Great video over at the Google Chrome Developers channel about the upcoming CSS Level 4 :focus-ring selector (draft). The focus is often removed for stylistic reasons when using the mouse, but then keyboard users also have no indication of where they are on the website. :focus-ring solves that issue.

Focus Ring! — A11ycasts #16

Focus-ring on GitHub: https://goo.gl/GZCfmQ Have you ever noticed the little blue or dashed ring that appears around elements when you activate them with your keyboard or mouse? This is known as a focus indicator, and it’s extremely important for users who rely primarily on their keyboard to navigate the screen.

The video includes a shout out to this handy polyfill on Github. There are other videos about accessibility, also presented by Rob Dodson, available on the channel as well. Captions are available.

Apple Marketing Photo of the MacBookPro 2016

In 2006 I got my first Mac ever, the 2006 Apple MacBook “Core Duo” 1.83 13”. After owning a humongous Acer 15” Laptop in the previous years, the experience of owning this computer was something from another world. Since 2013 I owned a 13” MacBook Air with 8GB RAM and an 1.7GHz Intel Core i7 processor and while I loved the portability of the device, I recently started to feel the limits of the processor and the disk space (just 128 GB).

What I got

I bought a 13” MacBook Pro 2016 with a Intel Core i5 3.1 GHz processor and Touchbar and 16GB of RAM and 512 GB of SSD storage. In Space Grey.

What I use it for

I mainly do web development, lots of writing and editing – not something you necessarily need “Pro” hardware, to be honest. But then there are some operations, like optimising images and decoding videos, that happen often enough so I can use the power. It’s also amazing how quickly Jekyll and Middleman projects build. I sometimes need to test websites in Windows, and firing up a virtual machine is now obviously less of an hassle.

In addition, I occasionally play Cities: Skylines and while there is a bug with the (unsupported) Intel graphics card, it is really cool to see houses and cars that are not just mushy blobs of textures.

What I like

  • The Screen is just great. I never had a “Retina” screen before and this is really good. Type looks crisp and icons do, too. However parts of the web look awful as many people are not optimising their graphics. It’s especially appalling with icons. Use SVGs, everyone!
  • The Speakers are phenomenal. I have never really used the built-in speakers in my previous Macs, and I don’t really plan to use the ones built into this machine, but wow, they sound really good.
  • The Touchbar is a great gimmick. When apps support it, it shines, but without support it’s only mildly useful. The Touchbar is empty in that case, so you got a gap on the keyboard. I usually don’t need to use function keys and if I do pressing fn (like I used to do) brings them back. I have accidentally touched the Touchbar while typing and when it happens it is irritating. However it happens less and less. The bar is well integrated into Safari, so you can play and pause video playing in the browser from the bar and also scrub around the video which is much more intuitive and precise than using the touchpad and drag the handle. The only thing that is really annoying is that the Touchbar crashes occasionally – putting the computer to sleep and waking helps.
  • TouchID goes without saying. Unlocking the Mac or 1Password is blazingly fast. Now hurry to provide Apple Pay in Germany, Apple!
  • The built quality and portability. It’s incredible how dense this computer is, when you put the Air and the Pro on top of each other, the Pro is much smaller. It is thicker, but not by much. The space grey color is stunning.

Other observations

  • The Keyboard is right in my ballpark. It is clicky, it is responsive, it is totally fine. But I don’t have a very specific taste in keyboards and I found every Mac keyboard that I typed on at least OK. Not having the inverted-T shape for the arrow keys is throwing me off however as it is hard to feel for the position of the arrow keys.
  • The Trackpad is working as expected. As a “tap to click” person it’s totally good for me. I haven’t used any force touch features a lot, but using it for the occasional dictionary lookup is useful.
  • Thunderbolt 3/USB-C works as expected. I can charge my Mac from either side, which is great, as the socket is on the right when I’m sitting on my couch. I miss MagSafe though. I bought one USB-C to USB-A and one USB-C to VGA/USB-A/Power adapters from Apple. I also got a two pack of the Aukey USB-C/USB-A adapters (affiliate link). My external display (that I only use for referencing stuff when needed) and microphone are plugged in into the VGA/USB-A/Power adapter all the time. I still need a good SD card adapter but did not find one that I think is worth buying.

