All posts tagged ‘future’

File Under: Visual Design

Someday You Will Not Hate the CSS3 Advanced Layout

At first glance you’re going to hate the “advanced layout” that is currently a W3C working draft. Maybe it’s the similarity to table-based layouts, of which we all still have nightmares. Mainly, you’ll likely cringe just because it’s such a foreign way to write CSS. I think you’ll eventually come around.

Example of advanced layout CSSConsider this common layout: a header covers the top of the page, followed by a left sidebar, content area, and a right sidebar. The proposed CSS declaration for this example is display: “aaaaaa” “bccccdd”. Note that this has not been declared a standard, nor is it supported by any browser yet. It’s just a proposal.

Creator of jQuery John Resig likes it, and he’s always one to jump at simplified syntax. The funny thing about this advanced layout, which you probably still hate, is that it’s actually simpler than the floats and clears that have to happen to create similar layouts with CSS today.

Newspaper front page with advanced layout CSS

As much help as CSS frameworks have become, they can add extra weight, with markup that provides CSS hooks, but does not make sense semantically. In the case of the so-called advanced layout, once you have described the grid with the sequence of letters, you can simply refer to the positions in CSS:

#header {

position: a;

}

#sidebar {

position: b;

}

...

The outcome is HTML that doesn’t need to be unneccessarily nested. CSS without confusing calls to grid-based rules.

What do you say? Do you like it yet?

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File Under: Other

Are Light Bulbs the Next WiFi?

Smart LED lighting provides wireless connectivity

Boston University wants to create a new wireless technology based on LEDs instead of radio waves. The tiny, powerful lights blink so fast that the eye cannot detect the change, offering the possibility of communicating megabits of data every second.

That’s slow, according to Gadget Lab:

The current 802.11g Wi-Fi standard, which transmits data at rates up to 54 megabits per second. But researchers are aiming the light technology at networking household appliances, such as refrigerators, photo frames or printers — bringing us a step closer to the dream of a wireless household.

The technology requires switching from standard bulbs to LEDs. Then, wherever there is light within line of sight would have a connection to the Internet. Traditional WiFi is able to go through walls, but is subject to interference.

The program has just been launched by the College of Engineering with a grant from the National Science Foundation. So, don’t expect to head into Best Buy for your LED router anytime soon. In fact, a similar concept from 2001 using the flicker of fluorescent lights has yet to see widespread use.

The future of ubiquitous computing will need innovations like this to become a reality. Our iPhone-like devices will need a constant connection. One downside: this could leave those of us who bring our laptops to bed searching for a light to stay connected.

[Drawing by Boston University via Cellular News]

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File Under: Web Basics

Future of Search Won’t Be Incremental

A cyborg searches GoogleVoice input? Direct brain link? What does the future of search hold? If it’s to be created by someone other than Google, it sure won’t be much like today’s search. The future of search is unlikely to be incremental. It will be a radical shift from what we’re used to.

Miguel Carrasco oulined how Microsoft can beat Google using the social graph. Carrasco says that by combining what Live Search knows about our recent activity on social networks, it can provide better results. The examples show a way that search needs to improve: context.

The argument goes that armed with knowledge of our recent activity, a search engine can provide more appropriate results for our current frame of reference. If I’ve been planning a trip to Miami, to borrow Carrasco’s example, a search for night clubs should not return generic results. I should see Miami night clubs, especially those recommended by my friends.

It’s a nice vision, but it’s not likely to be enough for Live Search, or any search player, to take over Google. The approach, while important to the future of search, is too incremental. It has the vestiges of today’s search technology.

Personalization isn’t only coming, it’s here. Sign in to your Google account and you can activate it. Prepare to be underwhelmed. But even if it were as Carrasco describes, privacy concerns would stop personalized search from being adopted until the benefits were undeniable. It would take a radical shift.

When Google came along, it provided something that had never been seen before: good search results. Unlike all the other search engines, Google’s top few slots had what we were looking for. And it provided them fast.

It was a much easier time to make big changes. Someone has to make us realize that Google’s results are as antiquated as Yahoo and Excite were in the late 90s. A change in interface might be the most likely innovation. A search engine that takes voice input, understands what you say, and provides clear results still feels far away. That might be the sort of non-incremental change necessary.

A new version of Ask.com launched today. Among its features is the ability to reply to questions. Well, Ask has always been big on natural language searches. Though these results are better than ol’ Jeeves provided years ago, Google has also had answers to question searches for some time.

The most likely to create the way we search in the future is Google itself. It has the flexibility to create incremental advances and test them out on millions of people. The future of search is a problem they’re thinking about. I just hope they don’t find a way to put ads inside my cyborg eye.

[Photo by Linus Bohman]

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