April Fools Roundup

Good morning Friday, Friday, getting down on Friday – I for one certainly am looking forward to the weekend.

Its April Fools day today (whoops, spoiler alert), the best day to be online. There’s too much to tweet so I’m going to post all the April Fools links I get today here incase you’re interested.

 

2010

Well that’s got to be a record, nearly 4 months without a post!

Insert usual blogger apologies here of course, but I do have good reason, I have been very, very busy.

Work has been mental, we’re a small team with a constantly mounting workload. Not that I’m complaining mind, I like the challenge and I like being busy. We made a Christmas game this year that I’m particularly proud of but I can’t show that until we’ve been able to see our plans for it through a bit more.

I’ve also been doing some coding in my spare time on various projects, can’t reveal too much right now though but hopefully in Feb I will be launching a new site with my Dad that could be quite exciting! Watch this space.

So 2010 has been a good year for me, its the first year I’ve spent entirely in full time work, I’ve been abroad 3 times, my Mrs graduated, and in the last 2/3 months I lost nearly 2 stone :)

I thought I’d include some photos for once seeing as its New Year’s eve. In Jan we went to Scotland for a friend of mine’s Birthday, here’s my and my Mrs in the snow:

Here we are in Paris in May:

And in Tunisia in August (had an awesome time btw):

 

So here’s to 2011, hope you all had a good Christmas and a good 2010!

Happy New Year!

-Ben

To Tunisia

I’m off on holiday with my Mrs to Tunisia for a week on Sunday. Have been looking forward to it for a good 2 months so it will be nice to have a break by the pool.

I got my Nexus One back from being repaired and it is well stocked up with audio books and music for the trip. Will be interesting to see how the battery fares when listening to audio books through earphones for a prolonged amount of time, good job I got a spare really haha. By the way, sny Nexus One users who would find a spare battery useful can still buy them over at the HTC accessories store. That’s the one I have and it had come in handy on many occasions.

Whilst we’re on the subject of Android, download the VR Tunnel live wallpaper. It is awesome, make sure you keep the accelerometer option on for 3D craziness. Also, the new Google Voice Actions for Android 2.2 are pretty cool, though the sending emails/texts, setting alarms, music and ‘note to self’ functionality seems to be missing from the UK version at the moment :( . Is it that hard to add our accents in??

Get Extended Controls too, should be a native app in my opinion.

 

Squarespace released an update for HTML Snippets which means I now have Twitter and Facebook share links at the top of each post on this blog – yey! :) If you’re reading and you want to share it, give em a click!

 

Things will probably be pretty quiet on my Twitter whilst I’m away because roaming charges are a wopping £6 a megabyte… so unless the hotel has decent wifi, see you on the other side ;)

 

Happy Friday,

-Ben

Stuff Edition 3

Evening all, some stuff for thee.

Astdroid

Astdroid, the Kickstarter project I posted about before, got its funding together and is going ahead. Danny and I emailed the TWiT network and got it mentioned on This Week in Google which was awesome. You can follow his progress here.

Nexus One

My Nexus One broke :( The power button became really unresponsive to the point where I could barely use it so its off getting repaired at the moment. Kudos to HTC’s repair people, was a 5 minute phone call and they picked it up the next day. Getting major withdrawal now though, this sucks.

Android App Inventor

I got access to Android App Inventor today, but alas I have no phone to try it out with… can’t wait though. Shouldn’t think it will replace real Android development though.

Inception

Go and see Inception. One of the best films I have ever seen, Children of Men is still number one though ;)

 

That’s all I can think of for now, I leave you with some funnies.

-Ben

Web Programming Tips

So I’ve been working as a web programmer full time for 9 months now and I thought I’d do a post on some tips I’ve picked up along the way, you never know, they might come in handy.

1. Markup first, CSS later

I can’t stress this enough, go through your design and code the markup first. Think about the structure as you code and get all your content and images in the HTML document. Then you have the fun part going through and bringing it to life with your CSS. Doing this instead of doing a bit of markup, then styling, then back to markup etc is much, much quicker and it also improves how you think about structuring your layout.

2. Rounded corners

Rounded corners for all browsers takes up far too much time, it is ludicrous. But here’s the thing, in most cases your site really doesn’t look that bad with square corners if a user happens to be viewing it in IE. Most people that appreciate design are using up to date browsers anyway, which is why I use CSS3’s ‘border-radius’ property. Or rather, I use this handy little tool – http://border-radius.com/. Job done.

