Is Facebook Testing A New Header Menu?

Facebook Testing Header Menu

Click for larger version

This is the second time in the past month that I’ve logged in to desktop version of Facebook and to find the header looking like this. A large white “F”, just like so many social sharing icons, replaces the traditional logo and the search area is much expanded. Also, the friends, chat and notification icons have been moved to the right hand side.

I’ve check in both Firefox and Chrome (Chrome in the screenshot) and get the same thing, while Sara continues to get the “traditional” header with the Facebook logo on the right, followed by the icons and then the smaller search box.

Facebook Home is in the Wrong House

Facebook HomeI couldn’t agree more with Pete Pachal’s analysis on Mashable that launching, and initially limiting Facebook Home to the U.S. market is the wrong move. Facebook should have launched “Home” in a market with a need for lower cost devices without such heavy broadband penetration.

For those who’ve been living under a rock for the past 48 hours, Facebook Home is Facebook’s new homescreen replacement for Android.

In the U.S., however, Facebook Home will have an uphill battle, and not just because smartphone penetration is so much higher. It’s also because, among connected people, Facebook isn’t the only network that matters to us. Yes, as Mark Zuckerberg showed, it’s probably the app we fire up most often. But we also like to see what’s going on on Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Quora and a host of other services.

In short, digital influencers in the U.S. — the very demographic Facebook Home needs to win over if it’s going to be successful — don’t want to curtail in any way the connections they value by spending more time in Facebook.

Would I let Facebook become even more of a constant distraction in my life, at the expense of the other social services I use and value? Would I abandon the social services where many of my friends have already migrated to? Would I want Facebook to be the first thing I see every time I pick up my phone? Hell no!

Pete also hit it on the head with the notion that a low end Facebook phone is simply not what the teenage market wants either.

The one way a U.S. launch for Facebook Home makes sense is the kid factor: The First offers parents a relatively cheap option for getting their kids a smartphone, one that’s caters to their lifestyle of constant connection.

But if that’s the thinking, it’s a few years behind. I was on the radio earlier this week to talk about messaging apps, and a 15-year-old girl appeared on the show to reveal how she communicates with her friends. Facebook didn’t factor in at all — she and her classmates only used the network when their study group made it necessary.

Gabrielle will be pushing 15 very soon, has an iPhone and laptop and doesn’t even want a Facebook account even though she’s been offered one a number of times. She has a blog, YouTube account and all the other bells and whistles, but as he friends don’t Facebook, neither does she. This initially surprised me but it makes sense – Facebook is where your parents hang out. Why would kids want to hang out there?

I was also struck by similar surprise when my little sister, Siobhán, was visiting from Ireland last October. She’s had a Facebook account since before she should have, but it’s very rarely used these days as it’s not where her friends congregate or choose to communicate online.

Don’t even get me started on the fact that Facebook has a bad history of not playing well with other application, and what this could mean if you allow them take over your smartphone experience.

Will you use Facebook Home?

Image via Facebook.

Tactile Tablet Experience – Why Do We Ruin It?

Nexus 7 and protective cover

How many times have you taken your tablet (or phone) out of the protective case to show it someone who wanted to try it? I know I have.

You offer them them the opportunity to experience the device the way it was deigned to be experienced, with the original tactile experience, knowing full well that  if the person demoing your tablet actually buys one, then they’ll likely only experience that feeling for the first 30 minutes of owning it.

Once they but it, they’ll shove it into a protective case and have a completely different experience.

That feels dishonest to me.

The very design of tablets, the looks, the shiny goodness, the feel that makes me desire one tablet of comparable features over another – that is the most glaring  flaw shared by every device I own.

These things look so damn good that we feel the need to buy big ugly covers to protect them, to keep them scratch free and looking pristine but in the process of protecting them we give up a lot of what makes the devices desirable, such as the thinness and most importantly for me – the tactile feeling of the actual device.

To be fair it’s not really a  flaw, it is a deliberate design choice. I guess that makes it a feature.

My Nexus 7 does not feel half as nice or comfortable to use when I use it is in the protective case. While the case may double as a stand and allow me to turn off the device just by closing the cover (and of course protect the tablet from cat claws and random scratches), it makes the device feel clunky and overly large. The Nexus 7 is neither clunky nor large, and actually feels really good when not in the case.

The same goes for the iPad, even when using smart covers. It just doesn’t feel the same.

I know the solution is simply not to use a cover and retain the original feel, however that raises the question of why we need covers at all?

Can’t we design products that are aesthetically pleasing but don’t have to be handled with kid gloves? Can’t we build devices that allow you to experience them as they were intended without needing to wrap them in ugly monstrosities in the name of protecting them?

It’s true that designing devices that we want to protect, and look sexy, creates a lot of secondary accessory markets and revenue for tablet manufacturers, but it’s also telling that many people choose form over function and the manufactures cater to that. Sexy sells, right?

Building devices that are more scratch resistant means I’ll probably have to spend $20 – $50 more per device, but I’d rather spend that and have a better tactile experience than spend the money on a cover and not experience my device as it was meant to be.

