Monthly Archives: October 2006

Sometimes “random” is the best choice

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…as nature does. Create something from random numbers.

Here are a couple of examples, from a Sunday morning programming session (plus 1 extra hour from the daylight savings change):

Random bubbles
Random trees

Each time you reload the page, a new drawing appears.
To see them correctly, you need Firefox or Opera, because the images are SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics).

Have fun!

Thoughts about Icons on User Interfaces

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Bathroom heater's icons What do you understand from this picture?
It’s the switch of my bathroom heater. It has 4 positions: 0, fan, 1 and 2. It’s easy, isn’t it? Even though, last week I had to open it to try to repair it, and I discovered that one of the two small radiators, it has inside, was not working. I tried to repair the damaged one, but finally I gave up. So I drew two black icons next to the switch, an arrow and a cross, to inform that only the position “1” works.

Surprisingly, my flatmate didn’t understand it. It is easy for me: an arrow is marking the correct choice, and a cross is marking the wrong one. But somehow it’s not as easy for other people, who have not a wide knowledge about “User interfaces”. This is a quite interesting question to think about, when we are creating UIs: “is the user going to understand the interface?

Combos squaresA trivial example. Look at these two boxes. You can guess the first one is a combo box, or drop-down, or something like this. The second one seems a text box with a drag-and-drop element. Can you see it? We decide the second box is drag-and-drop because it has four arrows instead of one arrow (or this triangle representing an arrow head). Honestly, it’s totally ridiculous!

The essence of the question, when you are working on an UI, is to assume nothing. Quite difficult anyway.

SVG: The vectorial graphic format… for the Web?

NOTICE: Find more in my tech blog:

If you can read this, your browser cannot render “Scalable Vector Graphics”… get FIREFOX or OPERA

I’m learning to use Inkscape, an open source application to draw graphics. It saves your drawings in SVG format. For some reason, I’ve discovered that this format is a really interesting standard for the future of the WWW. The Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is an extension from XML to define, as its name says, vectorial graphics. The W3C standard is quite wide, with a lot of options which define from simple circle shapes to text following a curved path. Because it is XML, you can open in your text editor and see the source (try to see the source code of the image/frame above, if you can see it).

As you can know, nowadays there is not a free option to use vectorial graphics in websites. The only real choice is to use Flash, which is a propietary technology (with the benefits and problems which it carries). Another option, a bit weird, is to use java applets to draw in the screen, but it seems like overconsuming resources without sense.

The good news is that Mozilla and Opera are working hard to support SVG. In fact Firefox paints SVG quite well. But there are more: you can use Javascript to change the elements inside a SVG, like DOM Objects, so you can create animations, add events, and such things. And even more: being vector graphics you can resize without a loss of quality; it supports creative commons definitions; the texts within it can be indexed easily by Google (because actually it’s XML); and so on.

The bad news. The guys from Microsoft are too busy to think about SVG support. Internet Explorer 6 cannot manage SVG, neither does IE7. And they have no plans about it. Why?

A moment where everything changes

Woman B/WIt’s just a point in the time line. A sigh, the past disappears and the future emerges. You are having a cup of tea and suddenly you realize that you’ve already decided to change your life. In fact you can not decide to change, but the change arrives to you. Can you really decide something, or the only thing you can do is to watch the changes coming? The turning point has arrived, and now the colour of the world has another tonality, it evolves from black and white to full saturated colours. You have no option but to swim in the hue, tasting the green tea you’ve been drinking, jumping over the fence.

Welcome to a new state of electricity in your brain!

Discovering potatoes on my own balcony

Weeds on my balcony?Some weeks ago it was quite rainy in Barcelona. We had some continuous rain, and it’s a bit strange. On my balcony something green started to grow in a small rectangular pot that we have there. I thought they were only some mint plants, but when I tried to smell their leaves, I discovered they smelt of nothing. “Hmmmm… weeds”, I concluded.

Today I’ve decided to remove them… and when I grabed the first of them and pulled it out… what a surprise!!
Discovering potatoesA big potato (like 4 fingers wide) and lots of small potatoes. I’ve never thought I’d have my own potato harvest (inside a city with 3 million habs). Amazing!

I’m thinking about building a big pot, made with wood… to grow more potatoes. I want more ūüôā

If only we could develop things as nature does!