Archive for May, 2006

A well-handled data loss incident

Sunday, May 21st, 2006

With a bunch of companies pushing for a bad federal law that would break states’ consumer protections, it’s great to see one that handled a data loss incident right. Can we please mandate the attitiude their CEO has? That’s serving your user base correctly.

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Power users deserve good interfaces, too

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

So there was an interesting discussion of a command alias function within an SSH client on Slashdot where most of the commenters completely missed the point, and it was an important one. User interface isn’t always based on gorgeous buttons and easy clickability – it must be targeted to the user of that application. In this case, SSH users who manage more than one computer… which is probably almost all SSH users.

Good SSH clients should be definitively targeted at the advanced computer user, and the lack of this feature is an odd decision. Really, the question comes to two schools of thought:

  1. Always provide the same experience on the same server
  2. Always provide the same experience to the same client

Implementing #1 is already done via login scripts on most *NIXs, and is trivial because the files and configs are local to the computation. Implementation of #2 does not seem to exist, and we need to ask why. Configurations can be captured locally to the client, and many MUD clients already implement the command alias features requested. Surely one is written in the same language as PuTTY and could be integrated, either as a plug-in or core code.

I question, though, if these ideas are mutually exclusive. Now that software writers are recognizing that people have multiple computers in use, there are sync capabilities all over – for example, in Firefox plugins where you want to have the same web pages open in two places. Why not do it for SSH commands? Push a versioned alias file to a location on the server you’re connecting to, so if you connect using a different client you can pull it down and still use all your commands, aliased as you expect.

Best of both worlds!

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Breaking online banking?

Monday, May 8th, 2006

From SaveTheInternet:

The financial industry is beginning to make noise to that end. According to a story in The Hill, the financial-services industry is weighing coordinated opposition to the telco-friendly language in the House’s bill, “fearing a financial hit if lawmakers allow phone and cable companies to charge banks more for secure Web service.”

This telco land-grab is not user friendly.  Join the effort and contact your Representative/CongressCritter now!

Document formatting tips

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2006

A great article on how to format written documents wisely, though he’s showing it as a way to make docs move from Open Office Writer to Microsoft Word and back. In fact, it is an equally valid point to preserve the prettification between Word versions, or even in the same version but across computers with different setups (like missing fonts).

So how come this is an insight? I believe it is because formatting styles in both Word and Writer are viewed as complex, and goodness knows it is not clear how to manage indentation either. Both applications are improving, trying to intuit when users really should be using styles or indenting when the same formatting changes. That’s a start, but we need to go farther.

An option – and it’s not really as user-friendly as I want, so offer comments – is to force people to use styles. Every time they change a typefont or size, apply it to all items that share the style. When styles start to be more obvious – like when the whole document font changes – then average users will care about them. Clearly there has to be a better way to manage styles, but you need to change the paradigm and the presentation. It will take a bold move to lead this charge with all the momentum built up around the old, bad, WordStar/WordPerfect markup philosophy and habits.

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