Smashing HTML 5

smashing html 5

If you’re doing web development or design, you should be checking Smashing Magazine often. There’s always some useful article, tutorial or tidbit that you can add to your “utility belt”, whether it’s from their own articles or from the Smashing Network, a set of links to selected articles from design blogs. If it’s not in your collection of bookmarks or in your RSS reader, add it now!

Smashing Magazine have just published a book on HTML 5 titled Smashing HTML 5. Whether you’re an HTML newbie or Finnegan the Folk Hero of HTML, you’ll find this book useful. The first half of the book is the meat-and-potatoes part, covering the structure of pages and all the changes that HTML 5 brings to them. The second half is where the whiz-bang stuff that most people associate with HTML 5 gets handled: images, sound, video, JavaScript, canvas, forms, geolocation, storage and so on. Since it’s a Smashing Magazine book, it’s not just informative, it’s also nicely designed and pleasing to look at.

Smashing HTML 5 is currently available from Amazon Canada for CAD$30.23.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


East of Toronto .NET User Group Web Camp: Saturday, February 19th

microsoft web camps

The East of Toronto .NET User Group always has something going on, and next month, they’ve got something big: they’re holding a Microsoft Web Camp in Ajax on Saturday, February 19th.

Microsoft’s Web Camps are big workshop events where you can learn how to build websites and web applications using Microsoft web tools and technologies. From ASP.NET MVC (my preferred way of building sites on the Microsoft stack) to the new WebMatrix to OData, Web Camps are a great way to get introduced to these goodies.


Here are the sessions being held at the East of Toronto .NET User Groups’ Web Camp:

Session 1 – Implementing OData

The Open Data Protocol (OData) is a Web protocol for querying and updating data that provides a way to unlock your data and free it from silos that exist in applications today. OData does this by applying and building upon Web technologies such as HTTP, Atom Publishing Protocol (AtomPub) and JSON to provide access to information from a variety of applications, services, and stores. The protocol emerged from experiences implementing AtomPub clients and servers in a variety of products over the past several years. OData is being used to expose and access information from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, relational databases, file systems, content management systems and traditional Web sites.

Session 2 – An Introduction to WebMatrix and Razor

Microsoft WebMatrix is very light-weight alternative to building Web applications with Visual Studio. WebMatrix is designed for those who: are new to programming on the Web, want to build a small site quickly, prefer inline scripting, want to integrate with an OSS application, or perhaps all of these mixed together. In this session we’ll look at how to build applications using WebMatrix and the new “Razor” view engine.

Session 3 – Almost Instant Web Site

DotNetNuke is an ASP.NET framework for web site creation.  During this session, attendees will see how the DotNetNuke Framework facilitates the creation of fully functioning web sites, like the Toronto Code Camp web site, in less than 30 minutes.  The session will demonstrate the creation of a DotNetNuke site from the ground up including software installation, database configuration, site customization, and skinning.  Specific focus will be given to some of the issues that can trip up the first time users of DotNetNuke Framework.  Additionally, the new "Razor" plug-in for will be demonstrated showing off DotNetNuke’s newest feature.

Session 4 – Case Study – Optimist Club of Ajax

The Optimist Club of Ajax has just released its new website into the wild! In this session I will talk about how we used Windows Live Admin Center to provide services like email, calendaring and document management for the club. We will also discuss how we are leveraging a new feature for Internet Explorer 9 – Pinned Sites. With pinned sites enabled for a website, users can pin that site to the Windows 7 taskbar or add the site to the desktop or Start menu. Finally I will show you how we are leveraging Microsoft Tag. Microsoft Tag is a new kind of bar code that connects almost anything in the real world to information, entertainment, and interactive experiences on your mobile phone.

Where and When?