3. Start with a template

I have a template stylesheet.css and index.html to help me hit the ground running whenever I code a new page, and a tip I picked up from blog.SpoonGraphics.co.uk. In the stylesheet I use a ‘reset’ which overrides any defaults varying browsers may have and lets you start a fresh, getting rid of most of the little “what the hell is causing that!?!?” incidents. Here’s what my template style looks like:

body, div, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, img, img a, a img, form, fieldset, input, blockquote {
    margin: 0; padding: 0; border: 0;
}

.container {
    width: 980px;
    margin: 0 auto;

}

4. Think in classes

Whenever you’re coding jQuery, make it into a class with an init function on document load. You never know when you’ll want to reuse code or have more than one instance running on a page, and that little bit of extra time is always so worth it when you come to reuse it.

5. Think inheritance

Inheritance in CSS is one of the biggest time savers there is. Always code top down and think about making flexible classes that promote reuse.

6. Tidy up that code!

When coding HTML, CSS and Java it is so easy to loose structure in your code and wind up with a huge mess. This is fine the first time you code it, but when you come back days later to make changed it will take thrice as long. Tabs are your friend, the deeper you go into parenthesis the further you should tab. Choose a style and stick with it, if you put the leading ‘{‘ on the same line as the class name in CSS then do it every time, as you code more and more the muscle memory will build up and you’ll get quicker and quicker at writing and editing. Also, its ok to put a simple and unimportant CSS style on one line, it will save space and make your code much easier to read.

 

Well that’s it for now, it may seem like nit-picking but when you’re writing code all day long the seconds you shave off really do add up.

Happy coding!

-Ben

A Worthy Cause

Hi all,

I’ve decided I’m going to post more short posts about noteworthy things I find online rather than save them up for a big post that I don’t find time to write and that I forget eventually.

Danny Pier came up with an idea to send an Android phone into space with a helium balloon, which will then take photos and come back to earth. Sounds awesome right? Right, so lets help him out! I’ve pledged $10, I hope you will pledge at least $5 too, click here to do so :D

More info

[removed Kickstarter widget as it started going wrong]

  • An Android smarthphone will be attached to a weather balloon filled with helium and set free
  • An App running will be taking pictures and video and sending back location information, enabling tracking of the craft
  • The balloon will burst at its maximum altitude and a recovery parachute will bring it safely back to earth
  • Using the tracking information, we will recover the phone and retrieve pictures and video from its flight

-Ben

Big Fat News Catchup

I know, I know, I haven’t updated for ages! But I have been very busy and so here’s a big recap of what I’ve been up to, imagine it as a montage in your head, if you will:

Scotland

Me, my Mrs and some friends went to Nairn just outside of Inverness for 4 nights at the end of January. The scenery was gorgeous! Lots of snowy mountains and lochs and waterfalls. We went to Loch Ness which was really huge and to the top of Cairngorm Mountain which was really high – we really had a great time and I highly recommend it – here’s a panorama I took of Loch Ness:
IMG_8672_panorama[1]

Nexus One

So if you’ve already read this post you know that I’ve been monitoring the price of the Nexus One phone from Google for some time now. Recently as the Pound gets weaker against the US Dollar its just been slowly rising, so I bought one from the google.com/phone store a couple of weeks ago.

I am extremely happy with it, its better than any phone I have ever seen or used before. Its incredibly fast, it looks great (better than an iPhone in my opinion), the screen is amazing, the camera is great, I love the dock and Android 2.1 is fantastic – the best phone OS out there. Oh and it makes a mean gaming machine! I barely played anything on my G1 because it was so slow and it would just kill the battery, but the Nexus One is so quick that gaming is a breeze. I recommend Shoot U!, Radiant, Air Control, 2 Player Reactor, Jewellust, Labyrinth, PapaStacker, What The Doodle!?, and Gem Minor, I’ll recommend more on the blog as I find them.

