Tuesday, November 20, 2007

google power search

Sometimes I am amazed by how much google knows about. Other times, I am deeply saddened by what it can't find. This reminds me of the riddle about a tree in the forest. This comparison often true for the more obscure things that I am looking for. Google has become so popular and common that if google doesn't index it, it might as well not even exist. Occasionally I use yahoo because they index different pages. Yet another example of why competition is good. I digress.

I wanted to share some tips that will hopefully help you find things quicker with our beloved, but flawed google.

Add site: in front of a domain you are interested in. This quickly returns all pages from that domain, even ones you thought were hidden. The only drawback is that they are only as recent as the last time google indexed the site. This means that it isn't as useful for news sites or others that update frequently.

Search myspace quickly and visually, without using myspace's slow & clunky search:
site:myspace.com designer
or for my single nephew site:myspace.com female single

Add ~ in front of words (~design) that aren't as broad in meaning as you would prefer. This will do a synonym search. Which means google will return pages related to construction, architecture, and design.

An added bonus is that most of these conventions have been adopted by the other search engines; like yahoo, ask, and live. I've had plenty of people comment on my clairvoyant like ability to find things on the web. Using these tips and others, you too can look like a wizard. Happy searching.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stupid Interaction Designs: 2

"Num lock"
Why the heck would i never want Num Lock not enabled? I don't even know what num lock is/or was designed for. The only thing I know about this key on my keyboard is that it is the stupid thing that I need to push in order for me to enter my password. I've never needed to turn it off and I have no idea why I would want to turn it off. I hate using the number keys across the top of the keyboard the ten key pad is way better for entering numbers. Why must i push this button everytime my computer reboots? I have no idea, I only know that I think it is a sign of stupid and inconsiderate software.

As you probably know, if you've been following my posts, that I've been reading About Face 3 (
by everyone, I mean everyone who can fit into a small 2 person sized closet). I've gotten about half way through this weighty tomb, and it has gotten more enjoyable to read. I'm not sure if I've just gotten used to the writing style or it's just gotten more interesting, but I'm learning stuff. Learning stuff is good. Anyway, they believe that good software should be like a considerate assistant or considerate person. A considerate person thinks of others, namely your user. A considerate person remembers that you like your num lock on, that you visit the same site all the time, and you like to read about Markie Post. This software will look for ways to use this information to help you achieve your goals. I agree, and I'd just like to say "Num lock, you're an inconsiderate jerk"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Silly Interaction Designs

I have been reading "About Face 3" and I am about half way through it. It has crystallized some concepts I already have and introducing a few new ones. One of the early points that they made was that software should work (or at least appear to do so to them) how people think it works and not how it actually does. IQ blog has another good example of this, although I have never seen the example he uses in the states.

Another good example is Apple's beloved trash can. This crazy little character has been around since the beginning (history lesson via kernelthread). Initially it was only used to delete files; poof, gone goodbye. Nice, that makes sense and it even works pretty well as a metaphor. Kinda simple & pretty cool.

But wait, someone decided that I should also eject media (cds, disks, mounted drives, etc) by putting it in the trash! Huh? But why would I put the disk that contains the only copy of my dissertation in the trash! I don't want to delete it, I just want to get the physical disk out of my mac take it to the lab to print it out. How on earth does putting something in the trash equal ejecting media?

Via kernelthread:
Since the original Macintosh had no hard disk, and a single floppy drive, it was expected that users will typically use several diskettes while working on the Macintosh. A convenience feature of the system was that it cached (in memory) the list of files on a diskette even after it had been ejected. This was indicated by a grayed-out icon for that diskette on the Desktop, clicking on which would prompt the user to insert the appropriate diskette in the drive. If a user wanted to free-up the memory used by a diskette's cache, he would have to drag the grayed-out icon to the trash.

Thus, even if a user intended to
permanently eject a diskette, two actions were required: the eject command, and dragging an icon to the trash. The redundancy was removed by combining these actions to a single action: dragging an "active" (non-grayed-out) icon to the trash caused the disk to be ejected, and its cache to be deleted.

