Apr 15

At the same time as making an iPhone directed website (Sleep/Wake Home) a more pleasant experience on a PC/Mac, I’m doing the same in reverse for another website.
ItOpens is a site that shows the opening lines of books and poems. It’s something that I first built about 10 years ago and last gave a makeover to in 2005. Its exiting layout fitted very poorly with the iPhone’s screen.

Rather than slavishly reconstruct what was already there, I redesigned everything from the ground up whilst retaining the same database. It proved to be remarkably easy and I’ve even put in some extra options (including a full text search) which wasn’t there in the original.

I’ve progressed with it to the point that I’ve now submitted it to Apple’ WebApp site. Hopefully it will join the other 4644 WebApps there soon, though there’s no guarantee.

Apr 09

Having watched the launch of iPhone OS 4 here, I have a few thoughts

Folders
Great. This was very high on my wish-list, and the UI seems very simple and intuitive (and will presumable also be doable in the iTunes UI on the PC/Mac). However a simple sum leads me to suspect a limitation. We are told that the number of Apps that can be installed will go up from 180 (11 screens at 16 plus 4 at the bottom) to 2160. This latter figure implies that the maximum number of Apps that you will be able to put in a folder will be 12 (2160 divided by 180).

In practice, this shows up two limitations: firstly, the obvious one, that if you have more than 12 apps in a particular category you will need to split them over multiple folders (leading to a variation on the swishing backwards and forwards looking for an App that we all experience now).

The second, less obvious limitation is that the true practical limit on the number of apps is likely to be much less than 2160: for every App that you can’t or don’t want to categorise into a folder you “lose” 11 from the total; for every folder that isn’t full with 12 Apps, you will lose the shortfall from the total. Of course I don’t suppose that 2160 will be the actual top figure any mote than 180 is now: we will presumably still have the extra invisible screens to the right (does anyone know if there us a maximum number of these?). And of course the iPad’s ability to have more than 4 items in the dock (5?,6? I don’t have an iPad to hand, in fact I don’t have an iPad at all), changes the sums.

Regardless of what the new practical number of Apps is, the introdution of folders is likely to lead to more Apps being installed on the average iPhone/iPod/iPad (I’m going to abbreviate that to ‘iP’ in future). This in turn is likely to move people towards using the search facility (Tip: change the order of search results to put Applications first – Settings App: General/Home/Search Results) . Hopefully the search will throw up folders as well as Apps, so with a bit of thought about the naming of folders, you’ll have a simple menu system.

As Steve Jobs didn’t mention it I don’t expect folders to be able to contain folders, but maybe in a future version.

More iPhone OS 4 musings later.

Mar 28

As if things weren’t complex enough, I’ve introduced another technology.

It occured to me that although an iPhone targetted blog (this one) would likely as not be read (if at all) on an iPhone, an iPhone specific website may well have a PC/Mac audience. Although Sleep/Wake Home displays OK in Safari and (with one or two quirks) in Internet Explorer. The overall look is
not great.

Although the classic way to achieve this is via CSS, I suspect that in time the PC/Mac content might diverge a little from the iPhone. With that in mind I wanted something that I could easily pour content into without having to spend too much time on each page, so I looked for an open source Content Management System. The one I’ve chosen is Joomla.

As is usual for me, I’ve spent far too much time on messing around with the Joomla and lost several hours work for reasons that weren’t absolutely clear to me.

The biggest challenge so far has been the incorporation of the database driven pages, but I pretty much have that sorted now with just the CSS styling to redo.

Obviously I’ve looked to see if Joomla has an iPhone specific theme – it doesn’t – and an iPhone App to manage it – it does: Joomla Admin Mobile (JAM).  JAM is a little expensive by iPhone App standards (£5.99), but it does a reasonable job.  One issue I have with it is if the backend is slow in reacting, there is no indication that JAM is doing anything at all.

Whilst Joomla is perfectly capable of producing a blog, WordPress is much better suited for that purpose. And whilst one could produce a decent general purpose website with WordPress, Joomla is better suited for that.  Horses for courses.

