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Web 2.0 Talk: HTML5 vs. Flash

Earlier this week I presented a talk at the Web 2.0 Expo titled “HTML5 vs. Flash: Webpocalypse Now?” which seemed to be pretty well received.  That might be because I did my best to be unbiased about the situation both now and into the future, and also that the audience was very heavily weighted toward web stack practitioners.  Seriously, out of 100-150 audience members, about six raised their hand when I asked who was developing with Flash.

Many people have asked if the slides will be available.  Indeed so:  head on over to the session page, which I encourage attendees of the talk to visit so that you can leave a rating or comment on the session.  The 5.4MB PDF of my Keynote slides is available there whether you attended or not.

While I was at the conference I was also interviewed by Mac Slocum on the topics of the HTML and Flash, and that’s been put up on YouTube along with interviews with Brady Forrest and Ge Wang (both of whom are awesome).  I haven’t watched it so I don’t know how dorky I come off but I’ll bet it’s pretty dorky.

I indulged in a little good-natured ribbing of Adobe at the front of the interview (I kid because I love!) but the rest of it is, as best I recall, a decent distillation of my views.  I’m hoping to get a few more detailed thoughts written and published here in the next week or two.

Many thanks to Brady Forrest and the entire Web 2.0 crew for having me on stage and getting me out to San Francisco.  It’s always a great place to visit.

Better PDF File Size Reduction in OS X

One of the things you discover as a speaker and, especially, a conference organizer is this:  Keynote generates really frickin’ enormous PDFs.  Seriously.  Much like Miles O’Keefe, they’re huge.  We had one speaker last year whose lovingly crafted and beautifully designed 151-slide deck resulted in a 175MB PDF.

Now, hard drives and bandwidth may be cheap, but when you have four hundred plus attendees all trying to download the same 175MB PDF at the same time, the venue’s conference manager will drop by to find out what the bleeding eyestalks your attendees are doing and why it’s taking down the entire outbound pipe.  Not to mention the network will grind to a nearly complete halt.  Whatever you personally may think of net access at conferences, at this point, not providing net access is roughly akin to not providing functioning bathrooms.

So what’s the answer?  ShrinkIt is fine if the slides use lots of vectors and you’re running Snow Leopard.  If the slides use lots of bitmapped images, or you’re not on Snow Leopard, ShrinkIt can’t help you.

If the slides are image-heavy, then you can always load the PDF into Preview and then do a “Save As…” where you select the “Reduce File Size” Quartz filter.  That will indeed drastically shrink the file size—that 175MB PDF goes down to 13MB—but it can also make the slides look thoroughly awful.  That’s because the filter achieves its file size reduction by scaling all the images down by at least 50% and to no more than 512 pixels on a side, plus it uses aggressive JPEG compression.  So not only are the images infested with compression artifacts, they also tend to get that lovely up-scaling blur.  Bleah.

I Googled around a bit and found “Quality reduced file size in Mac OS X Preview” from early 2006.  There I discovered that anyone can create their own Quartz filters, which was the key I needed.  Thus armed with knowledge, I set about creating a filter that struck, in my estimation, a reasonable balance between image quality and file size reduction.  And I think I’ve found it.  That 175MB PDF gets taken down to 34MB with what I created.

If you’d like to experience this size reduction for yourself (and how’s that for an inversion of common spam tropes?) it’s pretty simple:

  1. Download and unzip Reduce File Size (75%).  Note that the “75%” relates to settings in the filter, not the amount of reduction you’ll get by using it.
  2. Drop the unzipped .qfilter file into ~/Library/Filters in Leopard/Snow Leopard or /Library/PDF Services in Lion.  (Apparently no ~ in Lion.)

Done.  The next time you need to reduce the size of a PDF, load it up in Preview, choose “Save As…”, and save it using the Quartz filter you just installed.

If you’re the hands-on type who’d rather set things up yourself, or you’re a paranoid type who doesn’t trust downloading zipped files from sites you don’t control (and I actually don’t blame you if you are), then you can manually create your own filter like so:

  1. Go to /Applications/Utilities and launch ColorSync Utility.
  2. Select the “Filters” icon in the application’s toolbar.
  3. Find the “Reduce File Size” filter and click on the little downward-arrow-in-gray-circle icon to the right.
  4. Choose “Duplicate Filter” in the menu.
  5. Use the twisty arrow to open the duplicated filter, then open each of “Image Sampling” and “Image Compression”.
  6. Under “Image Sampling”, set “Scale” to 75% and “Max” to 1280.
  7. Under “Image Compression”, move the arrow so it’s halfway between the rightmost marks.  You’ll have to eyeball it (unless you bust out xScope or a similar tool) but you should be able to get it fairly close to the halfway point.
  8. Rename the filter to whatever will help you remember its purpose.

As you can see from the values, the “75%” part of the filter’s name comes from the fact that two of the filter’s values are 75%.  In the original Reduce File Size filter, both are at 50%.  The maximum size of images in my version is also quite a bit bigger than the original’s—1280 versus 512—which means that the file size reductions won’t be the same as the original.

