Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Magic - A Feature Full Technology (The Magic Supercut)

Supercut is a term coined by Andy Baio which refers to a video montage depicting a certain idea, word or phrase.

As one who played around video editing and worked for Magic Software, what would be better than creating a supertcut video montage for “Magic”.

In all other videos we show features in Magic, this video shows Magic in Features :-).

For me this last video clip is my personal token of appreciation to a wonderful company and an amazing group of people with which I have the great privilege to work for so long.

The last scene in this clip sums it all up: "It's very rare to see real Magic!"

Soon I will publish a post listing the titles of each movie that appears in this supercut.
In the mean time you can try and name them yourselves. You can post your findings as a comment below or on YouTube.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

NUI - Natural User Interface - A Quantum Leap in UX

Natural User Interface (NUI) relates to interfaces that are hidden or that eventually turn invisible as the user keeps using them, or that become an integral part with the environment one operates in.

NUI is based on the natural and common ways by which humans interact with each other and their surroundings. This is done primarily by verbal\audio communication, gestures, movement, expressions and touch.

The samrtphone, tablets and other multi touch screens such as Surface, full body gesture based interaction such as Kinect, and iPhone Siri service serve as great examples of good natural user interface. It is quite impressive to see how the multi-touch screen is the first technical gadget that is so easily used by users of ages raging from 1 to 101.

Yesterday at a very insightful UX event held by Netcraft, Tal Florentin gave an interesting short presentation about Help. Tal talked about how help is to be catered to the user in the optimal way. The conclusion was that it should be given in a way that is not too disruptive, that is able to “know” the goal one wants to reach, to light up the correct path to get there, and to offer its help only when needed.

The video below shows a great example of an interface that shows you the way to your destination in the exact moment you need it.

This neat UI reminded me of the TV series Quantum Leap where in one chapter titled “Pool Hall Blues” Al used his Handlink to help Sam clear the pool table. The Handlink projected the required course needed to place each ball in its pocket.
I did not manage to find the video segment of it, and all I found was this small screen capture images:

The next video is of a real visualization done over a pool table tracking and responding to the balls movement:

The last two videos are actually the main reason for this blog post as they shows how natural a touch screen is also to non-humans users:

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

CIO Alert - HP’s webOS goes Open-Source

The smartphone and tablet OS market is definitely the most dynamic and unpredictable IT market. The main reason for that is that it is the first time where consumer meets IT and the consumer is the one to cast the last vote.

The dynamic, unpredictable nature of this market is demonstrated once again, with HP’s latest announcement to put their webOS in the hands of the Open Source community.
Out of the other options – HP continuing to support webOS as its own proprietary platform, selling webOS to another mega-vendor, killing webOS – the Open Source approach seems to be the one with the greatest potential of putting webOS among the leading mobile and tables operating systems.
It is because of the open-source nature, that Android managed to take the market lead. The reason for that goes to convergence of consumers and IT.

As an open source project, webOS will enable greater involvement of the developers community which in turn will result in a richer and wider collection of webOS based applications. Together with the ability of smartphone hardware vendors such as HTC to incorporate webOS in their devices makes a promising path for webOS to be adopted more widely by smartphone developers and users.

In the ancient PC days, open source OS such as Linux did not have a major impact on the PC market. This was because the PC market trends were set mainly by enterprises and governments who did not rush to adopt open source OS.

Now, in the Post-PC era, the end-user set the trends and the enterprises must follow. If webOS will gain enough public interest, and good chances for it to do so, enterprises will need to add webOS to as yet another mobile operating system they need to support.

The need for a true multi-device application platform becomes even more relevant than before.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

HTML5 Web Apps Vs Native Apps – Which Way to go

Companies spend too much time and too much money in developing their mobile based solutions for each relevant smartphone operating systems. Most companies focus on the current 3 major players: RIM’s Blackberry, Apple’s iOS, and Google’s Android. Moreover it is quite clear that soon enough the leading players map will change. Microsoft Windows Phone or HP’s WebOS may rise and join the leading operating systems. So the scenario of re-writing the application for the next leading smartphone OS is inevitable.

While companies invest so much in native application development, HTML5 gains more and more popularity and an increase in capabilities, especially in regards to the interaction with the smartphone local resources. HTML5 brings with it the missed virtue of Web applications – Ubiquity.

Being Ubiquitous, HTML5 enables us to develop an application once and have it deployed over multiple browsers, namely the various smartphone browsers.
HTML5 enables companies to have a single development team that develop a single application, based on a single source code to be deployed on any smartphone device. For many companies this implies cutting the development costs by two thirds – HALLELUIAH!!!

However most companies do not yet rush towards HTML5 based development and the reason is very much clear – It is too soon.

