14May2015

Usability and UI design: Bootstrap

Any new idea needs rapid prototyping. In case of startup, it is both important to reduce costs and have done current development iteration as soon as possible. Generally, there are tools to help you move this way. Bootstrap [http://getbootstrap.com] is a must-have solution, when we are talking about fast web design and prototyping, but want to avoid wasting our time on standard Usability and UI design.

Framework

First of all, Twitter Bootstrap is a pure front-end HTML/CSS framework freely provided by Twitter team. It’s not a JavaScript library for coding on client side like jQuery or AngularJS. Main purpose of Bootstrap is providing nice professional look-and-feel out of the box for the most general use cases of modern web. You have to keep in mind all features to hold the project in cross-browser state, but it’s not a problem anymore for Usability and UI design. Bootstrap supports all modern browsers. The framework holds under control typography and basic HTML elements like headings, lists, tables, etc. Grid system is available out of the box. It allows to compose almost any web layout splitted into columns with sidebars, header and footer. There are ready to use standard components like drop-down menus, form elements, all kinds of buttons, image thumbnails and various text formatting cases.

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03May2015

Application Development: Photon Multiplayer Game Platform

A lot of game development platforms and frameworks are widely used to speed up Application Development process and reduce costs. All this hype is mostly about mobile or presentation layer of the game. On the other hand, even medium game needs some community interaction and social network integration. Besides, majority of the most successful game projects are client-server solutions. Photon platform [https://www.exitgames.com] and its SDK’s may be used as server side solution.

Photon supports all major mobile and game frameworks: Unity3D, Android, iOS, Windows phone, Cocos2D, Unreal Engine, HTML5, Flash, etc. As a mature platform, Photon provides several products. All of them have free plans or licenses to try it as a solution and start Application Development.

Realtime

Photon Realtime is the most useful Photon product. Technically it is game server as a service hosted in the Photon Cloud. So, you don’t need your own server machine. The cloud is distributed among several data centers around the world, to provide low latency. The solution is automatically scalable up to thousands of online players. There are 3 main activity we need for room-based multiplayer game, and Photon support all of them: Connect, Match and Play. It is possible to match together players from different sources (iOS, Google Play) with custom authentication or login via social network.

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21Apr2015

Media Content Distribution: HTTP/2 Architecture

A web surfing by the browser is the most valuable way Media Content Distribution provided around the World. Technically, this process is based on HTTP networking protocol. Actually, HTTP is treated as protocol of Internet. The industry is always in motion at line of new features and challenges, so HTTP protocol is waiting for its new second version. For now, HTTP/2 [https://github.com/http2/http2-spec] is approved by its creators and going to be accepted and published as RFC standard. HTTP/2 release will have huge impact on direction of many networking techniques and implementation approaches. It would be first sufficient change in Media Content Distribution since HTTP/1.1 release in 1999.

Standard

HTTP/2 is based on Google’s SPDY protocol. As you can see, there is one more Google’s technology appears modern enough to be used as standard of future. HTTP/2 is a binary protocol instead of text HTTP/1.1. There is much better performance produced by changes in architecture: header compression, multiplexing requests, requests priorities, proactive push-responses from servers side. It supports IPv4, IPv6 and NAT. There are modern security approaches. Firefox and Chrome already have HTTP/2 support in special mode. To test new protocol you need to install HTTP/2 server. There are several server side implementations by Akamai, Google, Twitter and open source.

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02Apr2015

iOS Development: Apple Watch

Category: iOS development

Apple Watch (aka iWatch) has been gone on sale. There is a huge hype around this product. Keep in mind, several years ago Apple completely changed our idea about mobile phone. Their revolutionary approaches and just the best design kicked the competitors out. This year Apple is trying to reinvent another well-known thing — a watch. There is not less ambitious idea to show the world what is the watch of XXI century. There are a lot of new opportunities in iOS Development at line of new product. Simple (sport) model costs about 300 USD.

Communication

You can feel full power of Apple Watch as a campaign device for iPhone to extend general usability for social software solutions. What we usually do to check just received new incoming message? Get the device of the pocket, unlock it, tap the button to open the message. In case of Apple Watch it needs just raise your wrist to browse the message, then lower a hand to dismiss it. A reply may be sent as a pure voice or recognized text, plus simple animation to express some emotion state.

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27Mar2015

Content Management: Speed up page loading

Nowadays, search engines impose much more strong requirements for web sites to be ranked on top positions or even be parsed at all. Fast rise of mobile market pushed sites to be responsive to all kinds of screen widths and input schemas. But it’s not just about support mobile devices. For any Content Management system there is very important to load the pages as fast as possible. It’s not a recommendation anymore, but rather a rule. Google and other search engines may ignore your cool web site with a bunch of modern features just because it’s too slow.

