Thursday, July 24, 2014

Coding on Cloud Nine with Cloud9 IDE

I've been a huge fan and user of the Cloud9 IDE since its early beta release back in 2010. Not only is the interface simple, sleek, and intuitive, but the convenience of having a consistent development environment on any machine I'm using and the ability to quickly and easily share my work with collaborators are features I've found that I just can't live without. The third generation Cloud9 IDE marks a new day in Cloud-based development.

Picture of Cloud9 team members using Cloud9
Picture of Cloud9 team members using Cloud9

Check out the new Cloud9 site for a full list of features and be sure to read their announcement post about the new environment. Fully self-contained Docker Ubuntu containers give you the ability to run any development stack without the hassle of configuration issues. Fire up Cloud9 to dive right into code at a hackathon, collaborate with a global development team, or simply give yourself the flexibility of jumping from Internet cafe to Internet cafe while maintaining a consistent dev environment.

Cloud 9 IDE provides Google Drive-like collaboration

Fully configurable collaboration right in the IDE
Personally, I love the Cloud9 collaboration features because I can send direct links to my code whenever I have a quick question about my projects. I can have someone jump directly into my development server and code with me. We can talk through the problems together; it ends up being a better learning experience and takes less time to explain the situation and find the solution. Additionally, it's incredible to have multiple developers working on a project in real time. Imagine you're building out a WordPress plugin... one developer can be working on the backend PHP while another is fine tuning the layout on the frontend at the same time! You can chat with each other to align your schedules and then both view the preview to see your project progress. It's a very quick workflow and incredible for Web development teams no matter where they are located.

Since Cloud9 is all in the browser, they've been able to implement extremely lean themes to design your IDE however you'd like. Wanna go old school with a Dreamweaver skin? Match your code to your git repo with the GitHub skin? You can even directly edit the CSS to create your own totally custom skin. It might seem like a trivial feature, but in fact it is very important; you can change themes quickly depending on the lighting you are in at any given time and continue to have the best possible development experience/environment.

Themes can make your IDE fit any style you choose, including designs resembling Dreamweaver, GitHub, Chrome, Eclipse, TextMate, and Xcode!

Image editing, terminal, and testing!

I've been using Cloud9 as my main Web development platform for the past several years. Now, with the addition of image editing right in the IDE, I can maintain my entire workflow directly within Cloud9 and produce my final, production-ready product within a single Cloud-based environment. This helps a lot when you're playing around with media queries and don't want to serve the same giant image to all devices. Just duplicate the image, shrink it down in the image editor, and serve the right size to the right device. 

Having the terminal in the same browser window also adds to the full package. I start my projects with a GitHub repo and then clone them into Cloud9. Whenever I reach a specific point in my development I can easily push my changes to GitHub and then continue on in Cloud9. The fact that you can sign up for Cloud9 with a GitHub or BitBucket account makes the workflow as simple as could be.

Editing images directly within the IDE creates an incredible Web development workflow

The built-in terminal gives you direct access to your own Ubuntu VM

Test in all browsers on all operating systems

The new Cloud9 has Sauce Labs integrated right within the editor. That means you can preview your project in over 300 different browser/operating system combinations. Sauce Labs provides a virtual machine with the exact environment you choose, so you can complete your full QA directly within your Cloud9 development environment.

Browser testing from Sauce Labs lets you test your code on over 300 browser/os combinations

The possibilities are endless with Cloud9 IDE.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Now everyone can have a photographic memory.


The Narrative Clip was successfully funded on for over half a million dollars with the goal of building a miniature, wearable lifelogging camera. Originally called the Memoto, the Narrative attaches to your clothes via a small metal clip and takes two photos every minute to provide a first-person account of your entire day.

What was the name of that restaurant I went to last Thursday?” Imagine if you could recall exactly where you were and what you had been doing at any given time in your life. About a year and a half ago I backed the Memoto Lifelogging Camera which was later rebranded as the Narrative Clip. I was fascinated by the description: a tiny, automatic camera and app that gives you a searchable and shareable photographic memory. I believe that wearable computing has the ability to augment the human experience. I personally have a rather bad memory, so the idea of a device that could help me in that area of my life is truly exciting.

I received my Narrative Clip on February 24, 2014 (almost exactly a year and 3 months after the Kickstarter campaign ended). The delivery was delayed about a year from when the original Kickstarter campaign had promised the device. As a backer I received many updates from the team. They were open and transparent in explaining how several hiccups in the manufacturing process had caused the delays. My initial reaction was that the build quality is absolutely amazing, so waiting while the team worked through manufacturing quality assurance issues didn’t upset me that much.

I’ve backed many Kickstarter campaigns and most of them get shipped with low quality hardware and under-developed software. The Narrative is top-notch in both of those areas and lives up to its promises. The device itself is a solid 1.4 inch square that’s less than half an inch thick. It has a very clean design with LEDs on the side to show the battery level and a chrome metal clip on the back to easily attach to your clothing. I’ve tried wearing the Narrative on my t-shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, and even pants pocket. The biggest flaw in the device is that the clip is somewhat weak. It is very possible to lose your Narrative if you’re not…

Monday, March 24, 2014

Smartglasses: Google Glass isn’t the only game in town.


Google Glass has definitely made a big splash in the wearable industry, but they’re not the only smartglasses available on the market. Several small startups as well as extremely large manufacturers are also building smartglasses; there’s a very competitive market developing in this category of wearables!

I’ve been a Google Glass Explorer for about 9 months now and it’s been an amazing journey. Over the course of those months I’ve gone from utilizing the standard Glass titanium headband to zip-tying the Glass device to my prescription frames, then to using Velcro to attach Glass to my frames (so that it’s removable), and now finally using Google prescription frames for my Glass. It’s been an interesting evolution. The fact that I need to wear glasses to correct my vision makes it much easier for me to wear Glass on a regular basis: I’m going to be wearing glasses either way, so why not have glasses that can make phone calls, send emails and text messages, listen to music, get directions, and even play games when I’m bored?

Over the past several months Google has been giving us, Glass Explorers, several invites to hand out to people we know who might want to join the Explorer Program. I’ve given out 9 invites, but it was more difficult to find those new Explorers than I ever imagined. The main reason: price.

There are many other options available in the smartglasses market that are considerably less expensive than Glass (and others that are even more expensive). Personally, I’m extremely excited to try all of the different smartglasses, but I can also say that I am 100% all in on Google...