Interesting add-on for Ubuntu to transform the user interface to look like Mac OS X. I am going to test it out to see what it looks like.

Not sure how Apple feels about it though.



jQuery Autocomplete

As part of the work I have done on OMIM, I had to put in an autocomplete features. I found the jQuery Plugin which appears to be no longer supported. jQuery UI has a nice autocomplete implementation but it does a lot more than I needed and requires a buy-in to the UI tools.

Then I found jquery-autocomplete on Google code which did all I needed. I made a number of changes to the code to bring the functionality in line with the autocomplete feature on major search engines. And I am also bringing the documentation up to date.



AppleInsider | Apple exploring dual-mode screens with ‘display’ and ‘touch’ settings

This is interesting, I was working with a colleague recently and we were looking at something on my laptop and I instinctively reached for the screen and tried to drag something across it and wondered why it was not moving.

AppleInsider | Apple exploring dual-mode screens with ‘display’ and ‘touch’ settings: “Future Apple products could have screens that users could switch between unique modes for ‘display’ and ‘touch,’ allowing a transition between traditional computing and multi-touch interaction.”

Great Hardware, Poor Software

I like the new iPods. The new Shuffle goes back to the previous design (I own one), I did not think much of the previous version which took minimalism a little too far I think, people like buttons it seems. The new Touch is a very nice evolution, basically catching up with the current iPhone (except for the camera). And the new Nano is really nice, I think I will be getting one. I am not worried that it lost its camera, and I could not care less about radio (unlike the RIAA which thinks I really need one).

The new Apple TV is very nice, I keep running out of space on the current one I have which means that I need to juggle what goes on there (I had upgraded to 160GB, was considering upgrading it to 320GB, but that would cost the same as a new Apple TV).

On the other hand iTunes keeps on disappointing and is in dire need of a complete rethink (see Ars Technica and Paul Thurrott on this). I was expecting Apple to having something new this time because they reached version 10, now it looks like we are going to have to wait until version 11 which may not come before September next year.

Reading Articles in a Web Browser

I am a big fan of the new “Reader” feature in Apple’s Safari browser, it makes it much easier to read an article without all the side-content taking your attention away. The really nice thing about “Reader” is that it will fetch all the pages that make up the article so you don’t have to page forward as you are reading unlike “Readability” (which I also really like). “Reader” also keeps the images in place, as well as any objects that may be embedded in the article (Flash for example, cough!! cough!!)

As a side project I have been implementing a similar thing in Java to extract indexable text from web pages. I started off looking at the “Readability” source code (the fact that I understood what was going on while have never touched JavaScript is a credit to the developer), and then took off in my own direction inspired by “Reader”. The project took longer than I was expecting but it is almost code-complete. I used the excellent Jericho HTML Parser for this, the trick is to achieve a balance between coding for specific sites and keeping it generic so that it can deal with as many sites as possible.

In the event the code is able to handle multi-page articles, handles more sites than “Reader” can, and is able to output text for indexing, simplified HTML for reading, and handles images quite nicely.

Reading on paper faster than on reading devices

This was interesting, I copied the article verbatim from the Scope Newsletter from Knowledge Speak:

Reading on paper faster than on reading devices, says Nielsen Norman study – 06 Jul 2010

Product development consultancy Nielsen Norman Group, US, recently conducted a study, according to which it takes longer to read a book on an iPad or Kindle than on the printed page.

For the study, Dr. Jakob Nielsen compared the reading times of 24 users on the iPad using the iBooks application, the Kindle 2, a PC monitor and the paper. It was found that reading on an electronic tablet was up to 10.7 percent slower than reading a printed book. However, Nielsen found that users preferred reading books on a tablet device compared to the paper book despite the slower reading times. Meanwhile, the PC monitor was universally unaccepted as a reading platform among all test subjects.

In addition, Nielsen’s results show that reading on the iPad is significantly faster compared to the Kindle 2. The reading speeds between the two devices were, however, ‘not statistically significant.’ The difference between reading times on the devises is so small that it wouldn’t be a reason to buy one over the other.

The study asked each user to rate how they liked each format on a scale of 1-7. The iPad, Kindle 2 and printed book were nearly tied at 5.8, 5.7 and 5.6 respectively, while the PC monitor ranked last at 3.6 points. The test subjects said that reading on the PC felt too much like being at work, while they found it more relaxing to read a printed book than on an electronic device.

Regardless of how fast people can read on an electronic device, the e-reader is becoming popular every year. According to estimates by the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales are currently growing at a rate of 217.3 percent versus 2009.

This is not the first study about this issue, and the others came to the same conclusion, in fact the first time I heard about this was in 1989.

I am not sure how accurate the “being at work” reason is, why should someone read any differently while at work than not at work. If the material is the same then the reading speed should be the same.

I think there are two things going on here. One, which has been identified as an issue (back in 1989), is that the resolution has an impact on reading speed and retention. Print has a much higher resolution than screen and thus is easier for us to read (note the hoopla about retinal displays.) And this is something I certainly notice. The other thing is that there are multiple distractions accessible on a computer (email, IM, feedreader, etc…) which are not accessible when reading a book.

Speaking for myself I tend to print stuff out on paper, head to my reading chair, and read there.


Voting Woes

Amazing that the porbeagle shark got protected status at all given this:

So the chair ordered the technicians to reset the system. Before a new vote on the porbeagle, a test was ordered. “Could everyone please vote ‘Yes’ now?” he said. After thirty seconds the chair said he had received votes from everyone in the room, and that the system was working. He then observed dryly that of the 137 nations that had been supposed to vote ‘Yes’, seven had voted ‘No’ and two had voted to abstain.