Friday Jan 29 '10designguru.tv Episode 2 - Andrea Carson of VoCA

In this second episode Andrea Carson relates her definition of art, describes art scenes in Canada and tells us about her blog, View on Canadian Art (VoCA).

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Wednesday Jan 27 '10What is Open Video?

This short film introduces 'open video' as a movement away from corporate structures in the motion picture industry, towards creative and collaborative freedom.

Running just 1 minute long, the film was created by Qasim Virjee at designguru.org in January 2010 to be considered in competition by the Open Video Alliance.  Please leave comments on the competition page here: http://contest.openvideoalliance.org/video/17869/what-is-open-video

* You may share or remix this video in accordance with the Creative Commons BY License (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/)

FEATURING:
- Matt Black from Coldcut and Ninjatune
- Audio by Abdul Smooth
- Video footage of D-Fuse's 2009 'Particle' performance in São Paulo - shot by toby*spark

LINKS:
- ninjatune.com
- abdulsmooth.com
- dfuse.com
- sparkav.co.uk

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Monday Jan 25 '10Rogers disappoints HTC users in Canada with mandatory software update

The HTC Dream was the first hardware sold with Google's Android platform, a free/open-source operating system for mobile devices.

At the end of last year, when the Canadian telecommunications giant Rogers started selling these phones, I was extremely excited to get my hands on one.  Leading up to that I had gone through 2 versions of top-end Nokia phones running on Symbian (an N80 then N95 8gb) and was keen to get a touch-screen device yet not keen on the iPhone's proprietary software and inability to legally be 'unlocked' (being someone who travels and doesn't like paying large roaming charges to monopolistic carriers like Rogers.) So, when I found an HTC Dream on craigslist around Halloween I dropped the chap a line immediately and have thoroughly enjoyed using Android since.

I must say, though I like the HTC hardware, and Android itself, I've been very unhappy with how Rogers, the carrier I use, has approached their marketing and customer service for these phones - to aide sales for HTC Magic, for example, they disabled the software keyboard on Dream models so that customers would more simply see the two phones as competiting products based on falisy - the Magic doesn't have a hardware keyboard.

In addition to cheeky advertising gimmicks, Rogers has been tardy to announce a software update for their HTC Android phones - this has sparked huge community backlash (check out this forum thread) given that version 1.5, which my phone runs, was released in April 2009 and has since been updated by Google thrice (to 1.6 in September , 2.0 in December and then 2.1 this January!)  Adding insult to injury, the version of 1.5 they have been selling phones with apparently had a flaw which disabled 911 emergency dialling access!!!

Last week I got a couple of text messages from Rogers telling me that I had to disable my GPS location service on the phone to help them troubleshoot a 911 access problem.  When I got another message from them a few days back I ignored it thinking it was the same reminder, until yesterday - when I noticed that I had no data service on my phone?!  Looking back at that txt from Rogers last night I realised that they now needed me to run a software update on my device to enable 911 and that it was 'mandatory' - without making the update within 24hrs of this notice, my data would be cut off?!!?  After booting up an old PC of mine to run the update software today (they don't support Mac), losing all my data from the phone's main memory in the process (luckily Google is the store-house for my contacts and email though I still have to reinstall all my apps), I noticed that my data service is still not working!?

I looked all over Rogers' website today, then rang them and only after being on hold for some time waiting to speak to a human tech support agent did I discover, by way of a pre-recorded on-hold message, that it could take up to 24hrs to restore data *after* installing the OS update! This wasn't in their warning txt and they never sent me an email or phonecall (an automated one would've sufficed), let alone posted this message in an accessible place on their website.  Also noteworthy is that nowhere in this fiasco did they address why this update still kept us using Android 1.5 or when a 'real' (ie. not emergency) update would be rolled out.

And so now I wait, checking to see if those little bars for service get annotated with an 'Edge' or '3g' icon...

Here's what people are tweeting about this:

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Thursday Jan 21 '10Internet Explorer 7 work-around for multiple css file limitation

When you're building sites which use many contributed modules (+ views and panels) you can end up with a ton of CSS files being called at the same time.  Generally the main down-side to this is load-time, so most Drupal site developers choose to use the css-aggregation function (found under Site Config > Performance) that comes stock with Drupal.

The problem with using Drupal's aggregated CSS is that you end up with a crazy mashed-up chunk of CSS which can be a pain when you're still editing it live on a site in development (for example, using firefox's web development toolbar or firebug).

