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Web Application Engineer at BrandLogic

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Feb
15th
Mon
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The marketing shots of Windows Phone 7 exemplify what I don’t like with the new UI. The entire landscape is beautiful, which is why they released the shots in this form. But the viewport only shows a portion and a tiny slice of another portion. You don’t get a clean view in any one screen.

The marketing shots of Windows Phone 7 exemplify what I don’t like with the new UI. The entire landscape is beautiful, which is why they released the shots in this form. But the viewport only shows a portion and a tiny slice of another portion. You don’t get a clean view in any one screen.

Mar
11th
Wed
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What’s Apple’s problem with buttons?

marco:

With both the new buttonless trackpads and the new iPod Shuffle, it seems that Apple’s going on an all-out war to eliminate as many buttons as possible from their products.

There’s a lot of value in simplifying controls, to a point. But nobody was complaining that either the laptop trackpads or the Shuffles had too many buttons before. In both cases, the devices are now worse off than they were before, but they look a bit cooler.

It’s easy to see signs of a perpetual internal battle at Apple between usability and appearance. Usually, they find a good balance and achieve high quality on both fronts. But sometimes the appearance-driving forces choke usability enough to leak toxic usability flaws into a shipping product. And I think, like 10.5.0’s translucent menu bar and slanty Dock, and Safari 4 Beta’s tab bar, and heavy shiny glass screens on lightweight laptops, and the Mighty Mouse, that this new Shuffle was a victim of the Apple style police defeating any semblance of common-sense usability.

I’ll agree that moving all of the playback functions on the face of the previous shuffle to one button on the headset of the new one is not as discoverable. However, I’d argue that once the new functions are learned, they are more usable.

The intended audience of the shuffle are people who are otherwise distracted by another task. They simply want to pick it up, hit play, and listen to music in the background while doing whatever they need to do. By moving all of those functions to one button, it creates an easier and more consistent experience.

Consider the following:

  • You don’t have to think anymore where the control is. No matter what you’re doing, it will always be dangling from your ear right below your chin.
  • You no longer have to find the correct button to perform the task you want. One button means one place to go for every function. (I can’t tell you how many times my wife hits the rewind button on her shuffle while driving, when she means to hit the next button.)
  • The most common functions are also the easiest to perform. One click pauses, and two clicks skip the current song.

He’s right, sometimes Apple favors form too much over functionality. But in the case of the new shuffle, the updated style complements the changes in functionality.

Mar
5th
Thu
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When you program open source, you’re programming COMMUNISM.

When you program open source, you’re programming COMMUNISM.

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An answer to a small OS X user interface quirk

I have always noticed that in certain dialog boxes, OS X has two types of highlighted buttons. For example, in the dialog below asking if you would like to save the document before closing, the Save… button is filled with blue, but the Don’t Save button only has blue around its border.

Save dialog

I think the intention of the UI is clear here. It is obvious that Save… is the prominent button, the one that you should choose to prevent any negative effects of the action you just took. It is also evident that Don’t Save is the less important choice, but one that you still may choose a lot of the time.

My problem was interacting with the dialog with the keyboard. The Enter button on the keyboard always selects the most prominent button. So if I wanted to select Don’t Save, I would find myself needing the mouse to specifically click that button. Well, I finally figured out that the Space bar selects the secondary button. This makes a lot of sense now, since the importance of buttons in the dialog mirror the importance of the keys. The most significant button for performing any action on a computer has always been the Enter key. Likewise, the Space bar is a fine choice for a key that is the next most prominent.

Feb
25th
Wed
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Install Rails with Phusion Passenger and MySQL on Debian 4.0 etch

Download a Debian etch netinst CD image and start to install.

During the installation process, you will see a Software selection screen. Uncheck the option to install the desktop environment, and check the option to install the web server. This will install Apache for you.

After installing the main system, we don’t need the CD image anymore, yet Debian likes to keep it available as a source for retreiving packages. You can remove the line in /etc/apt/sources.list that starts with “deb cdrom”.

After that, make sure you have the latest packages from Debian.

apt-get update

Install the essentials that we will need to build software from source, as well as SSH, sudo, and Subversion support.

aptitude install ssh gcc sudo build-essential make subversion -y

Install MySQL.

aptitude install mysql-server mysql-client libmysqlclient15-dev libmysql-ruby -y

When Debian installed Apache automatically, it didn’t include the development headers, which Passenger requires.

apt-get install apache2-prefork-dev

Now, if you install Ruby using apt-get, it will install 1.8.5 which is not compatible with Phusion Passenger. So, we should install Ruby from source. Version 1.8.7 doesn’t work either, but 1.8.6 is just right. Passenger also requires openssl support, so we will include that in the configuration.

cd /usr/src
wget ftp://ftp.ruby-lang.org/pub/ruby/1.8/ruby-1.8.6-p114.tar.gz
tar xfz ruby-1.8.6-p114.tar.gz
cd ruby-1.8.6-p114
./configure --prefix=/usr/local --with-openssl-dir=/usr/lib
make
make install

The version of RubyGems that installs using apt-get is also incompatible, so we will build that from source as well.

cd /usr/src
wget http://rubyforge.org/frs/download.php/45905/rubygems-1.3.1.tgz
tar xfz rubygems-1.3.1.tgz
cd rubygems-1.3.1
ruby setup.rb

Now use RubyGems to install Rails, the MySQL gem, and Phusion Passenger. The following command could take awhile.

gem install rails mysql passenger

That’s all the software we need to install. Now we just have some configurations, starting with Passenger.

passenger-install-apache2-module

The instructions will tell you to edit your Apache configuration file (located at /etc/apache2/httpd.conf) and add the following lines:

LoadModule passenger_module /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/passenger-2.0.6/ext/apache2/mod_passenger.so
PassengerRoot /usr/local/lib/ruby/gems/1.8/gems/passenger-2.0.6
PassengerRuby /usr/local/bin/ruby

You may also want to change the root password for MySQL.

mysqladmin -u root password NEWPASSWORD

With that, all that is left is to restart Apache for the changes to take effect.

apache2ctl -k restart
Nov
13th
Tue
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Crapware: This is the desktop of a brand new HP laptop. It has a 2.2Ghz AMD Turion64 and 2GB of RAM. From first power on to desktop fully loaded took about 3 minutes. The worst part about this is that unsuspecting people will think this is how a computing experience is supposed to be. They will simply accept it as is. What a mess!

Crapware: This is the desktop of a brand new HP laptop. It has a 2.2Ghz AMD Turion64 and 2GB of RAM. From first power on to desktop fully loaded took about 3 minutes. The worst part about this is that unsuspecting people will think this is how a computing experience is supposed to be. They will simply accept it as is. What a mess!

Sep
22nd
Sat
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Clouds were amazing (via Photos from ern)

Clouds were amazing (via Photos from ern)

Sep
4th
Tue
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Here’s a simple rule of thumb: if an honest customer has to even think about the rules, your DRM system is odiously restrictive.
Aug
30th
Thu
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The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, “I want you to find whether Iraq did this.” … I said, “Mr. President. We’ve done this before. We have been looking into this. We looked at it with an open mind. Mr. President, there’s no connection.” … He came back at me and said, “Iraq. Saddam. Find out if there’s a connection.” … We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. They all cleared the report, and we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the national security adviser or deputy. It got bounced and was sent back saying, “Wrong answer. Do it again.” … And I don’t think he, the president, sees memos that he wouldn’t like the answer.
— Richard Clarke, White House head of counterterrorism, recounting what happened on September 12, 2001
Aug
29th
Wed
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