Of course, you now have the knowledge needed to fiddle with the filter to create your own optimal balance of quality and compression, whether you downloaded and installed the zip or set it up manually—either way, ColorSync Utility has what you need.  If anyone comes up with an even better combination of values, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.  In the meantime, share and enjoy!

Translations

Update 2 Aug 11: apparently there have been changes in Lion—here’s an Apple forum discussion of the problem.  There are two workarounds described in the thread: either to open and save files with ColorSync Utility itself, or to copy the filter to another folder in your Library (or install it there in the first place, above).

Update 27 Mar 12: edited the Lion install directory to remove an errant ~ .  Thanks to Brian Christiansen for catching the error!

London CSS/XHTML Workshop

Hey all, and especially those of you in the EU: I’m going to be doing an all-new one-day workshop in London in early March via the offices of Carson Workshops, for whom I’ve done workshops in the past.  Previously I’ve done two-day gigs with a beginner-to-intermediate skill range, but this time we’re trying something different.  I’m going to get down and dirty with some tough topics, and really push hard at the limits of what CSS and semantic markup can do.

You can get the details at the CW site, and note the special price for the first quarter of the seats.  That’s right, this will be a small, intimate workshop, with plenty of chances for questions about and challenges to what I’m saying.  Previous workshops have featured some really great conversations among everyone there, and I expect the same this time around.

I had meant to blog this before life intervened and took me out of my wifi cloud (and more on that soon), so time is a little more of the essence than usual—if you know someone who you think might be interested, pass the word on, willya?  Thanks!

Caught In The Camera Eye

Just when you thought the whole embedded-video thing couldn’t get any worse, here I come with videos featuring, well, me.

The most recent is a short clip from one of my presentations at An Event Apart back in April, debug / reboot, where I comment at my usual pace on the suppression of quotation marks in my reset styles and why I think relying on browser-generated quotation marks is a bad idea.  You also get to see my hair before it got to be the length it is now, which is even longer.  There’s a complete transcription on that page, by the way, courtesy Mr. Z.

Then there’s the vaguely silly one, in which I attempt to debug my clothing while sitting in my living room.  The main takeaway here, I think, is that my speech patterns on stage are just about the same as those in “regular life”.  Pity my family.

So there’s me in the movies.  It’s nowhere near as epic-ly mëtäl as some other folks’ videos, but I suppose we all do what we can.

Tour de Frantic

I am, as ever, woefully behind on posting.  (Then again, maybe it’s not just me: Greg Hoy recently tweeted that it’s happening all over.)  I still want to follow up on line-height: normal and also on a closely related topic that emerged in the comments.  And I will.  Eventually.

Right now, though, I want to mention a few pieces of news from the conference world.  After that, it’s back to steeling myself to upgrade WordPress while stomping out the problems I have with my current install and also, I hope, finally getting it set up to do version-controlled upgrading henceforth.

Right.  The news.

  • The early bird deadline for An Event Apart Boston 2008 is next Monday, so don’t wait much longer to register if you’re a fan of discounts.  If not, that’s cool too.  Maybe you like to pay more.  We’re not here to judge.

  • If you’re on the opposite coast, there’s also An Event Apart San Francisco 2008, whose detailed schedule was announced this morning.  It will be two days jam packed with greatness from Heather Champ, Kelly Goto, Jeremy Keith, Luke Wroblewski, Dan Cederholm, Tantek Çelik, Jeffrey Veen, Derek Featherstone, Liz Danzico, Jason Santa Maria, Jeffrey Zeldman, and your humble servant.  You’ve still got some time to register with the early bird discount, but I wouldn’t put it off forever, because there’s no way to know when the last seat will be sold.

    (And if you aren’t subscribed to our mailing list, then you’re already behind the times:  subscribers got word of the detailed San Francisco schedule yesterday, ahead of everyone else.  Because they’re on the ins, as the kids are known to say.  Don’t let them have all the fun.  Sign up today!)

  • At the beginning of June, I’ll be giving a keynote plus a bonus session to be named later at the Spring <br/> Conference in Athens, Ohio.  For years they’ve been trying to get me to come down there, and every year I had some insurmountable scheduling conflict.  It almost happened again this year, but they were really fantastic and actually worked the schedule to accommodate me, for which I can’t thank them enough.  Come on down and take a <br/> with us!

  • Come mid-July, I’ll be in sunny Philadelphia for the Higher Education Web Symposium co-teaching a full-day workshop on “CSS Tips & Techniques” with the incomparable Stephanie Sullivan.

  • And in the realm of the not-absolutely-guaranteed-and-therefore-underspecified:  come late September, it looks like I’ll be back in Destin, Florida; and I just might be making my way to Japan in early November.

Plus of course there’s An Event Apart Chicago 2008 in October, but you already knew about that.  The detailed schedule will be published in mid-July, and with that lineup of speakers, I’m already shivering with anticipation.

