New MacBook Keyboard - Initial Impressions (early judgements)

My local tech store now has the new Macbook, so I decided to try out the new keyboard. This is by no means an in-depth review, just my initial impressions after a short trial of the keyboard itself.

This new keyboard has a 40% thinner key assembly than the previous keyboard design. My initial impressions (first few seconds) were good, the keys have a more 'buttony' feel than the apple keyboards you're used to, with an almost spongey quality when depressed.

However, after a typing several paragraphs of text, my opinion has swung from superficially pleased to pretty disappointed. As a touch typist, with an average wpm of 70, I found there just was not enough feedback for quick accurate typing.

As a small form factor laptop I'd imagine typical use cases to be light computing on the go, which today means Web browsing, file editing, emailing and instant messaging. This keyboard is certainly capable of those tasks.

But throughout the entire experience your fingers will be screaming to get back to your normal keyboard - unlike the keyboards on a Macbook Pro, or even the discontinued entry level Macbook before it; those keyboards don't have such a deficient feel.

Quick typing especially requires feedback from the keys for you to recognise that the key press has been registered. The amount of travel these keys have is very slight and I found my fingers pushing extra hard or extra long because I wasn't feeling the response I recognise. The whole experience feels like a compromise.

Netbooks and small form factor PCs are also a compromise which people are willing to purchase because of their low price point. When you're spending over £1000 on a laptop (The base MacBook model will set you back £1049), you don't want to compromise on perhaps the most important interface you have. Considering the low end MacBook Pro and the each standard MacBook Air model costs less than this, there seems to be a misalignment of what this machine offers and what you're expected to pay for it.

I should add a caveat here that in time I'm sure you could learn the new key travel distance and type quite comfortably on this keyboard. Ultimately I'm expressing a personal preference here, but I think many of you who have been using computers for years will agree with me, whether you're an Apple fan (like me) or not.

PS. I have got to get the comments feature working on this site soon, this seems like a topic that might inspire a healthy debate...

New Frontiers: Bootstrap for Drupal

I've installed the drupal bootstrap theme and have begun working on a sub-theme for this site. Drupal can seem overwhelming to new-comers and anyone who has taken a break from it's esoteric way of working. When you're surrounded by it daily though, it provides a real sense of possibility that is unrivalled by CMSes such as WordPress and Joomla.

Anyway, the new logo is up and I have plans to shape the layout in the next few days, before I start my new job. As always, I'm aiming for something minimal, that matches the level of content I post here ;)

Task list of sorts...

I want to place some of my older projects up here as a showcase, and I'm taking the opportunity to learn some contemporary tools, such as LESS and node.js/npm. I installed SVN locally and reconfigured some git projects too, all in the aid of re-familiarising myself with these tools.

I need a way to display some of these older projects, which I'm polishing up, on rominronin.net. Tomorrow is a national holiday here in Austria, maybe I'll set some time aside for figuring that out.

I should also work on a theme for rominronin.net - a Drupal default isn't a good idea for showcasing anything. I think there's an opportunity to start using bootstrap theme for Drupal.

While I'm configuring the innards of my site CMS, I should add an advance post (text) editor, so formatting text and adding links will be easier and quicker.

That's just off the top of my head, I'll make a start on some of this tomorrow, and post an update when something is ready...

Mobile Ready Framework Thoughts

There are a lot of design frameworks around now, which enable the rapid prototyping of websites, with responsive layouts built in. This allows site designers develop web pages at the same speed as usual, with the added benefit of an auto-enabled mobile-readable layout mode. From what I can tell there is more work to be done in this area, because website needs will vary greatly from business to business, and as the web becomes populated (saturated?) with such out-of-the-box solutions, there will be a demand for individualised mobile themes. This too will need some kind of automatisation.

I wonder what little known group is working on the mobile ready design framework of tomorrow. Or will Foundation and Bootstrap see updates that adds this customisation? Time will tell, but that doesn't stop me from considering it today...

Build systems, with build systems?