The East of Toronto .NET User Group’s Web Camp takes place on Saturday, February 19th from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in Ajax at the Ajax Community Centre (75 Centennial Road) in the Commodore Room. Admission is free, but you need to register.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Yesterday’s Coffee and Code at Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar

cloud 1

I held the first Coffee and Code of 2011 at a venue new to me: Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar, located in Toronto’s West Queen West neighbourhood (968 Queen Street West, to be precise). It’s a work-friendly café that also acts as the home base for its parent business, Cloud AdAgents, an advertising/marketing/communications/social media agency. Rochelle Latinsky, who works at Cloud, along with Managing Director Tamera Kremer, invited me to host a Coffee and Code at their café, and went so far as to lend me their downstairs meeting room. I’d like to thank them for the invitation and the opportunity.

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The café, located on the ground floor, serves a variety of espresso machine drinks, from “plain old coffee: (a.k.a. Americano) to the cappucinos, mochas, lattes and the like, as well as teas and hot chocolate. Unlike many cafes, whose food offerings are limited to sweet snacks, they serve about a half dozen different types of sandwiches (including some veggie options) and soup and chili. As for their sweet snacks, they had a variety of muffins, scones and three or four different types of cookies. I ordered a tasty turkey and provolone sandwich made with ciabatta bread along with some roasted red pepper soup, and later on in the afternoon, I had one of their nutella-and-chocolate chip cookies – all were delicious.

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It’s a bright, airy space, with glass walls facing south and west, which means lots of light in the afternoon. Most of the seating is at the three bars that ring the café, with the longest one facing the south glass wall, giving you a great view of the passers-by on Queen Street West. Conversely, they get a good view of you, and when I sat at that bar in the later part of the afternoon, there were two instances where a friend saw me at the bar and dropped in for a conversation.

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You might think that a bar might be too narrow a surface to do work, but it was more than enough space to accommodate my 17” “Dellasaurus”, which is a bigger laptop than most. I walk around with an accordion on my back, so I have a warped idea of what constitutes a “portable” computer.

For the curious: the Dellasaurus – that’s the nickname we’ve given it at Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Evangelism team – is a Dell Precision M6500. It’s essentially a kick-ass server machine packed into a 17” laptop body. It has a quad-core Intel i7 chip, 16GB RAM, 1GB video RAM, mechanical and solid state hard drive, and it runs Visual Studio and rips DVDs simultaneously without skipping a beat. To borrow a line from my hero Ferris Bueller: “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”

The bars are great for hanging out or working solo or in pairs. If you’re getting together with a couple more friends, there is a table in the corner:

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This is a work-friendly café. While a handful of cafes have made it clear that they’d rather not have people using their establishments as workspaces (some in a friendly manner, others in more passive-aggressive ways), this place makes it clear in the “Free Agent” part of their name: they invite you to come in and get some work done. Most of the seats are within a power adapter cord’s reach of an outlet, and they offer free wifi. As they say in their page about the café, it’s “designed with the untethered class in mind”.

Whether you’re an indie coder going a little stir crazy in your home office or if you just need to get out of cubicle-land for a bit, you might want to give Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar a try. I’ve had many a good experience “café coding”, and Cloud has all the necessary ingredients to be a great place for that sort of thing. I expect that it’s going to be one of my regular go-to places when I’m not on the road and I need to get out of the home office.

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In addition to the café, there’s also a meeting space downstairs that they rent out. The Cloud folks were kind enough to loan it to me for Coffee and Code to try out. It’s a nice space, with seating for about a dozen people, a good number of outlets and large wall-mounted screen with webcam. It’s perfect for offsite meetings or small seminars.

They even gave me a free pot of coffee and pitcher of icewater with cucumber slices in it:

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Rent on this space works out to about $40 an hour, and they’ll throw in a $20 catering credit if you book it for 2 or more hours. I’m going to keep this place in mind; the rate’s pretty good, and I’ve got a number of ideas – such as a Windows Phone 7 development jam session –- where a space like this could come in handy. Perhaps it could be useful for your needs as well.

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As for the Coffee and Code? This one got only a handful of visitors, but that’s okay – everyone who came had never been to a Coffee and Code before, and most were people whom I’d met for the first time, and as a result, I’ve got a couple of extra items on my “to do” list. I consider that a success.

