I think I’ll review some comicbooks.

All New X-Men #1

A well-drawn, fun time travel story. I’ll definitely pick up the second issue.

Deadpool #1

I’m not sure how to feel about this. It was borderline offensive (is it alright to make fun of homeless people and call them “hobos”?), absurd (Zombie presidents? Are we really supposed to believe that Washington isn’t just bones or dust?), and a lot of fun (zombie presidents). I’ll be picking up the second issue.

Uncanny Avengers #1

I’m just beginning to get into what’s going on in the current apocalyptic title-spanning crisis, so this seems to be a good jumping on point, especially with the help of the commentary in the Augmented Reality app.

I always enjoy Havok, and the two best parts of this issue concern him: Captain America and Thor asking him out to coffee (Thor prefers lattes) and Captain America using Havok’s power for the equivalent of Wolverine and Colossus’s Fastball Special. I’ll probably pick up the second issue.

X-Men Legacy #1

This one was really hard for me to get into. I think one of the reasons they’re “rebooting” this stuff, or at least starting back on #1, is so that new readers feel like they have a place to jump in. If I had realized earlier what all those “AR” badges were all over the comic (a hook for Marvel’s “Augmented Reality” iOS app), the commentary therein would have helped greatly. I did manage to piece it together after a few pages in, but it was kind of a frustrating experience to begin with. I have a short attention span here, people.

So the gist of it is this is Professor X’s son (the guy who was a vegetable in the second X-Men movie) and his guru is trying to get him to control all the personalities that live in his head. The comic starts with a prison scene that turns out to be what’s happening inside his mental prison. Interesting. Feels more like a Veritgo comic than an X-Men comic. At least with the Vertigo comics I remember from a million years ago.

But the art and story weren’t enough to wow me. I won’t be picking up the second issue.

To those who only post quotes online.

Please speak to us in your own voice. You have important things to say, even if it doesn’t sound as elegant as someone else’s platitudes. Your real voice is much more important and interesting.

Classic Comics, Republished

Why do publishers print reproduced classic comics on pristine, glossy, white paper with modern, flat, hyper-saturated colors? It looks terrible. It makes the line work look silly and amateur and doesn’t show the cool, low quality color halftones that were originally used. Whenever I see a Marvel Masterworks or the like I always want to get into it, but I flip through and am immediately turned off.

It would look so much better if they’d put them on something that tried to emulate the original material, but was still high quality and long lasting. Something that looks like pulp, but without being hokey or overly retro. Actual pulp looks (and smells) great, but the lines and color start getting blurry over time, and of course it deteriorates too quickly.

Am I missing something, or are publishers just being lazy by using modern printing techniques without thinking about how it makes old comics look bad?

EarPods

On the the day of the iPhone 5 announcement, the thing I was most excited about was Apple’s next-generation earbuds, the EarPods.

I’ve been a diehard iPhone earbud user for years. Because I didn’t like the idea of “upgrading” to an in-ear style of earbud, and because the only time I use earbuds are when I’m …

  • … walking around town (crossing streets and generally needing to hear traffic)
  • .. riding my bike around town (crossing and riding in streets and generally needing to hear traffic)
  • … running (usually on streets, generally needing to hear traffic)

After yet another pair of mediocre, $30 Apple earbuds had their rubber gasket material start to come off, I broke down and bought some rubbery in-ear earbuds to try out.

I instantly hated them. I hated trying to get a custom fit with the plethora of different sized rubbery bits. I hated the thought that my ears weren’t symmetrical. I hated the feeling and the sound of my own voice rattling around in my head with nowhere to escape (this made them virtually useless for phone calls).

Here’s what I like about the new EarPods.

  • They’re easier to clean. Since they don’t have that little rubbery gasket or the grill on the front, You can easily take an alcohol swab or wipe and clean these things off very easily. This is especially good if you drop them on the ground in a public place. Ew.
  • There’s nothing to wear out. The only times I’ve bought new Apple earbuds are when the rubber gasket comes off. Remember when the earbuds that came with old iPods had that little elastic panty to put over them? What was up with that?
  • The buttons (for answering/skipping tracks and turning the volume up and down) feel a lot more solid than the old version. They’re somehow more pronounced but not harder to press.
  • To my ears, these are much more comfortable. I didn’t hate the feeling of the old ones, but these are even more comfortable. I can barely feel them.
  • The sound is at least as good as, and I’d say a fair amount better than, the last model.
  • The carrying case. It’s cute and fairly easy to use and keeps those easy-to-clean earbuds even cleaner when you put them in your linty, coin-filled pocket or backpack.

So, I’d say they’re well worth the $30 we were already spending on Apple-brand earbuds. Get you some.

Kate Beaton & Jesse Thorn

Kate Beaton is wonderful and she does the most expressive drawings. Just look at this (from Strange Tales II).

widdle baby

Hilarious. And simple. Simply hilarious.

Here’s the artist. (photo source)

Kate Beaton

Then there’s Jesse Thorn. This guy. (source)

Jesse Thorn

I know him mostly from Put This On, a video podcast about menswear that used to be good. They seemed to have lost their sandwich, but that’s another story.

In any case, here’s an interview Jesse did with Kate that I found quite enjoyable.

Kate is amazingly talented. I got the opportunity to see her in person at SPX last September (Here’s an unfortunate picture of yours truly meeting another comic book hero to prove it).

She’s one of those people you realize are much younger than you are so why haven’t you done amazing things like they’ve done? You’ve had more time!

Anyway, go listen to that interview. What a voice, am I right? Cute, super-talented, and a low, sultry (if somewhat fried) voice. And she manages to do all this while Canadian.