Asides from the load-time issue, I noticed something else whilst doing x-browser testing on a new site we're developing @ design guru; Internet Explorer 7 won't load more than 30 (or 31?) CSS files at once!  Supposedly a security feature, this annoying phenomenon makes CSS/styling dev work a pain in ie7 but fear not, there's a work-around and its as easy as installing a module!

The 'IE Unlimited CSS Loader' module will save much head-scratching - it fixes the ie7 problem and lets you still work on your site's css without using the Drupal aggregator. Nice. :)

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Wednesday Jan 20 '10Mag+ - an intriguing presentation of innovation in digital magazines.

Personally, I love the concept of rubbing an on-screen item to 'heat it up' and then share it across social networking websites/platforms etc...

More information can be found @ Bonnier's website.

Wednesday Jan 13 '10The state of the Web and why we *love* Posterous

15 years ago, the majority of websites were collections of static pages curated by people who didn't have commercial goals for whatever they published.  'Content' back then was pretty simple - usually copy with imagery comprised of posts - the Web's infrastructure was limited such that the rich media applications we take for granted today (eg. on-demand video streaming) couldn't exist due to phenomena such as bandwidth limitations and even the youthful innocence of html itself.

Through the boom-days of the mid-late 1990s however, 'content' became something salable (either itself holding perceived monetary value or otherwise by driving 'traffic' that could be sold through advertising) and the whole Web took on a more impersonal aesthetic.  The birth of 'portals' and establishment of ubiquitous banner advertising space imbibed the Web with uninspired/unrealistic commercial purpose and through the early 00s it was difficult for people to regain pre-boom enthusiasm for using web-space as room for un-justified self-expression.

Something changed in the middle of this decade however; the Web had grown-up infra-structurally; for most parts of the world, access speeds to the Internet sufficed delivery of rich media and access points were more numerous than ever before - these coupled with people en masse feeling familiar with the Web through using it to acquire common and specialized knowledge [from reading news sites to wikipedia to finding anything query-able through Google] plus do common tasks (such as banking), allowed the Web to take on a new social significance.  Since the beginning of the Web, there had always been potential for social interaction on it, but until this simple concept became popularized by mainstream [news] media outlets, middling academics, the marketing establishment grasping at new media straws, and others as the 'new Web' or 'Web 2.0,' there wasn't much gusto for new platforms and services to be developed which could stitch social interactions on the web together.

As spaces and platforms emerged through the 00s - all flying the flag of Web 2.0, it seems that people had become used to socializing online and this familiarity begged a feeling of corpus to relate conversations to.  Whether that corpus means a central space on the web to express oneself better-than-elsewhere or simply tie together one's multitude of identities/accounts, easy-to-update websites typically featuring a list of reverse-chronologically-ordered posts, known as 'blogs' seem to have become de facto - in being cheap, accessible and visible [re: Google and being part of a host network etc...].

By the end of the 00s the Web was more universal than ever before and had gone through its second major commercial experience; not in providing platform for commercial activity as in the 90s but this time by being rebranded.  'Web 2.0' is somewhat of a misnomer in propagating the myth of online social interaction being a *new* phenomena.  Right now Facebook, say, has over 350,000,000 users from around the planet all sharing media and confabulation with each other often, but because it is a closed space (registration is required to play children!), with an internal culture developing [framed by its functional tool-set and native user interface], its members are hindered in believing that the interaction they experience can exist simply by virtue of them being on the Web.

The nature of the web though is Open - its developed spaces may be vast and exclusive, as with Facebook, but in attempts to reach the largest audience [and convert them somehow into customers?], the companies and individuals acting as developers must address the issue of common space; in so far as interfacing with each other. The truth in this has been witnessed recently with networks trying to become platforms by opening up Application Programming Interfaces [APIs] which allow information interchange across their virtual borders.  Blogs should not require duplicate manual posting in order to maintain one's identity between semi-closed networks but instead act more organically as repositories of one's actions online - with media detailing one's online interests and activities.  The development of these repositories should be somewhat effortless [ideally even doing away with cut'n'paste?] in order for their truth in being reflections of one's identity to be more accurate.

