Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: HTML5 Step by Step

Good if Starting from Scratch
By Tom O from Baltimore, MD on 1/12/2012


Pros: Easy to understand, Helpful examples, Well-written
Cons: Omits some details, Too basic
Best Uses: Novice, Student
Describe Yourself: Designer, Developer
This is a well structured and clear book about how to write articles and code using HTML5. If you are looking to create or adjust content for the web and don't really have much experience, this provides good introductory material to get you on your feet.

If you have decent HTML knowledge you will want to avoid reading the book cover to cover, because much of the basics are covered here. Particular newer topics you should look at include the newer tags (like article and nav) and the newer input types (like the slider, date picker or spin box). The color picker input type wasn't mentioned, but it only really works in Opera so it's a very minor omission.

One slight disappointment about this book was that it didn't discuss some of the other aspects of HTML5, such as offline storage or location services. I understand those capabilities do assume JavaScript knowledge beyond the neophyte level, but mentioning these aspects of HTML5 in passing would've been nice. I did like the introduction to the canvas tag, and how it gave a brief introduction to JavaScript and jQuery to make the first experience fairly simple.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this through O'Reilly Media.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Improving the Battery Life of your Android Device

If you're not used to an Android device, there are some minor improvements that you can make to improve the battery life. Please note this is only referring to simple steps that can be taken - nothing complex or too advanced for the average user.

Out of the Box
When you take the device out of the box, there are a few things you should disable or adjust to improve its battery life.

  • Turn off GPS
    Although GPS should only be running when you want it to (like when running Google Maps, Facebook or Foursquare), it's usually wise to keep it off until you really need it. Half the time the phone's coarse location is good enough for everything except Driving Navigation, and GPS doesn't work indoors unless you're near a window anyways. More recent versions of Android have a settings ribbon as part of the navigation dropdown now, and it makes switching common settings like WiFi, GPS and Sound fairly simple.
  • Turn off 4G
    Some of the more modern phones usually have a 4G option. For the most part you won't really need this unless you're either downloading a huge application or watching high definition video.
  • Turn off Automatic brightness
    Located in Settings > Display > Brightness, the brightness detection can be useful occasionally, but usually it's only noticable in low-light environments.
  • Choose Static Wallpapers instead of a Live Wallpapers
    The live wallpapers look really cool and can definitely sell phones, but in the end aren't incredibly useful. Generally speaking I haven't seen a live wallpaper that has been worth sacrificing battery life for. If you like the Nexus, Galaxy or Live Aquarium wallpapers, just know that what you gain in animation, you lose in power.
Even with all these changes you'll still have to keep an eye out for power-intense activities. The good news is that Task Manager apps are now usually included to help users see where their power's going.

  • In Settings > Applications you have a bunch of options available to better manage your applications.
    • Battery Usage lets you see if any applications are running in the background more than you're expecting. If something's running more than you want, check the application's settings to see if you can disable or reduce the background checks. If you don't have the option, email the developer and see if they could add the feature. If they have a mobile web application, switching to that instead of a native application may be a good alternative as well.
    • Memory Usage helps if you're running out of space on your phone. Usually games and multimedia editing tools use a lot of resources here, although some social networking and content publication applications have internal storage that can take up space too. In some cases you can adjust the application's cache, although if your phone needs to hit the Internet too much it'll drain the battery more.
  • Third Party Applications
    If you're looking for other ways to tweak performance, there are some applications out there that can give you additional help. Personally I don't use any, but I thought I'd add them to be more complete. Let me know if there are additional resources and I'll add them as I can, with descriptions if I have used it.