They designed it to help explain the implementation model, simplified it as technology and usage patterns changed, but never bothered to explore a better way. Leaving us with the illogical and strange idea of throwing away things that we want to keep. They have tried to make it better by changing the trash icon into an eject symbol when you drag mounted media, but who is gonna look at the trash for a place to physically eject something. Which brings up another point, why would you think you needed the softwares permission to get your disk back. I can imagine sitting there thingking "okay, how do i get my disk out of this machine." Reminds me of the zoolander bit about files inside the computer.

Don't even get me started on "ctrl alt delete" as a way to lock my computer. I may be considered an expert user because I employ this shortcut, but that doesn't mean that my fingers don't make mistakes. There have been a few times when the only button my finger manages to connect with is the delete key. What usually follows in quick succession is the enter key. In photoshop, in a hurry, "shift alt delete" enter and I just deleted a layer. Talk about dumb. Why would you include delete in that sequence? Talk about "Which one of these things doesn't belong". Should call it bunnies, rainbows, and hellfire missiles.

I can imagine the developer saying; "Awe come on. It's totally safe and easy, they only have to get all three keys right!"

Friday, November 9, 2007

Useful javascript Snippets

Just a collection of javascript code that I find useful.
As I don't know much javascript code yet, I hope to add more to this list as i find more useful stuff.

alert() : alert('string or '+variable);
Alert can be pretty useful when debugging your code. Throw one in to see a variable's value or into a function and if/else statements to see if the code is executing. Alert has lots of good uses. One note here though; if there are a lot of things you need to debug, you should use document.write to a text area in your project instead.

I hope to add more soon and feel free to contribute some of your own.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tip: Posting Code on Blogger

Blogger is lacking a feature. That feature is posting and displaying code. I've seen plugins that can do this for other blog systems but after a little searching, I haven't found a good solution for this problem yet. Some people are going to great lengths just to get their code to show up.

Here is the tip to get javascript and other code to show up on the post. Wrap the code in < pre > < / pre > tags. I think you will have to switch to the edit html tab to do it, but it works the best. You will still have to deal with escaping "<" html like tags.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Silverlight Experiment: movement

This took me longer to do partly because I don't know trigonometry and because silverlight/blend doesn't really have a concept of fps (frames per second) or enterframe like flash does. Flash movies are like merry go rounds, they just keep going around and around until you stop them. You use this fact to tell flash to do "stuff" every time a certain horse comes around again. "Stuff" usually involves moving, fading, scaling, etc. Say you wanted an object to move horizontally across the screen by 1 pixel every time your movie looped.

In flash it might look like this:

item.onEnterFrame = function(){
"bob" every time i see you, i want you to:
---> this._x += 1;
---> advance a step from the last place you were.

Blend doesn't really have an onEnterFrame ability built into it. Flash is timeline based at its very core (like a movie) but Blend is static (like a webpage). So you can either use javascript's setTimeout() function or you can employ a storyboard timer workaround, via Stegman & Andy. I did some brief tests and it seems that the storyboard timer is faster. I will post some examples of this in action when I get some time. Until then, here is the basic setup and javascript:

the xaml:
{Canvas xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/client/2007"
Width="350" Height="150" x:Name="Page" Loaded="onLoaded">
{Storyboard Completed="timerCompleted"
x:Name="timer" Duration="00:00:0.02" />


the Javascript:

function onLoaded(sLight)
root= sLight.findName("Page");
plugin = sLight.getHost();
var timer = sLight.findName("timer");

function timerCompleted(sender, args)
///// DO STUFF HERE. Like take a step.
var ball = sender.findName("ball");
ball["Canvas.Left"] = ball["Canvas.Left"] + 1;

// restart the timer

You can use this approach for creating your casual game or just to move stuff around.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Beautiful brain indeed!

I suppose that I am a little late to the party with this one. Daniel Tammet is capable of amazing mental feats, with what appears to be little effort. Daniel has a super brain that can perform complex mathematics in a single bound, memorize enormous amounts of data with laser like vision, and learn a new language faster than a speeding bullet. Not that I want autism, but it would be nice to have a super brain!