Moving into the teens of this new millennium, 'content' will become more fluid through multi-media socializing and online spaces will become more accessible allowing for dialogues to exist cross-platform.  Posterous is the best example available for demonstrating how a blog can become a more social corpus which is automated to yield the effect of organic development.  After signing up for a [free] Posterous account, you can setup a blog in seconds; choosing a theme for it or even jumping into custom creating your own aesthetic [with a single-file html/css template editable through their web-based administration area].  Then the fun begins - Posterous is uniquely innovative in allowing you to 'autopost' your Posterous content to many other 'Web 2.0' spaces/networks/platforms - among other things, your blog posts can now automagically:

  • Tweet links to themselves,
  • Post (per-tag etc...) to another website - such as your company's Wordpress or Drupal-powered website,
  • Upload photos to your flickr photostream,
  • Update your status on Facebook,
  • Upload videos to Youtube,
  • Podcast audio recordings.

This new decade promises continued adoption of 'smart-phones' worldwide as well as increased bandwidth; allowing more people to easily create/capture multi-media and get it online with little noticeable delay - we've already seen this with the rise of citizen journalism [re: Iran's political turmoil through 2009...].  Of course, no matter how much trend-spotters may say that mobile devices will be using fewer Operating Systems [due to larger adoption or Android my handset manufacturers and Apple's continued sales of the iPhone], the vast majority of mobile devices on data connections to Edge/3g/HSPDA/4g networks all offer email.

Posterous has taken a brilliant stance in upholding email as the primary means for its users to get their content online.  Once you have an account, simply email posterous.com your content and it will automatically appear on your blog in seconds, and be autoposted to the applicable external accounts you hold (with platforms like Twitter or sites like Flickr).  They have a bevy of options for flagging content to just be autoposted to specific accounts, and offer you multiple Posterous blogs to which you can as well flag email posts to be directed very easily.

Of course, you aren't limited to posting via email; as with most conventional CMS/blogging systems you can login via the web to type up posts or use their amazingly simple Bookmarklet - which loads through your browser and can retrieve multimedia content from nearly any [non-flash] website for you to comment on and instantly publish to your Posterous blog.

The implications of using email to feed a Posterous blog and, by-extension, one's other online accounts, are tremendous.  Think beyond urban locations in North American or European countries - think beyond the policing that limits the Web's visibility in places like Iran or China; the world uses email and if a computer or mobile (or any other) device can connect to the Internet, irrespective of the Web, individuals and organizations can now post to their blog(s) easier than ever before, *and* to a multitude of other spaces/networks/platforms that collectively make up the most true and lag-less online corpus they've ever been able to have.

For many people around the world just now adopting the Web, Posterous [and the virtues it upholds + copycat service providers + innovators to follow] may offer the ability to exist online more sociably and effectively than ever before - participating actively in previously closed-door or otherwise inaccessible conversations, with conceptual freedom that is a core facet of the Web, and technical ease.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Tuesday Jan 12 '10Notes on Open Atrium Beta 4

Development Seed's just announced that their Open Atrium distro/'installation profile' of Drupal is just about ready to be released.

For those of you who haven't heard of it yet, Open Atrium is an interesting Drupal-built Project Management package (basically, some modules, Drupal 6 and a custom theme with some config options setup when you install it).

I'll get into a fully hands-on review of it soon, but for now, pop over to Development Seed's blog to read the deets and be sure to watch the video below to clue into this cool free project.

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Tuesday Jan 12 '10The better way to manage your Drupal sites

As anyone managing multiple Drupal sites knows, it can become a nightmare to either try and keep them up-to-date via old-school download-modules-then-upload-via-ftp or svn methods.

Last week Walkah blew my mind by showing me his new setup that used the Aegir Hosting Method and Drush Make to rapidly deploy new sites from known profiles (oooohhh Drush Make..) as well as easily upgrade modules etc for existing sites.  I'm about to switch over to this method for hosting all of our client and incubator sites over @ Design Guru and I thought to clue you all in to a great write-up on how these things come together, thanks to mig5.net [read it here]...

(Written by Qasim - Principal/Founder @ Design Guru)

Friday Jan 8 '10designguru.tv Episode 1 - Interview with Mark Kuznicki of Changecamp

In the interview, Mark Kuznicki (remarkk.com) details some experiences gained through his work establishing and developing the changecamp.ca platform, which aims to address issues of citizenship and the nature of government in the 'age of participation.'

Tuesday Jan 5 '10Grand & Toy adopts 48hr delivery practice

On a snowy morning walk to the office today I came across a Grand & Toy delivery truck parking - immediately I noticed their advertisement on its side and am intrigued by the campaign it referenced; Grand & Toy is now offering online customers 48 hour delivery - in attempts to bundle their delivery commitments better and relatively do a better job of impacting the environment less.