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All posts for the month September, 2011

Flash, specifically ActionScript, was very easy to learn. But got more and more difficult as they added features to a syntax that didn’t really resemble what I was more familiar with. While simple statements were easy to parse, the complex interactions between and within some of the more complex constructs made following the logic more difficult as you moved up scales of complexity. That is to be expected, but instead of a steady climb, there were leaps.

In addition to this, I found the naming conventions needlessly verbose. I understand the reasons for that (predecessors, and Adobe wanting something familiar) but do not agree with the implementation. The reason I do not like it is simply because it is less efficient when you’re reading code to mentally hold “addEventListener” than it would be to simply use “trigger” or simply “event” while you are also taking in what that event you’re listening is doing. As one becomes more familiar the syntax it just blends in, but I find the process inhibited by the conventions used in the first place.

Aside from my opinion on ActionScript, with Apple’s exclusion of Flash from mobile devices and then Microsoft’s subsequent statement that Windows 8 will not support Flash either, it seems obvious that Flash is going to be phased out within 10 years most likely. Adobe even recognizes the need to move on with their latest product to construct web front ends in HTML5.

So, with that writing on the wall, if it was my decision, I would learn HTML5. It is available now. It is in a growth phase and since it is not proprietary everyone (Tech companies) has no reason not to use it. It will be here much longer than Flash is. And sure, if you are going for a quick strike (one time development of a product that will be around only a few year) and you already know the language, there’s no reason not to use Flash. But long term? It’d be more valuable to me to invest my time in learning HTML5.

I had planned to have article 2 and a few others out by now. But technology is a cruel mistress. While fact checking my draft, I stumbled upon a media watch group that claims to be a grass roots group that tells the truth about what the media reports. They are so impartial that they call themselves Accuracy in Media. You would think a non-profit would take no sides in its evaluation of media stories, but the writing available on the site throws around loaded terms usually reserved for opinion pieces, not actual research.

Add to this when I went to their storefront, I saw a number of items available for one political party and not another. I am actually pretty disgusted that they have the gaul to have”Accuracy” in their name when they clearly have a bias.

So, I forgot about my draft and went digging. And the second I clicked a link on their site my computer crashed. It was clearly the bad PDF plugin that did it, and I can replicate it. So, like a good IT person, I submitted a bug report to my browser’s maker.

Then, I looked for my draft and I realized I made an “amateur” move. I was so wrapped up in evaluating while actually using a new word processor (I only intended to write an outline for the series I’m planning), that I failed to turn on the auto-save feature. I forgot that my original intent was to simply test out the software and switched to actual work without changing into a production mindset. I make the “forgot to save a draft” mistake so infrequently (about once a decade). And because my OS of choice is usually so stable, I’ve been lulled into a false sense of stability. (And no I am not using a .0 release of anything.)

So, while the last one (wordpress erroring out and destroying about 3 pages of text somehow) was not my fault. This one is, and for that I apologize to people waiting for the next entry into this series. Once again I am reminded of my (and others’) saying: “I don’t trust technology as far as I can throw it.”

“Oh well,” I say to myself, “maybe the next one will be written better since I warmed up my writing mode.” Once again, sorry for the delay.

I got a letter from Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix,
today. It was an abbreviated form of what is here: http://blog.netflix.com/2011/09/explanation-and-some-reflections.html So, even though I don’t have his real email address I replied. I cancelled my membership months ago. I thought about pulling apart each argument, but I’m tired of writing today, so I thought I’d just sum up my feelings about where Netflix went wrong.

Reed,

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I have a bit of time so I’ll post an observation. I’ve been reading reviews for various apps and items in various places. And the most helpful and informative reviews look at both the positives of an item and the negatives. The open discussion of what you like about something and what you do not like add to your credibility. What makes reviews even more helpful is when a person makes suggestions on possible ways to improve the product. They help both the people considering the purchase of something and the creator improve their product.

I’ve been doing this a while (reviewing on places like Amazon, B&H Photo, MacUpdate, Apple’s iTMS and AppStore, etc.) and this is the most helpful format I’ve noticed and followed myself in whole or in part. If you have any questions why it is structured this way or why certain topics are suggested please post a comment. Thanks. Now the suggested review format:

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Hey, I’m not always goofing off on the internet. That’s not why I’m not getting article 2 out the door. No, to preface the content and explain my lack of article 2 I’ll explain (and hopefully wordpress won’t lose my text this time).

I take part in about 5 forums where the focus is on various things from games to tech support, to tech trends, etc. It’s one of the first things I do in the morning: I check my email for replies in the forums I’m watching, then reply if warranted. So this guy says that when they were first introduced GUIs were crap because they were unreliable and hard to understand and navigate.

I disagree, and write the following which I thought would be good to include here:

Actual events that took place in 1984 in a little computer store in San Jose/Santa Clara between my father and the salesman:
Salesman (S) to my Father: “Yes, that’s the new Apple Macintosh. We only have a few….”
(I sit down in front of it, look at the mouse and the black and white 9″ screen.)
S to me: “That’s called a mouse. you move it to move the pointer on screen.”
(move the pointer to a picture of something labeled “MacPaint.” and click on it. The picture inverts.)
S to me: “Oh, to start the program you cli-”
(I double click and MacPaint Launches.)
“ck the button twice…”
(I start drawing…)
S: “Oh, I see he’s got it.”
(He shuts up while I play with the new toy, and then after a few minutes he and my father start talking price.)

