A snowboarding magazine, turned into an art-house coffee table book? What's not to love? I don't think I have the willpower to keep my credit card at bay.

Alessandro Castellani of Akira on Advance Tech Media Podcast

This conversation points out a number of great reasons why high quality, open source design tools are needed. I need to remember that although I have access to high powered devices and proprietary (read expensive) professional software, I'm not the only voice in this digital conversation.

February 11, 2019


I want to be working on a... something, an anything really. But, I'm stuck. I don't know where to begin or how to start.

Maybe it should be a web project, I've always wanted to sell a few themes or write/create an instructional series for Grav. What about all of that "Open Web" business, perhaps having a go at integrating ActivityPub or MicroPub endpoints to your site might fit the bill.

No, maybe you should do more open-source and Linux community projects. You've been having a good time participating in that community, so now might be the time to give back. Should you start creating more issues, helping provide support/documentation to a project, or maybe pick up a light programming task. You've got the time to get that started, right?

Wait, what if you just went outside and practised taking more photos, or went to the library and took out a stimulating read? Oh, you could catch up on that novel everyone's always on about. What about the classincs? How will you ever show your face on the Internet again without understading Aristotle, or Nietzche? (To be fair, you have had read a few works by both, not that you remember or understood well enough to be telling people about.)

You know what, why don't you do what everyone would have guessed in the first place? Why don't you just do none of the things you wanted to, write an angsty blog post and feel bad.

There, that's better, isn't it?

Designing Front End Apps for Performance

Great high-level considerations for wringing more performance out of your front end code. This was by far my favourite line:

To speed things up, you either have to reduce the number of operations by making your code more efficient, or by removing some work completely.

It's funny how reading/seeing/hearing a fact stated clearly can trigger all kinds of revelations.

Jon Hicks Interviewed on iPad Pros

What a lovely surprise! A podcast about my favourite computing device and my design hero! I've looked up to Jon since I was a teenager. He introduced me to my first CMS love (Textpattern by the late Dean Allen). I remember being star struck with his work even before he was commissioned to create identities for Firefox(!!!), Silverback, Mailchimp and Opera. He's even recently worked with DuckDuckGo!

Also, how slick is it to be able to design without being able to fully trust your use of colour? So bad ass.

[Edited 2019-02-09: I forgot to add a link to Jon's portfolio. Oops!]

February 08, 2019

I Backed Akira

Little update: I put in about $100 USD behind Akira, the open source interface design utility. I figured that's what another year of support for Sketch would cost me, so why not do the same for Akira.

I'm not so confident that this campaign will succeed (in which case I'll find another way to donate) because this may be a niche that's never really been supported on Linux operating systems, thus there aren't many of us around. Designers are well served on Windows and Mac, so why switch for worse software?

I only wanted to update to get back in the habit of writing and to encourage you to pledge. You won't be alone ;-)

Vanishing Industry Entry Points

I got my start building web pages on simple forums. Arguing back and forth about the proper way to do things while the web standards movement was just getting its start. In an odd turn of events, I'm back where I started: making websites.

Given the path I took and the zeal I maintained to follow it, I can—hand over heart—confirm that I wouldn't be literate in HTML and CSS, I couldn't have had the opportunities to earn a living that I do now, if learning HTML, CSS and Javascript was like it feels now: Javascript, HTML and CSS. Now, nearly 20 years later, I have the discipline to learn more abstract programming concepts. But a lot has happened in the intervening years to make that possible.

Maybe, I could have still wound up where I am today if I got my start long after my adolescence. I'm not so sure. What I can't do is sit in my high tower and tell the next generation of kids that the “real” web is all components and higher-order functions… no matter what I'm interested in these days.1 Thankfully, everyone can still start where I did—even as a child—and make their own journey. My obligation, as a person who's made it this far, is to ensure there still people willing to help a young developer out getting their start.

Perhaps one of the real casualties of our community is common ground. We all have personal domains, but I haven't frequented a design forum in a dog’s age. Where would you go with an issue today? Right to stack overflow? Reddit? Are there still vibrant design forums? I'm still intimidated by those spaces, so I doubt I would have had the gumption to make a start if YouTube comments, Reddit threads and the like were my only mechanism for seeking help.

  1. My father was a heavy-duty mechanic and I'll never forget the day I visited his shop for lunch and saw only a table of 5–6 50ish year old men. Where are all they younger people? I asked. There were none. No apprentices, no journeyman, no one at all. It appears that a bulk of my generation moved passed the possibility of becoming a heavy duty mechanic. Could that happen in our fair industry? If the bar raises too high or the benefits don't seem to correlate with the difficulty of learning, then industries slowly fade. (Not that there will never be mechanics or developers in the future, but newer shinier industries will have their pick of the lot. Youtube Unboxer? Instagram Influencer?) 

Libre Graphics World Interview With the Lead Developer of Akira

Pretty tough interview, for the Akira project I linked to earlier. Generally, I think it was a useful read to gauge the creator's intentions as well as the community's acceptance. The open source world is largely distrustful of Kickstarter and—perhaps—business models writ large. (I know you're cool with it but many are weary.) But that's also why enterprise class applications are either completely sponsored by a company, or it takes 10 years to produce something developers are comfortable tagging one-dot-oh.

Lead developer Alberto Castellani mentioned that development would continue even if funding failed, but might stretch development timelines years into the future before a stable release lands. In open-source, just like everywhere else, you can have software that is: good, cheap, or quickly developed, but not all three. The community seems divided on which two to pick.

Pinebook Pro

I shouldn't be excited for what will probably be a pretty poor performing ARM based *nix laptop, but I am. The newly pre-announced Pinebook Pro will be big step up from the original Pinebook. The Pro version should be powerful enough for light computing tasks and is built from hardier materials. (The plastic on the Pinebook looks horrible.)

Web development isn't particularly taxing—although my creeky Vagrant setup might argue otherwise—and most of my time is spent on the command line. Maybe that's all I need is a decent keyboard and an SSH-capable terminal. I got by with an iPad,1 perhaps a $250-ish Laptop could do just as well.

  1. The iPad, while my favourite computer of all time, never felt right for my development workflow since it depended upon multiple monitors. The Pinebook Pro would be better suited in that way... until new iOS software can right that ship.