Link Disorder?

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I was looking at the list of menu links on www.psu.edu and noticed that it did not really make much sense in terms of its order.

Here is the list

  • About Penn State
  • Prospective Students
  • Academic Programs
  • Outreach Programs
  • Global Penn State
  • Campuses and Colleges
  • Visitors Guide
  • Alumni, Friends, and Giving
  • News and Announcements
  • Research
  • Health & Medicine Resources
  • Libraries
  • Athletics and Recreation
  • Current Students
  • Undergraduate Information
  • Graduate Information
  • Adult Learners
  • Faculty and Staff Services

It mixes 'audience' links with 'unit' links in a confusing manner.  Now I figure a group of people spent a long time working out which link went where in the list according to a list of priorities. But I don't see why these two different sets of links are mixed together.

Using the same order per group, why not do:

  • About Penn State
  • Academic Programs
  • Outreach Programs
  • Global Penn State
  • Campuses and Colleges
  • News and Announcements
  • Research
  • Health & Medicine Resources
  • Libraries
  • Athletics and Recreation
  • Undergraduate Information
  • Graduate Information
  • Prospective Students
  • Visitors Guide
  • Alumni, Friends, and Giving
  • Current Students
  • Adult Learners
  • Faculty and Staff Services

This makes far more sense to me, its easier to search, etc.  I might adjust the order of each list a little, but that's a minor issue.

Penn State 'Home' page.

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So Penn State is going to update its web presence, starting with the Home Page.

This has got me thinking.

My first thought is that the phrase 'home page' does not properly reflect what it is.  When I think of home, I think of a destination, a place I want to be at, stay at, reside, etc.

A 'home' page would then be the place on a web site that is a visitor's final goal.  And that's not really the case here...  

We need to really call it a landing page.  Think about airports.  No one flies to an airport just to live there. The purpose of an airport is not to be a final destination, but is either an interim location to fly to another airport or the place you leave, via other transportation, to actually go 'home'.

In my mind that changes what needs to be on a landing page.  Any information which is does not provide a means for a visitor to reach their final destination is unhelpful.

For example, when was the last time you clicked on a web site's copyright notice?  What use is that to a visitor?  Do they really care about it? 

Sure it does not take up much space, but when you add more and more items which don't take up much space..  well, then they are.

So why not hide items like that.. say place them all in a hidden bar at the bottom of the page that does not appear until moused over?  It might unclutter the page a bit.

Spring Cleaning?

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I think it might be time to clean this space up...

Eric

The new AppleTV

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Yesterday Fedex dropped off the new AppleTV after its long trip from China.  The timing was not perfect since my iMac decided that its boot partition should drop dead...  luckily the drive was OK and I restored it from Time Machine, but it slowed things down a bit.

While I have no experience with the original AppleTV, I do have a Roku XR and a PS3 which I use to watch/stream content to my TV.  On both, the Netflix experience is somewhat lacking although the Roku is a little nicer.  First, for the PS3 you have to load in a DVD which is a pain. Second I think the interface is slightly nicer on the Roku.  But neither interface is great...  I found myself adding items to my instant queues using a laptop instead of onscreen.

The Roku also streams from other source like MLB and some other odd places which I rarely used other than a few TWiT.tv podcasts.  The PS3 is more useful since I can transfer content from my iMac, like AVIs, via Nullriver's Medialink which works quite well.  

But on to the AppleTV.

First off, it is small.  No, I mean small.  Like a hockey puck.  I've used larger DEC workstation mice.  Second, no power brick..  just a power cord.  Third, aluminum remote..  which feels more solid than any other remote I've had.

Hooking it up was a breeze.  Insert power cord and HDMI cord (replacing the Roku) and that's it.  Once the TV was on and using that HDMI port, the AppleTV turned on into its setup mode.  Setting everything up was simple other than the oddity of using the remote to 'type' in text.  I like that Apple has both upper and lower case text on the 'keyboard'. I also set up my Netflix account...  again pretty easy.  It will go into screen saver mode and/or power itself off after a certain amount of time.