Though HTML5 has made a considerable progress it does not yet match the merits of native applications for the following reasons:

On February 2011, the W3C announced that the work on the HTML5 standard will be concluded by 2014. This means that the support given to the many features of HTML5 will not necessarily be part of the eventual standard and developers may find themselves coding around proprietary features. So if the earth will still be spinning after 12.12.2012, there will still be quite some time until HTML5 standard will be finalized.

No Common Browser
The ills of dealing with different browsers and the different implementation of each browser is still a problem in desktop web applications and add much complexity and multiple coding challenges. With the multiplicity of smartphone vendors, and their never waning desire for captivated users, the dream of a common browser is much distant now than ever before.
Rob Cottingham's cartoon
Amazon Kindle Cloud reader is now HTML5 based yet it does not support all browsers. And this says it all: The multiplicity of browsers is a genuine problem and there is no real ability yet to write once and deploy everywhere.

Amazon disclaimer at the bottom says it all.
Missing Functionality
HTML5 is still missing the full scope of native application functionality. Local storage access is not yet available. Overlaying camera is not supported, proper handling of the menu button, and so on.

The performance of HTML5 client side logic is very much dependant on Javascript and that says it all. Especially when it comes to complex applications the performance of a sophisticated HTML5 based client will be much poorer than that of a native application.

HTML5 is not the best approach when security issues are at hand for the exact same reasons why browser-free rich internet applications are far more superior security-wise than browser based RIA. The browser, being a common client, is much more prone for security breaches and the developers need to put much effort in obfuscating the communication between the client and the server.

So… What to do?
Developers look at HTML5 not because it is better than native applications. All developers and managers want is just to simplify and reduce the massive development effort imposed by the native application approach.

Why settle for less?
Why risk venturing into a technology that is yet to be proven as valid?
What if you could deploy a native mobile application on any smarphone OS from a single development effort? Wouldn’t that be great!?

It would be close to pure magic!

Actually it is Magic.

If you thought of HTML5 - Hold that thought, literally - Check out Magic Software mobile technology and see how you can develop application once and deploy on any smartphone device.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An IT Blast from The Past - 1996

A couple of weeks ago Jared Newman’s sister stumbled upon a paper from her high school years, dating back 15 years to 1996, explaining the pro’s and con’s of the Internet.

The list of advantages is still very much relevant and the basic prediction of “Much, much more, and it will only increase in time to come” proved to be very much correct and we can quite confidently say, 15 years later, that still there is much more to come.

The disadvantages this page lists are somewhat arguable.

First, in most places internet connection is quite reliable. The maturity and reliability of the internet is what enabled cloud computing and Software-as-a-Service to become more txhan just a hype.

The fact that “People can post whatever they want” made the social web to be the success it is now. The issues of too much free speech and the exposure to unsolicited problematic content are still dangerous, especially among kids and teenagers.
As far as Organization goes, well this paper was written one year before was registered, a point from which the vast content on the web became much more ordered, searchable, and therefore more organized.
Speed is seldom a problem these days, where in most places an HD movie can be downloaded in a rate greater than its view time.
Security is indeed a sensitive matter and it is very much a factor that both individuals and corporations need to put their minds into before exposing their lives (e.g. facebook) or their valuable data (e.g. SaaS).
Changed Links is not a matter we trouble ourselves with too much as today we are having better content management tools and the more reliance of the search engines.
Addiction is still a problem. We definitely spend too much time in the virtual world.

And last but not least is the true pitfall of the internet and the age of IT we are in and that is the Changing Technology. The technologies we need to deal with today differ greatly from those we dealt with 5 years ago, let alone 15 years ago. Most likely the technologies we align ourselves with today will not be relevant 5 or even 2 years from today.

This is true except for one technology: The Magic Software technology. From its inception until today and for future to come, the Magic Software platform kept the development paradigm completely detached from the underlying technologies by maintaining the application design in the form of meta-data and not of explicit code. Only Magic Software platform based applications were able to leap over each technology generation while keeping the majority of the investment put in past designs and keep them relevant in the next technology generation.

Only within the impressive community of Magic Software customers you can find applications that were developed even before 1996, over DOS, to run today as .NET applications running on Windows 7 and as Mobile applications running today on Blackberry devices and soon on Andiod and iPhone.
These Magic Applications will surely manage to leap over any new technology challenge that the IT industry will be facing, without resorting to dramatic code rewrite.

If you are not a Magician (a Magic based developer) I am sure had you to face this disadvantage and great challenge of becoming familiar with many new technologies along the way.

The proud Magicians who developed their applications already 15 or 20 years ago are the only type of developers who can attest to be able to keep the skill-set they acquired back then to be relevant today. And without too much re-training they have transformed from DOS application developers to Mobile application developers.

It is absolutely remarkable to see how the Magic Software concept triumphed over so many changes and it is today much more relevant than ever before.

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