The web industry is fast moving, and ever changing. With new frameworks and libraries becoming “standard” every 3-5 years, it is important not to fall behind and select the correct options for building websites and apps.

Core PHP vs Laravel

What is Laravel?

Laravel is a PHP framework which aims to provide a base to build powerful and fast preforming websites on. Along with this, it brings security features into its core system, which core PHP does not have natively built in. Many of its functionalities are pre-built, meaning websites are able to be created faster, rather than having to start from scratch each time. Laravel has a strong community which write plugins and documentation, making it easy for anyone to get started using it.

What is Core PHP?

Using Core PHP mostly any dynamic website can be made. It also provides the base to all PHP frameworks, so it is vital to have a good understanding of Core PHP to be able to build effective web applications and systems. While it does not provide a base or any pre-made templates to quickly build a website on, it does provide the most powerful set of tools on which anything can be built. For an experienced team Core PHP can be beneficial to use, however, it is quickly falling out of favour for more modern frameworks.

Our Choice

Moving forward we are moving away from core PHP to more modern frameworks such as Laravel for our Web and CMS systems. Bringing our clients the latest in scalable and efficient technologies is of upmost importance. While we can’t use Laravel to build Mobile Applications, we are always actively searching for the next technology which will allow us to elevate the quality of our systems.

Cryptocurrency is a digital currency which is encrypted using cryptography (encryption method), making it virtually impossible to counterfeit or spend it more than once.

They offer the ability to send money anywhere in the world instantly, with only fraction of a penny fees, in a secure environment.

Digital Money

While the concept of money is digital, it is still falls far behind what a cryptocurrency can offer. What may take a bank days, or weeks to process, can be done in a matter of seconds on the blockchain.

While money only has one single use as payment, cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum provide an entire platform for developers to build tools and websites on. These can even be used to build out the digital infrastructure in poorer countries which may not have the money or resources to have done so in the past.

Card providers such as Visa and Mastercard can currently process around 1,700 transactions per second, and PayPal around 170. Bitcoin is able to process over 25,000,000 on the Lightning network.

Money no longer just represents a form of payment, but also becomes a building block.

How it helps

Cryptocurrencies are already having a large impact in poorer, less developed countries as they allow their citizens to hold their money in a secure environment. In countries such as Nigeria, 31% of the population use and trade cryptocurrencies. This is a large increase from the 6% who have a bank account.

Giving the population a way to store, and send money is vital as to send money to family overseas, it can take weeks and have fees of up-to 25-30%.

Realising the benefits, El Salvador has been the first country to recognise and use Bitcoin as legal tender, next to the dollar. And all citizens will be eligible for a $30 worth of Bitcoin to get them started.

Why you should care

In the coming years, companies and entire networks will be built in and around cryptocurrency, with the plan to make the world digital, and take away power from centralised companies such as banks.

Where Google, Apple and Amazon were heralded as “Web 2.0”, cryptocurrency and what is being built is “Web 3.0”.

It is predicted that within 5 years, there will be over a billion people who use cryptocurrency.

GitHub recently announced their new artificial intelligence (AI) coding assistant, however it has already run into hot water as it has been found to be stealing code.

How it is trained

AI needs to be trained in order to be effective, and because GitHub is the largest code repository in the world, they have endless code that they can feed the AI algorithm in order to train it how to effectively write code.

This is not without its faults however. Poor quality code can enter the system and potentially cause issues, so only high quality and verified working code should be used to get the best results.

Why it is problematic

Because the AI has been trained using other people’s code, it effectively uses blocks from what it has learned to piece together what it needs to produce.

This is problematic as there have been multiple reports of it taking entire sections of code un-edited from programmers projects, leaving in names, links, and other personal information.

While it does correctly produce the correct results ~60% of the time, it still has a long way to go in terms of development.

Will it take my job?

In order to use GitHub Copilot, it requires human input and knowledge in order to build out effective applications. It is intended to be used as an aid, for quicker development and not as a replacement for a human developer.

AI can not for-see or identify changes that might be required in the future, and can not dynamically work with a client to get what they are looking for.

For now, GitHub Copilot doesn’t have a place in industry due to how new and unpolished it is. However in the future it could well be a useful tool to assist developers.