Migration

  • I chose to start fresh and not use Migration Assistant to move my data.
  • I migrated most apps via the Mac App Store and SetApp and downloaded others directly.
  • I moved my data almost exclusively by AirDrop, which worked very well for my 6GB MailMate archive and my 10GB ~/projects folder (yes, I need to clean that up at some point).
  • Other data was synced using iCloud (works well for me, ymmv), Dropbox (where I downgraded to the free plan after moving most of my data to iCloud), and iCloud Photo Library.
  • The most inconvenient part was installing all the command line tools, like Middleman, Jekyll and Gulp. In the end this was just a small portion of the migration experience which took about one day.

Conclusion

This is not a Mac for everyone. It might not be for you if you have special needs, or need more power. However I think it is very versatile and while the USB-A to USB-C transition is inconvenient, it is where the future lies. This might be my last PC-type of computer (if there comes more pro functionality to the iOS platform), so being future proof is important.

Tom Scott on tactile pavement:

The Little-Known Patterns on British Streets

I thought about saying “secret patterns” or “mysterious patterns” in the title, but that’d be a lie: they’re just mostly unknown! So let’s talk about tactile paving, about design, about accessibility, and about those bumpy bits that you stand on when you’re crossing a British street.

Majestic historic temple in front of a blue sky.

Over the last year, the name of a city is coming up in German news more often than I like it to be: Aleppo. It is not just a city involved in the war in Syria, it is the scene of a standoff that is lasting for months.

This city, the mention of its name on the news, the descriptions of the cruelty that happens there, is especially painful for me. When I was in elementary school, we had Syrian neighbors who fled during the Gulf War. Mohammad and I shared a class. We were good friends, played football together, learned together. I still long for his family’s traditionally baked bread sometimes.

After a few years, that felt like a whole life for me as a child, they had to go back. Although quite well integrated, there was no way for them to get a permanent working permit, and they were happy to get back into their home country. (Of course I don’t know if that was really really the case, but that was what I gathered as a child.)

The children, Mohammad had a little brother and – I think – a baby sister, were not too happy to leave, having their friends in that small town where I grew up. One day, we said goodbye, and they made their way to their home city of Aleppo in Syria.

The thought alone, that those people, including my elementary school friend, might be injured or dead is gruesome to me. Hearing from injured or dead children makes me think about the potential children of Mohammad and his siblings.

For most, the war in Syria is far, far away. For me, it feels close. This is why I think getting to know other people, other cultures is so important. It allows us to be close with people and to not brush this conflict away as “someone else’s problem”.

Image: Palmyra – Temple of Bel: A cultural heritage that was destroyed during the war. Uploaded by Juan Llanos on Flickr. See how that site looks today.

I’m happy to announce here that I will be speaking at Accessing Higher Ground in November, representing Knowbility. The conference is in Westminster, Colorado and coins itself as an “Accessible Media, Web and Technology Conference”.

I will do two three-hour long workshops:

  • Advanced Accessibility: A Deep Dive for Developers
    Tuesday, Nov. 15th, 9am

    Focused on UI widgets, WAI-ARIA techniques and semantics, with some JavaScript as a garnish, this workshop will teach how to implement complex widgets in an accessible way that is true to the nature of the web.
  • Simplify your development life with tools, tests and procedures
    Tuesday, Nov. 15th, 1:30pm

    Developers are lazy. I know this because I am one. So having tools, tests and procedures in place that help developers to produce accessible templates and widgets is helping everyone. This workshop will give a broad overview about the possibilities and will also show how to implement some of the provisions in day-to-day work.

Also, I will give two talks:

  • Semantic Subtleties
    Thursday, Nov. 17th, 8am

    This talk takes some of the semantic particularities that come also up in the workshop and will put them under the microscope and examine their meaning.
  • ARIA Serious?
    Thursday, Nov. 17th, 4pm

    Here, I will presumably give a few good and lots of bad examples of ARIA implementation and show where the pitfalls and chances of using ARIA are.

If you are still thinking about going, maybe the fantastic lineup of speakers can lure you in. Register now at accessinghigherground.org.