Check loading speed online

First of all, check how fast is your page loading by Google’s PageSpeed test [https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/]. After several seconds you’ve got pretty complete report about issues at line of loading speed and suggestions how to improve it. If you receive green checks, congratulations, you are doing Content Management in right way. As it’s a Google’s service, so we can look at this list of points as optimization plan for Google Search Engine. On the other hand, the issues and methods to solve them are common for any search engine and for user experience as a whole. There are two separated modes (workflows) of analysis: for regular usage via PC’s browser and exploring on mobile devices like smartphones.

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09Mar2015

Java Development: Spark as a lightweight web framework in Java world

There are several powerful technological stacks available to create any kind of web application from a set of microservices with REST API to huge enterprise solutions. They a based on appropriate programming language as a platform, like Java, C#.NET, Python, PHP, etc. All those web development platforms are completely separated. They are rather linked and even much more than you ever imagine. Trends are popular in one platform found their mirror in another and vice versa. That’s mostly because of enthusiastic activity of multi-platforms software developers. E.g., a lot of Java Development packages and approaches are converted into their C#.NET clones almost one-to-one with adding a .NET suffix.

Micro-frameworks

Another example of multi-platform web development approach is micro frameworks. These are very light MVC frameworks that provides basic web application functionality out of the box. On the other hand, they need minimal code and development efforts as a whole to implement and launch ready to use application. PHP has Slim, Limonade, Lumen, Flight, Silex. Sinatra is the most popular Ruby micro-framework. Flask is for Python stack. For Java Development there is a Spark [http://sparkjava.com/].

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22Feb2015

SaaS: Trends in Cloud Development

Nowadays, there is no so huge hype around cloud computing as it was several years ago. On the other hand, cloud development is a robust part of IT industry with its own history and trends. For now, Software as a Service is not just about launching the code in the cloud and scale it in real time. Most Cloud users deploy code weekly or even daily, there are questions on Testing/QA processes, Production/Deployment workflows and more strong software security approaches. Elasticity of cloud structure the key factor to implement Big Data project in the cloud, as well as, storage, analytics and batch processing application. Large companies want more control on their Software as a Service solutions. They can build their own cloud infrastructure based on one of open source solutions. Small teams rather use well-known public clouds.

Cloud development principles

A lot of projects are moving to the cloud these days. Developers face a common set of challenges. There are basic principles to achieve the best results. Document architecture and deployment infrastructure. Designed solution should be highly cohesive and loosely coupled.

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13Feb2015

iOS Development: iOS 8 APIs

Category: iOS development

New 8-th major version of iOS platform [https://www.apple.com/ios/] was officially released a couple of months ago. Anyway, it’s the biggest event for Iflexion iOS Developers. For now it’s installed on 78% of all apple devices. So huge percentage allows us to talk about it as a standard. Let’s research it’s new cool features and API.

Auto Layout

Before this update, iOS Development workflow pushes software developers to compose UI in one or two modes: portrait and landscape. Now, Auto Layout is a new approach to design in more universal and robust way. The main idea is to describe layout as a set of relations between UI elements. Such scheme is suitable for iPhone and iPad, portrait and landscape. As you can see, it is completely different approach. Look into it as soon as possible.

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30Jan2015

Application Development: Backbone framework: modern professional front-end approach

Nowadays, web is not just loading pages and displaying them correctly. Modern browsers allow web application developers to create complicated one-page rich solutions on the client side: rich text processors, graphics editors, spreadsheets, etc. Backbone [http://backbonejs.org] is one of the best straight forward solution to organize even very complicated project in robust professional way. Practically, it’s very small set of JavaScript classes, that you can review in an hour.

The main idea is to split the code into 2 sets of classes: Models and Views. A Model is responsible to handle all data of specified component. It loads, saves and represents it for a View. A View is rather a controller to handle UI, render widgets and specify actions for a Model to provide any changes. You can use any front-end HTML templates system within Backbone Views.

Marionette.js

As I said above, Backbone is just a set of approaches to organize complicated project in robust way and a bunch of source code to help with it.

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14Jan2015

SaaS: Parse: back-end as a service

Nowadays, there are a lot of businesses and startups are growing up in the form of Software as a Service (SaaS). Recently, Facebook giant bought Parse [http://parse.com] innovative startup in this field. Parse is a back-end as a service. It is not a ready to use product for the concrete client, but a service for software developers that can help a lot. It can speed up the development process and reduce costs, as it solves the problem with back-end or server side in the most cases the project needs. Parse fits to a demo or a prototype ideally, because the main goal here is to build first working version as soon as possible with minimum resources.

Easy start

You can start using Parse right after quick registration, actually, as any modern Software as a Service (SaaS) platform. There are several environments: data, push notification (suitable for mobile applications), analytics, social services integration, code in the cloud and hosting. On the other hand, Parse can be applied to various platforms: mobile, desktop, web (HTML, JavaScript), Unity, PHP. Just download test project as start point or follow instructions to integrate Parse into existing solution. Generally, Parse provides a set of collections, so, we can put objects into those collections in the way similar to document-oriented storages, like MongoDB, then handle those records by CRUD operations in asynchronous way.

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