Okay, that’s all I have for the moment.  Hopefully that upgrade/fix/control thing will go less bumpily than I fear, and I can get another post out before all those shows have passed into memory.

Notacon: Not to be Missed

In just under a couple of weeks, the fifth annual NOTACON will be held right here in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio.  You’re going, I know; you’re super-über-cool like that, and you don’t need to be reminded of your coolness.  But I’d like to mention the show here for posterity, so that our descendants will know just how completely they missed out.

Notacon straddles, like a Colossus built entirely out of recycled motherboards, backtech chips, and loops of soldering wire, the middle ground between regular conferences and BarCamps (though Notacon predates BarCamp by a couple of years).  It’s not free to attend, but it is very inexpensive.  What it lacks in slick advertising and corporate sponsors, it makes up ten times over in raw, unfiltered geekiness and fascinating material.  This is the kind of event where presenters will hold forth on the depths of digital security, the physics of wireless networking, homebrew chip architecture, the coolness of HyperCard, online society dynamics, and more.  There’s a running contest called Anything but Ethernet, where you get bonus points for having one of the links in your network architecture incorporate barbed wire.

Yeah.  It’s like that.

The speakers will be as wildly diverse as the audience.  The lead engineer for the C64 Direct-to-TV (a C64 in a joystick!); the man behind The Daily WTF; some of the folks putting out 2600 magazine; the woman behind CrochetMe.com; and many more.  I’ll be there as well, talking about the bleeding edge of CSS and web design, ripping apart some recent projects of mine at top speed while discussing where I think we’ll be in three years.  Plus Drew Curtis of FARK fame will be back, as he always is, this year sponsoring a FARK party.  The mind fairly boggles.  Boggles!

As you’re no doubt gathering by now, it’s hard to describe Notacon in a quick, concise summary—and that’s a big part of what makes it so awesome.  For my contemporaries: see you there!  To you future historians: okay, you missed out, but drop everything right now to find out when the next one is and I’ll see you there!

Speakers Galore

I know it was only yesterday that I mentioned the opening of registration for An Event Apart New Orleans and the other 2008 shows, but there’s already more to share: later that same day, we announced the speakers for the other three shows of 2008.  Incredible lineups, every one.  We’re beyond excited.  Check ’em out!

An Event Apart 2008 Lines Up

The new year is here, and to celebrate, we’ve announced details and opened registration for An Event Apart New Orleans, to be held April 24–25, and opened early registration for the other three events of 2008:

  • Boston, June 23–24
  • San Francisco, August 18–19
  • Chicago, October 13–14

Now you can pick the show that best fits your schedule, fiscal year, or both, and book your seats early.

One of the things we’ve always striven to create is top-notch events for (as the motto goes) people who make web sites—covering design as well as code, architecture in addition to scripting, the big picture along with the nitty-gritty.  Focusing on that vision served us and our attendees very well in 2007, and it continues in 2008.  Just check out the list of speakers and topics for New Orleans:

  • Andy Clarke, author of Transcending CSS, presenting “Underpants Over My Trousers”
  • Aaron Gustafson, co-author of AdvancED DOM Scripting, presenting “Progressive Enhancement with JavaScript”
  • Robert Hoekman Jr., author of Designing the Obvious, conducting “On-the-Spot Usability Reviews”
  • Cameron Moll, author of Mobile Web Design, presenting “Good vs. Great Design”
  • Brian Oberkirch, Publisher of Like It Matters, presenting “Kick it Like Pelé”
  • Jason Santa Maria, designer at Happy Cog, presenting “Good Design Ain’t Easy”
  • Dave Shea, co-author of Zen of CSS Design, presenting “Living, Breathing Design”
  • Stephanie Sullivan, co-author of Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3, presenting “Design Challenges, Standards Solutions”
  • Jeff Veen, design manager at Google, presenting “Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps”
  • Aarron Walter, author of Building Findable Web Sites, presenting “Findability Bliss Through Web Standards SEO”

And, as always, your hosts:

  • Eric Meyer, author of CSS: The Definitive Guide, presenting both “The Lessons of CSS Frameworks” and “Debug / Reboot”
  • Jeffrey Zeldman, author of Designing With Web Standards, presenting both “Understanding Web Design” and “Web Standards: The Return of the King”

You can get more details on the New Orleans event page, including descriptions of the sessions and details on how to get the special room rate at the conference hotel, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

While we don’t yet have speaker lists nor schedules to announce for the other three 2008 shows, we’re working to finalize them and hope to have at least some information out shortly.  I can already say that all the shows are at the same high level, though of course each event has its own unique flavor.

Those of you who attended one or more of our shows in 2007 (yes, we did have some repeats!) may be wondering if the shows will be the same, especially since we’re returning to some cities we visited last year.  The answer there is “not at all”.  Every show of 2008 is a mix of new and returning speakers, and we’ve done our best not to repeat speakers within a given city between 2007 and 2008.  The exceptions are myself and Jeffrey, of course, but we’re both doing new talks this year.  Simply put, if you loved AEA in 2007, we’re pretty confident you’ll love it even more in 2008.

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