Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Seven Days Weddings

Ok, so some people do want to make the best wedding and spend all their just started life savings. And they want to start their life together with big a loan just to have a wedding. Their call, it's their wedding and their life after all. I do not agree on it, but hey, just my opinion.
But having seven days for a wedding? C'mon!!! Day for henna, for Jalwa, for whatever, and then two days for dinner, and some others for i don't know what?
Hey, it is your wedding, but did you think of all the people who have to attend? And especially women who now have to make like 7 different new dresses costing that much, and they may not wear them again. And they have to attend all those seven days and seven nights? So who takes care of kids, and husbands? And of course everything else will be on hold for seven days or more.

Anyway, if you are thinking of a 3 or 7 days wedding, think of the people who have to attend. Do them, and yourself a favor and spend a nice honeymoon with your wife, and ease it on the credit card.

And my best wishes to those who got married, and those who will.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Green Screen vs Mouse

You know those very old computer terminals with just green text? The IBM and mainframe Terminals? Or at least the emulators that access some of these mainframes. These are now almost only seen in airline reservation systems.
Why are they being replaced with "good looking" interfaces, lots of graphics, colors and many fonts, drop down lists and whatever controls. WHY WHY WHY???
An operator, or a clerk does not need all that fancy GUI and using the mouse, which by the way gets lost below all the paperwork on their tiny desk, to click here and there to enter one simple account number. Nor do they need to scroll through a list of 541 cities and countries! They do not have to select from a list of all possible 24132 flight numbers! And generally the most common item in the list is close to the end, and users have to scroll through the whole list.
It is much quicker for the operator or clerk to just use the keypad to enter everything, press a couple of function keys here and there, and you are done. No hunting for mouse, and trying to point it to that teenie meenie check box or selecting an incorrect item from a drop down list that takes 7 seconds to scroll to the item mostly commonly needed. With all this GUI, one transaction will now take the clerk 2 minutes to enter, and will take 7 minutes for the PC to bring all that information and save it. And look at the bandwidth usage skyrocketing, and the cost of getting all those new PCs to support the huge applications, and just see how much more powerful infrastructure is needed...

WHY??? WHY??? Just so that a manager somewhere can "demonstrate" to some other managers that "We are now in a new era. We have the latest user-friendly, and colorful interfaces for our clerks that will allow us to provide better services to our clients"

Yeah right... When I go to book a ticket, or complete a transaction at a bank, or anywhere else, i don't give a swat about how pretty the clerk's new, shiny, colorful, state-of-the-art user interface is, and I don't even think the clerk cares. All I care about is that the transaction takes the minimum time needed, and it completes successfully... I think clerks will want that too. I've seen theme in many places complaining about the "new system" and struggling with pointing the mouse at that list and that check box!

Don't get me wrong. I see no harm in having an interface that does include menus, colors, graphics and drop down list, but it has to be designed properly.

Here are my personal guidelines for Form Design:

1) Allow shortcut keys for all fields, or at least arrange the fields by tab order.
2) If a drop down list contains many items, allow the users to quickly select the item using the keyboard. It is not that hard at all.
3) Use default values.
4) Try the form yourself. If it takes you more than two mouse moves, something is wrong. All data must be entered using the keyboard.
5) TEACH the users how to use the forms and the shortcuts. Not all users, specially those who worked with green screens for years, know that you can TAB to the next field instead of using the mouse. Or that you can use the ALT key to move to a field, or that you can type the first letters to select from a list, or that a CTRL-P will print and CTRL-S will save or send.
6) Function Keys are still there! Use them for common tasks. Not that hard to do. But please use them consistently.
7) Don't give the user too much information. If a field is not absolutely necessary, don't prompt for it.
8) Remember that users are generally lazy and want to finish things quickly. So:
9) Many Critical error messages with a Yes/No prompt will not even be read! The default will be used.
10) If a field is not validated, you WILL end up with lots of garbage in your database. If a field is not mandatory, you WILL get many empty fields in your database.
11) Some of these guidelines may be conflicting, so choose the best. but
12) TEST TEST TEST with real users and perform at least minimal usability tests.

Just remember that some of these forms you are designing will be presented to some people 8 hours a day. Make their life easy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

IE For Linux

Okay so I really hate Vista, and I think Microsoft products are crap. But there are still a few sites out there that think everybody else in the world is running Windoze. Take for example GMArabia who insist on using ActiveX and Microsoft DOM components. Their main page does not even load on anything but a Windoze PC.
Anyway, so there is Wine and you can run lots of Windows progs on it, but it was nit the easiest program to install and configure, and I did have some issues with it some time ago. So I did not bother installing it again and switched to Vista for some things.
Well, not any more. Thanks to IE4Linux.
With IE4Linux, all what you will need are just a few lines in the shell, and you will have IE 5.5, IE 6.0, and IE 5.0 if you need, with Flash, and with desktop shortcuts too. It does everything for you.
So now, I really have no reason at all to run Vista. Well, maybe just for some games ;-)

Are you using Wine with other programs?

iPod users, meet floola

I love my iPod video. I have tons of songs, some pictures, and many files backed up. Another great feature is that I can use the iPod as a portable image tank to store my pictures from my Nikon D50 directly without a PC. An average picture is about 3Mb, so 40-50Gb should be enough for a few days photo shoot. But What I do not like is that i had to use iTunes to manage my music collection. And with iTunes, you can't just sync on any PC. I had some luck with some older programs that were able to "publish" my music collection from iPod to any PC, but the program could not add MP3's to my iPod.

I did not add much MP3's for some time, until I got some new CD's.

Then I came across floola. A great, Windows, Linux and Mac iTunes full replacement where you can add and fully manage your iPod music collection. It is still in Beta, but seems to be stable enough.

Are you doing anything else for iPod sync? Or are you using other Mp3 players?

Friday, June 01, 2007

It's about the Director - Eragon

I missed Eragon on the big screen, and just bought the Special Edition DVD yesterday. My wife read the first two books and loved them. I myself did not read the book, but had an idea on some of the ideas behind it. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars heavily influenced the writer. Both stories and movies are one of my favorites.
So, I just had to watch it. I knew the reviews were not that good. And I knew there is no way it would even come close to LOTR. So I did not have that much high expectations.
We saw the movie, and from the very first five minutes we started complaining. The movie is sooo awfully bad and very very disappointing.
The main character doesn't know how to act. The only okayish acting was by John Malkovich and it was only for 23 seconds. You feel major parts of the story missing for no apparent reason. And then when we watched the deleted scenes, I realized that some very important characters of the story were completely taken out. The director was literally yawning when taking about some parts of the movie. Some cool ideas were not done just because of time or budget constraints, and the director says that on many occasions.
The only acceptable parts were some scenes with Saphira the dragon. And that is only because CG came a long way from the times of Jurassic Park and Toy Story, and mostly that CG was done by ILM, who have very high standards.

I would fully blame this disaster of a movie on the director. And maybe just to a very a small extent on the Studio for choosing the director and what apparently was a lot of cost trimmings.

Shame on you Fox for generating such an insulting movie to the Inheritance Trilogy fans.

I just feel sorry for Christopher Paolini. He writes this very good very popular trilogy, and gets a slap on the face with having it rendered in this movie...

Just Google it!