Archive for the ‘Kudos’ Category

Vacation’s over

Friday, December 26th, 2008

So I finally have come back, and my post of a year ago is thankfully dead history.  Apple has released the iPhone developer kit, and the iPhone App Store is now making them money hand over fist.   There are plenty of critiques of the App Store, but the key is that it exists and so we’re moving into the future.  Apple is paying attention and we’ll have to see what happens next.

Next step – get them to release the Apple TV developer kit…  there’s already a flourishing mod community and pretty public companies taking advantage of the hardware, so why not make it official instead of fighting it?

In other news, I’m going to try and post more often – I’m getting in better control at work, so should have more time.  At least that’s the theory…

Ubuntu as primary user system

Friday, June 8th, 2007

I think this article about using Ubuntu as a desktop system is significant because it highlights the unseen cost of utilizing Windows. The person in the article is not a standard computer user — his use of rsync shows that — but his point about an integrated system to install and update software highlights the major failure of Windows.

My last Windows installation started Monday and has taken 5 days, and I keep discovering software I haven’t installed as I’m using the machine. The next steps are:

  • Go to Google
  • Locate download file
  • Download
  • Install
  • Add license key
  • Configure

…and don’t even think about updates.

Mac OS X at least deals with Apple updates – but what kind of a killer app would it be if Apple Software Update checked all the installed applications, shareware, and other goodies on your machine and coordinated installations for you as well?

It’s about time

Friday, February 9th, 2007

After having turnstiles with RF readers for quite a while, BART has started their EZRider program – essentially FasTrak for people on public transit.  I’ve been using it for a week, and it is substantially better than the ticket system.  Some other posts are focusing on BART’s decision to go it alone instead of working with the regional Translink system, and I think that is a valid point – but it is good that at least they are making some changes.  Kudos for a step in the right direction, BART.

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Creativity to solve security issues

Wednesday, November 8th, 2006

The Internet Storm Center had a growing problem with form spam but wanted to avoid using captchas, so they decided to use creativity.  Their solution is one great way to separate machines and humans when they fill out the forms – but their readers came up with a few more that also got posted that are even more interesting.

The common thread in all the solutions is that computers are very literal and find it hard to be flexible, and humans cannot help but be flexible.  I have dealt with enough captchas – and struggled with some, and failed some – that I think these ideas are wonderful from a user’s standpoint.  Plus, as the ISC post states: . Pictures of cute kittens! How can one NOT use that approach ;-) ?

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Living Room Videoconferences For All

Friday, September 22nd, 2006

I know Robert X. Cringley’s column is all about speculation, but his current description of a plan for Apple to introduce living-room-based videoconferencing gave me a moment of “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

Apple has already created the world’s easiest videoconferencing setup and built it into almost every computer they produce.  To make HDTVs with it built in, or even to enable it via the iTV, would make a tremendously compelling user experience… and for me, a tremendous reason to buy their equipment.

I have young kids.  I have brand-new baby cousins on the other coast.  I could spend a couple thousand dollars to travel and see them for one week, or I could spend half of that on Apple hardware and see them every week or even every day.

I have young kids that I hate leaving at home when I’m on a business trip.  What better family experience than a quick videoconference from a Mac laptop to the home living room before bed?

Apple has always been excellent at driving technology where the users need it, whether they know it or not, which has created incredible sales opportunities for them.  If this is real, I could be buying a new HDTV, a new Mac for the house, a new Mac laptop… and that doesn’t even start to cover the relatives’ purchases.

And, if the interface for calling is implemented correctly, it will feel like a steal.  Final pressure will be on the Apple dev team, but if they have even marginal attention to detail and follow the iTV interface already shown in Jobs’ presentation this could be an incredible hit.

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Security requires user interaction

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Computerworld published a weblog entry that posits ‘Security that requires end user attention is not security‘ – and yet that could not be farther from the truth.  The only person who knows the intention of the user is the user, and the point of the OS (or any software) is to obey the user and find the best way to make the intentions into reality.

Vista’s security sounds flawed during the current beta by being overaggressive – which will create a user nightmare if left alone – but that is how you achieve true security.  You turn it all the way on and then select what to allow.  The process of selection is the difficult one, and where Microsoft has actually acknowledged publicly that they are still working on the feature. Let’s be clear – this is a good thing.

I was quick to criticize Microsoft last week, and I continue to have the same opinion… left as it is, the security will be a problem.  They’re not leaving it alone, they’re asking for input and planning to fix it.  Good for them.  I’ll change my opinion when the fixes are in, but acknowledging an issue is the first step to good user behavior.

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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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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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A great Gmail-vs-Pine analysis

Friday, April 7th, 2006

Far too few actually can explain coherently the reasons they like or dislike a piece of software, but here’s a great Gmail-vs-Pine analysis on with details and recommendations for fixes.  I currently use Eudora at home and Outlook at work (no that’s not by choice, though the calendaring is really pretty handy), and I can tell you that there are elements he mentions that I would love to see in all email programs.  Specifically, filtering is never detailed enough with condition combinations, and I really want to be able to bounce emails.

It’s great to see someone else actually thinking about user interaction instead of just saying something stinks…

Windows print dialog does it right

Thursday, April 6th, 2006

I wanted to print a document, and the application (Firefox) remembered that last time I printed to PDF.  It kindly set that as my default for the next print, which I enjoy most of the time, but I wanted my default printer.  Since it’s a networked printer, it is an ugly corporate-conrolled name and I can’t rename it or type the first letter… so I [unthinkingly] pressed the HOME key.

It worked.

Now that is the way applications should work – just behave correctly so unthinking keystrokes work.  It seems like a small thing but it makes the user so much more efficient.