded everywhere. Attitudes were
engineered: consumption of pap for debt was positively enforced by
media. And over and over this went.
In 2007, gradually at first then all at once, US subprime
mortgages defaulted and their backup securitised collateral was
realised as the junk it was. When the securities were called for
the edifice cracked apart. As Warren Buffet might say, the tide
went out to reveal Lehmans, Iceland and Ireland swimming naked.
The system never recovered. Doubtful confidence wavered then
The same tide has ebbed out and flowed in several times but it
has taken several sudden outward heaves and has generally receded,
revealing in its wake a banking or sovereign debt disaster in every
What looked to us like growth was actually the financial system
creating debt - and lots of it. The entities that own that debt are
other banks (i.e deposit holders) and pension funds (i.e
anybody) and private holders (e.g. Roman Abramovich/Apple) and
other countries (e.g. Japanese NTMA-equivalents) and so
on. These entities have "wealth". All the money in the
world, really. And they want that money instantiated. And they, as
they have "wealth", have influence.
So these organisations will be paid and if European sovereigns
are subjugated in order to achieve that, then so be
We are now faced with a triple crisis: First, the credit bubble
has burst. The west had gotten very used to easy credit. Some
people leveraged assets bought with borrowed money for more
borrowed money, inflating secondary property bubbles, creating
employment and government revenue all round. Now with all the
credit dried up, and the bubbles popped, we are left with a huge
gap between government spending and tax revenues. So a reduction of
structural deficits through austerity, while probably wrongheaded,
appears to be the norm.
Second, the debt created by the bubble is still owed - and
policy appears to dictate that the citizens have to pay back all
the money the banks lost when they securitised all that new debt on
flimsy collateral and swapped it around between themselves
And third, we're about to find out what life would have been
like without the fake growth.
So why did we need to turn to the banks to preserve western
living standards in the first place? All those years ago?
innate flaw, oil prices and globalisation have all been loudly
accused and they may well be guilty. But did they act alone?
There have been
murmurs about another culprit, said to be the
real brains behind the operation:
It is now being commonly
discussed that we have eliminated millions of jobs by
centralised production systems
IT systems, and billion dollar companies with
relatively few employees.
of course, not a new angle: in the Great Depression of the
1930s, technology was also considered a contributor (even by Keynes
Financialised capitalism may well provoke a major reaction as it wrings all the value it
can out of us, but if or when that reset occurs is impossible to
say. In the meantime...
There is no stopping progress. If you can't beat it join it. To
ensure Ireland doesn't face another Hungry Thirties, we must seize
the opportunities presented by the current technological
We should have the manoeuvrability: as
John Mauldin recently wrote on his visit here, "First off, even
though we think of Ireland as a country, it is in reality a
nice-sized city. Ireland is a little under 4.5 million in
population (with another 1.8 million in Northern Ireland)". Ireland
is an "open economy", we are told.
But we have vastly inappropriate skills: from the established
cadre of generalists in the Department of Finance who helped
steer the country onto the rocks, to the last misdirected decade of
unemployed (but talented) new architects and non-specialist (but
well-educated) arts graduates.
The EU education report
published on April 19 this year shows:
..that 49% of 30-34 year olds in Ireland have a third
level qualification - well exceeding the 'Europe 2020' target of
40% set two years ago. However, Ireland was the worst performer for
increasing numbers of maths, science and technology graduates, with
a boost of only 1% between 2000 and 2008. The numbers of women
science graduates actually fell in that period.
And according to last year's
On reading levels among 15-year-olds, Ireland slipped
from fifth place in 2000 to 17th place, while in maths Ireland fell
from 16th to 26th.
No wonder companies like Google, Intel and Ericsson must cast
their nets wide to find suitable candidates to fill Irish
vacancies. Our schools don't provide the people. For the coming
reality, third-level should be looked upon not as "education" in
the Victorian sense but as "training". And Science, Engineering and
Technology ("SET") are skills we need for the future.
The Education Minister is right in his attention to second-level
maths, but he should broaden his scope to all sciences and he
should bring a new IT subject into both primary and secondary
curricula. The UK - our closest trading partner and greatest
competitor - has realised this and just last week the BBC
"Coding is the new Latin" while The Telegraph wrote
"Children to be taught to create software".
The Irish government should adopt similar policies with urgency.
The Broadcasting Act should be updated to ensure that Science and
Technology is considered a funding topic that falls under the
public service mandate so that these subjects, through exposure,
become demystified and even ingrained as part of the fibre of Irish
And it is not just programming: Ireland has aimed high to become
a centre of R&D in the nanotech, biotech, medical and security
fields. Biology, chemistry, physics and computer sciences are
converging in incredibly interesting ways.
Ireland has the range, the machinery, we have the thirst. And we
have the opportunity.
In the meantime, if you have kids they can get a headstart.
There are several technology courses in Ireland specifically aimed
at children. Here are some courses for you to check out (the first
two come recommended, I don't know anyone who's been on the
 And that's not to mention Credit
Default Swaps, the extent of which we have yet to experience.
