April 2002

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24
Apr

Allow me to nerd out for a moment. Links stolen from Hack the Planet.

Matthew Thomas, Mozilla's usability guru, on Why Free Software Usability Tends to Suck

Havoc Pennington: Free software and good user interfaces. "A traditional free software application is configurable so that it has the union of all features anyone's ever seen in any equivalent application on any other historical platform."

I'm in San Francisco. I've never been here before so I'm being really touristy - I wandered around downtown yesterday, and today I went up to Fisherman's Wharf. Tomorrow I'll try to get out of bed before midday so I can get on the tour to Alcatraz. cringer is jealous of me because she wants to go on the tour as well, but I suspect she only really wants to do it so she can be rescued by Sean Connery.

Anyway. I have a problem. Aside from about an hour sitting in Dazd's dorm room writing Ant build scripts, I haven't done any programming since leaving Australia. Call me an addict, but damnit, I want to find a quiet corner and code. My brain really annoys me sometimes.

I am such a nerd.

Bloody hippies

Anna (Dragondazd) drags me along to her "Ecosystemology" class today. It turns out to be a bunch of students in a room on the other side of Berkeley putting on little plays based on bits of "Godel, Escher, Bach", and having discussions about the nature of the Universe.

I spent the latter half of the class wanting to stand up and insult everyone by calling them a bunch of stupid hippies. It had turned into this annoying game of "profounder than thou", where everyone was trying to score profundity points by expressing the way a sticky-tape dispenser fit into the scheme of living things, and how sometimes, rocks can be more alive than people.

Get a grip.

Quote of the evening (from me):

There are few better places to get sex than on a triple word score

(The game was a draw. 258 points each)

Irony.

I just walked out of the newsagents with one copy of Adbusters and one of Wired.

I was trying to explain something rather complicated to someone at work, involving the way a lot of objects call each other in a particular order, and why. A cow orker walked up behind us and asked "Would it be OK for me to interrupt and ask a quick question?"

Immersed many stack-frames deep in code, where precise questions have precise answers, I forgot that it's impolite at that point to say "no", and continue explaining.

I think perhaps he was a trifle taken aback. Sorry Neville. :)

I read binary from right to left. I must therefore be little-endian.

On shared code, to a colleague. "Well, that's certainly not one of my test-cases, because I'd have called him something silly to do with fish."

Charles' rules of web design #1215: Link colours

Jakob Nielsen tells us that when designing a webpage, we should always keep the browser default link-style: blue underlined text. Of course, nobody does this because in the context of a lot of pages, blue underlined text is pretty ugly. Anyway, here's my rules of thumb for links.

  • Use a contrasting colour.

    The closer your link colour is to the colour of the text around it, the more the links will look like emphasis. The more colour your page uses, the more the link colour should stand out from the rest.

  • If you don't underline, provide some kind of mouse-over effect.

    Underlining links is good, but underlined text can be ugly, and the more links your text contains, the more it'll break the flow of the text to have them underlined (this is often a problem in weblogs). In the absence of underlining, the defacto standard is to have the underlines appear when the mouse is hovered over the link.

    On my journal homepage the links have a grey highlighting on hover instead, but this doesn't show up on the navigation side-bar because the background is already grey. This isn't really a problem because the sidebar is already obviously a list of links.

  • Never, ever, ever put text in the status-bar.

    This is my oldest, A-1 pet web peeve. When I hover over a link, I want to see the destination URL in the status bar. What Netscape were thinking when they allowed webpage authors to hijack the user-interface, I'll never know.

    If you want text to pop up when someone hovers over a link, browsers come with link tool-tips built in - use link titles like this one.

    An especial dislike is on the otherwise nifty Daypop Top 40. You click on a link, it takes you to a script that records you clicked on that link, and then redirects you to where you wanted to go in the first place. This would be mostly OK, except that they hijack the status bar to make it look like you're going directly to the destination website. I hate it when software deliberately lies to me.

  • Make the "already visited" link colour similar to the "unvisited" colour.

    Preferably, it should be the same family as the link colour, but duller. My journal homepage isn't a very good example of this, since I just use an almost indistinguishably lighter shade of blue.

  • Consider just using the defaults. Everyone knows them, and they're not that ugly.

(Hmmm. Why is there a preview option for commenting, but not for posting?)

Once upon a time, I worked in an airport. This story has a moral, so pay attention.

I worked for a duty-free shop. Our job was to staff the arrivals shop, which was a little place full of alcohol, cigarettes and perfume (interesting mixture really) that you could visit if you were on your way in to Perth. When I started working there, we were pretty much the cheapest store in the southern hemisphere. A year later we were somewhat less so.

One day, a man rushed into the shop. He was the first out, so he was probably from First Class, at the front of the plane. He was really in a hurry. Unfortunately, he ran into a problem with the technology that delayed him a few minutes. This wasn't something he enjoyed at all. He decided to take this out on the poor, completely blameless woman behind the checkout. It involved a lot of shouting, and remonstrating that He Was In A Hurry.

The night-supervisor watched this. Calmed the man and sent him on his way. Consoled the poor woman behind the till, who was almost in tears after the abuse. Picked up the airport intercom, and phoned customs.

Abusive customer was subjected to every search possible that didn't involve him having him take his clothes off. He was the very last person from his flight to make it out onto the arrivals concourse.

The moral of this story is: "Never, never, NEVER piss off anyone who works in an airport. The moment you walk through that door, assume that everyone you meet is best friends with somebody who has the perfectly legal authority to make your day very unpleasant."

Have a nice day.

Referer log of the day

206.230.123.23 - - [01/Apr/2002:16:35:20 -0800] "GET /wiki/KyreTakesAFuckloadOfSurveys HTTP/1.1" 200 41628 "http://google.yahoo.com/bin/query?p=britney+spears+in+a+bath+tub+filled+with+chocolate+milk&hc=0&hs=0" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 4.01; Windows 95)"

According to the Death Clock, I'm going to die on Tuesday, September 14, 2049.

I was a little bored this afternoon, wandering around the web, and I ended up on the list of "proposed updates" for Ultima Online. I used to play UO, but gave up when I realised that I didn't have nearly enough free time to get involved. And I've never really been good at online RPGs anyway. I was dragged onto MUDs once or twice and never got into them either.

Anyway, one of the updates that I found was Character Weddings. You find the role-played love of your life, double-click on them, and you each get a ring, with the inscription of your choice. Amusingly enough, there's no way to divorce which I'm sure will cause no end of troubles.

The list of possible inscriptions for the ring was pretty predictable: fifty or so aphorisms along the lines of "All My Love", "Eternally Yours", "My Heart is Yours Forever" and, second-last on the list...

er...

"You Roxxorz My Heart"