Mar 24

Another landmark. And So To Blog has received its first comment. It was spam, but you can’t have everything.
[Updated] Again the thrill of a new comment, again the dissapointment, again the spam.

Mar 22

I’ve just spent the majority of the afternoon (I’m having a day’s leave today, nearly the end of the leave year) going round in an almost complete circle. Having decided that I wanted to re-install the StatCounter counter on all the pages in sleepwakehome.com, I returned to the mantra of re-usabilty, stuffed the necessary code, plus the Google Analytics code, plus the iWebkit banner in a php include file, hacked out the existing footer from all 17 user-available pages (there would be a lot more, but some of them are database driven) and inserted a link to the include file.

This worked fine with the two php pages but not for the 15 html ones. I’d forgotten that whilst php is perfectly happy to pretend an html page is php, the opposite is not true. My second thought was to rename all the html files as php (remembering of course to change links). But that would screw up my coveted Google links which would end nowhere. Then I remembered server side includes (SSI). I had some experience of these about ten years ago on asp pages and had a vague idea that these days they worked on html pages too. A quick scan of my ISP’s help pages confirmed this, so I turned the php include file into an html one and changed the links in the 15 html files accordingly.

Unfortunately although SSI works OK with my ISP, it only works if the file containing the include has the extension shtml, so the same google links problem would exist.

So I gave up and changed back to a common piece of code replacing the php at the bottom of each page. Memo to self “all new pages will be php”.

As I was typing this I’ve thought of a solution (for another day now, I’m out this evening). Keep the old pages as well as the new, amending the old ones with the meta tag that tells google to ignore them. When the googlebot has found all the new pages (and ignored the old pages), the old pages can be deleted.

Mar 22

The fact that I new from the previous post that this blog had had at least one visitor led me to look at the stats from the StatCounter plugin. Wow! two visitors from the US (although one might be a search engine), one from the Phillipines and 6 from iPhones in the UK. Discounting three which were me (my iPhone, my Mac pretending to be an iPhone via Safari and my IPhone Emulator on the Mac) and my daughter, that still leaves two from the UK.

Hardly gridlock, but it’s still traffic.

Oddly a quick check of StatCouunter shows that sleepwakehome.com isn’t receiving any traffic at all. This is really strange as I know my daughter has visited and I’ve been there myself. I think I must have broken the StatCounter script at some point.

A look at Google Analytics shows 12 absolutely unique visitors (of which at least 4 will be me). The Google Analytics stats are more comphrehensive in some ways, but on balance I think I prefer StatCounter. Time to see if I can figure out what’s wrong.

Mar 22

My daughter rang this morning. She’s read the post about being a guinea pig for the How to create a blog tutorial on sleepwakehome.com and she says she will have a go.

Mar 22

I’ve been trying to figure out pingbacks and trackbacks the mechanism where one blog notifies another that it has mentioned it.

It’s totally unclear to me at the moment. I’ve linked to this blog from andsotoblogtoo this post but nothing happened. Oh hang on I’d only mentioned the permalink (don’t ask yet I don’t understand it myself), I hadn’t put in a link. Perhaps that will do

Mar 22

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last couple of days working on Sleep/Wake Home. This has included sorting out the rounding of icons and introducing WebApp categories on the main menu. I’ve also started on the process of adding WebApps. In doing so I (re-)found the Apple index of WebApps which currently contains 4445 items. I’m going to have to think about a paging mechanism.

Although automatic paging is another thing that using WordPress as the outer wrapper has as an advantage, I’m still hestistant about changing tack at this stage.

Mar 20

The way software (and web sites are just a special case of software) is constructed is to create small entities within bigger entities, Sometimes when designing things it’s not at all clear what goes on the outside and what goes on the inside.

The more I look at what’s possible within WordPress, the more I wonder whether I’m doing things the wrong way round. At the moment, conceptually, the blog (And So To Blog) is contained within the web site (sleepwakehome.com). Perhaps I should be doing things the other way round, using WordPress as the wrapper, containing both the blog itself and the web site.

And perhaps the title of this post will generate some traffic :-)

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