Dear Intarweb…

30 11 2007

Somewhere, back in the mists of UI design, some bright light came up with the idea of making options in an application or desktop environment selectable by using a mouse to point at a menu along the top of a work area, clicking on the menu, and having it present more options.
This was called a ‘Pull down menu’
Handy! Picks were readily available when needed, and stayed out of the way until requested.
I’m fairly sure the original designers of menuing systems never said to themselves, “Hey guys, I think it would be a good idea to SHOW A PULLDOWN MENU JUST BECAUSE YOUR MOUSE HAPPENED TO ROLL ACROSS IT ON ITS WAY TO PAUSE YOUR MUSIC!
I’m flabbergasted that the ‘popup menu’ has become de rigeur in web pages. It’s a terrible UI design, and consistently gets in the way when trying to do other things. There’s no other menuing system on the planet that does this. Menus should show up when you ASK for them, not because you happen to TOUCH it. That’s what the little button the mouse is for. See? Clicky clicky. Now you try it.
Not that I expect this to change anytime in the near future. There’s a revolution going on in UI design now, with AJAX services redefining what it means to write a UI. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any AJAX application that comes near the functionality of existing systems. It appears programmers are going back to 1985 and starting over, thus jettisoning all the lessons learned in the last 20 years.

Facebook. Am I missing something?

27 11 2007

Dave Belfer-Shevett's Facebook profileSo I have a profile on Facebook. It’s been enjoyable fiddling around with the apps and linking up with other folks, and all that has been peachy keen. In particular, I rather like the Twitter-esque ‘Status Updates’ that folks can use to say “I’m home, and eating sushi” or whatever else strikes their fancy.

The problem is, I frequently see a Status update where someone says “I’m feeling down” and what I really want to do is go “Oh? What’s up?”

But it appears the only way I can do that is to:

  1. Click on the users name to go to their profile
  2. Click on ‘Send [user] a message’
  3. Type a subject “So you’re down?”
  4. type a message
  5. hit send

This doesn’t seem like the interactive social structure I was looking for, where I could simply follow up on something I see with a “hey, what’s up?”. A message sent as above has no context, is not attached to the status update, etc etc.

In fact, Facebook seems structured in a way to NOT encourage that sort of spontaneous communication. It’s more geared to “Lets funnel people toward shared functions or applications” as opposed to “Lets make it easier for people to communicate.”

What am I missing? The initial funness of the site is starting to wear off a little bit. There’s zillions of people on Facebook. What keeps them there?

Google Sketchup – Okay, this is cool

26 11 2007

I’ve been having fun playing with Sketchup, Google’s 3d modelling system. At first I avoided it because there was no native Linux version, even going as far as to get it to run under Wine (a process that… well, didn’t fail completely, but did result in a tool that’s unuseable – invisible menus, etc).
After biting the bullet and installing it on clipper, I set about learning what it could do. The project I had in mind was to model Mosaic’s building site in Berlin, MA, so folks could have a feeling for what it would be like walking
There was certainly a period of mental adjustment. After all, it’s not easy trying to model a 3d object using a 2 dimensional input and display method. But after a while, the keyboard shortcuts began to come naturally, and I found myself enjoying manipulating objects in this non-existent space.
I’m probably halfway through things so far. I’m regularly updating the drawing in 3dWarehouse, Google’s sharing service for Sketchup. If you have the tool, feel free to download the drawing so far…

I’ll let folks know when I’m done. But Google. Please? Make a Linux native version. You’ve already got Windows and Mac. This can’t be that hard.

Linksys router upgrade

24 11 2007

Nothing like a nice quiet thanksgiving weekend to take it easy around the house, enjoy some quiet time with the family, and… UPGRADE YOUR ROUTER!
Our Linksys WRT54g has been happily managing our net connection for about 2 years now. I’ve been noticing some twitchy problems with it off and on (about once a month it stops handing out DHCP addresses, we have to reboot it), and it has shown other small problems. The final straw came about 6 months ago when I realized I had lost the administration password. This meant I couldn’t even log INTO the router to find out what was wrong with it. Something had to be done!
(6 months later)
Okay, time to fix it! I reset the router (holding in the reset button for 10 seconds does this) which resets it to factory defaults. The default password on Linksys routers is just ‘admin’ in the password field (surfing the neighborhood? See an SSID of ‘linksys’? Hit, and try ‘admin’ in the password field. Welcome to someone’s router! – some versions of the linksys may require admin in the username field as well).
The first thing I did was confirm that I could log into the router and that default configurations worked with our Comcast cable modem (they did). After resetting the password and the SSID, I took the opportunity to upgrade the firmware in the router. And I’m super-happy I did.
The firmware I was using was v 1.00.02. The current version is 1.02.2. The number of ‘fixes’ between those versions? somewhere around a bazillion. On the one hand, I do appreciate that Linksys is actively updating their firmware. On the other hand, that’s a lot of bugfixes for a router that’s only 18 months old.
I’m seriously considering checking out DD-WRT, the opensource firmware for the WRT54G. It has a truly impressive feature list, including native OpenVPN client and server support. Unfortunately, my router is a Version 6, which only has 2mb of flash in it. That means I can’t run fit a larger firmware image onto the device. Alas. Maybe I’ll eBay an older revision that has 16meg in it.
For now, I’m back up and running, and hopefully won’t have my roomies having to fight with constant connection drops and router resets.

OLPC G1G1 Program netting $2m a day

22 11 2007

As reported on Engadget :

Negroptone’s OLPC Buy One, Give One program has been extended to 31 December, 2007 — well beyond the initial two-weeks originally announced. The deal buys both yourself (or rather, your kid supposedly) and a tot from a developing nation new XOs for just $399. Already, the non-profit claims to be pulling in about $2 Million worth of “donations” each day. They’ve also opened up bulk buying to schools in quantities of 100-999 ($299 each), 1000-9999 ($249 each), or 10,000 and more ($199). Oh, and the program is now officially renamed “Give One, Get One” (GoGo) — we presume BoGo’ing the kids just sounded a tad too dirty.

We ordered one for Zach already, and I’d been curious about how the sales were going. Folks on the #olpc Freenode channel were saying that the manufacturer would build based on orders, and if orders were slow, they wouldn’t ramp up the daily production. But it looks like things are moving briskly.

Dear eBay. Fix your HTML. Again.

18 11 2007

I know you’re the largest online auction house on the planet. I realize that despite the bazillions of dollars you rake in on a yearly basis, you still haven’t been able to hire a single competent site designer, and after 10-ish years of operation, your site still looks like it was hacked together by a business major playing around with Microsoft FrontPage.
Requiring ActiveX when selecting images to upload is patently ridiculous, particularly when my browser signature specifically says I’m coming from a Linux box.

c.activeXVersion = ‘1,0,3,48’;

You’ll be receiving a bill shortly for the 20 minutes I spent booting my Windows machine, moving images over to it, and recreating my auction from scratch.
Luv, me.

Life snapshot…

17 11 2007

“Yeah zach, what’s up?”
“I’m posting something in a forum, how do you make a link?”
(Dad pauses here, thinking scary thoughts about open forums, but willing to check it out…)
“What forum?”
(Another pause to check it out – chats about online games. Okay, this seems innocuous enough…)
(details about how to make a PHPBB link in a forum post)
“Oh, that’s easy, thanks!”
sakkura. My son. Am I ready for this? I mean, he’s already talking smack to other players 🙂 🙂 🙂 . Not sure if this should make me squee with glee or totally give me the heebee jeebees.