There are only 2 negatives I have to report – 1. No turn-by-turn navigation for the UK yet, but this is coming soon – 2. I’m still on T-Mobile until my G1 contract runs out and it is rubbish. I started a Buzz thread asking others about UK networks and found that while at best I get 800Kb/s over T-Mobile 3G, on the ‘Three’ network people are getting over 3,000Kb/s! Nearly 4 times quicker! And by all accounts their coverage is better too! So I did a little shopping around and I’ve decided when my T-Mobile contract is up at the end of April (Grrr) I’m switching to a Three pay-monthly tariff – £15 a month, no fixed term contract, 1GB data usage, unlimited SMS messages, free Three to Three calls, 300 free other network minutes, free voice-mail (you don’t get that on T-Mobile), unlimited Skype (?). And the nice thing about having an unlocked Nexus One of course, is that I can change networks whenever I like! So I’ll always be on the best deal there is :D

For those who would like to know, the phone and dock were £413.48 mid-February and the UK VAT on top of that was £65, a grand total of £478.48, and worth every penny.

Resolution Test

My Google Chrome extension, Resolution Test, has seen several updates and has reached 6,850 users and still rising! This is probably the most popular thing I’ve ever put out on the net and its great to know so many people are finding it useful. I am working on it when I can and have a list of feature requests I’m working through, its the first time I’ve written JavaScript in any real volume and I’m finding it really fun.

Android Development

I’ve started working through the Android Development SDK and I’ve decided on what my first app will be; something small and something that I would use and that will improve my Android experience. It will probably be free. That’s all on that for now.

Work Blog

At work we’ve been setting up a blog for us to post updates and stuff, its now live here. I’ll be posting about all the bits I’m working on and I’m gonna work out a way of piping my posts through here so you can read them without following another RSS. I’m looking forward to having a better way of showing what I’ve been working on.

In other news…

My Mrs passed her driving test! Really, really proud of her and finding it weird sitting in the passenger seat in our car.

Been playing through Half-Life 2 again, so much that I totally forgot about! Love it. Wish we had more info on Episode 3 :( . Wanting to play Bioshock 2 but need to play the first one first… Also wanting to play Heavy Rain. 

Got the Swype demo/beta/trial on Android and it is really cool! Looking forward to the full version.

Started using Buzz, you can follow me here.

 

Ok, we’re up to date, I think, I will now blog more often!

Happy March,

-Ben

Nexus One UK Price

Happy New Year to you all,

As I’m sure you’ve all seen, Google is now selling the gorgeous Nexus One android phone with its stunning AMOLED screen and 1GHz Snapdragon processor.

Needless to say – I desperately want one – but how much will it cost in total to get one shipped to the UK? On the Google site they say taxes will apply but they don’t say how much, so here is a calculator I made in Google Docs that should give you a pretty accurate total price based on Google Finance’s exchange rate at the time you visited this page:

 

£420 (at time of writing) isn’t bad for an unlocked Smartphone with those specs considering the iPhone 3GS is around the £800 mark.

Now all you have to do is decide what network to go with, I’m looking at Orange and O2 currently, let me know what you decide if you buy one in the comments,

-Ben

Merry Christmas and all that

Hi everyone, hope you had a good Christmas!

I had a great one, got lots of nice presents and now that I’m working  its really good to be able to buy presents for others too.

So what’s new with me?

My Chrome Extension has seen over 2,000 downloads which I’m well happy about! Going to push some more updates out for that soon.

I’ve started using DropBox which is pretty awesome.

I got myself and my Mrs a new Samsung Q320 laptop and we are loving it – its so nice to have a laptop with actual battery life and without a screen that’s falling off.

Played Super Mario Bros Wii, its not the most groundbreaking or innovative game you’ll ever play but it’s damned funny – strongly suggest you get it and play at least 2 player at all times.

The Steam Holiday sale has started, GTA IV for £4.99!! Awesome.

My Dad got a Kindle 2 for Christmas and I had the luxury of playing with it setting it up for him. Its such a cool gadget, I want one just because its so cool. If I had some money to spare and perhaps some more free time I’d probably get one and read a lot more as a result. The podcast/audio book support is great too, definitely recommend it.

My Mrs and I have been looking at holidays for the summertime, we want somewhere warm and islandy, not too basic but not overrun by tourists, its hard to find that balance. We also want to get married abroad so we’re kinda looking at potential wedding/honeymooning worthy destinations too as we might as well enquire whilst we’re there.

So yeah, I think that’s everything for now, have a great New Year if I don’t speak to you before ;)

-Ben