I didn't get as far with my build tool research yesterday as I thought I might. I found this article, by Keith Cirkel, about how npm could be used to do basically everything the build system tools were good for. I quite like the idea of learning npm and node.js on a deeper level, as they have a large variety of uses, rather than learning a new tool for a very defined purpose. Especially considering my fundamental goal (which led me to build systems in the first place) was to start using css preprocessors (SASS, SCSS).

A bunch of my friends are arriving from England today, 4 of us have tickets to a whiskey tasting even so that should be fun. I enjoy a good whiskey, as do these friends. I don't know if we'll get up to anything tonight, I guess I'll just wait and see.

Computers. They are very good at automation of repetitive tasks.

I was reading about SASS yesterday and I wanted someone to tell me the difference between SASS and SCSS, so I hopped into #sass on irc, as I do when I'm hoping for a real-time answer to a pressing question. After a short explanation from and discussion with some helpful regulars, I heard the names GRUNT, GULP and BRUNCH. It turns out these are the names of build systems that will automate tasks such as auto-processing SASS files on save, among other useful things. I can recommend the following youtube videos as an introduction to the idea, they're all fairly short, but packed full of info:

I'd now like to read the various syntaxes (is that the plural to syntax?) to Grunt, Gulp and Brunch to decide which one I'll choose for my own build system. All of this is to tidy up my portfolio and bring some older projects up to date as far as browser compatibility and mobile optimisation is concerned.

Late night abuse

I was playing Quake Live last night when I found myself on the receiving end of some 'colourful' language. I had undoubtedly the lowest skill of all of the players present in a Clan Arena server. My aim is not as good as many of theirs was. This doesn't excuse some of the abusive language I was subjected to.

After the game I checked the skill level of the two players in question, indeed they are among the top 50 players in the world, with what must be years of continuous play under their belts. So what is the problem here? You are some of the best players in the world, clearly MOST players are worse than you. By cursing other people, are you assuring yourself of your own ability in a video game?

I guess I'll never know. I mean, I can only imagine these players are young and don't have responsibilities in their own lives yet - especially if their social development is hindered by hours upon hours of video gaming. But that's not an excuse! Somehow being online gives them a perception of untouchability. Being an outstanding player somehow excludes them from being respectful.

I haven't decided if I'm bothered enough by the whole episode to report the players; some of the language used - which I'll not repeat here - wouldn't be tolerated even on a football (soccer) ground. I may look up the procedure to report individuals though, that way I can prepare any necessary evidence (edit: if it happens again).

Until next time (tomorrow, if I stick to my schedule)...

Drupal all the way...?

I read through an extensive thread on reddit (the great) about the end of drupal as a content management system. There was the usual comparison with WordPress, how WordPress offers ease of use and speed of setup at the expense of flexibility and depth. An argument was made, which I agree with, that Drupal takes longer to understand and learn, but pays more dividends when you invest in doing so.

There was also a point made about the income of the respective developers for each platform. The argument is that Drupal is better suited to bigger, complicated jobs, and so average contracts were in the multiple 10,000s (tens of thousands), whereas the average WordPress build was much lower in value. Of course, that is not to say you can earn just as much in WordPress (or just as little in Drupal).

There was an interesting point made further down the thread that caught my interest - and I will have to investigate further on this - that as Drupal specialises more and more, third party module developers will move away to other platforms. As someone who primarily builds websites out of custom modules (with very little of my own module development) this concerns me.

The thread is about two years old, and a lot has changed since then; Drupal 8 is on the horizon and looks set to change things again, but that its for the better seems undeniable now. My reading and understanding the field is still at an early stage, but I'm still happy about my choice to focus on Drupal.

Welcome to RominRonin

As a test, I'm going to try and post something each day this week. Let's see how far I get :)

First Basic Post

Here we are again, posting a test page on a fresh install of Drupal CMS. This version is 7.36, version 8 is in beta and should be here by the end of the year (fingers crossed). In order to brush up on many web development skills (PHP, MySQL, PHPMyAdmin etc.) I thought I'd go through some basic tutorials, but in researching which skills to focus on, I just thought 'this is all redundant!'. I mean, after all, so many great CMS's have been developed to eliminate the trial and error, step-by-step development of your own custom tool.