Learning someone else’s code – what is it good for?

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From time to time I get to work on someone else’s code, could be shared classes I download or a client that brings his own program for treatments, anyway it is something that nobody likes.The difficulties are obvious to anyone that deals with code this way or another, (hey, sometimes I have hard time understanding my own code from six months ago..) But there are also great advantages if you’re trying to improve, although the learning curve is often steep, it’s faster than learning from books.Sometimes, definitely not most of them, it can even lead to a real leap, in term of understanding new styles and patterns, I never stop learning new things : )At larger scales, translating ActionScript classes into UML would be a blast, making sense in a glimpse and not through lines of code.And an answer to this need (and more!) is about to be born – Saffron UML by Samuel Agesilas, built for AIR, has a cool UI design, and platform independent – you have to see it!Looks amazing ha?

Apollo this is earth, do you read?

Eric Dolecki wrote an inspiring post about “what Apollo might bring“, I must admit I share his excitement, I witnessed Flash evolve from a graphics and animation oriented application into a global standard RIA platform, empowering new approaches to User Interface, and changing the web application experience.

Apollo is a cross-OS runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Flex, HTML, Ajax) to build and deploy desktop RIA’s.

Apollo will probably do the same to desktop applications, enrich our desktop apps experience – applications will talk to each other, be updated without user involvement, be more personalized, and best of all – platform independent.In addition to that, imagine the impact open source projects such as Red5 will have on the way we communicate – as the costs of server applications to “talk” to (or through?) are dramatically diminished.I am definitely optimistic.

Joost Mac beta released – perhaps too early?

joost_small.jpgJoost (up until recently code named ‘The Venice Project’ ) has released it’s Mac beta (only Intel Macs at the moment) – this is good news for us Mac users.The general feeling is pretty much same as with Windows, performance is good, video quality has improved.The interface has slightly evolved since my last review, but small details are somehow still neglected, mainly fonts inconsistencies and text placement issues. But the issue I am more disturbed about is the remote control readiness – better say Not Ready.Apple Intel computers ships with Apple Remote and are the only platform that actually justifies the full-screened interface, allowing a real lean backwards experience, controlling your Mac with one hand from across the room.Joost does not support the Apple Remote, furthermore the interface is simply not ready for a remote control, as it is still relying on a point & click control (a mouse), and many details in the interface are too small for using from a distance.I believe Joost will eventually be remote controlled, but at the moment the users are getting used to a certain UI logic, and it will be harder to change the entire interaction habits in a future stage, leading me to think that since Joost is “a new way to watch TV”, maybe the beta program was released a bit too early?

Spend a night with Geni – a new Genealogy site

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A new genealogy tree creation site has recently been launched, but this one Geni.com is really fun! without presumptuous features, the interface is made in Flash, so easy & strait forward that even my grandma can manage. Yesterday I sent my parents an invitation to see the tree I started, and this morning I saw a forest! this is so sticky, and the great part is that it bring your family closer, in contrary to all the trendy anonymous sharing communities this deals with your loved ones.I love the concept.
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Look what my mom did!If you’re into Genealogy you should also check MyHeritage.com, though Safari browsers are not welcomed, it is well worth launching Firefox to find out you look like Fox Mulder…

The Venice Project Interface oddities – a quick review

Before commenting about the interface I must say that the Venice Project client has very good table manners and generally behaves very nice, before installing it checks your hardware and informs you if your computer meets the requirements, uninstalling is also a breeze, very nice guys. Also, the video quality is pretty amazing, especially when compared to the traditional streaming alternatives, the Venice Project has a very fast initiation and almost no disturbances and freezes.The downsides are with the interface, aimed to be viewed in fullscreen mode, and probably later on through a TV, the texts are big (a la front row), the panels are clear and simple. However the interface suffers from few oddities, most annoying is the endless looped scrolling – Hey! this is really confusing, if you’re looping the menu items, let us know, put a loop marker at the end of each balk.
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The main panel that has all the ‘Play Controls’ also holds the Application Controls (Quit, Resize), while in the top-right corner of the screen there is a floating icon for hiding the current screen – shouldn’t it be the opposite? It seems that the Quit button should be always present and not associated with the playing controls, furthermore, the Hide Screen is inconsistently appearing inside & outside of panels.
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Another issue is the keyboard arrows, while in the ‘My Channels’ screen it is so easy and fast using them to navigate in & out of channels, in ‘Channel Catalog’ moving back to the Suggestion menu is not possible, only Up & Down.. Once I enter the ‘Channel Catalog’, I can only exit, cant go back to ‘My Channels’, even if I got there this way. come on, how will you menage a remote control navigation if you cant eat this?
Beside, it is not clear why the duplicated channels screens is needed, from the ‘Channels Catalog’ it is not possible to launch the channel, you can only add it to ‘My Channels’ – how can I know if I want to add this channel if no preview or description is available? after I added a channel to ‘my channels’ I cant remove it. ‘My Channels’ is also lacking the image/logo preview the ‘Channel Catalog’ has.
In ‘My Venice’ screen, pressing ‘My Venice Plugins’ button brings the ‘My Venice Menu’, hmm. the menu it self is mixing sections and items in the same level – News Ticker Manager along with the Feeds themselves..
Also, from the menu screen I cant know which item is enabled and needs to be clicked, and that’s the menu purpose.The feeds marquee is moving too fast for human reading.I still think that the general experience is great, and that the interface is not that bad for a beta, I hope it will improve in the future, and that we’ll see more content too :)

The ultimate beta tester?

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I like testing new pioneering apps, as a student back in 1999, I was crashing my old G4 with the OS X beta few weeks after it’s release, compiling Apache and php with Unix tutorials ages before binary installations were available, I guess it comes along with using a Mac.Taday it’s the same – I had to try Parallels Desktop beta, and signed up for VMware fusion beta the day they opened the registration form… only to find out that I dont use it at all.Apparently I was the first israeli to receive an invitation to participate in the Venice Project Beta, yes IPTV is close to my heart, but how cold they know?More on my impressions on The Venice Project soon.