Design Choices

“Design is largely about making choices. The PC hardware market has historically focused on three factors: low prices, tech specs, and configurability. Configurability is another way of saying that you, the buyer, get a bigger say in the design of your computer. (Bright points out, for example, that Lenovo gives you the option of choosing which Wi-Fi adaptor goes into your laptop.)

Apple offers far fewer configurations. Thus MacBooks are, to most minds, subjectively better-designed — but objectively, they’re more designed. Apple makes more of the choices than do PC makers.”

Daring Fireball

I remembered this text again when i was playing with the UI mess that is Windows 8.


How to access the “classical control panel” on Windows 8 if you’re on the “classical Desktop”?

  1. Go to Start Menu
    • Result: Enter Metro UI
  2. Select Control Panel
    • Result: Enter Control Panel on Metro UI
  3. Scroll down, select “More Settings”
    • Result: Enter Classical UI Control Panel

It’s not that Microsoft can’t design good UI, it’s just that they refuse to choose one solution among their several options. (( Just as a final nitpicking, Windows “Classical UI” is traditionally Blue and Grey. Metro UI on the other hand is based on a strong Green. And then they overlap. Or exchange sequentially. Or have some combined parts of both on the same window. It’s a feast for the eyes i tell you… ))

Windows 8 bet

After i finally installed Vmware Fusion 4 yesterday, today i installed another Windows 8 Developer Preview. (( previous was running on VirtualBox and VB really doesn’t work that well… ))

After a one hour tortuous labyrinthic experience with it, i can safely bet this with you. When it is launched it will come with so many user options to revert behaviour and appearance features to “classical mode – windows 7 style” that it might as well simply come with 2 options on the install screen:

  • windows 8 UI mess of 2 systems;
  • old, sane, “the one you’re accustomed to”, Windows 7 UI;

Yes. I know it’s a developer/alpha preview. And again, i just played with it for an hour, and i intend to try it out much longer during the forthcoming year. But if i think by the eyes of the “regular joe”, the folks around me that always ask me to install things like printer drivers or that really don’t understand the whole concept of a file system and user Home folders, then, by those eyes, it’s going to be a slaughter…

Prepare for another “Vista leap” kind of thing. The one where folks ask to downgrade to Windows7 even before leaving the store. Guess the pattern for Microsoft now is a nearly-a-decade dominating OS, with several aborted trials in between.

The Focused MacBook Air

“In the process of setting it up – I’ve decided to make this new machine a focused, minimal, work, machine. Despite Migration Assistant – I want to start some new habits, not repeat old, bad ones.

So far this means:

Not setting up email, IM, Skype, or any sort of communications app. Nothing. This is a creation machine – not a communication machine.”

Garrick Van Buren

Yep. ‘Been thinking about this as well. The problem with the two accounts route is when you actually need to have a way of communicating with your co-workers or clients. As soon as you set up email you’ve stepped in a mine field and everything else follows.

Separating completely your work and personal life is hard. More than it seems and even more on your self-owned single machine. Specially if you’re passionate for what you do and you basically do it (or think about it) most of the day.

Never mind the fundamentals…

“Today we’re launching Skype 5.4 for Mac Beta. The launch introduces the same Facebook integration found in Skype 5.5 for Windows. We are excited to finally deliver Facebook integration to our Mac users.

Just like in our Windows client, you will now be able to IM and connect with your Facebook friends without leaving Skype. You will also be able to read and update your News Feed, as well as comment and ‘Like’ your Facebook friends’ posts – all within Skype for Mac.”

Skype – The Big Blog

…Just aim for the shiny accessory. Ooh! Shiny!NewImage

Yeah, that will definitely work out great. Skype 5 is a UI mess, it has been since its Beta stage. Many have complained already and made long blog posts stating what’s wrong(here and here) and even on of its (former i think) main UI designers has stated his disappointment with it. (( the original statement that started the brief conversation ))

Yet, Skype Co keeps marching faithfully on the horror path and instead of correcting the UI mess, that everyone complains and can find out how unusable it is in less than 5 minutes i can bet, well, instead of that, they go and…

(wait for it. Wait For It!)

Add Facebook! Yeah! That will work. Not.


Footnotes are a great way of inserting additional information into a text that, either it is not relevant enough or simply would break the text flow with some link or bibliographical reference. I use them on this blog as you might have noticed, by virtue of this wordpress plugin.

Now until now the way to see a footnote was either by hovering above it, and you would get this:

No Footnote

or by clicking on it, and it would take you to the bottom of the article to read the footnote. If you clicked on the orange return it would return the browser view to the where you were reading.

No footnote at bottom

As you see neither option is perfect. The hovering option will display gibberish if anything else than standard letters are used, including an “apostrophe” or quotation marks. The clicking option will disrupt your reading and probably take some time as the browser redraws the webpage.

However there is a third option. Available for all of the major three browsers (( As you should guess this means Safari, Chrome and Firefox. Opera likes to play alone in its corner and IE, well, IE is on its own small limited world and enjoys beeing there. If you use it, stop it right now. Try something else and you will find out an entire new world out there, where you can get rounded corners on pictures and other great aesthetics. Oh, and speed. And more speed… )) as a plugin called Footnotify. Whith it, when you click a footnote mark you will get this:

With footnote

Feeling convinced? Footnotes are now aesthetically attractive and you keep your page location and can go on with your reading flow. It should work on every site with a standard footnote html tag. Try it.

