Phew… upgrade complete

Well I had fallen behind the wordpress guys a few versions and needed to get the site back up-to-date. This involved backing up the files and the database. I had disabled my local version a while back so I had to get that up and running and then manually apply the new version there to ensure that it would not break anything. This took a bit of effort as I had to configure the virtual private host on my system again and I had to dig around to remember exactly how to do that.

Once I had the new version running locally I had to copy everything up to the server and then check again. WordPress has a really nifty auto-update feature, which I unfortunately can not take advantage of as I have customized my installation. For those who have not visited in over a year, if you had created an account, I’m sorry to say that I had to dump a bunch of user accounts due to spambots. My apologies and I understand if you decide not to create a new account again. I did change the settings so that you do not have to register to leave a comment. However, posts do not display until I approve them. Trying to make sure the spamage does not get displayed.

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Things I love about Japan: Example 002

Dinner at a Japanese ryokan onsen hotelI love going to onsen hotels in Japan. An onsen is essentially a hot spring spa, they are not unlike a turkish bath except that you must thoroughly bathe from head to toe before entering the bath. If you have previously bathed, you may simply rinse down with a cup and small basin of onsen water provided before entering the bath. They are usually part of a hotel and not necessarily open to the public. Although there are many that allow public access as well. Some are more natural than others ranging from a simple pool of hot water to water park like structures that are coed and require swim suits. Usually, they are single sex baths where you will be in the presence of other people bathing naked.

Another typical benefit of the onsen hotel is they provide a dinner and sometimes a breakfast as well. The dinner is a wonderful multi-course experience in fine Japanese cuisine. A ryokan onsen is a traditional Japanese style hotel with an onsen. You sleep on a futon on tatami floor and the room often has no furniture other than a table. Pictured is just one of the awesome meals I have had at an onsen.

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Things I love about Japan: Example 001

As with all things Japanese, they of course have miniature beer cans.

Small beer can in Japan
105¥ for 135ml, easy to carry in your pocket for those emergencies where you just need to have a beer

I am not sure who the target audience is for these little cans; Women, children, pocket-ninjas? I estimate it would take about 36 of these to begin to get drunk… well for me. For some of you hardier folks it would probably be more like 100.

 

Microdata and html5

Spending some of my time off exploring microdata and html5 more in depth. If the semantic web is going to finally gain wide adoption microdata is going to be the catalyst. Unfortunately as easy as it is, it still involves a some effort to add microdata to your code. Still it is a million times easier than XML or other semantic formats.

Unfortunately, I think performance will still be an issue in actual implementations. Microdata is still fairly verbose and also referencing the scope/schema from a third party server may be a problem for some high traffic servers. Adding microdata to your mark-up can easily double or triple the size and there is always the latency issue of referencing a third party server.

These were the sources I was reviewing;
html5
http://www.w3.org/TR/html5/
http://diveintohtml5.org/
http://html5demos.com/

microdata
http://www.w3.org/TR/microdata/
http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=176035
http://html5doctor.com/microdata/

Cleaning House

Well I finally got around to cleaning up the site here and upgrading the blog software. I had let things go for a while and pretty much had to start over with the site design. The fun thing is I got to try out some cool stuff that I have been using for some professional work, but did not have time to do for my personal site. I added a jquery image slider to the header. JQuery is really hot right now amongst designers because it makes adding powerful interaction and UI effects as easy as it can get. I also added a google font api for the site title text. This is really cool as it expands the fonts one can use in site design without having to resort to images. Google is offering these fonts hosted from their servers for free. If google ever turns that off, the CSS will degrade nicely using the other font family I have set for that particular design. Another good thing about this… It will not interfere with SEO rankings as your text is indexed with the emphasis of the surrounding tags. I hope to work on a couple of other designs shortly as I think it is really fun to make the site look completely different visually while still keeping the same structure and content.

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Google’s Chrome cr-48 Notebook

I signed up for the beta version of the Chrome OS notebook from google. I am not expecting that they will send it to me as I would be surprised if they have not already sent out all 60,000 beta models. Nonetheless, I would be very excited to get one as I think this is the future of computing and user experience. Between the google cr-48 and the Macbook Air the future of desktop/laptop experience is in these streamlined mobile/cloud based UIs. I think the one thing that google needs to port to the Chrome OS is the Android store. Just as Apple is releasing the App Store to the laptop/desktop, so should google allow users to run android apps in the Chrome OS. It is the perfect blend of an internet based experience and an app/platform focused experience.

I really love my iPad despite the numerous short comings and currently have a Macbook pro 15″ for work. However, I am really sold on the more portable computing functionality. Having transitioned from a desktop to a laptop to an ipad for most of my daily computing needs, it seems clear that the future will be more powerful yet more portable devices. The UI of these experiences will have to accommodate a variety of screen formats and sizes. If I don’t get a Cr-48 I will save my $ for a Macbook Air.

Section 508 – more than compliance

While you can use automated validators to measure whether you meet section 508 and WCAG accessibility guidelines, often making the interface usable for screen readers requires more. The validators simply tell you if you have violated one of the standard rules. It does not tell you if the user can make sense of whatever it is that has been written.

Also it should be noted that while section 508 seems mostly focused on users who use screen readers, there are a number of other disabilities that are covered as well including cognitive and other various forms of visual impairments. To truly satisfy users who need section 508 assistance you need to test with users who represent those types of users. Truthfully with many eCommerce sites failing at this, sadly the bar is set pretty low to meet their needs.

If your site has a global presence then you really need to meet the WCAG Level A or priority 1 requirements at the least. As WCAG is the standard set forth by the W3C it is best to follow what is set as a standard by this group. A great article on the differences between the two can be found here;
http://jimthatcher.com/sidebyside.htm

Other Accessibility resources are here;
WCAG
Section 508