On Thursday 24th June, Microsoft officially announced the upcoming Windows 11 operating system. 11 will be a free upgrade to anyone running Windows 10 and brings a revised interface design.

What’s new with Windows 11?

Interface Updates

Windows 11 has moved to a “glass” like appearance, akin to that of Vista’s released in 2006. This time, Microsoft has opted to take on a modern approach as opposed to a futuristic take on the user interface and experience.

Task Bar Changes

The task bar and search menus have been moved to the middle (though there is an option to change this back to left align), which is now closer to resembling Apple’s macOS Monterey.

Android App Support

Android apps will now natively run in Windows just like a normal application meaning you’ll be able to use any app that is on your phone, and continue it right on your computer. This lessens the need for progressive web applications as anyone will be able to install any app currently available on the Google Play Store to their PC.

Release Date & Cost

Windows 11 will be available to download in the “Holiday 2021” period as an upgrade to anyone who is currently running Windows 10. This upgrade will be completely FREE! Anyone who does not have Windows 10 will be expected to pay the same price of 10 (£119.99).

If you need a website for your business, or website updating to have a more modern appearance, we offer UI & UX Design services for Web and CMS systems.

There are multiple ways to develop a mobile application, and choosing the right one for you is important before starting the project. Selecting the correct method can save time and money, while providing the same, or better experience for the end user.

What Type Of Application Do You Need?

First the main outline of the application must be decided.

  • Type of Application: Deciding on what your application will be required to do will have an impact on which method is used.
  • Time and Budget: Each method of development has a different amount of time required to achieve the end result. If you need iOS, Android, and Web support, one option may take up to three times longer to develop, which has an affect on the final cost.
  • Operating System: What device type are your main target audience using? (iOS, Android, Windows)
App Differences.

Native Applications

Native applications are developed with one specific device type i.e. iOS users in mind. This means that the application is going to be tailor made for that device, and is able to use all of the device specific functionality.

Advantages:
  • Fast performance – Because the code is written with that device type in mind, the code is therefore more efficient.
  • Functionality – Apps can make use of the specific special functions that a device might have.
  • Higher Security – Any device specific known security risks can be individually addressed.
  • Improved UI/UX – The code can take advantage of the native appearance and frameworks to create a modern looking application.
Disadvantages:
  • Higher Cost – Each operating system requires it’s own codebase, and if iOS and Android apps were required, this would require two completely separate sets of code to create and maintain.
  • Longer Development – Because the code is being specifically designed to work on one set of devices, it is more involved to create, maintain, and test.
  • Specialists Required – A team of highly skilled app developers is required who have an in-depth knowledge of the system, adding to the cost.

Hybrid Applications

Hybrid applications are the best of both worlds from both mobile and web development. It allows developers to code in one language, then be able to deploy applications for iOS, Android, and Websites. At Pipe & Piper, we have over 10 years experience in developing hybrid applications for our clients.

Advantages
  • Shorter Development Time – Only one codebase is required to deploy to iOS, Android, and Web. Saving three times the work.
  • Lower Costs – Shorter development time, means less costs!
  • Easy to Maintain – Because there’s only one codebase, it is easier to maintain and update.
  • Integrated – Hybrid allows for simple integration into web services and APIs.
  • Fast Deployment – Building the app to run on Android or iOS is quick and easy, requiring almost no changes to the process.
Disadvantages
  • Complexity – More complex applications will likely run slower than a native application.
  • Equality – The app will run the same regardless of the device, it can’t use device/operating system specific functions.

Progressive Web Applications

Progressive web applications are almost identical to hybrid applications, with the main difference being that they are able to be installed as an application on any device, then be able to work offline and send notifications. This is the newest method of development.

Advantages
  • Accessible – The app can be found on any app store, or accessed through the website and the end user experience will be the same.
  • Loading Speed – Because everything is web based, loading speed are quick no matter the device age.
  • Works Offline – Cached versions of the application are able to be used when offline.
  • Responsive – The application is able to easily and dynamically change to the device type and size.
  • Cheap & Fast – Development times are fast because only a website is being developed, then scaled for mobile devices.
Disadvantages
  • Hardware Limitations – Because the application needs to be installed, older and slower devices may not be supported.
  • Apple Support – Support for Apple devices is more limited, and performance is often much worse on iOS devices.
  • Battery Power – Higher battery consumption is used due to the application doing processing on the device, rather than the web.