Mac or PC

Where do you fall? This is usually the type of debate that falls in the same category as religion and politics. Almost everyone has a specific point of view and they love to shout about it. Personally, I like whatever helps me when I need it too, doesn't slow me down too much, or cost a lot.

  • tons of viruses written for it (just wait till macs get cheap or free in asia, then we'll see who doesn't have anymore viruses)
  • Tons of software and games.
  • Tons of peripherals, generic (cheap!) parts, etc
  • OS doesn't have a high form factor, it is getting better, a little

  • Some solid software, games
  • some compatible peripherals & generic parts
  • Innovative & smooth development pipeline, allows for frequent new releases (new releases every quarter, that they want you to buy. upgrade revenue yo!)
  • PT Barnum for a ceo, no one better at creating a spectacle.

Either way, it usually comes down to price for me. I don't have the extra cash to put down for a mac that is probably slower than the Windows machine I could get for the same price.

Here is a funny video that covers some other points that i didn't.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Job Interview Tips

I don't know anyone who likes to go on job interviews. Any interview can be stressful and exhausting, but none are quite as stressful as the interview loop. An interview loop is like a marathon of interviews, and for a designer it can include a group presentation, 2-3 one on one interviews that might include a white board problem. Some companies even include a problem solving portion that must be presented back to the group. If that isn't an exhausting day, I don't know what is! When people get tired, they start to get cranky and the ol' bean doesn't function at an optimal level.

Here are some tips to keep your energy up and attitude positive.

Pack your pocket with almonds. Munch a few throughout the day as necessary. This will provide your body with a ready source of calories. Thinking consumes calories. Your thoughts are actually little electric sparks in your brain that connect different chunks of info together. I am sure everyone has experienced a brain drain when they are hungry, only to be revived after eating a little snack.

Avoid coffee and sugar. Caffeine and sugar are great for a temporary boost, but it doesn't last long and can leave you feeling worse than before. It is better to go for something that your body can break down slowly and provide a steady stream of energy, like whole nuts or grains.

Energize with exercise between interviews. There are a few discrete exercises you can perform to wake yourself up or shake off sluggishness.
  • Run your hand up and down the entire length of each arm 7 times. This will increase blood flow and wake you up, guaranteed.
  • Clasp your hands in front of your chest. Press and hold them together for 30 seconds or so. Repeat this a few times.
  • Place your hands infront of you like you're going to clap but keep them about 10 inches apart. Then make the clapping motion vigorously but don't actually let your hands touch. It kind of looks like you're flapping some wings or banging your ears. This one looks a little strange, so I wouldn't do it with anyone around.
Enjoy yourself and have fun. If you're having fun you will be more confident and it won't be hard to keep a good attitude. The people interviewing you will probably like you. If they like you, they will probably want to work with you and overlook a few things that they might not otherwise. Even if you don't get the job, they might refer you to a job that would be a better fit. Trust me, I speak from personal experience here.

No Pressure. This one depends on your personality and what motivates you best but I've found that if I remember that there are other jobs out there, I will enjoy the process more and allow myself to take risks. I am not suggesting that you act like you don't want the job or don't care, only that you realize that while this interview represents an amazing opportunity, there are many more opportunities out there for you.

Friday, November 2, 2007

They walk among us! The color challenged

Scary thought, I know. I never realized how many types of color blindness there are. Colorblindness is something that I try to consider when I am designing a color coding system or even in choosing a color pallet. I found a site that will translate your website into an example of what a color blind person might see. Check it out, your color blind audience (and dog) will thank you.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cover Inspiration

Sometimes I get my inspirations from album covers. Just the other day, we were at Goodwill looking at LP covers to get ideas for a halloween costume. Apple iTunes added it as a feature, knowing that I, as a user, love visual stimulation.

So, having stumbled upon Sleevage is a goldmine. Sleevage blogs about interesting album covers from the 60's to the present, so I don't have to. I'm in visual heaven.