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    Coldfrontconf is one to watch

    Friday, September 5th, 2014

    I’ve said it before and I stick by it: conferences stand and fall with the enthusiasm of the organisers. And it is a joy for someone like me who does spend a lot of time at conferences to see a new one be a massive success from the get-go.

    Yesterday was the Coldfront conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. A one day conference organised by Kenneth Auchenberg, @Danielovich (and of course a well-chosen team of people). It was very rewarding to work with him to give the closing keynote of the inaugural edition of this event.

    The slides of my closing keynotes are available on Slideshare.

    And, amazingly enough, the video is out, too:


    Chris alt Coldfrontconf
    (Notice the fan behind me giving me that wind-swept look that so fitted my physical state going directly from the plane to the venue)

    I am sad that because of other commitments I had to miss the first talks, but here are my main impressions of the event:

    • I love the pragmatism of it – one track, good break times, a very simple and straight-forward web site and no push to “download the app of this event”.
    • The location – a program cinema – had great seating, working WiFi (with a few hickups but the hotel next door also had available WiFi that worked in the first rows) and very adequate facilities.
    • The projector and audio set up was great and the switch from speaker to speaker worked flawlessly.
    • All talks were streamed on the web
    • Even a last minute speaker cancellation didn’t quite disturb the event (thanks for the reminder Steen H. Rasmussen)
    • Instead of keeping people perched up inside, the breaks had coffee available for self-service and the food and branded ice cream was served outside the building in the street. This was also the spot for the beers and cupcakes after the event and the final venue was just down the road.
    • The after party was in a beer place that has over 40 beers on tab and the open bar lasted well till after midnight. Nobody got blindly drunk or misbehaved – it actually felt more like a beer tasting experience than a drink-up. There was a lot of seating and no loud music to discourage or hinder communication after party
    • All the videos of the talks were already available on the day or the day after. I managed to see myself whilst my head was still hurting from the party (and my lack of sleep) the night before.
    • Elisabeth Irgens did a great job doing live sketch notes of each talk and uploading them immediately to Twitter.
    • The audience was very well behaved and it was a very inviting and inspiring environment to share information in. Good mix of people with various backgrounds.
    • Whilst there was a bit of sponsorship being shown on the big screen and there were sponsor booths in the foyer all of it was very low-key and appeared utterly in context. No sales weasels or booth babes there. The sponsors sent their geeks to talk to geeks.
    • I felt very well looked after – the organisers paid my flights and hotel and the communication with the speakers as to where to be when was only a handful of emails. Things just fell in place and there was no hesitance to make sure everybody gets there in time.
    • It is very worth while to watch the recordings of the talk. All of them were very high quality. Personally, I was most impressed with Guillermo Rauch“’s How to build the modern, optimistic and reactive user interface, we all want.

    All in all, this was a conference that was as pragmatic and spot-on as Kenneth is when you talk to him. It felt very good and I was very much reminded of the first Fronteers event. This is one to watch, let’s see what happens next.

    Firefox OS auf der MobileTechCon Berlin 2014

    Friday, September 5th, 2014

    Vor zwei Tagen war ich in Berlin auf der MobileTechCon und hielt neben der Eröffnungskeynote am zweiten Tag auch einen Vortrag über den aktuellen Stand von Firefox OS.

    Geschätlich in Berlin

    Da das Publikum den Vortrag gerne auf Deutsch haben wollte, hatte ich kurzfristig umgeschwenkt und ihn dann auf sowas wie Deutsch gehalten.

    Hier sind die Slides und die Screencasts. Der erste ist nur vom Vortrag, der zweite beinhaltet auch die Fragen und Antworten mit ein paar Beispielen wie man zum Beispiel die Developer Tools im Firefox verwenden kann, was together.js ist und wozu das gut ist und ein paar weitere “Schmankerln des offenen Netzes”.

    Das alles is sehr ungeschnitten und war mehr oder minder im Moment geändert, daher kann es sein das da auch ungezogene Worte mit dabei sind. Die Slides sind auf Slideshare erhältlich.

    Den halbstündigen Vortrag gibt es hier als Screencast zu sehen:

    Wer den ganzen Vortrag mit Fragen und Antworten hören will, gibt es hier die ganze Stunde als Screencast.

    No more excuses – subtitle your YouTube videos

    Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

    I was just very pleasantly surprised that the subtitling interface in YouTube has gone leaps and bounds since I last looked at it.

    One of the French contributors to Mozilla asked me to get subtitles for the video of the Flame introduction videos and I felt the sense of dread you get when requests like those come in. It seems a lot of work for not much gain.

    However, using the YouTube auto captioning tool this is quite a breeze:

    subtitling-interface

    I just went to the Subtitles and CC tab and told YouTube that the video is English. Almost immediately (this is kind of fishy – does YouTube already create text from speech for indexing reasons?) I got a nice set of subtitles, time-stamped and all.

    Hitting the edit button I was able to edit the few mistakes the recognition made and it was a simple process of listening as you type. I then turned on the subtitles and exported the SRT files for translation.

    I was very impressed with the auto-captioning as I am not happy with the quality of my talking in those videos (they were rushed and the heartless critic in me totally hears that).

    Of course, there is also Amara as a full-fledged transcribing, captioning and translation tool, but there are not many excuses left for us not to subtitle our short videos.

    Let’s not forget that subtitles are amazing and not only a tool for the hard of hearing:

    • I don’t have to put my headphones in when watching your video in public – I can turn off the sound and not annoy people in the cafe
    • As a non-native speaker they are great to learn a new language (I learned English watching Monty Python’s Flying Circus with subtitles – the only program that did that back then in Germany. This might explain a few things)
    • You can search a video by content without having to know the time stamp and you can provide the subtitles as a transcript in a post
    • You help people with various disabilities to make your work understandable.

    Go, hit that Subtitles tab!

    Makethumbnails.com – drop images into the browser, get a zip of thumbnails

    Monday, August 18th, 2014

    About 2½ years ago I wrote a demo for Mozilla Hacks how to use Canvas to create thumbnails. Now I felt the itch to update this a bit and add more useful functionality. The result is:

    http://makethumbnails.com

    It is very easy to use: Drop images onto the square and the browser creates thumbnails for them and sends them to you as a zip.

    homepage

    Thumbnail settings page

    You can set the size of the thumbnails, if you want them centered on a coloured background of your choice or cropped to their real size and you can set the quality. All of this has a live preview.

    If you resize the browser to a very small size (or click the pin icon on the site and open a popup) you can use it as neat extra functionality for Finder:

    resize to simple mode

    All of your settings are stored locally, which means everything will be ready for you when you return.

    As there is no server involved, you can also download the app and use it offline.

    The source, of course, of course is available on GitHub.

    To see it in action, you can also watch the a quick walkthrough of Makethumbnails on YouTube

    Happy thumbing!

    Chris

    Creating a set of icons in various sizes in the browser

    Friday, August 15th, 2014

    Hooray, I did do some coding again for a change! One of the issues I had with submitting apps for the Firefox Marketplace is that the validator of the manifest always complains about me missing out on certain icon sizes. That’s why I thought it’d be sweet to have an in-browser tool to generate all of the icons one needs from an image. And here it is:

    icon generator in action

    You can see a demo of it working on YouTube:

    That’s all there is to it – it uses Canvas and the fileReader API to convert the images and create the files. JSZip, a neato library to create Zips was also in use.

    For now your original image needs to be square and 512×512 pixels or the generator will just paste the first 512×512 pixels in. Images are automatically resized to 512 pixels and centered on a transparent background. A later version might allow you to move the image around. Let’s see when I get the time.