Does your web page look out of sorts following a recent update? Or perhaps an old image is still showing despite the fact you’ve been told it has been updated?

A hard refresh may be needed.

Please take a look at the infographic below. This details how to do a hard refresh in the most common browsers – Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Safari — on both Windows and Mac.

Browser caching is useful for web browsing in that it allows for page that you’ve visited previously to load much more quickly. Modern browsers like Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Firefox and Safari tend to cache front-end resources like JavaScript and style sheets (CSS) to increase web application and website performance.

While enhancing performance is usually a great thing, cached resources can cause problems when you have a major change to a web application’s JavaScript or style sheets.

Sometimes, the only way to see updates is by doing a hard refresh or by clearing the entire cache of the browser.

Adobe Flash Player was the browser plug-in that brought rich animations and interactivity to the early websites.

Originally released in 1996, “Flash” was one of the most popular ways for people to stream videos and play games online but it was plagued with security problems and failed the tranistion into smartphones which ultimately has led to its demise.

Adobe (who made Flash) will no longer offer security updates for Flash and has urged people to uninstall it. It will also stop videos and animations running in its Flash Player from 12 January.

In 2009 Adobe said Flash was installed on 99% of internet-connected desktop PCs and Laptops and was used on 70% of all websites in some form.

You can find out more from the BBC’s article.

What is two-factor authentication? 

Breaking it down to the most simple explanation, it’s basically adding a second layer of protection to your account, app or system to go alongside your regular method of logging in. In most instances, this involves receiving a code by SMS to your mobile number, but increasingly apps and services are sending a confirmation number to your device as a notification instead. Sometimes you can just tap the notification to approve the login. More commonly though, emails are sent containing the 6 digit code which you then use alongside your normal username/email and password.

How does two-factor authentication make your account more secure? 

The idea is that you’re adding a confirmatory step to your sign in attempt. Using the SMS example, it means no one can log into the account in question from a new device, even if they have your password. When using two-factor authentication via email, again it requires access to the email account associated with the platform you’re attempting to log in to.

When someone tries to log into your account from a new device, or even new browser, with your password, when they hit “enter” or “submit”, it’ll take them to a new screen asking for a code. This code has been sent to the registered mobile number as an SMS, a notifications via an app or to your email account. 

Some apps that use notifications also send you a code. But increasingly, apps are just sending a notification to your key devices so you can just confirm it was you signing in (in ther words, there’s no code)

Does two-step authentication always need a mobile number? 

As an example, WhatsApp can’t use your mobile number as its second verification method, because that’s the primary method for logging in. So instead, it asks you for a six-digit PIN number every so often, or when you log in from a new smartphone. 

While Apple does use SMS verification for iCloud account security, it also uses its “Trusted Devices” method. Using this method, it sends a four-digit code directly to a trusted and verified device, which then pops up in a little window on the screen once you unlock your iPhone or iPad. 

Where SMS isn’t used there’s often the option of getting a two-factor authentication code from a dedicated app like Google Authenticator. These sorts of apps simply offer access to a time-sensitive code that changes after a given period of time and so is constantly secure but gives you quick and easy access to your account. 

What if I’ve lost my phone? 

Most services – as mentioned – offer more than just the phone number SMS method for logging in. Nearly all of them will offer you the ability to generate backup codes or, like Apple, give you a recovery key that’s a really long chain of letters and numbers which you can input instead of using your password and SMS code.

Be sure to set up a recovery key, and store it somewhere safe like in a password-protected document and/or secure password app. 

Is it worth it? 

Yes. Absolutely. Once it’s set up it only adds one extra step to logging into your account from a new device or browser.

It’s always worth doing and failing to do so can often lead you open to privacy nightmares. An revealed just how dangerous this can be. There have been several reports of incidents where owners of smart home cameras have had their devices hacked and been spied upon by criminals simply because they failed to use a secure password and activate two-factor authentication.

On the off-chance that someone has got your password, and tries to get into your account, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that they can’t get in without also having your phone (or access to your email account) which – even if they have – is likely locked and protected behind a password, pattern or fingerprint scan. 

