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Update-o-Doom

Lots of random stuff.

Reading a flamewar on a typography blog, I have to wonder why anyone does the "Two spaces after a full stop" thing. I know that nobody ever taught me it when learning to type in the 80s, and some sources make me think that i's a strictly American thing. Given the vast array of arguments against and the only arguments for being foolish[0], I have to wonder why the whole thing started. Single-space adds readability, and if you're not writing to be read then why do you bother?

The more I see about the new interface for Office 2007, the more I like it. There's serious usability research behind what they've done, and the number of arguments against are again misinformed or based on tradition. When it comes to ease-of-use I must admit to being very tempted. Doubly so given that OpenOffice, in its hurry to clone MS, has implemented a fair few interface blunders that the new UI is designed to do away with. The thing is, apart from the "Ewww! Micro$oft!" arguments, I'm finding less to complain about than I have in recent years. I suspect that I'm just getting old, and that too long away from Linux has addled my brain.

I need to hack some things on the Shiny. The app strip on the Today screen is (as far as I can tell) uncustomisable, which is painful, and as mentioned the SMS interface is (to me) clunky at best. Damn these stupidly expensive development tools.

In a related note, damn Microsoft's naming cinventions. I'm still wrapping my head around ASP not being a programming language but a style of coding in a couple of languages, then they say "You can write your apps in C#, VB.Net, or ASP.Net." For the love of fuck! This deliberate obfuscation is getting in the way of me learning ho to hack things and is filling my head with meaningless marketriod buzzwords. COM was bad enough... If only the company's OSen came with useful programming tools. But then people could learn Perl or Ruby for free! They could use what they know without paying the M$ Marketroids for a re-hashed "Programming for retards and howler monkies" course that fills them with buzzword shite and gets them used to shelling out one bollock and a inch off the cock before they can program anything.

I've typed this all so far on the Shiny's internal keyboard. If this was still the Treo, my thumbs would be dropping off by now. I could do with an external one simply for typing confidence when I'm not in my flat but have something to lean on, but it's no longer essential for everything over a couple of screens of text.

Speaking of which, I'm flogging the Treo. