Book Review – Geolocation in iOS (O’Reilly) by Alasdair Allan

Geolocation in iOSOne of the most popular uses of the iPhone is to view locations on a map. Apps can show you where you are, where you want to go, or just what’s out there in the world. Developers have the opportunity to access maps and location with ease and can display location-based data to enhance an application. Geolocation in iOS helps the experienced Objective-C developer learn the tools needed to implement features using the Map Kit and Core Location frameworks. There are several code examples in the book, including applications for showing location information, creating a compass, and adding overlays to the map. The chapters guide the reader through these simple examples, which can be expanded to create a more fully featured application. While several third-party tools are mentioned, displaying heat maps through the use of Skyhook Wireless code demonstrated the potential for creating a compelling map-based view of data.

Although published shortly after the release of iOS 6, Geolocation in iOS does not feature Apple’s maps and the new routing functionality that was opened up to developers. Perhaps in a future edition these and other areas, such as switching map types and creating paths on the map as the location changes, will be addressed. For now, the book provides a nice introduction to using the iOS location and mapping frameworks.

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Disclosure: Free access to this e-book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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Printing in a Mobile World

With smart phones and tablets in addition to our laptops and desktops, how often do we not have immediate access to our documents? It seems we may be closer to the paperless society that many have envisioned in the past. Printers still come in handy for those occasional forms that require a signature or to satisfy a department that has not fully transferred their operations to the web. But even printed photographs seem unnecessary when several types of devices can act as digital picture frames. While the printed page will always have its place, it seems that its uses are becoming more limited.

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Book Review – Make It So (Rosenfeld Media) by Nathan Shedroff and Christopher Noessel

Make It So

Science fiction shows us potential futures filled with technological marvels limited only by our imaginations. So how can we learn from the way characters interact with technology on television and in the movies to make interfaces that work in reality? Make It So explores the bridge between fiction and fact, where sci-fi can inform the design of technology that can enhance our lives.

The authors undertook a detailed survey of live-action and 3D animated sci-fi to find trends and insights. It seems that certain colors, styles, and features appear again and again, although there are always exceptions that reveal novel ways of viewing or interacting with technology. Case studies in the book examine how some of these creations translate to practical design and others have properties that prevent them from having much use in reality. While the fictional use of technology can lend a certain atmosphere or enhance drama, real-life users need interfaces that help them accomplish their goals without getting in their way. Make It So reveals lessons learned from sci-fi that could inspire creators of today’s technology to bring the future to us.

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Disclosure: Free access to this e-book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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Gestures

Mobile devices have made gestures a common way for interacting with handheld computers. Now gestures are becoming increasingly prevalent in desktop systems. For the past few releases of OS X, Apple’s desktop/laptop operating system has integrated many of the features seen in the iPhone and iPad into the use of its trackpad and mouse. With Windows 8, the touch interface is increasingly emphasized in new hardware supporting Microsoft’s operating system. The boundaries begin to blur between desktop, laptop, and mobile with removable touch screens and attachable keyboards that can make a device work both on a desk or on the move. Application designers will need to anticipate how their software will be used in these various environments. This shift in the way we think about computers offers new opportunities to engage users.

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Book Review – Learning Web Design, 4th Edition (O’Reilly) by Jennifer Niederst Robbins

Learning Web Design, 4th Edition

Designing web sites requires a number of skills, including marking up the content in HTML and styling the pages in CSS. Learning Web Design covers the latest advancements in HTML5 and CSS3 as well as some JavaScript basics to create pages that present your content effectively to your visitors. Helpful sidebars throughout the book provide details and references that expand upon core skills. There are links to sites that can help you improve page loading speed and tips on useful JavaScript libraries available on the web. Readers are encouraged to further explore subjects such as responsive design and progressive enhancement that are introduced in the text.

One of the highlights of the book is the introduction of new HTML tags and CSS rules, along with what browser support is available for the additions. Techniques are introduced for allowing older browsers to benefit from the newer language features. The more restrictive XHTML structure is discussed, although the looser HTML markup is used in the examples. How web design will evolve in the next several years is anyone’s guess, but for now Learning Web Design will give you a solid foundation in today’s technologies.

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Disclosure: Free access to this e-book was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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From Ereaders to Tablets

With the introduction of the Nexus 7 tablet by Google and a new Kindle product line from Amazon, the ereader continues to morph into a complete mobile tablet experience. In addition to Apple’s iPad, Android tablets are becoming a major delivery point for entertainment that includes not only books, but music, movies, and apps. Apple, Amazon, and Google each bring there customers into an ecosystem that encourages them to continue buying from the company that made their tablet. With Google Play replacing the Android Market with an expanded selection of video and books, Amazon and Apple will find it even more challenging to compete in the digital marketplace. As consumers move beyond the ereader to feature-rich tablets, the digital content business will continue to expand.

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Book Review – Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS, 2nd Edition (O’Reilly) by Robin Nixon

Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS, 2nd EditionCovering some of the most popular technologies for bringing web pages to life, Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, and CSS is a good place to start for the programmer who already has a solid background in HTML. The author recommends a few tools for getting your development environment up and running. Then the basics of each language are described with helpful tips provided along the way. The book culminates in the design of a social networking site, which is a great practical exercise and may help launch a few interesting web sites as a result.

The order in which the languages are presented is different than expected, since many developers learn CSS when studying HTML. JavaScript is often encountered before taking on PHP. However, the material is presented effectively and in such a way that the book is easy to use as a reference. Web developers looking to learn the fundamentals of the languages presented here will be rewarded.

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iPhone 5

With the impending release of the iPhone 5, developers will face new opportunities and challenges when creating apps for the device. Perhaps the most critical change is the 4-inch Retina display, which is a half-inch larger than the previous Apple standard. This increased screen size allows an extra row of apps on the home screen and more space for developers to use within an app. The display can be used to fit more features, make additional lines of text viewable, and create a more immersive experience. Apps created before the introduction of the iPhone 5 will show black bars at the top and bottom of the screen until the code is updated to accommodate the additional space. As Apple enthusiasts upgrade to newer phones, designing for a 3.5-inch screen will be a memory.

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Book Review – OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual (O’Reilly) by David Pogue

OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing ManualGame Center, iCloud, iMessage, and Notification Center are iOS features, right? Now with Mountain Lion, the latest version of OS X from Apple, they can be found on a Mac along with several other enhancements that bring the operating system closer to the iPad experience. While the latest update makes the Mac easier to use, there are many shortcuts and features just waiting to be discovered. OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual delivers an astounding number of tips and tricks that typical users may never learn on their own.

The author, having written several books covering the Mac over the past decade, knows his way around the operating system and it shows. He exhaustively covers the basics from how to organize files to using the bundled applications. The time-saving methods and buried features highlighted throughout the text make this book a useful reference for both beginners and experienced users. Did you know that by pressing the space bar when a file is highlighted in the Finder, the content of that file can quickly be previewed without having to open an application? There are even ways to access this and other features by using trackpad gestures. Anyone can benefit from learning additional techniques for getting the most out of their computer. Reading OS X Mountain Lion: The Missing Manual has changed how I use my Mac.

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Apple Maps

Apple broke the news that its Maps app has been completely redesigned for iOS 6. Not only will maps be visually different from those provided by Google, they will also be available in 3D while offering photo-realistic views of many cities. Apple’s most recent devices will support turn-by-turn navigation and integration with Siri. Developers are anticipating the opportunity to add new capabilities to their apps with this latest iOS update. We will be watching to see how the new features in Maps can enhance the Out Tri GPS tracker and provide opportunities to create exciting new apps.

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