Blog posts tagged "usability"

Gandi’s expert DNS management interface un-safe

July 8th, 2006

Do not have two tabs open modifying DNS information for 2 domains simultaneously, submits are not idempotent, and one will clobber the other one.

This has been a public service announcement. (Which you won’t be seeing until I’ve fixed laughingmeme’s zone file)

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On Usable Microphone Design for Conferences

March 12th, 2006

Microphones need visual feedback on whether the speaker is speaking into them. At conferences you’re dealing with amateur speakers, and they seem to have no problem greater then that of speaking into the mike. A little bar, a light that goes on and off, something ambient and subtle.

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Usability and Stockholm Syndrome

February 17th, 2006

Going home, and working with my grandmother on her computer is always an eye opening experience. I think it’s the only time I get any real insight into how computers should actually work, or how much time I spend working for my computer versus my computer working for me. Trite I’m sure, but I’m floored every time I do it, and floored again when I think of the energy I spend justifying (largely to myself) how computers work.

This morning I realized how arbitrary the distinction between photos you’ve downloaded from your camera, and photos you’ve been emailed by friends is. (and by extension photos out in the ether) Why can’t you find them all in iPhoto?

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Opensource Usability

October 29th, 2005

Cleaning out the notebook tonight, I found this pithy summation of the tension between usability and open source.

Opensource’s central dogma is “scratch your own itch”, usability’s central dogma is “you are not your own user.”

Bam, loggerheads.

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Oops… GMail Broken

September 23rd, 2005

We all laud Flickr for its human and quirk on screen voice. However there is a caveat when being cute, “You still have to work, damn it.” I am so sick of seeing Gmail’s message

Oops…the system was unable to perform your operation

If you’re broken, you’re broken, don’t try to soften the blow with cutesy “Oops”. Funny the first time, tolerable maybe the 5th time, but now that I’ve seen that damn message thousands of times I personally want to shoot the person who wrote it. Somewhere, somehow I’m going to find some time to do an evaluation of RoundCube (I hear speed works great for working all night?), and figure out what would be required to add “conversation” support. Because this is just unacceptable.

I think I’d summarize this as a design maxim:

Before software can be good at being human, it must first be good at being software

And frankly Gmail is failing that.

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Ruby, eBooks, and Bookmarks

November 24th, 2004

Rabble is one of the hardest core Perl fans I know. Even when we were working together for Palm as Java programmers he was still writing Perl (which is something of a feat). So I’ve watched his enthusiastic uptakes of Ruby (and in particular Rails) with a mixture of curiosity and alarm . In fact it seems like a huge percentage of the really smart people I know are all learning or using Ruby. Now I’m on a bit of a self imposed “travel ban” when it comes to working on non-PHP projects, but with 4 hours to kill in the airport (Jasmine’s flight is delayed) I figured now was the time. But this blog post isn’t about Ruby (yet), its about eBooks.

First thing I did was I bought the Programming Ruby ebook. Pragmatic Programmers have gone a very nice route with their copy protection. They don’t lock, or encrypt, or in some other way hobble the PDF. I can copy it, and print it, and general own it. I can even “loan” it. But my name is on the bottom of every page so I have an incentive to tightly control access to it. This is good, and smart and embracing the possibilities of a new medium. eBooks aren’t ever going to take off as long as their publishers cripple them.


I’m less enthused about the choice of PDF as the distribution medium. I’d be curious as to why this choice was made?

I spend a huge amount of my day reading online in Firefox, I’m comfortable with it, the quality of the display is excellent (at least on OS X), and I don’t have to launch a special application. I know I like reading books as HTML because I have experience doing this both with Baen, and with the O’Reilly bookshelves. (does anyone know a good script to produce properly formatted and linked HTML from a PDF?)

Bookmarks Please

If I was on Linux or Windows a PDF would be useless to me. Thankfully I’ve got a Mac, and as I spend more time with I am more and more impressed with it. Its fast, its light on memory usage, its responsive, the text rendering is gorgeous. Odd how Apple can produce a better PDF reader then Adobe. The one thing I’m really missing is bookmarks. Apple, can we get some bookmarks in Preview? I’ve got a back button, and a previous and next commands, but I’m reading through an 800 page PDF and I need bookmarks.

A Bit More on Ruby

Okay I’ve spent 20 minutes playing with Ruby, and 20 minutes grinding my axe about ebooks, but I have to say what I’m most impressed by is Ruby’s ability to learn from others. Just one example, I learned Python sitting in idle playing iteratively. I’m very happy to find irb, and am having a similar experience.

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October 24th, 2003

I wanted to like, or at least be intrigued by the BBC’s new community activism site, iCan. I think this the right sort of idea, and seeing the BBC take seriously its mandate to be a public communication medium is heart warming.

However the site commits one of my cardinal usability sins…it asks for a 7 character password! If your my bank fine, otherwise get off your high horse, and let me make my own security evaluations. I’ve got a suite of 6 character passwords I rotate through, and none of them work with the iCan site. I could make up a new password just for that site, but then the chances of me remembering it would be nil. And they want at least 6 characters for the hint! What the hell do they care how long my hint is?!?!