Commentary on software design, development and management
I frequently refer to "the three seashells" approach in user interaction design. Here's a video clip for the origin of the term. Watch the person with the headset mock the unknowing Sylvester Stallone. Have you ever opened a high-tech gadget and didn't know how to make it work? Were you mocked by others who had (eventually) figured it out?
A friend recently asked:
Long before I was creator of software products, I was a space geek. When Apollo 11 landed on the moon, my parents said their three-year old boy was fascinated. I closely followed every phase of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. In 1981, two friends and I petitioned NASA to allow us to "cover" the first launch of the space shuttle Columbia.
Since September, I've been reading the many complaints regarding the process used to shut down a computer running Windows 8. The general theme is that's hard to find, with some folks suggesting that this is emblematic of Windows 8 being difficult to use.
Today I was reading a new post on one of my favorite blogs, The Old New Thing by longtime Microsoft developer Raymond Chen. I got to know Raymond in the waning days of 1994 when we were working on "Chicago", the codename for what would become Windows 95. I was a rookie Program Manager for this new thing called "accessibility" and he was the go-to developer for just about anything in the guts of Windows.
Nearly every day people come up to me, or email, questions on software. Last night at the Tampa Bay Computer Society, a gentleman was having trouble getting Adobe Flash installed. I went through the installation process and it appeared to work correctly, but going to YouTube, the following message was displayed: "You need to upgrade your Adobe Flash Player to watch this video."
[Update 2011-04-04: Added links to Coding Horror articles]
Two days in a row I’ve had to hunt down strange issues with HTML formatted emails created with Microsoft Outlook 2010 beta.
The first involved a reply to a mailing list. For some strange reason, my reply was encoded using the ISO-2022-JP character set. The message I was replying to was encoded as US-ASCII, but for some reason, Outlook and/or Word changed the Normal style to be Japanese instead of English. I have no idea how that happened for that particular message.
I discovered the problem after a user wrote to me and said that my several of messages contained garbage characters at characters outside the ASCII range. Curly quotes, etc.
Word was correctly decoding the ISO-2022-JP character set, and anyone who had a email program that understood the character set didn’t notice any problems. However older email programs had issues and even the user said later that my messages prompted her to download the Japanese language font pack for Internet Explorer and Outlook Express on Windows XP.
I narrowed it down to a particular mailing list thread. After replying to a message, all my messages and some from other users on the same thread had the Japanese encoding.
Going back to the original message, I used the Style Inspector and Reveal Formatting features of Microsoft Word to figure out that it was the Normal style that was adding the Japanese encoding. However, changing the language for the Normal style did not remove “(Asian) Japanese” from the style specification. It just added “(other) English (U.S.)”.
I verified that Normal.dot and NormalEmail.dot are correct. It’s just this particular message.
I suspect that Word’s “Detect language automatically” option kicked in somehow and changed the proofing language to Japanese.
If you have had a similar issue, let me know.
For the past few months I noticed that Windows 7 Help and Support feature wasn’t working correctly. Pressing WIN+F1 or choosing “Help and Support” from the Start menu would open a window, but the help contents weren’t there. Searching for a topic wouldn’t work either.
Various pundits want to proclaim Apple's new multi-button mouse as a major departure and admission that clean design (in the form of a one-button can't be screwed up manner) isn't always acceptable to the consumer.
Recall that the original Macintosh keyboard did not have cursor keys. The original vision was to have the mouse perform all functions, while the keyboard was solely for text input. Steve Jobs and Macintosh team wanted to force people into using the mouse for all operations, even scrolling pages of text.
After several months, Apple realized their folly and made a keyboard with a number pad and cursor keys. I don't know if that was introduced along with the "Fat Mac" in October 1984 or was slipstreamed into the Macintosh production line. I know that it hard to get one of those original keyboards. I am looking for one by the way!