I like the overall interface better than the Roku or the PS3...  its pretty clean.  And the Netflix interface is much better...  the Roku has a tendency to cut off title names in its search results which makes finding specific seasons of TV shows more difficult.

As to streaming Netflix, I took a look at a couple shows like Top Gear which is my 'standard' for fast, complicated video.  The AppleTV did as well or better on streaming, including video quality and buffering.

As for iTunes, I also looked at a preview of the 'new' series of TG which can be rented for $.99 an episode.  It looked quite good, especially since BBC America is not available in HD in State College yet.

There are also other streaming options for podcasts, including TWiT.tv, for Youtube, Mobile Me, etc.

Once my iMac was restored, I linked the AppleTV to iTunes...  this is the major reason I bought it.  I have a pretty large chunk of content in iTunes... which can't be streamed to the Roku or PS3.  Navigation was good, but it helps that I'm pretty careful categorizing my content into difference series with titles, season numbers, and episode numbers.  Streaming was again quite nice with a good amount of buffering and quick response - the Roku has a slightly odd pause and fast forward function.

One thing I did notice...  I have a digital download copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that comes with the DVD.  This did not play through the AppleTV because of the goofy restrictions placed on this kind of content.  It also won't play directly on my iMac, only on my iPhone...

So would I recommend it?  Well, if you have a large iTunes library that you want to stream, definitely yes, even if you have other devices.  Especially since you really don't have another choice.  If you already have a Roku, PS3, or other device???  Well, maybe.  If you want to rent movies or TV from iTunes, it will do an excellent job.  If you want to just stream Netflix and are happy with the other devices, you may be fine staying with what you've got.

The really big question is where all these devices are headed.  No one really has a clue.  Add in GoogleTV and it gets really messy.  I'm really hoping that the AppleTV will get apps like the iPhone and iPad - that will really set it apart from the others.




Merlin Mann strikes again.

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Another good talk from Merlin Mann (Inbox Zero) about Time and Attention.

http://www.43folders.com/2010/04/27/impro-talk


Adding dropdown menus in Drupal

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This is a nice article about adding Superfish dropdown menus to any Drupal theme.



Drupal Tips

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Some quick Drupal tips.

  1. Never hack core! Do not ever modify any of the files that come with the default Drupal install.  This includes the styles...
  2. Never use Garland.  The style was ported from D5 so its a poor place to start in creating a subtheme or new theme.  Use Zen or other style as a base.
  3. Never use user #1.  When Drupal is installed there are two default users, the anonymous user #0 and the administrator user #1.  User #1 should not be used for a general log in since it has full permissions for everything.  It should only be used for admin purposes...
  4. Learn Taxonomy.  There are a lot of uses and power with properly created taxonomies and its difficult to fix once you are up and running.
  5. Learn Views & CCK. You can do just about anything with these two modules.  And since fields(CCK) are coming to D7, you'll need to learn them anyway.

iPhone panorama

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Made with a 3G iPhone and Autostitch...

lawschool.jpg

Drupal at TAMU

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Texas A&M is using Drupal to power 170 student org websites...  looks like a really cool way to leverage the functionality of Drupal.  Looks like they are installing separate instances of Drupal of various servers, but I think it using multisites would be interesting too.

Got to be better than what's being done now...


The Mississippi Debate

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In one week the first Presidential debate between Senators McCain and Obama will be held at the University of Mississippi where I previously held the position of University Webmaster.

It will be a historic event for both the state, the University, and the folks in Information Technology.  Over the past few months they've done a lot of hard work preparing new and updated infrastructure required for such worldwide event.  And whatever one might think, they do a damn fine job...

Usually Mississippi only gets 'press' when something negative happens on campus or in the state.  It will be really nice to see something positive getting noticed.

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