Nick Richards

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Gitorious Closedown

The not-super-great-open-source code hosting system Gitorious has been acquired and shut down by the much-better-and-open-source code hosting system GitLab. This is an overall net win for humanity but does have a few downsides.

A few years ago Intel and Nokia selected Gitorious to host the source code for their MeeGo Operating System. With the upcoming shutdown, that code was about to go offline. Since I have a sentimental attachment to MeeGo I've copied the repos for the MeeGo Netbook UX (source code) and MeeGo Tablet UX (source code) to GitHub.

Both of these projects are totally abandoned so don't expect Pull Requests to be merged or issues to be looked at, but it would be a shame if this just disappeared into a black pit of indifference.

Google Maps 2014 Redesign

This talk from Google IO 2014 is about a redesign, that of Google Maps - but to me it feels like the process behind a really good design for any sort of complex dynamic system. Lovely to see the working being shown and some really interesting examples of the 'double the hypothesis to get a reaction to see if you're moving in the correct direction' technique as well as the wide variety of locations tested and visualised.

If you liked that then you'll probably love going slightly higher level into a detailed breakdown of the similarities and differences between the Apple and Google Maps Apps on iOS.

First as tragedy

Nine years ago I drew some diagrams attempting to reverse engineer the coffee, milk and foam proportions available in the beverages served at Eat. I'm not going to pretend that this was particularly original work but when walking past one of their branches the other day I noticed some uncannily familiar design.

Eat Coffee Chart

Actually pretty decent communication, well done. Avoid the actual drinks there though.

Pinpoint COPR Repo

A few years ago I worked with a number of my former colleagues to create Pinpoint, a quick hack that made it easier for us to give presentations that didn't suck. Now that I'm at Collabora I have a couple of presentations to make and using pinpoint was a natural choice. I've been updating our internal templates to use our shiny new brand and wanted to use some newer features that weren't available in Fedora's version of pinpoint.

There hasn't been an official release for a little while and a few useful patches have built up on the master branch. I've packaged a git snapshot and created a COPR repo for Fedora so you can use these snapshots yourself. They're good.

Suburbs Driven by Trains Not Cars

I was reading Maciej Cegłowski's excellent talk, 'The Internet With A Human Face' and aside from it's persuasive argument found something interesting in the tension between his argument rooted in American reality and his German audience. I've also recently been reading 'Concretopia', a book about the post war rebuilding of Britain and realised that there, in the gap between the wars was the suburbia he wasn't aware of. I am of course talking of Metroland, where I grew up.

Clouds, Pond, Trees

This environment was enabled by a fascinating business model where the railway company created their own demand. They built houses in the middle of nowhere near London where transport to work required a train journey, giving themselves ongoing revenue and financing the building of the railway (and more). Most recently London has seen a similar excercise in commercial demand creation with Arsenal financing their new stadium (and a bit more) with property development on the old stadium.

As such Metro-land was inherently commuter based from the beginning and unsurprisingly it remains so today, although the nearby presence of the M25 has drawn off some of the rail traffic that existed before. But what's different about a train driven suburbia? It's still strip development, as the logic of the tracks wants a direct and ideally flat route. However it also leads to a more freeway style of node location due to the distance required between stations if the network is to be efficient. There is a greater density of housing than you'd expect of car driven suburbia as well since most houses needed to be within walking or cycling range of the station. This distinctive landscape of small towns and villages where there's nothing to do is characteristic of Metro-land. A parade is different to a strip mall, but they're two sides of the same coin.

All that aside, the artistic flowering of this railway suburbia wasn't just in the lovely graphic design and dead on branding of the Metropolitan Railway company, the poetry of Betjeman, music of Elton John and writing of J.G Ballard are just as distinctively suburban and just as meaningful. In the end railway suburbia is fundamentally different and it comes down to a key phrase in Maciej's talk:

When everyone has a car, it means you can't get anywhere without one. Instead of freeing you, the car becomes a cage.

The railway isn't a cage, it's a highway to possibility.

My Incredible Journey

Yesterday I resigned from Lumi, ending my startup journey for a while. I'll be starting a new job working for Collabora in a month. I'm really looking forward to be back working on open source software and the new challenge.

This'll be my first job without 'Designer' in the title for about 10 years. Although I've been doing lots of solution definition, product/project managing and suchlike this'll be the first time it actually says that on a business card (we didn't have job titles or business cards at Lumi, it was that sort of place).

Other than having a new desk, and travelling to Cambridge on a regular basis I'm reluctant to predict too far ahead. I'm certainly looking forward to getting a bit of perspective on Lumi and hopefully writing something about the patterns and anti-patterns that I saw whilst working there in the future. In the interim, suggestions on today's best Linux laptops are gratefully received.