“And I regret some of the recent behavior Russia that has exhibited, and I’ll be glad to talk about that later on including reduction in oil supplies to Czechoslovakia after they agreed with us on a missile defense system, etcetera.” — John McCain, 2008-07-15. Still, he’s learning to use The Interwebs. Right now if he needs to see a web site or e-mail he has his staff show it to him, because he can’t operate a web browser.
One of the problems of working in tech is it can get annoying when you see lots of money being spent solving the wrong problems, or implementing completely ineffective solutions. Take credit cards and RFID, for example. There’s a big push in the US to include RFID in every card. I’ve had a card with RFID for just over a year now. The benefit to me? Theoretically, I can hold the card against the card reader, instead of having to swipe it through the slot.
Human beings have different kinds of memory; they remember things in different ways. Three common classes of memory are spatial memory, visual memory and verbal memory. (There’s also chronological memory, but that’s not relevant to my point here.)
I have excellent spatial memory. It’s what I rely on most. For example, if I start to think about how to get to a given place in town, I literally find 3D visualizations of my route flashing into my consciousness. I also have pretty good visual memory; when I make the journey, I verify that I’m going the right way by comparing the visual appearance of buildings and landscape that I pass with the scenes I remember.
My linguistic memory is terrible. If you asked me to name the actual streets on the route, I’d have a hard time remembering them. My mental map of London, for example, only has 6 street names. This makes me a really bad person to get directions from. “You take the narrow road that heads off at a thirty degree angle, right at the place with the green copper roof, over the light colored bridge…”
There’s an upside to my condition. If you rely on verbal memory to navigate, as soon as you step outside your known area you are pretty much lost until you can find a familiar street name. In contrast, I have a pretty good chance of navigating between two known points, even if the area in between is totally new to me.
This hierarchy of types of memory also applies in my interaction with computers. When I want to find my password manager, I don’t remember its name. Instead, I remember that it’s in the bottom hierarchical menu of my KDE menu, positioned near the top, and has a green icon.
I know this experimentally, incidentally: back in the System 6 days there was a joke Mac INIT that removed all the text from the menus. I tried it, and was quite startled to discover that I could still use most of my favorite applications.
With that background out of the way, I would like to talk about why for me, the new KDE 4 application launcher is a user interface disaster of epic proportions.
In mid November, our contract with AT&T (formerly Cingular) expired. We switched to T-Mobile and got BlackBerry Curve phones. I was a BlackBerry skeptic for a long time. I didn’t think I wanted a phone with a full QWERTY keyboard. This changed when we looked at the phones available. It turned out that the Curve was only marginally wider than the average phone, perhaps a centimeter or so. It’s otherwise comparable to mid-range phones in size.
I’ve been testing to see which feed readers support authentication sufficiently to enable you to log in to LJ somehow and hence see LiveJournal protected posts in your web feed reader. Do work, by prior login: Sage. Akregator. Opera*. Safari*. Do work, by modifying URL: Mozilla Thunderbird. Do not work: Google Reader. Bloglines. Other people report that they work: FeedDemon. NetNewsWire. *Not tested, but I’m pretty sure they do because the feed reader code is part of the web browser.
Friday was definitely the worst Friday ever. I wandered in to the office with my coffee, and discovered that my main work laptop—an IBM ThinkPad, obviously—had mysteriously powered itself off overnight, instead of merely going to sleep. I booted it, only to get the dreaded Fan error message. (If you’re falling asleep already, skip down to the moral of the story.) A fan error is pretty much the kiss of death for a recent laptop.
I find to my surprise that I’ve not posted here before about EBD. So, here goes… Over the years I’ve noticed that people who are exposed to Emacs for an extended period of time become unable to use other software. I don’t just mean that they refuse to use other text editors; I mean that they cannot tolerate any non-Emacs interface for any task. They read news in Emacs. They read their e-mail in Emacs.
In general, he’s correct that people don’t buy the simple, well-designed stuff. Instead, they buy the stuff that looks like it has the most features; and they tell what that is by looking at how many settings and controls it has.
Not always, though. The best exception that proves the rule is the now almost ubiquitous iPod.
There has been a lot of GPLv3 discussion on tech sites. Perhaps predictably, a lot of it has missed the point or miscategorized the changes. If you read the history of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU Public License, you discover that it all came about because Richard Stallman found himself having to use broken software that he wasn’t allowed to fix. The entire purpose of the GPL is to ensure that everyone who uses a piece of GPL-licensed software can change that software, use the changed version, and distribute it to other people.
Tom Tomorrow has his panties in a bunch over the outrageous behavior of Internet users. He was shocked this week to discover that some people were reading his published web log using special purpose web log browsing software (aka “news aggregators”), rather than the software he wants them to use (a web browser). Worse still, the miscreants were skipping the ads! Quel horreur! It rather reminds me of the CEO of Turner Broadcasting, who declared that skipping TV ads using fast forward was “stealing the programming”.