Tuesday, December 13, 2011

So Many Options...

...but not the one I'm looking for. How about introducing the "take me to the corresponding .cpp-file" in Visual Studio. Visual Assist has had that feature for ages so it can't be that hard.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Secret User Interfaces

Recently I've been upset with applications hiding user interfaces from me. It's quite annoying when relevant information about how to use an application is hidden until I move my mouse over a control and it transforms into something different.

First out is GMail.

Note how the left version of the user interface has no scroll bar. When moving the mouse cursor over the list of mail folders suddenly a scroll bar appears that signals that there are hidden folders to scroll to.

Then there is Facebook:


Look at this short list of online friends just waiting to be interacted with in the top image. Well by moving the cursor over the control we discover there are actually way more people to interact with, since the scroll bar is exposed. A bonus point for writing "more online friends" at the bottom of the control. A scroll bar would show it without any kind of special engineering effort.

Finally we have the PDF reader in google chrome.

Note how the top version shows absolutely no signs of zooming capabilities, then when moving the mouse to the bottom of the page it magically appears. Some weeks ago I spent over a minute trying to figure out how to zoom in a PDF document.

Bad user interfaces because of ignorance is something I understand, not everybody was meant to do that kind of work. What really annoy me about these examples are that someone actually put engineering effort into hiding the user interface from the user. If they just left the UI in the state it is in when the mouse is over it everything would be just fine.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Am I right or am I right?

Seems like Apple listened to my blog post about the iPad and full screen applications. Lion seems to be a big step in the right direction!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another Pet Peeve

Editors that automatically introduces a closing bracket or parenthesis when typing an opening one. I just get the impression that I delete (or forget to delete it so my code gets wrong) more than half of the times it happens. When modifying old code, which seems to be what most coders actually do, it always get in my way.
Typically you have something like:
float temp = a * b + c;
and you realize it bugs if the result gets negative so you want to modify the code to:
float temp = std::max(a * b + c, 0.0f);
For these situations you always end up needing to erase that stupid autogenerated parenthesis when wrapping up the previous expression in a new one. I also often find myself creating my expressions from the inside out as opposed from left to right when typing new code and then it's just getting in my way.

For me it seems like a stupid micro optimization based on the idea that you spend more time creating new code than working with old that makes the programming editor behave differently and confusingly from almost any editor without giving any noticeable speed improvements. In order to motivate a change the expected result of typing (like visual assist does when suggesting function/variable names that changes the behavior of the tab or space key while suggesting) you'd better get a noticeable improvement. In this case I think it's getting in the way most of the time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The iPad is a Revolution

Having had an iPad for about a week now I'm pretty sure it will change how we interact with computers. It's not the multi touch with a big screen I'm thinking of but the fact that it seems like the first real attack on the overlapping windows UI approach in a very long time.
I've always been a bit sceptical to the idea of having two windows partially overlap like we do in most OS. If you are interacting with one program, it should be filling the screen, if you are interacting with two programs they should share the the screen in way that both of the windows have their share of the screen, having them overlap doesn't make sense. I can't remember how many times I've been upset trying to drag something from a window to a different window that happens to be partially covered by the first one.
There are many programs that solves this locally. My favorite example is Total Commander or Norton Commander. It's remarkably faster to get things done in that kind of environment rather than the seas of explorer or finder windows that tends to occupy the desktop after a days work.
For X environments there have been window managers like larswm and dwm that approaches the problem, but it has always seems like they are fighting a battle they can't win since most applications doesn't play very well with the paradigm. I've always been skeptical to turn into the person running WeirdOS with Dvorak keyboard setup and telling everybody how fast you get things done, since you tend to spend so much time on different computers in you everyday life so you'd better be good with what's most common.
This is why the iPad is very interesting. Suddenly we have a platform with a big adaptation and an OS built in a way where applications are full screen by default. I'm very happy they made it a big iPhone as opposed to a touch enabled desktop MacOSX. The upcoming multi tasking ability will take it closer to a real computer and with a real keyboard and a mouse, it's pretty close to be useful as a desktop OS.
Ironically XCode, the environment you develop for iPad in is the very opposite. It's, from a window point of view, one of the most messy pieces of software I've ever used. It's horrible to use on a laptop with a touchpad since it needs lots of window changes and precision mouse movements and you always end up with a stamp sized editor window for you code in order to fit the other relevant stuff you need on the screen.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Who to blame, Apple or Microsoft?

I've been having problem with my air tunes box for a while and I really couldn't figure out why it's silent for a few seconds every minute or so. Today I found the explanation on the apple home page. It seems like when Windows updates the list of present wireless networks the music skips. The solution, make sure the network you're on is in the top of the list of known networks. What makes this even more interesting is that it seems like air tunes has a buffer of some 3 seconds which makes volume changes and music pausing really frustrating since all effects are delayed. How can a system with 3 seconds buffering start skipping because of the short interruption when the network list is updating? Why am I not experiencing the same gaps in other internet connections? Who shall I be upset with, Apple or Microsoft? Perhaps both for good measures.

A completely unrelated thing, Dependency Injection is probably the most hyped trivial concept I've seen so far. I've read the explanation of it some 5 times and I just can't figure out what the buzz is about. The way I understand it, it turns out to be as trivial as passing an implementation of a class through the constructor for another class rather than choosing the exact type inside the constructor. This makes it easier to switch implementations and provide testing mock classes. I've done this for ages, just didn't come up with a fancy name. It turned out I wasn't the first to make this observation.