Is that really such a difficult thing to ask?

That’s Not Much Of A Gyft Google!

As part of Google’s 1 year birthday celebrations for Google Play, they are giving away free apps, episodes and music. One of the offers is for an app called Gyft (I have never heard of Gyft before now) which is offering $20 of free gift cards with the download.

$20 free bucks to blow on useless junk – let me download that straight away! Except, as you can see from the image below, the app won’t install on either of my Android devices. Instead I get the “this item is not compatible with your device” message, which is pretty amazing considering that my Nexus 7 runs the latest and greatest flavor of android (4.2.2) and my phone runs 2.2.

Fragmentation sucks! Thanks carriers!

Google Birthday Gyft

Google Advertising Chromebooks on Chrome’s Most Visited Tab

I just spotted this advert for Chromebooks on the “Most visited” tab of one of my Google Chrome installations (v 24.01312.57 m).

Chrome Book advertising in Google Chrome

The advert didn’t appear on the laptop I have with me (same version number) and disappears from the open tab after about 2 minutes.

Considering I’m a  full-fledged citizen of the Google world (and an AdWords /AdSense user), it’s fair to say that their advertising usually doesn’t irk me. Most of my irritation with online advertising comes from poor design (which I’ve been / am guilty of) or overzealous use.

I know Google have advertised their own services and products in prominent places on their search engine and other products, but this is the first one that, despite it’s subtlety, I’ve actually felt to be slightly intrusive.

Not only does this advert feel intrusive, but it’s very sloppy. In the tab it talks about the “$249 laptop from Google”, which I will assume is the Samsung Chromebook, but the link actually goes to page for the $199 Acer Chromebook.

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with the Acer Chromebook (we have 3 of them and the kids are never off of them) but I would probably be pimping the $199 dollar price in order to attract those who are more  fiscally responsible/constrained.

Have You Gone Static?

staticIt was remarkably fitting that I just had to perform 2 theme updates on this blog – 1 automatic and 1 manual – for Genesis, and still had to disable minification of CSS to make things look right.

You see, I spent a lot of time today thinking about blogs created as static HTML, and I’m sure I don’t need to expound upon the benefits of serving static HTML over dynamically generated content from your server.

Maybe it’s just me, but the use of generators to create blogs with static HTML instead of running a CMS appears to be something of a trend among developer bloggers.

It’s funny to see things come full circle. My very first self-hosted blog was created this way after a period of doing it all by hand.

While poking around I found this list of 32 generators (mostly written in Python or Ruby) and I’m curious to know what other folks experiences are with them?

I’m also wondering if anybody has any experience with using plugins such as WP Static HTML Output or Really Static to get WordPress to output static HTML files that you upload to your server?

xPrintServer – Must Have Device For iOS Printing On Windows Networks

XPrintServerI just finished installing the Office Edition of the Lantronix xPrintServer on a clients network, and I must admit to being very impressed with it.

xPrintServer is a tiny little device (smaller than an iPhone, but thicker) that you plug into your network, which acts as a intermediary between your network printers and your iOS devices.

Set-up is ridiculous simply – you just plug it in to your network, wait about 30 seconds for it to detect all the printers on your network (USB ones can be connected directly), and… that’s it really.  Your iOS device should automatically discover the printers on the network that are shared by xPrintServer.

After 30 seconds the xPrintServer had detected all of our printers, including ones like the Koyerca KM-3060, allowing me to print without performing any configuration at all.

With support for over 4000 printers, allowing printing to up to 8 USB printers (you’ll have to attach a hub) and 10+ network printers (2 if you get the cheaper $99 home version), this is $200 well spent.

About the only issue is that you’ll have to be careful where on your network you install it, as complicated network topographies can cause it not to detect some printers, but that’s hardly the devices fault.

Blow Me – One Thing I Never Want To See If You Repair My Computer

Everybody who’s ever done any kind of work with computer hardware knows just how much of a pain in the backside dust buildup can be, and how potentially damaging it can be over time.

That’s exactly why I was a more than a little surprised to see a clients computer come in from being repaired looking like this. (Sorry about the poor quality pictures, the light was not the best for taking photos with a camera phone.)

The company doing the repairs performed a motherboard replacement, and while I don’t expect machines to ever be squeaky clean, I really believe that repair places need to apply copious use of the compressed air before returning a computer to a client.

Tip:  You can clean your computer, help prevent those fans becoming clogged and avoid some potential overheating by investing in a can of compressed air.

Dust1Dust on motherboard

Has The “Connected World” Failed And Actually Made Us Lonely?

Does constant online interaction actually make us more alone and disconnected from real life?

Food for thought:

One need not look far past Sartre and Kierkegaard to be reminded of an immutable human truth: that we are never more alone than when surrounded by people. Complex, imperfect, frustrating person-to-person interaction is what human beings really crave. And that’s precisely the sort of interaction Facebook is writing out of our online lives by concentrating on quantity over quality; on atomic snippets of communication between hundreds of people instead of deep, satisfying conversation.

Read: Driving Us Apart