Music and Design – a love story

Music and Design – a love story

It was August 1, 1981.

I sat on the hotel room floor, surrounded by guitars, keyboards, and gadgets, doodling on a complimentary Holiday Inn notepad. Dad tinkered with a motherboard as his soldering iron glowed, delicately balanced on the edge of an ashtray. The smell of pork chops, rice and beans wafted through the air as mom worked her magic on our portable double burner stove. I sat on the floor, glued to the television. It was that very moment the iconic M came to life and made its beautiful debut. (more…)

App Review: InVision

App Review: InVision

Design is not only how it looks,
but also how it works.

Wireframing is key to a successful user interface design.

Wireframes are like blueprints, the foundation on which you plan to build your project. Not only do you get a chance to flesh out the overall structure of the application, but you also find commonalities and differences among key areas that can help spawn new ideas during the process.  (more…)



When people look over my shoulder, one of the comments I often get is, "What program is THAT?"

Since about 1990 or so, I’d been using this file management utility called XTree. The last version for DOS was called XTreeGold. I used it for many years, even after it became increasingly hindered. The biggest problem was that XTreeGold doesn’t support long filenames.

Fortunately, the persistent demand for the functionality provided by XTreeGold was great enough to prompt several clones. The most accurate and successful of these is called ZTreeWin.

Without trying to invoke stereotypes, I would say that the majority of the people around me today like to work on the Mac. Those people are excused. Those using Windows, however, should at least become aware of this utility. This program is basically what all other file management programs ever made wish to be. The many "commander" programs out there just don’t compare.

I know that more people aren’t using it only because it runs in a text window, not a Windows GUI. But that would be a stupid reason if you only knew the power of the dark side. I mean, uh, let me try to explain some of ZTreeWin‘s more powerful capabilities since they don’t become readily apparent until you’ve been using it for a while.

  • It’s much faster to use and more responsive than the Windows GUI. Your computer is faster than you again!
  • It can search a group of files faster than the Windows GUI.
  • It can perform any of its operations on any arbitrary selection of files across any drives and directories. It has powerful filtering and selection mechanisms. In other words, I can select files from anywhere on my system and act upon them as if they were “all in the same window.”
  • It can browse compressed archives (including docx files), and presents the contents in the same tree UI as for the filesystem. It can be configured to invoke virtually any archive utility, like 7-Zip, within its uniform interface.
  • It can show the differences between two text files and can also show differences between two directory branches.
  • It has a hex editor built in.
  • It can show how many bytes are being used by directory branches.
  • It can rename or renumber a group of files.
  • It can remember frequently used console commands and batch scripts to be invoked using the currently highlighted files or directories as arguments.
  • And more

So, for example, I could view all the files within a directory branch in a single pane, filter the view to show only files with certain extensions, reduce those by date range, reduce further by a text search, then take the results, regardless of what directories the files in the resulting group are actually in, and 7-zip them (with or without relative paths), all within a few seconds.

After my boss witnessed me perform such operations with ridiculous ease, I was summoned on many occasions to solve tedious little problems that would have taken hours using the standard Windows GUI.

ZTreeWin may be overwhelming at first, especially if you’re fixated on using the mouse for everything. The difficulty in learning the program is due to it being entirely hotkey-driven, and the hotkeys, invented in the DOS era, don’t fully correspond to anything you’re familiar with. But it is well worth learning if you’re going to be using Windows for a while. I would be crippled without it.

Whoops, I forgot to put a disclaimer up front that this protip is only for "power users" or greater. If you have a thousand icons on your desktop, then uh, never mind.

A Visual Guide to Marionette.js Views

Software screen capture

When I first began working on the front-end to this one interactive application, I decided to just write a few lines of JavaScript to handle some miscellaneous things behaviors on the front-end. However, that soon turned into a completely interactive front-end with thousands of lines of JavaScript trying to hack together the entire DOM. Luckily, Backbone.js came to the rescue which was later accompanied with Marionette.js. One of the difficulties I had with the documentation that existed was trying to visualize the handful of useful views Marionette.js provides.

To help visualize the difference (and similarity) of layouts, regions, composites, collections, and item views, I’ve created helpful diagrams to visually demonstrate how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. (more…)

Enter Foundation 4

Enter Foundation 4

My plan for this blog post was to introduce my preferred "front-end framework", Zurb Foundation. But then the folks over at Zurb saw fit to sabotage my effort by releasing a new version of Foundation. Can you believe the nerve? So instead I’ll just give a quick rundown of why I like Foundation better than that "other framework", and then show off what’s new in Foundation 4.


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