Windows 8

Has anyone seen a video of Windows 8 running on anything else than a tablet?

Because if this is to be the One OS to rull them All, i’m really curious to see how that “touch UI over standard Desktop” mess works on someone that only has a mouse and a keyboard…

On the plus side, the lipstick (Metro design/ touch UI) is gorgeous, and the first design from Redmond that is actually nice and “easy” on the eye. On the down side, why do they keep the pig?


Toshiba Unveils New Thin Laptop

PCs are too expensive.”

Daring Fireball

The truth is they always have been. Maybe we just didn’t noticed before. And many people still don’t notice it.

I notice it every time i have to spend endless hours fixing somebody else broken Windows and removing crapware (not entirely unrelated…) as a personal favour. And every time i think that i should just charge them for making stupid purchases because they are apparently “cheap”.

The fact is they aren’t. They usually broke down not even after 2 years, they lose keyboard keys or the wireless stops working after 12 months, the dvd player/recorder dies after you’ve used it around 100 times and in the general the whole thing is just a piece of crap.

If you try to service it by changing the RAM parts or cleaning the fan, prepare for endless screws, plastic attachments that are nowhere to be seen and basically just a whole jig-saw experience with endless black plastic parts.

So, next time you actually are looking for a good value purchase, don’t go looking in the cheap PCs section…

Firefox Keychain Integration

Just found out that you can use your keychain passwords with Firefox through this Firefox extension.

It is a bit nagging in the beginning regarding keychain access authorizations but it will probably slow down in the future, after you’ve authorized access to most of the common sites/passwords.

Also, i would recommend some caution with importing Firefox passwords in to keychain, as it is asked the first time you start Firefox after extension is installed. If Firefox is your standard browser and has been for the last months, go for it. If not, i’m not sure if you won’t replace valid passwords for older ones. I personally haven’t tried to to do it so can’ help you there.

On the upside though, when the password/site is not present in keychain, it looks in the Firefox password database “beneath” keychain, so no problem there.

As a side note, been trying out Firefox 7 beta. Just for a couple of hours but it does seem that Firefox may become a competitor again. i’m just going to keep a watchfull eye on that memory consumption after a couple of days without shutting it down.

PDF plugin for Firefox 6 and above

If you’re a Mac user and you have Firefox you can’t see a PDF inside of it. Once you click on a pdf link Firefox will download and open it on Preview. There’s currently not a obvious extension on Firefox repositories to fix this. That is, until now. Just found out how to do it.

I’m not sure if you can see a pdf file on any browser if you have Acrobat Reader but if you do, just uninstall it. Preview can do more, faster and safer than that useless crap and Acrobat Reader it’s just a plain security problem waiting to happen. It really should have no place inside your computer.

But back to the Firefox problem. I’ve discovered this plugin which solves the problem. In fact you can use it for as a default for any browser and any user on your mac, however i don’t recommend it. First because i like the pdf preview plugin in Safari, as you can use trackpad gestures to zoom in and out, and all that. Second, because is a bit slower than the “standard” preview plugin. And third, because, although i have no reason to suspect anything, i’m always paranoid so i tend to give the least possible privilege/usage to anything i’m not entirely sure of.To be accurate i’ve encountered random forum references and news site coverage of this plugin, so i do believe it to be safe. But i like to play it slowly..

So, download the plugin and you’ll open the usual standard dmg file. Inside that dmg is a package installer. Now, you can just go ahead and install that but this will mean that it will be installed as the default pdf viewer not just for you but for all the users on your machine. Not sure why is that by default but i strongly disagree with it.

So right-click on it and select “Show Package Contents”. It will spring-open a new finder window with its Contents folder. From there navigate to “Packages/pdfBrowserPlugin.pkg”. Now don’t just click on it or it will install itself as default as we’ve discussed. Again, right-click it and select “Show Package Contents”. Copy the entire Contents folder to the Desktop or other temporary location. Open that local copy and just double-click the file “Archive.pax.gz”. Now you should see on that folder a file named “PDF Browser Plugin.plugin”.

Now you have two options. You can just put it in your “~/Library/Internet Plug-ins” folder, which is inside your Home folder,  and it you will be the default pdf viewer on any browser for your user. But like i said, i prefer not to.

Or, you can just set it up for Firefox. To do this, navigate to  “~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/SomeWeirdString.default” which is located inside your Home folder as previously. Now, on there just create a new folder called “plugins”. Copy the plugin file from the desktop to there and restart Firefox. You should now be able to see any pdf inside of Firefox.

The pdf viewer plugin is paid for commercial usage but free for any “domestic” our academic usage, so just select one of those options, regarding your status and it shouldn’t trouble you anymore.

If you’re on Lion and you can’t see your Library folder, check these tips. I strongly recommend making it permanently visible by:

Launch Terminal from within your own account, type chflags nohidden ~/Library, and press Return.

Updated at 26/Aug/2011