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Unstoppable Robot Ninja

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  1. Keynote, Magic Move, and You

    A confession: I love working in Keynote. Love it.

    (I’m speaking, of course, of Keynote ’09. Not the feature-stripped version that was released last month. Still, I’m hopeful it’ll improve over time, since it is so very pretty.)

    It’s not perfect, mind you—after four or five years of use, the program’s got some not-insignificant stability issues, crashing way more often than I’d like. But after all that time it’s still one of my favorite visual editors: it’s great for quickly prototyping UI components, sketching out ideas for animation timing, and, yes, making slides.

    Anyway: over the years, folks have said some very kind things about the visual design of my presentations. I don’t have any special knowledge about Keynote, mind, but thought I’d share a couple things I use in my presentations, in case anyone else finds them helpful.

    First up: Magic Move.

    Basically, Magic Move is a transition you can apply between two slides. If the second slide shares any objects—images, text boxes, or what-have-you—with the first slide, those objects will be, well, magically moved from one position to the next.

    Here’s a very, very simple example:

    As you can see, there’s just one object on both slides: a picture of my good friend Dwayne. The image is the same on both slides—you can duplicate the slide, or copy/paste the object to the second slide—but since its position changed, Magic Move kinda tweens the photo to its new position.

    Now, I don’t use Magic Move a lot, usually preferring to just lean on simple dissolves between slides. But it’s great for managing more complex animations, like this one:

    This animation requires a bit more setup, but the principle is basically the same:

    1. In the first slide, the “screenshots” you see are basically a lot of tiny little screencaps, each containing just one element of the interface. (So there’s an image for the toolbar in Editorially’s editor, another for the discussion panel, another for the account menu avatar, and so on.)
      1. When I’m arranging complex flyouts like this, I’ll usually have a reference screenshot on the canvas as a base layer, and place the smaller screencaps atop it. Just to make sure everything’s aligned, that is.
    2. Then, in the second slide, I move all those small images where I’d like them to end up.
    3. Turn on Magic Move, and you’re left with a neat little flyout cross-section of an interface.

    As with most things Keynote-related, Magic Move is pretty reliable…but the more you use it, you’ll probably run up against a couple idiosyncrasies. You can’t magicmove (oh god i’m so sorry) an object if it has any builds or actions on it; animated objects (YES MOM, I’M TALKING ABOUT GIFs) will just blink to their new position; and some objects might move completely counter to what you’d expect.

    And as with anything animation-driven, it’s very, very easy to overuse and abuse: try to consider marrying the animation with what you’re actually saying, and ensure the visuals don’t outwhelm your words as you’re presenting. That said, Magic Move is a fantastic tool to keep near at hand—when used just right I think it can be, well, kinda magical.

    This is a blog entry posted on day 13302 in the Journal.

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  2. OS X, hidden wireless networks, and me

    Having a bit of a problem with my laptop lately, and thought I’d write up the problem in case it’s affecting anyone else:

    So my MacBook Air (mid-2009, OS X 10.8.3) When my computer wakes from sleep, it doesn’t immediately reconnect to my wireless network. What’s more, if I open up the wireless menu in OS X’s menu bar, it doesn’t show any networks nearby. Zip. Zero. Zilch. It’ll scan for new networks repeatedly, but won’t see a single one.

    But here’s where this gets really, really annoying: if I open the Network panel in System Preferences, all nearby networks are immediately visible without delay.

    Given the weird inconsistency between the two menus, and that I can reproduce this issue consistently, I figure this is a bug: either with 10.8.3, or with my aging little laptop. Either way, I’d love to fix it. So if you’ve come across this problem and know how a workaround, suggestions via email or Twitter would be most welcome.

    Update: Charles Gaudette suggested on Twitter that it might be a couple , and pointed me toward a page showing how to clear out corrupted plist files. Deleting the and files seems to have done the trick—thanks, Charles! And thanks to everyone else who wrote in or twittered suggestions at me.

    This is a blog entry posted on day 13136 in the Journal.

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  3. On Presto

    These thoughts aren’t especially well-formed, and/as I haven’t had my coffee yet.

    So with that disclaimer out of the way, I have to say I’m a bit disappointed to hear Opera’s news: namely, that they’re abandoning their browser’s Presto engine, and adopting WebKit/Chromium instead.

    Other folks far, far smarter than I have already weighed in. And don’t get me wrong: I’ve had my fair share of gripes with various bugs in Chromium (especially recently), but it’s a fantastic piece of software; as a friend said recently, ten-years-ago-me would’ve killed to have browsers as fine as we do now.

    But right now, what I’m most worried about is the lack of diversity: four rendering engines is not exactly a large number, and going to three is a significant shift, if not an outright loss. Additionally, I worry we’re already facing a rather “well, it works with -webkit, so why worry about anything else?” mentality, which is something we’ll have to work harder to combat. Especially with an engine as fragmented as Webkit.

    Of course, since the news is all of, like, minutes old, this is all speculation. Hell, it’s not even that: this is all just a pre-caffeine ramble, and not an especially well-formed one at that. I will say that Bruce’s take leaves me feeling hopeful. And I hope he’s right, and I’m wrong to be a bit disappointed. But right now, I know there’s one less (fantastic) rendering engine in active development, and that makes me a little sad.

    This is a blog entry posted on day 13035 in the Journal.

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  4. Hello, Editorially

    I’ve always sucked at writing.

    Not the words, mind you: those usually come easily. (When I remember to sit down and write them, that is; hellooooooo, sad and neglected blog.) It’s more the process of the thing, I guess. It’s a struggle for me to get ideas down quickly; I get intimidated by the promise of that final draft, of shipping, so I often feel every word needs to be perfect as soon as it’s typed.

    (No, I’m not going to tell you how long it took to write this fucking blog entry.)

    Anyway. So, yes: writing’s hard. But I’m learning how to make it easier. And, alongside a few friends, I’m working on something that might make it easier for you, too.

    Last year, I had a long conversation with Mandy. She talked about this idea she had: an idea for a tool that would facilitate conversation, discussion, and, most importantly, iteration during the writing process. Not just an application, actually: more a set of features to support a workflow, one that would, if done right, make writing not just easier, but better.

    She and Jason had already sketched out how it might work. Soon after, David joined our merry band, and turned our responsive prototypes a living, breathing application. And Rob joined our team recently, and has been, as Mandy said, effortlessly solving problems we once thought impossible.

    I am beyond honored to be a small part of this team, and I can’t wait to show you what we’ve been working on. We call it Editorially, and you can read more about it on our first blog entry.

    Stay tuned.

    This is a blog entry posted on day 13033 in the Journal.

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  5. A programming change

    I’m sad to say that due to a personal matter, I’ve had to bow out of speaking at this year’s Mobilism conference. You might have seen PPK’s announcement to that effect, and I’m definitely disappointed I’ll miss the event.

    Because let’s be honest: my absence isn’t going to do a damned thing to diminish how amazing this conference is going to be. Seriously, look at this lineup. Look at it. Learning from the likes of Scott Jenson, Stephen Hay, Jake Archibald, Lyza Gardner, and Jason Grigsby is too good to be true, and in Amsterdam? And if you haven’t already, watch Jeremy Keith’s epic mobile browser panel from last year, a performance he’s repeating again in May.

    Yeah okay I’m officially depressed all over again about missing it.

    Seriously though: while I won’t be there, you can be. If you haven’t already, go register for Mobilism 2012 in May. You’ll have one hell of a time.

    This is a blog entry posted on day 12719 in the Journal.

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