Monday, 23 September 2013

Auto Awesome Adds Another Dimension

Over the past couple of weeks I have noticed something very strange happening with photographs being synced from my phone to my G+ account; I would login on a computer and then see strange animated versions of burst shots right through to panoramas, the feature apparently, is known as auto-awesome. I was instantly impressed, the standard of the photos produced automatically without any kind of deliberate action was good, but when I realised that Google had added an edit button to the gallery, then I saw the potential and another dimension to G+ that surely cannot be ignored.

I would suspect that this is an attempt to pitch G+ right up against Instagram now, and with the additional bells and whistles it is definitely a contender in that court, as before against Facebook and Twitter alike. Google don't do things by halves, G+ is maturing into some kind of super hero social network; they have the resources, you can't fault them for using them to stay ahead.

The thing is, having only used it for a couple of shots to play, I would consider this a real alternative to Adobe Lightroom for the novice opportunist photographer with no usual inclination to delve into their creative personas. I can see myself using this for playful stuff that I might not intend to use professionally, then I would get the big boy tools out, but certainly as something in the box for working out ideas and for things to simply share with friends and family - this is certainly an interesting development; even your Gran could use it!

And perhaps that is the point, could it prove to be the key piece of the jigsaw in the eventual success of G+ as a social platform?

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Whatever happened to APNG?

Sometimes you find yourself questioning the direction technology takes, including such conundrums as; why has it taken so long for fibre-optic to take off when we have known of its benefits for decades? why has it taken so long to converge tv, radio and internet into one product? Why did it take so long for SVG to be popularised? And for me most recently, why didn't APNG take off; it seems almost illogical.

APNG is a format for animated PNG sequences, a format itself which is widely used and arguably the best for internet usage, certainly the most versatile. APNG has all of the characteristics of PNG including complicated alpha transparencies and a 24bit colour palette; it just seems to defy all logic that the format didn't become supported and part of the W3C strategy for HTML 5. Animation with APNG is just better when compared to GIF, and if browsers supported the format there would have been little need for plug-ins for simple short animated sequences. It isn't interactive like swf, but then it wasn't designed to be anything beyond an animation format and let's face it, GIF leaves a lot to be desired.

So I did a little searching to gratify myself and found very little in the way of reliable information, and very little information published since 2009; it is almost as though the world forgot about the format which was very exciting around that time. I suppose the real issue is down to support, only Firefox and Opera appear to support the extension and in terms of production the support of Photoshop or Flash as an export format would have gone a long way to popularising it. So the burning question on my lips is, why didn't they? You can still output to GIF from both and now CC allows Flash to produce native HTML 5 animations. It does seem like during the past 4 or 5 years a simple option for higher quality animation on the web was simply overlooked.

Thankfully my investigations led me eventually to a promising kick-starter project APNGASM, who are aiming to develop a GUI based APNG tool, although their current project appears to be producing plug-ins and conversion tools; I am especially looking forwards to the Photoshop plug-in, however much that costs.

Kagetsuki, R., 2013. apngasm - FOSS Animated PNG tools and APNG standardization. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 21 09 2013].

Mozilla, 2007. Animated PNG demos. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 21 September 2013]. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Google Says Bye Bye to Bevelled Look

The new logo on Google UK 'looks flatter' according to BBC News's Leo Kelion (2013); I have to admit I was unsure if this was an actual change or not, to start with and took a double take, but it appears to be on a slow roll-out, the changes to the interface are subtle but very focussed on removing distractions and streamlining both the page layout (if it could be any more streamlined) and the user experience. Clearly, there are larger changes afoot, but if they are as subtle as these most users perhaps will not notice so much.

The logo itself does feel cleaner now that the bevel has been removed, but could this be argued too simplistic? Eddie Kessler of Google (2013) stated in their official blog that they have also updated the colour palette and the letter forms, but these are very subtle differences indeed; the relationship between the first 'G' and 'o' does seem still to be quite awkward, but as ever this logo is as much about the negative space as it is the form of the characters and their relationships - something always draws me to the space inside the 'G'.

Google is the landing point for many people and the changes seem on the face of it, an improvement and in keeping with their developments of late, appear to be further integrating the G+ side of things and their portfolio of web applications. They have incorporated the conventional icon for app menu / launchers into the design and the page does feel much cleaner, the menu works on absolute positioning from the right until the browser window is resized below 1000px in width on a desktop and the changes don't appear to have reached the mobile site yet.

So the new menu is much simpler, with only +You, Gmail and Images visible, with everything else hidden in the app menu; of course when you are logged in the Share dialogue and profile avatar are revealed and this is probably my favourite part of the change; having the share integrated directly into all Google pages is certainly designed to engage a wider audience with + through the now streamlined process. I am sure I will use this frequently in the future.

Kelion, L., 2013. Google revamps logo and search page. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 20 September 2013].

Kelly, S. M., 2013. Google introduces new flatter logo. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 20 September 2013].

Kessler, E., 2013. Inside Search: The Official Google Search Blog. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 20 September 2013].