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17 November 2011

In Praise Of Slow by Carl Honoré

Time. One of life's most precious assets. Yet, the art of savouring time is all but lost.

Today life is performed at a hectic pace. Every activity is planned, scheduled, prioritised. We're encouraged to mature quickly, attain academic brilliance, toil for long hours, and do something with every minute of our free time.

The result is we constantly sit in life's fast lane, as life goes by in a blur. No time to explore, reflect, imagine, dream or even breathe. Seldom is the question asked, "In the final reckoning what difference will this very urgent, very important diary entry make?".

Slow mediums are on the decline. Reading books, listening to the radio, hearing complete albums, watching nature and a whole host of art and craft endeavours have been jilted. Their place taken by smartphones, games machines, YouTube videos, bite-sized TV programmes, individual music downloads and anything that might provide instant stimulation and gratification.

Carl's book aims to be an antidote to this time-sickness. Within its pages are many thought provoking examples of how to take a more leisurely approach to living. There's the highly active Slow Food movement with their magazines, events and workshops. The Dutch inspired Woonerf-style ('living street') residential traffic management schemes. Japanese schools where schedules and subjects are set by the students, who never sit an exam. Even a whole chapter on the joys of Tantric sex.

Slow isn't easy. It takes courage and deep breaths to accomplish the necessary behavioural changes, and allow everything to happen at its own natural speed. But, as this book ably demonstrates, it's worth it. Slow is beautiful. Be sure you take the time to read it.

10 November 2011

Micro Mart Hat Trick

I managed a hat trick of publications in this week's Micro Mart issue 1183.

Firstly there's part two of my Coding Challenges series.

Then there's a journalistic style article about the future of Adobe Flash - highly topical as this BBC story broke the day before publication. And finally a product review on Mozilla's Firefox 7 browser.

Here's an extract from the Adobe Flash article:

Is Adobe about to abandoned Flash? Adobe's MAX conference, in October 2011, certainly included plenty Flash content. Flash Player 11 offers game developers a 3D hardware-accelerated programming interface. It's a specialist task, yet one that can generate impressive performance gains. And the new Adobe AIR 3 can bundle Flash code plus the Flash Player into a native code executable.

But web-standards were much in evidence at MAX 2011 too. HTML sessions were not only much more numerous than in previous years, but also among the most popular. Another indication of a sea-change in developer focus. And as HTML5 and CSS3 grow ever richer, they'll be less and less need to use proprietary, plug-in based solutions and tools.

Web browsers based on web-standards are a win-win scenario. Users will be able to display any Internet page using the operating system's default browser as is. No plug-in installation to perform, and no nagging plug-in version update reminders. Designers and developers can reach a much wider range of platforms and work with a more diverse range of tools, while experimenting with a rich palette of CSS functionality and powerful JavaScript libraries.

All indications point to a growing acceptance on the part of Adobe, and its band of loyal product advocates, that the Flash party is coming to an end. In the meantime Adobe will continue to hedge its bets, and provide ever more accomplished products and tools based around web-standards technology.

I've posted a PDF of the Adobe Flash article on my sample PDF page.

5 November 2011

'Coding Challenges' Series

Starting this week, issue 1182, is my new seven part series, Coding Challenges, which takes an in-depth look the challenges faced by software programmers.

The introductory article starts off by explaining why I believe programming is both and art and a craft.

The second article embarks on a mission to find the most appropriate software language for your project or task.

Article three examines the ever present issue of complexity, and discovers the inescapable need to become a polyglot programmer.

The fourth article is all about client-side development, including web browser technology and the various web development languages.

Article five turns its attention to server-side web development, including webpage delivery, data-rich web services and cloud-based computing.

The penultimate article examines how PC operating system evolution, cloud-centric computing and mobile device apps impact software development.

The series concludes with an investigation into the challenges involved with handling, storing, processing and analysing scientific data.