Archived entries for Tools

Wireframing with Balsamiq Mockups

Thanks to Pras for the pointer to Balsamiq’s Mockups application. I was sketching wireframes quickly within minutes of finding the product.

I believe in low-fidelity sketching at the wireframe stage. Balsamiq makes it easy with its large library of UI control stencils, its auto-complete driven keybroad stencil selection, on-screen snap-to alignment guides, a powerful inspector for precise control when rarely needed, and, more of all, a simplicity that makes it easy to start sketching or tweaking your mockup immediately.

The output is Balsamiq files, PGN or flattened image files, and XML. Because it exports XML it’s possible to use Balsamiq as a programmatic ingredient for downstream engineering systems and tools (such as partially automating the creation of detailed functional specifications, or using it as source for the automated building on the actual interface.

There is a rumor that they’ll be announcing clickable output files shortly, which might allow for the fast creation of clickable wireframes for usability testing (and other) needs.

I haven’t noticed, but it should be possible to customize what’s in the included UI Widget Library to a) take on a different visual skin; b) reflect new or fewer interface widget options.

All and all, I’m pretty intrigued. It seems there’s a market for consumer-friendly ways to design interfaces. Once more people catch on how to much fun we’re having, they’ll want a shot at designing and realizing all the apps they’re dreaming up, too!

I’d love to hear what you think of this approach. Have you tried it? Does it work for your teams”

Balsamiq Mockups For Desktop - * New Mockup

Songbird Public Beta (0.7)

Congrats to my buddies (yo Koshi!) over at Songbird for reaching another big milestone: public beta.

Songbird is a media player like iTunes. Except that it’s build on top of the awesome Mozilla Firefox foundation. And like Firefox, it has an extensive array of extensions, themes, and assorted addons. Earlier versions haven’t supplanted iTunes for me, but it’s looking like this version may well do that.

I had some trouble imagining what type of addons would make sense, but in this release we’re beginning to see. An early favorite for me is the ticketing integration:

Songbird%20Blog%20%C2%BB%20Play%20music.%20Play%20the%20Web.

You can read all about the release on their blog, download it here, and see a screenshot below:

Songbird

Yahoo! Opens Search and Supports Developers

Marshall over at Read Write Web has a great review up posted covering the exciting news that Yahoo! has opened up our search index and engine. I’ll point you to his coverage, and pull out my favorite gems.

Update: Vik Singh had the idea for BOSS, and posted Yahoo! Boss – An Insider’s View. It’s money line is this, and describes the big idea succinctly: “I think users should be confident that if they searched in a search box on any page in the whole wide web that they’ll get results that are just as good as Yahoo/Google and only better.”

First, here’s what happened tonight:

Yahoo! Search BOSS

Yahoo! is taking a bold step tonight: opening up its index and search engine to any outside developers who want to incorporate Yahoo! Search’s content and functionality into search engines on their own sites. The company that sees just over 20% of the searches performed each day believes that the new program, called BOSS (Build Your Own Search Service), could create a cadre of small search engines that in aggregate will outstrip their own market share and leave Google with less than 50% of the search market.

Might this impact things? He thinks so:

In both cases, Yahoo! BOSS is intended to level the playing field and blow the Big 3 wide open. We agree that it’s very exciting to imagine thousands of new Yahoo! powered niche search engines proliferating. Could Yahoo! plus the respective strengths and communities of all these new players challenge Google? We think they could.

And that part that was music to my ears (emphasis mine):

It is clear, though, that BOSS falls well within the companies overall technical strategy of openness. When it comes to web standards, openness and support for the ecosystem of innovation – there may be no other major vendor online that is as strong as Yahoo! is today. These are times of openness, where some believe that no single vendor’s technology and genius alone can match the creativity of an empowered open market of developers. Yahoo! is positioning itself as leaders of this movement.

Marshall, thanks for the great writeup. Yahoo!, thanks for making me proud.

