Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Adobe’s New ‘Unblur’ Filter Makes CSI-Style Effects Real

You know that scene in CSI and its ilk where the detective says, “Can you enhance the image?” and some faceless tech hits a few keys and suddenly the license plate is clear and readable? Nerds have been mocking those scenes for decades, but it might be time to stop.

Last week at its Max Conference Adobe showed off a new Photoshop tool the company calls unblur. Unblur does exactly what the cliche detective is asking for — it makes blurry photos sharp. While there may be some forensic use for unblur, the filter seems aimed more at those with less than steady hands. That once-in-a-lifetime image ruined by shaky hands? No problem, just unblur it.

The video below gives some more details about how unblur repairs blurry images. Unfortunately, the video itself is too blurry to really see how well it works. However, given that unblur was demoed to a crowd of photo and imaging specialists who proceeded to gasp and applaud, I’m guessing the results were pretty impressive.

So far Adobe has given no word on when or where the unblur filter might land, but the next version of Photoshop seems like a safe bet. Until then, please, feel free to mock CSI.

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Jobs

It’s impossible to imagine the web as it is today without Steve Jobs in the story. Even something as seemingly simple as proportional width fonts might not exist were it not for Jobs and Apple, to say nothing of the WebKit project and dozens of other contributions.

Through it all Jobs and Apple always managed to keep the focus on people. Computers, useful as they are, are nothing without people. The web is the same. The web is about people. It’s a tool to help people imagine more, do more, be more.

So thank you Mr. Jobs for being crazy enough to think you could change the world and the people living in it. It’s clear that you did.

If you haven’t already, check out Steve Levy’s piece on Jobs over at Epicenter. Below is a video of Jobs’s 2005 Stanford commencement address.

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CSS 3 Box Shadow Showcases Browser Differences

The CSS 3 box-shadow property allows for drop shadows and other gradient-based effects without the need for images or other hacks. Box shadow works in Firefox 3+, Chrome, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer 9. Older versions of IE will ignore the rule, but in most cases losing the shadows won’t be catastrophic for your design.

Box Shadows are handy and can do a lot more than just create a shadow effect. Check out this experiment for some examples of the myriad effects you can achieve with just a few box shadow rules (note that some only work in WebKit browsers). However, the box-shadow rule also showcases the ever-present differences between web browsers — even when the browsers all handle the CSS just fine.

While box-shadow works in all the browsers listed above, that doesn’t mean that it looks the same in every browser. For an interesting look at the variety of ways web browsers display box-shadow, head over to this handy guide to box shadow.

As you can see from the screenshot above, there’s considerable variation between the four browsers — everything from the almost non-existant shadow in some IE 9 examples, to the much heavier shadows in Firefox 4. That’s not to say that any one of them is right and the others wrong, just that there are differences. You’ll also find quite a bit of variation in font display and CSS gradients.

The point is, no matter how hard you try, you’re never going to to have pixel perfect rendering across web browsers. Nor do you need pixel perfect rendering across browsers. The real lesson of box shadows is that there will be variety, so stop worrying and get on with creating.

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Stop Typekit Fonts From Slowing Down Your Site

That's a fancy-lookin' T you got there.

That’s a fancy-lookin’ T you got there.

Typekit is one of the easiest ways to get fancy fonts working on your website. Just sign up for an account, pick a font and paste a few lines of code into your pages. TypeKit takes care of the rest, ensuring that your fonts load and there’s no unsightly flash of unstyled content (FOUT) or other problems.

There is, however, one possible problem with the default way of embedding Typekit fonts. If the TypeKit code fails to load, it can slow down the rest of your site. Typekit avoids FOUT by pausing your page load for a fraction of a second, but if the Typekit script never finishes loading, that fraction of a second can turn into many seconds. While Typekit has excellent uptime, let’s face it, outages happen, and we understand if you don’t want to hang your own site’s fate on another.

For those worried about depending on Typekit there is a workaround — load Typekit scripts asynchronously. The Typekit blog recently put posted an in-depth look at various way to embed Typekit fonts in your pages, including an asynchronous method which won’t slow down your page should Typekit become temporarily unavailable.

The disadvantage of the asynchronous design pattern that Typekit outlines is that it means a bit of extra code in your pages. Most likely a few more bytes in your HTML isn’t going to cause a significant speed hit, but it is something to keep in mind.

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Simplify Firefox: Experimental Add-on Hides the URL Bar

LessChrome HD Offers a minimalist take on browser chrome

Mozilla Labs has released a new experimental Firefox add-on, dubbed LessChrome HD, which hides the URL bar to give webpages a bit more room. The idea is to only show the Firefox user interface when needed, the rest of the time the screen real estate is given over to the actual webpage.

The LessChrome HD experiment is available through the Mozilla Add-ons site and you can even try it out without restarting Firefox. LessChrome HD works in Firefox 4 and above.

LessChrome HD doesn’t dispense with the URL bar, it’s just hidden. Moving your mouse anywhere into the window chrome will reveal it, as will the old cmd-L keyboard shortcut or cmd-T to create a new tab. Mozilla refers to this as an “on-demand interface.” In other words, it’s there when you need to navigate and disappears when you’re just reading something on the page.

LessChrome HD is somewhat similar to the new hidden nav bar option in Chrome 13 and seems to hint at a new UI design direction for browsers: hiding the URL bar. The extra screen real estate is useful if you’re using a small screen laptop, but even if you’ve got a massive monitor the minimalist user interface helps focus your attention on the web page, rather than the web browser.

Not everyone likes this trend. Software developer Dave Winer likens the missing URL bar trend to building a house without a backdoor, writing that the URL bar is “the way you can be sure you can get somewhere even if all the powers-that-be don’t want you to go there.” I’d argue that LessChrome HD and Chrome 13′s URL bar experiments are more like hiding the backdoor than eliminating it. That said, I’d hate to see this become a default in any web browser. It seems to work well as it is — an add-on for those that want it, while those that don’t can safely ignore it.

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