Once again I’d like to thank Rochelle and Tamera for inviting me to Cloud and letting me have free roam of their space. I enjoyed my visit, and I will be back!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Toronto Coffee and Code Today (Jan 26) at Cloud!

coffee and code at cloud

Don’t forget, there’s a Toronto Coffee and Code today at Cloud Free Agent Espresso Bar (968 Queen Street West, at Givins Street, a block west of Shaw, a couple of blocks west of Trinity Bellwoods Park) from noon until 6 p.m.. Join me for lunch – they’ve got a great lunch selection – or a coffee break, or the afternoon!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Get “SharePoint 2010 Workflows in Action” for $25 (Wednesday, January 26th)

sharepoint 2010 workflows in action

Today’s a great day to save on books! O’Reilly has a deal on the top 25 Microsoft Press ebooks, and Manning’s got a deal on the just-released SharePoint 2010 Workflows in Action. Enter the code dotd0126 in the Promotional Code box when you check out and both the paper and ebook are yours for USD$25!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Half Off Microsoft Press’ Top 25 Ebooks from O’Reilly (Wednesday, January 26th)

Covers of the top 25 Microsoft Press ebooks

For only today (Wednesday, January 26th), you can purchase any or all of the top 25 Microsoft Press ebooks, pictured above) from O’Reilly for half price! Just use the discount code DDM25 when you check out at

The books are:

O’Reilly ebooks give you lifetime access, free updates and multiple DRM-free formats (PDF, ePub, Mobi, APK and DAISY).

This deal’s only available today, so if you want one or more of these books, buy now!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Why You Hate Comic Sans / Design for Hackers

Here’s a video of David Kadavy, freelance web designer and author of the upcoming book Design for Hackers, spoke at Ignite Chicago back in November about the font everyone loves to hate: Comic Sans. He calls it “the most hated font in the world,” and it probably is – at least among typographers, designers, UX specialists and anyone who works with computers and has a modicum of taste.

He talks about Comic Sans by comparing it to one of the world’s most beloved typefaces (well, at least among design geeks, anyway), Helvetica, explains its origins as a font meant to be used for the word bubble in Microsoft Bob and how it was created in the time before antialiased onscreen text was common and how back then, he’d rather have read something set in Comic Sans than something set in Garamond, which has considerably more designer approval.

You can find out more about what David thinks about Comic Sans by checking out his latest blog post.

What is Design for Hackers?

design for hackersKeep an eye on David: he’s currently working on Design for Hackers, a book to be published by Wiley and Sons. Here’s how he describes this project:

My goal for Design for Hackers is to help Software Developers and Entrepreneurs (Hackers) – who are interested in design – see the world the way a designer does. Hackers are used to teaching themselves whatever is necessary to achieve their vision; and for most things this is relatively straightforward. If they are learning to program, and come across an error, they can do a quick Google search. If they want to know how to do their own bookkeeping, they can learn about this easily with a book or by looking around on the web. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix found when you Google “my design sucks.”

The problem with most advice given by designers is that it usually consists of rules (“use no more than two fonts”) that are often conflicting and easy to forget. Naturally, the decisions made by designers are difficult to put into words, and many designers are better with images than words. Rather than teaching you to fish, they give you a fish. When you’re still confused, they may shrug their virtual shoulders and explain that its just their natural talent that makes them able to design. This is usually true, but I believe natural talent is not a requirement for understanding design – especially not for naturally curious people who can teach themselves nearly anything, given the right information.

There are some very consistent principles behind what makes a design visually compelling, and these principles are as important on the screen of your iPad as they were on the streets of ancient Rome. My goal is to weave these principles into your brain using examples from today, as well as from the history of art, architecture, and design. I will tell stories and present examples that will infect your brain, make you look smart when you retell them at parties, and change the way you see the world around you. I’ve been telling my friends, “it’s like Freakonomics, for Design.”

Freakonomics, but for design? I could get into that.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.