Dummyimage.com Sees A Surge In Interest

Way back in August of 2007 I built a simple PHP tool that generates place-holder images at different size by simply changing the URL. The idea came to me when I was working on a redesign for USNews.com. I hated opening up Photoshop, creating a new document,  filling the background layer, and exporting for web just to make a simple placeholder image. That is why I made dummyimage.com.

I figured it would be useful to other people which is why I also released the complete source code, documented and including instructions for setting it up on your own server. But like most new things, few gave it any notice.

The other day my friend Charlie Park (founder of Pear Budget) found it when doing some in-browser wire-framing and sent out a tweet to all of his followers. But he didn’t stop there. Charlie also posted it to Hacker News, a simple news aggregator aimed at geeks. It was obvious that my little tool was resonating with other developers with the tagline “Lorem ipsom for images.” In 24 hours, the Hacker News story got 161 votes with 77 comments, 513 people bookmarked it on del.icio.us, and 337 tweets.

What really struck me was how dummyimage.com was crossing the language barrier. I saw tweets mentioning in SpanishJapanese, Russian, German, Dutch, even Latvian. I’m glad my idea was simple enough that foreign speakers could easily pick it up without any translation help.

All of this sudden attention also produced helpful feedback and new feature ideas. I started working on an update this past December for a few additions I wanted to see but this recent surge of interest has lit a fire under my butt to continue developing. As is the nature of opensource software, people don’t have to wait for me; they can adapt the code to their own needs. Here are some iterations that have already been made:

And somewhere down the line I would like to give it an attractive homepage. Hooray for side projects!

Mozilla Needs Your Feedback For Their Redesign

What does an open-source company do when they need to re-design their site? Open up the decisions to their community. Mozilla has reached out to Happy Cog Studios, noted for their WordPress interface revamp, to give Mozilla.org a makeover. Round 1 of the project is up at RedesignMozilla.org with three mock-ups ready for a critique from anyone who can fill in a comment form.

None of the designs really jump out at me. The 2nd concept tickles my fancy the most but the header is too big and lacks the focus on Mozilla’s projects which is what the Mozilla Foundation is all about. I guess what I like the most about concept2 is the colors. Concept3 seems a little too gimicky/amateur and concept1 is too bland.

Blue and orange grunge concept for Mozilla.org redesign.

Open-source is all about sharing and listening to feedback. When it comes to a redesign, the more feedback you can get the better. I wish we could do a community-involved redesign at work. I wonder what people would come up with?

(via Daniel Mall)

I Participated In Firefox Download Day, Did You?

Firefox Download Day 2008 Certificate

Today is June 17th and that means Firefox 3 becomes official. After several betas and release candidates the successor to the #2 browser in the world has finally been thrusted upon us. You might want to skip Firefox 3 if you don’t use any addons, only use one tab at a time and/or enjoy a slow, bogged down web browser. Besides better memory management, the new “awesome bar”, and refreshed interfaces that better integrate into the look of your operating system, Firefox 3 manages to pack in over 15,000 other improvements.

To draw attention, the folks at Mozilla headquarters decided to break the Guinness record for the most downloaded software in a 24 hour period. Hence Firefox Download Day was created.

I updated Firefox on my MacBook Pro, on my Windows XP virtual machine running in VMware, my ancient PC at work, and even my huge Windows laptop. That last update was particularly tricky as the wireless card for my desktop replacement died and I had to tether it to my Mac via a cross-over cable. Here is a picture of the irony.

Apple makes a great $2700 wifi card.
Apple makes a great $2700 wifi card!

How many computers did you update today?

P.S. Get your own certificate.

UPDATE: Now you can track the number of downloads in real-time as well as see the average number of downloads per minute!

XBMC Recruiting For Mac Port

The clever hackers that brought a media center platform to the original Xbox are at it again. Last May the group announced they were porting the Xbox media center platform to Linux and needed some help from other Linux developers. Now they are putting out a call for OS X developers to help port the software to the Apple operating system.

The original XBMC project brought photos, music, and videos from the PC to the TV. While not the easiest to set-up, I found XBMC to be the most flexible media center software I have ever dealt with. Since September of 2005, I have been watching all of my downloadable content like podcasts and webisodes from the comfort of my couch. Using a hacked Xbox and my home network I could easily stream standard definition content to my TV. Remember, there wasn’t a big boon of HD content available back then like there is now, not that the old Xbox hardware could handle the demand of even 720P video.

XBMC Windows Media Center Skin

So if you know a Mac geek that can do some C/C++ programming send them over to the XBMC guys. The more open-source media projects that are available to compete against Windows Media Center and Apple Tv/Front Row the better it will be for digital media as a whole. And this time around XBMC won’t need to be hacked together to get it working though a name change for the project might be necessary. Just imagine this thing running on an Apple Mini in your living room connected to an HDTV. Sweet!