Wow WordPress just failed me badly. I spent a good hour or more on a long post, and this is all that’s left:

Well, I planned on having the second article in the communications series out by now, but it hasn’t happened for a few reasons. None of them being procrastination. As it turns out, I wanted to refresh my memory of certain things before I started spouting off about them, so I went back and re-read some chapters and have just been letting it gel in my head. Also, I’ve been busy with life and a few recent experiences with miscommunication have made me want to include and consider them.

Also, I decided to get an iOS/OS X program so I could brainstorm and plan each article first then arrange them logically. I have a program called MindNode, that I downloaded from the AppStore when the AppStore premiered. However, I wasn’t happy with it because its intended purpose of allowing you to quickly get your ideas down was hobbled by the interface that got in your way and slowed down getting your ideas written down before they were lost. While looking for another app like it I found SimpleMind (free) while browsing there Appstore and also found out that they had an iOS version as well that was also free.

To read the reader’s digest summary of what I wrote and can remember… click onward!

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This article was written in reponse to Lion, but it applies to pretty much any OS upgrade, aside from the OS X specific apps mentioned.

  1. Check you critical apps and anything you just can’t do without for compatibility. (Note: Rosetta is gone! you won’t be able to run PPC Apps)
  2. Update the Apps that you can.
  3. Purchase Lion from the App store for $30
  4. Make a USB stick installer out of because the Lion installer self destructs (kind of) after the install: http://osxdaily.com/2011/08/02/easy-way-to-make-lion-install-disk/
  5. Backup your files (or better clone your system to an external HD)
  6. Run Disk Utlities and Repair the Disk then Repair Permissions
  7. If you’re really careful, run a hardware diagnostic on your machine.
  8. Run the installer.
  9. Open the General preferences and check every pane for changes and make adjustments. (for instance you might want to uncheck “Natural Scrolling” in the Trackpad pane if you like the old way to scroll.)
  10. Write a terse but well argued letter to Apple about the changes your don’t like.
  11. Enjoy your new OS. And Check out my review of Lion in case you haven’t already. (Which I must update with my Apple app moving trick….)

Over the course of the next few weeks or months, I will be rolling out articles about the use of Computers, Interface Design, How People Function, And Setting Product Goals During Design. However, I am not going to use the standard perspective of someone that knows so much about technology that they forget what the whole point of it is. I am not going to c0me from a completely user-centric perspective either. I am going to approach this using Communication Theory, that is not taught to many in the Tech Field.

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So, I’ve had Lion installed for less than a week and there’s some good/great things about it and some really frustrating changes. Now, there’s a lot of articles that cover the same ground and mention the same problems or improvements. I’m going to try to add new information about Lion’s new capabilities and steps backwards. To qualify my statements, let me give you a bit of my background. (Below the main article due to length.*)

Pros: Snappier Performance, Resume on relaunch after quit, Graphic changes/improvements, Finder Toolbar additions, Window resize from any edge, Focus shortcuts, Spelling/Thesaurus/Wikipedia popup, Mail link HTML preview/popup, iCal feature additions, Address Book feature additions, Safari downloads popup and rendering boost, Quicklook improvements.

Cons: Apple applications are immovable, App folder requires admin privileges to move applications, Launchpad not easily organizable & limited configurability, Library hidden by default. Mail lost its “bounce” feature. iCal “hard lock” crash wasn’t easily fixed.

Bottom Line: The improvements to the UI and new features and customizability make for not only a more pleasurable experience that also allows you to save time with fewer clicks and faster responses. The Cons are easily outweighed by the Pros list, and $29 or $69 makes it an even more compelling upgrade.

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Perspective is the ability to step back from one’s self. And evaluate what you have from an outsider’s point of view and really see where you are. Quite literally one of the dictionary definitions of the word perspective is: “true understanding of the relative importance of things.” It’s the fact that realizing that everything is relative, that helps one see where one is truly at.

If I ask someone where they are and they are standing next to me, they might say, “I am here.” But that informs no one without context — but context is what a lot of people forget to include when they’re looking at their situation. It’s really easy to interpret a person’s physical presence from the word “here” because we naturally synthesize the information at our disposal: what we see, hear, feel, etc. in short: their entire environment.

But what a lot of people fail to do is to take synthesize all the things that affect them and take everything into account when the look at what they consider a bad situation. What’s even worse is when some people think they have all the information, and make decisions without thinking of what they might be missing, or things that they are taking for granted and not including in their decision making.

I find it useful to step outside myself, which means setting my personal feelings aside for a minute and looking at myself from what someone else might see. Just that act of looking at your actions or situation from what it must look like to someone that doesn’t understand everything you know helps tremendously. It clarifies and crystalizes things you might not even realize about your situation and even yourself.

So, the next time you find yourself in a crappy situation with someone, take a step back and look at it from a different perspective, and see if your situation is as bad as it seems. Often people I see complaining about what is essentially a problem  that person created himself/herself, either out of thin air or by doing things to rub people the wrong way.

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