Responsive Web Design

The cover of Responsive Web Design
Photo by Jeremy Keith

This was a great overview of the world of Responsive Web Design. Of course, the phrase and this specific set of techniques was invented/curated by the author, so I (correctly) assumed it would be the very helpful guide that it is.

While you could get most of the technical know-how you need to use this technique by reading the A List Apart Article, this book goes into depth on the more subtle aspects. It also thoroughly answers the question “why should I use this?”, and even points out situations where RWD might not be ideal.

Each of the three ingredients of RWD are given their own chapter (the other two chapters of the book are the introduction and the summary—short and sweet).

  1. Flexible, Grid-Based Layout
    • This is your basic fluid/liquid layout with some grid goodness.
    • How to define things in relative measurements rather than pixels.
    • The formula: target ÷ context = result
      • target = the pixel dimensions you’re aiming for in your ideal layout
      • context = the area in which the target item is sitting
      • result = a huge, decimal-happy number such as 0.4583333333333333 that you put in your CSS (hopefully with a comment next to it showing how the number was derived.)
  2. Flexible Images
    • This stuff just seems magical. I especially love the technique of clipping images in certain circumstances.
  3. Media Queries
    • Before reading this book, this is the #1 thing that came to mind when the topic of Responsive Web Design came up. Of course, it is the magic sauce that gives the technique its main wow-factor, but it is only one third (although I would argue the most important third) of the technique.

While I understand the need to support older browsers, the depth to which this book goes in explaining how to get things to work in IE6 seemed quaint. I also was a little disappointed that he didn’t go whole hog and use HTML5. However, I understand that we can’t always use the new shiny things, so I don’t fault him too much for this.

The book ends with a (quite clever) recommendation of designing for the smallest screen first, and then adding complexity as the browser’s viewport gets larger. This has a couple of benefits:

  1. Mobile-first is a good way to design. These quotes nail the value in the approach:

    … we assume mobile users need less content in part because desktop users can tolerate more …

    … just because desktop users can sift through more content does that mean they need to? … why is easy access to key tasks only the domain of mobile users? Why can’t all users of our sites enjoy the same level of focused, curated content?

  2. Putting the more advanced CSS (and potentially bigger downloads) behind media queries with progressively higher min-widths means that devices that can’t use the advanced rules don’t have to be penalized by downloading things they can’t see.

A note on the electronic version: I now want to read all technical books on the iPad. The embedded videos that demonstrate how things adjust when you resize the browser window were invaluable. Not only is this better than a print version, it’s tons better than even a Kindle version.

After reading this, I feel much better equipped to determine when and how RWD should be used in my future projects. If you have anything to do with website creation (design, development, ownership), you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Website Security Anti-Patterns

I love Rdio. It’s one of the most exciting thing I’ve seen on the web in recent memory. However, I refuse to pay for it or to recommend that anyone else do so.

Why? Because they don’t indicate the presence of a secure certificate in the browser. I talked to a couple of the developers on Twitter, and they assured me that it was totally safe and that the form was being loaded in a secure iframe. Right.

Padlock

That’s missing the point. I shouldn’t have to take someone’s word for it or inspect the HTML of the page to see if it’s safe to enter my credit card number. That’s why they invented those notifications in your browsers. I can click it to verify that a bad guy isn’t going to steal my info. It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling.

What’s the first thing you tell your parents about using the web? “Check for the little padlock before entering any secure information.” Sites like Rdio (and apparently Tumblr, which I also otherwise love) break this expectation. That is a bad thing. What they’re doing (as far as I know) is just as safe, but the end users have no way of knowing that. They are training people to stop looking for the padlock, which I think is inexcusable.

What do you think?


Update June 11, 2010:

Rdio have updated their site to include the option to load their credit card form via a popup window. A step in the right direction. Thanks, gents.

It’s a shame that the security of the form isn’t indicated by default, but the fact that they’re addressing the issue is much appreciated. Perhaps something needs to be worked out with browser vendors if this is the way people want to create credit card forms.

A Moment in Time

I had an interesting experience on the way home from the grocery store tonight. As I was coming to a stop at a red light at Woodmont Boulevard and Hillsboro Pike, I realized that the sound of bagpipes was floating in the air. I turned off the book on tape I was listening to and opened the windows. I couldn’t tell what direction the sound was coming from. Then I noticed how quiet everything was. I was in the midst of hundreds of multi-ton machines burning gasoline, but it was remarkably quiet. All the cars were just sitting there purring quietly. Even the bag pipes were quiet—far off, but they were there. Somewhere. And so out of place.

Cool Things Mentioned in jQuery Podcasts I Listened to Today

yayQuery Episode 5 / Cool things in jQuery 1.4

  • Image Maps
    • Apparently, jQuery 1.4 handles image maps properly. Rebecca Murphey mentioned that the book High Performance Websites recommends using image maps in certain situations. I’m all about these old school techniques if it makes sense. It seems like kottke.org was using image maps on its navigation until the recent redesign. Then again, I also advocate tables for layout if the mood strikes me.
  • onBeforeUnload
    • jQuery 1.4 also apparently handles this neat event better than it used to. This is the event that gets triggered when you see a message when you’re editing a document in Google Docs and try to close the window. Very good to know. I might have to add detection of this event into ComicBinder.

The Official jQuery Podcast Episode 4 / Online debugging

  • JS Bin
    • This was mentioned as a cool way to do JS debugging that you could share with your friends. I had forgotten about this site. I need to use it. And it reminded me of another site I had forgotten about that I need to use:
  • hurl
    • Online display of HTTP responses. Trying to figure out how to use an API? Copy and paste the URL you’re working with to your API guru friend. Like an online version of HTTP Client.

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