To add further privacy, there are settings within Android and iOS to ensure that you can stop SMS notifications from showing up on a lock screen. Just head to Settings > Notifications and select which apps you want to have display information on the lock screen, or choose to hide sensitive information (on Android).

More information can be found on PocketLint

iPhone and iPad users are being warned that some apps may experience issues because Apple only gave us (app developers) just one day’s notice of the release of the next itteration of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 14. Thanks yet again for the advanced notice Tim!

Chief executive Tim Cook revealed on Tuesday 14th Sep that iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 would launch on Wednesday 15th Sep. Last year, Apple announced the release date more than a week in advance which in our opinion is still not long enough!

We do not have enough time to check for bugs and submit the latest version of our apps to the Apple App Store and we’re not alone! Much larger companies such as Nintendo have also felt the pain, they have warned gamers that Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp will not launch after the update.

Nintendo have advised players to delay installing the new operating systems until later this month and we would like to follow suit and advise our customers and their users to do the same.

We’re really starting to dislike Apple now!

Aside from being hit with this out of nowhere and given no time to resubmit our apps, us and many in the community have already voiced concerns over the 30% cut the firm takes from sales and its sometimes closed and unhelpful review process. The issue even overshadowed Apple’s WWDC conference earlier in the year, when it became involved in a high-profile public row with the creators of a new email app called Hey.

More recently, a clash with the games developer Epic has led to Apple device owners being unable to get the latest version of Fortnite or install the game at all from scratch. Apple’s restrictions on third-party games platforms have also been criticised by Microsoft, and led to iPhone and iPad users being unable to play Xbox games on the devices, despite them being made available to Android.

iOS 14’s new features… new or just following Android?

iOS 14 has had a significant overhaul to Apple’s user interface.Widgets can be added to home screens to display the weather, time, stock prices or other information at a glance, and the selection can be set to change according to the time of day (sounds like Android OS to us?)

Apps can be automatically arranged into themed folders to make it easier for users to find their favourite services. And videos and Facetime calls can be made to appear in a small box that floats above the app in use, rather than taking up the full screen which will actually be quite useful.

In addition, there is also apparently:

  • a new Translation app
  • new cycling directions in Maps
  • new ways to customise the cartoon-like Memoji owners can use as avatars

iPad owners also gain new features for the Apple Pen, including the automatic conversion of handwriting into text and shape recognition.

There are also a bunch of security and platform updates for us to work our way through! We’re happy the new version iOS is out and that is got some great features but next time Apple, give us a bit more notice (oh, and reduce the 30% AppStore cut, thanks!)

1. Text Highlights and Underlines

There’s always been an unwritten rule in website design that text uses more plain styles. Bold is acceptable, italics are OK from time to time, but underlining is seldom used. This design trend bucks that concept with text elements that use highlighter or underline elements to emphasize key words. And it works rather nicely.

What it takes to make this work is plenty of contrast and a design style that fits with underline or highlighted elements.

This design trend works thanks to clear intention. The words are obviously important to the overall meaning of the design or what visitors should take away from the content.

2. Distinct Geometry

Geometric shapes in website design have popped up as trending elements in a variety of forms. This iteration is pretty simple: Use of distinct geometry as part of the overall aesthetic.

Geometry might pair with illustrations, photos, text, or in the background or foreground. What’s great about shapes is that they are versatile and work with a lot of other design patterns.

What can be the most challenging about shapes and design is that distinct geometry requires some space and thought. Just tossing a few triangles or rectangles in a design without reason can look rather strange.

3. Shadow and Gradient Icons

Did you notice all the gradients and subtle shadows in icons in the images previewing iOS 14 or were you just looking at other changes (such as widgets) on the iPhone screen? We’ve been seeing more designers incorporating more shadows and depth into icons for a while, but this move by a major player in design will push it to the forefront fast. Each of the icons moves from a flat style to one with a background gradient color as well as more shadows within icon elements for depth.

Don’t worry, the design still looks very much like Apple, but is a little more reminiscent of the skeuomorphism style icons from earlier versions of iOS.

It’s nice that the color and shadow elements are contained within each icon. This creates more visual interest and depth for each element without getting cluttered or junky. The gradients are also super simple, using a darker version of the main color in a monotone element.