Oooh, new cursors!

by Matt 28. June 2006 03:00

Well, gosh. Microsoft have only gone and added new cursors to Vista. It's mentioned down at the bottom of the piece, 'cos, well, it's not exactly important news. Except of course to me. I've said it before (and I really must get that blog entry back up. If you're interested in a telling insight into my personality...) that the default Windows cursors are rubbish, and that you need to have animated feedback while the computer's off doing something - if only for the perception that it's busy, and hasn't hung.

Most cursors you can donload off the interweb are rubbish, but I've been lucky to find a set of Mac OS X cursors, which are really rather nice. The important thing is that the pointy cursors are bland and pointy, and the busy cursors are subtle enough to not distract you, while active enough to remind you something's happening. The OS X rainbow wheel cursors are great examples of this - simple, small pointy bits, and a nice touch of colour and animation when it's busy.


Microsoft's new cursors have nailed the pointy bit - subtly bland and nicely boring. They won't get in the way. I'm not convinced by the busy animations, though. They appear to use the same "busy circle" that IE7's been using, which is fine for a busy animation in an icon for a window, but I don't know how it's going to work on a cursor.

I'll have to find a copy and give it a whirl. It'll have to be rather special to make me leave my rainbow pinwheel, though...


Mottos. Who dares wins and all that.

by Matt 16. June 2006 18:43

For the last 18 months or so, I've tried to work to one of a number of mottos.

It started when I was writing a rather large piece of framework code. The motto was "make it easy for the caller". It meant that I would do everything in my power to enable the caller of my framework to write as little code as necessary, write as simple code as possible, and to actually get it right first time. I would favour making my implementation work harder, and writing more code in the framework over making the caller do it. Nice motto. I liked this one. Of course, it took a better man than me to sum it up in a nice pithy way - "the pit of success".

Once the framework was complete, I returned to working on normal, everyday client code. The first motto no longer held, so I pulled out a golden-oldie - "keep it simple". I think it's fairly obvious what this one's about; do not over complicate a solution. Do not over engineer it. Keep it simple. The guy who has to maintain your code in sixth months time will thank you for it.

The latest motto also comes via Brad Abrams. It's "sanity will prevail". Go read his description. It's a nice, upbeat way of looking at the world and coping with things that you disagree with, but are outside of your control.

Several months on, it's not quite as charming.

Right now, sanity is not prevailing. There's a distinct lack of common sense about the place, and everything just seems to be making life harder.

I'm kind of losing faith in this motto.

Now, maybe I'm just not giving it a fair crack of the whip. I know I'm not seeing any progress out of it, but I think it's really meant for the long haul.

Or maybe it's just not a good example of a motto. One of the dictionary definitions of motto is "a maxim adopted as a guide to one's conduct". This doesn't fit. This seems a better fit:

mantra: A sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation, such as an invocation of a god, a magic spell, or a syllable or portion of scripture containing mystical potentialities.

So now I've rationalised my way out of that one, I need a new motto.


I hate the 24 hour clock

by Matt 2. June 2006 11:11

OK. Even I'll admit that this looks really petty, but let's face it - I've got a point.

Just look at this from a simple usability point of view. Nobody uses the 24 hour clock in Real Life. If I'm arranging to meet someone, it's never at "18 hundred hours" or "1815", but "6 o'clock" or "quarter past". I can tell if it's in the afternoon or not by checking to see if the sun is up (if it's 2 o'clock and dark, it's am. If it's light, pm. Easy.) I have to translate to 12 hour every time I look at it. I know it's not hard, but it's like reading in a foreign language - it gets in the way of what I'm trying to do; it makes me think about the format of the time, rather than what I'm doing, like checking to see if I'm late for an appointment.

Timetables are the only place I'm willing to concede that it's useful (and the military, well, they'll do what they want to anyway...). And then they're not doing anything that you couldn't do with "am" and "pm". In fact, I've started seeing timetables do just that, and they're much easier to read. And I don't understand why cinema's need to use the 24 hour clock either - they're not open at 8am, so you could tell just from the context what time the film starts. And using the 24 hour clock is just too formal - I only want to see a movie.

Now, I'm aware that this is just a cultural thing. A Frenchman I know used to jot down meeting times in 24 hour notation. It was natural to him - he used it. Here in the UK, we don't use it.

So, what does actually wind me up about all of this is that every video, radio, cooker, alarm clock or any other electrical item you can mention will have a 24 hour clock. These items are supposed to be labour saving, user friendly devices, and yet they don't even present the time to us in a format that we want. I'd really like to hear why a video designer chose to implement a 24 hour clock...

Even Windows gets in on the act - it's default time formatting for the UK is 24 hour. So even everyone's computer is adding to the trouble.

Petty? Perhaps. Poor usability? Oh yes. Bad design? Definitely. Know your target audience. Build appropriately.

(Or the alternative moral: if you're designing a new DVD player for the UK, please make it display the clock in 12 hour. You'll have at least one customer.)


Obsession With Detail

SUBv2. Nice...

by Matt 1. June 2006 10:47

I looked at quite a few blog engines before settling on this one. My needs were simple -, no SQL Server (I'm too tight), self hosted and I need to be able to extend it and add my own pages. That rules quite a few out straight away - all the big boys (MSN Spaces, Blogger, the .Text family of .Text, Community Server and SubText). In fact, a while ago, the only contender was DasBlog.

It ticks all the boxes; the data store is xml, so that handles my no SQL Server requirement. I just plain didn't like it. It's got a funky template system where each page is implemented as a single page that contains a single control which is a template processing engine used to generate pages. It seemed the wrong way round - is already a template processing engine that can generate pages, why write another one?

So, I decided (foolishly) to write my own. Didn't get round to it, obviously (far too many other interesting things to waste my spare time on) and so I was really rather pleased to come across Darren Neimke'sSingleUserBlog. This looked ideal. An xml data store, application, source code, sensible controls. Marvellous. All I had to do was upload it.

And change the CSS.

Now, I don't really like CSS, so managed to procrastinate long enough for Darren to release SUBv2, which was 2. It used Web Parts. Oooh, shiny.

And of course, my ISP was 1, so I got to procrastinate some more. But I upgraded a couple of weeks ago, and lo and behold, a lovely blog engine powered by the really nice SUBv2.

So, why am I telling you all of this?

Well, it's in way of warning.

I'm having great fun hacking the code base for SUBv2. Darren's done a great job, but having the source available means that I can't resist the urge to crank open the bonnet and have a root around. It's a great learning exercise for a lot of 2 stuff, and there were just enough things I needed to tweak before I could use it to get me hooked.

And the warning? Well, there's a lot of things I've got out of this that I'm going to post about...

But mainly, this post is just to say, thanks Darren. Nice job.




Month List


Comment RSS