Drag is waste. Reduce it.


Don’t tell Blogger, but…

I’m now up-and-running with Movable Type. You won’t be seeing any of that here, obviously, which is why I am happy to announce that DR will be moving to a new home in the not-too-distant future. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to port all of the existing content over to the new site, but either way: I hate broken links as much as the next guy, so everything that is currently here on Blogspot will stay here indefinitely. With regard to the new URL and whatnot, stay tuned.

With regard to the installation of Movable Type, on the other hand, I have this to say: UGHH. I have installed it on two systems at this point: the first install took probably two days of fiddling, cursing, and hair-tearing; the second took literally 10 minutes. The take-home point is that while Movable Type is actually wicked easy to install if you know what you’re doing, the available install documentation is nearly useless if you don’t. It’s mostly readable to me now that I have a clue, but that didn’t do a me a whole lot of frickin’ good last week, did it?

So yeah, you should expect that my first post to the new DR will be a Movable Type install tutorial of some sort, because it sure as hell would have made my life a lot easier.


Music is meant to be heard… except when it’s not

Macworld's editors have been posting their iPhone “wish lists” over at iPhone Central this week. They’ve had some good points and some bad ones, but it makes for interesting reading. This morning's list was with regard iPhone's iPod features, and one of their qualms struck a chord with me:

Silent mode should mute speaker output (3): If you flip the iPhone's Ring/Silent switch to Silent, you would expect the phone to be, well, silent. Yet if you play media (purposely or accidentally) without any headphones connected, the audio still plays back through the iPhone's speaker. A friend of mine discovered this the hard way when she let her nephew play with her new iPhone--in Silent mode--during a church service. "SexyBack" wasn't on the program that day, but it was heard.

Cute story, huh? Actually though, I too have been bitten by this particular issue. I was working at my desk while listening to music via the headphones, and a call came in. iPhone automatically faded then paused the music, and I unplugged the headphones to take the call (I know that this is not necessary, but I feel weird talking into my headphones). When finished, I ended the call and set iPhone aside for a moment. Much to my dismay, my music then faded back in and played out loud via the external speakers. Oops. I scrambled to make iPhone be quiet, while looking around sheepishly at my office-mates. Thanks, Apple.

Update: a full list of the wish lists is now available.


What's up with those ugly footnotes?

I apologize that things around here look a bit sloppy (especially the more recent posts). I'm posting in HTML that is aimed at a stylesheet I haven't written yet. I hope to remedy that one of these days.

Update: the footnotes have been spiffed-up and linked properly. To the list of things I do not understand, add the following: formatting for superscript and subscript is HTML-based. CSS, anyone?


Creating new “Smart” thingies

As you may have noticed, Mac OS 10.4, “Tiger”, introduced the ability to create search-based data structures in various applications. The names of such structures are prepended with the word “Smart”, apparently to indicate their intellectual superiority. The contents1 of said Smart structure are, variously, files, songs, photos, etc., as appropriate to the application in which they exist—see, e.g., Smart Playlists in iTunes, Smart Albums in iPhoto, and Smart Groups in Address Book.

Smart structures are nice in concept, and work fairly well in practice—but what I don't understand is why the UI for creating a new Smart whatever differs from application to application. Consider first: iTunes. The command for creating a new Smart Playlist is File → New Smart Playlist. The keyboard shortcut for creating a new Playlist is ⌘N, and that for creating a new Smart Playlist is then, appropriately, ⌥⌘N. The “New Smart Playlist” dialogue in iTunes is a window2 that pops up when the command is called.

The New Smart Playlist dialogue in iTunes 7.3.1

New Smart Playlist dialogue in iTunes 7.3.1

Note that there is no field for the name—a prompt to name your new Smart Playlist appears upon clicking OK.

The New Smart Album dialogue in iPhoto looks similar.

The New Smart Album dialogue in iPhoto 6.0.6

The New Smart Album dialogue in iPhoto 6.0.6

…but wait, where did all of my checkboxes go? Those options would be useful here. And there's a Smart Album name field right at the top. And this is a sheet, not a window. wtf? At least the menu command and keyboard shortcut are the same—thank goodness for that.3

Another? The New Smart Group dialogue in Address Book looks more like the dialogue in iPhoto than the one in iTunes: checkboxes MIA, name field at the top, sheet.

The New Smart Group dialogue in Address Book 4.0.5

The New Smart Group dialogue in Address Book 4.0.5

But wait, there is actually one checkbox—a new one. I guess Apple thought this option would be useful here, but not in the other two? Dunno.

I took a screenshot of the New Smart Folder window in Finder, but I'm not even going to show it here—it's frighteningly different from all of the above, which is perhaps somewhat justified… Apple wanted it to feel like a folder. But then again, the New Folder, New Playlist, New Album, and New Group processes are all pretty similar, so why not the Smart ones? Sigh.

You don't need me to tell you that UI consistency is important, especially when the visual metaphor is, as in these cases (again, with the possible exception of folders in Finder… but I think they could have tried a little harder with that one), essentially identical.

Smart thingies don't actually have contents, per say. Each is just a list of search results that pretends to be a playlist/album/group/folder. Whatever. ^
The New Smart Playlist dialogue in iTunes may be a window, but it acts like a sheet: you can't do anything else in iTunes until it is dismissed. Oh, but you can move it around if you want. Yay. ^
I do not mean to belittle this fact. There might have actually been some bad words in this post if the menu commands and keyboard shortcuts were different. ^


Duke's iPhone Scandal

An amusing story, in three parts:

Part the First — Afternoon of July 17
iPhones flooding wireless LAN at Duke University
Part the Second — Afternoon of July 20
iPhone may not be cause of Duke wireless woes
Part the Third — Evening of July 20
Cisco access point at fault for Duke's wireless issues



Oh, right...

As you may have gathered from my recent post about scrolling, I'm attempting to get back into the blogging thing. I know it's been a while… ahem, a long while… so my apologies for that.

The devout readers among you may have noticed that DR has reverted to the (entirely capable) “Minima” template, thanks to the Blogger upgrade that Google launched last December, which kindly steamrolled my old custom template. Never fear, I'll revamp it sooner or later.

Hmmm… further updates: I think the content around here will be changing a bit, as reflected in the updated sidebar. Whereas before I posted about language and also lots of other… random stuff…, I'm now going to focus on user-interface design, technology stuff, Mac stuff, and certainly still the odd language point-of-interest.

Lastly, for your stalking pleasure: you can now follow my goings-on via Twitter. If you want to.


Two-finger scrolling vs. multi-touch

OK, here's a thought for those of you who have recently acquired a new toy: after about 24 hours of using my iPhone a lot and my MacBook a little, I sat down to browse the web on the laptop and found myself suddenly disorient(at)ed by the directionality of two-finger scrolling.

Fellow iPhone-ers can perhaps relate? On the MacBook, pulling two-fingers "down" the trackpad scrolls a window down, basically dragging the scroll bar down the page (with up obviously working the same way) — on the iPhone, in contrast, you actually drag the window itself, meaning that moving your finger up effectively scrolls down (and vice-versa).

I am now wishing for a way to invert the directionality of two-finger scrolling. Help?


  • Purpose: user-interface critique (ranting), among other things.
  • Justification: I use things; I have opinions; I have a blog.