FriendFeed’s Inline Media

FriendFeed is a great way to bring lots of information you care about onto one page. If you subscribe to me on FriendFeed you’ll see all the photos I post to Flickr, bookmarks I tag on del.icio.us, articles I share from Google Reader, events I’m attending on Upcoming, songs I like on Last.fm, blog posts and Twitter messages I write, and more. These are a small subset of the 41 services FriendFeed can pull in; they also take unlimited RSS feeds making nearly any shared record of my social activities online viewable in one place.

Subscribe to me on FriendFeed.

friendfeed logo

One feature as a user of FriendFeed is the inline media. MP3s and video can be played right within the page. Click “play” on an audio file to start listening and expose slim player controls. When you play a video the thumbnail grows to standard video player size. For photos / flickr thumbnails, clicking “more” displays the entire set or upload.

Because I’m testing out a new screen capturing process, here are some pictures of the inline media collapsed and expanded so you can see how it works inline.

Here’s what the audio looks like initially.

friendfeed-inline-audio-2

And here’s how it expands when you click play.

friendfeed-inline-audio-playing-1-1

Same for video. Initially you see a thumbnail of the move.

friendfeed-video-closed

And when you click play the player grows into view.

friendfeed-video-expanded

Works like a charm.

Liveblogging Google App Engine release at Campfire One at Google

Liveblogging on Twitter at http://twitter.com/natekoechley

everything in this article is my paraphrasing of speakers’ presentations. not my own words.

(Video coming soon.)

  1. We run web applications. We’re only focused on this narrow goal.
  2. We handle the entire lifecycle of an app.
  3. Apps are run on Google infrastructure.

“It’s hard, but it’s worth it for us.”

“For the first time you can use the same infra we use…Auth, GOS, BigTable”

The Stack

  1. Scalable serving infra
  2. python runtime
  3. SDK
  4. Web based admin console
  5. DataStore

Demo: App from scratch in 8 minutes.

More details

  1. Scalable Serving Infrastructure: fault tolerant (redundant). Fluid: don’t need to schedule needs up front… more servers come online dynamically.
  2. Python Runtime and Libraries. All tools are generic, so new languages can be dropped in later. Python used in same python available otherwise. Goal: you can use any language eventually. We don’t want to limit you.
  3. SDK: Environment to develop apps locally. Avail for Linux, Mac, Windows today. (But can probably work anywhere.)
  4. Admin Console: web-based admin console. (Looks like google finance meets google analytics.) Tools for request logs. Data explorer. Usage/quote numbers. App-version balancing. Can hook up domain (don’t need to run at *.appspot.com).
  5. Scalable Datastore. Schemaless object store. Not a clustered sql thing. Instead based on BigTable. (Whitepapers online.) Horizontally scalable. Reacts to hotspots. BigTable instead of SQL is a big change, and may take some time to get used to. But we think you’ll come to like it. Schemaless means you can add a new datatype or entity whenever – no need to update your schema.

Now we’re looking at a Datastore Model Class.

GQL Query example

SELECT *
FROM Story
WHERE title = 'App Engine Launch'
AND author = :current_user
AND rating >= 10
ORDER BY rating, created DESC

Other Notes

Mail Sending API

no setup needed.

Make HTTP Requests

Authenticate with Google Accounts

Frameworks

The whole Django framework.

Guido van Rossum: Creator of Python and member of Google App Engine team

My passion is making life easier for developers. With python i’ve done that for decades. Now i’ve joined GAE team. Excited by potential. (and that python was first picked)

First time that GOogle has let third-party people run software on their infra. That’s fundamentally a big deal.

8:13 PM “We’re offing 100% of the python lang.”

8:14 PM – we don’t offer threads, but you won’t been it because of our scalable arch.

GAE uses a quota system so nobody monopolizes the infra.

me: if it’s so scalable, why do they need the quotes?

What’s Next?

  • large upload/download support
  • purchase additional capacity
  • other language support
  • offline processing.

Live on Yahoo! Live



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