See footnote 2
 Not just Ireland. By one estimate 10% to 20%
of Western banks will be wiped out in the next year.
production is a sector that appears to be beginning to reverse from
its current state of massively-centralised production. This is
another opportunity for Ireland. For a start
we should reopen that sugar factory!
on convergence 2011 - PDF WARNING
 Details omitted. See Kevin
O'Rourke's presentation which describes how
badly the Euro was made.
Here's some interesting research. Mark Burnett is a security researcher who
harvests passwords from the Internet using a variety of methods. He has
the passwords of over 6 million users.
His analysis shows that
Internet users still tend to choose their passwords from a very
small list of options.
- 14% of passwords people use come from the top 10 most common
- 40% come from the top 100 passwords
- 91% come from the top 1,000 passwords
This tag cloud shows the top 500 passwords, where the size
represents frequency of use.
It's amazing that people are so lax with their online
The most important aspect of your passwords is their length.
You can learn more
here and here.
Be safe out there!
Congratulations to PerfectCard, who are now selling gift
vouchers online for Powerscourt Estate, using the bespoke
system Dovetail designed and built.
A handy one to know about with Christmas around the corner!
I got into conversation last night with one of the
founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation who was in
Dublin after attending Kilkenomics. This chance meeting prompted me to
do a little surfing about the EFF and I found a browser
fingerprint profiler that they have written which told me
that my browser is unique amongst all the browsers it had
Browser fingerprinting is a technique that web advertising and
marketing companies use to identify individual people across many
sites so that they can assemble a fuller profile of an individual
from their browsing habits.
This type of privacy-compromise has been in the Irish news
lately: Since last week, Billy
Hawkes, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, has been investigating Facebook for potential privacy
breaches. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner is tasked with
this Europe-wide investigation because Facebook's European HQ is in
One of the complaints registered against Facebook is that it is
using "third-party cookies" to follow people around on the web,
reporting back to Facebook exactly who has visited what site.
Indeed, it has previously been found that "Like" buttons on sites
were sending user information back to Facebook even when you were
logged out. At the time the behaviour was reported, Facebook called
it an accident. Yesterday it was discovered that this tracking
cookie has been re-enabled by Facebook.
So today a couple of us had a look around to see how to disrupt
these tracking cookies and we found a browser add-on
called "Ghostery" which also claims to block other tracking
mechanisms, such as invisible web-bugs.
It's interesting to look at who's looking at you. Here's
Ghostery running on www.rte.ie:
In RTE's case the sites that were blocked do not collect any
data on you as an individual. They do collect what Ghostery calls
"pseudonymous" information - i.e. your IP address, which in some
circumstances may be enough to identify you specifically. But the
agencies that monitor the RTE site are unlikely to try to figure
out who you are from your IP address, so these tracking devices are
far less disagreeable than Facebook - which knows exactly who
Ghostery also blocks Facebook, so it will stop Mark Zuckerberg
from spying on you (see him sweat about privacy here) as will a more
lightweight plug-in called Disconnect.me.
By the way, Billy Hawkes the Data Commissioner doesn't seem to
have a Facebook account :-/
Dublin local authorities, in collaboration with NUI Maynooth,
have made public sector data available on the internet. The aim is
that the public can use this data to create innovative products and
We encourage projects similar to this, which open up data stored
previously in information silos.
For more information, see www.dublinked.ie
Here are some things I like this week. Broad category here:
Designs, Art, Libraries. I know I'm just linking here, but a
lot of interesting things came past my inbox/reader this
Portfolio. Found this site today. Very unique design and
typography. The blog has a nice collection of photos and design
related things. Their portfolio is also very impressive and
presented in an unusual yet very usable fashion. They designed
the Facebook logo!! Very Cool.
2011. I highly recommend visiting one of the exhibitions for
this. It ends this weekend, so get out quick and snap up some
The Role Of Design In The Kingdom Of Content.
It's true now more than ever - Content is King. This article goes a
great job explaining why great content needs to be supported by
great design. Let your designs support your content, rather than
Regardless of what your content actually says, the design around
it controls what the users see first and how their eyes move across
the sections of the page.
gmail-like favicon notfication library, and all done with
And finally, because it seems the world cannot have enough
Designed to work seamlessly with data from the Open Source
Exchange Rates API project - but can be set up to use any data
source and base currency in just a few lines. And it works as a
NodeJS/CJS and RequireJS/AMD module, too. Yay!
Just noticed that our iPhone app for the
LUAS has been downloaded over 22,000 times!
Great to see the app being so useful to commuters - especially
in this rotten weather...
I own a rather extravagant corkscrew: the Screwpull LM 400.
It's beautiful because it works so well: with my background
in mechanical engineering it appeals to me as a piece of "luxury
Due to a recent mishap I needed a replacement screw for it.
I went to the Le Creuset website to
find there were none in stock, but if I gave my email address I
would be notified when they were available.
When I tried to do so I found a bug on the site and it wouldn't
accept my email address, so I emailed support to say what I was
doing and what the error was.
Within hours, Catherince from Le Creuset phoned me. She
thanked me for my bug report, then told me that she had an
emergency supply of spare screws and was sending one to me
immediately, free of charge, to apologise for the
This is an example of one way great brands set themselves apart:
by how they handle problems. We relate to this in Dovetail,
and aim to give customers the same warm feeling Le Creuset just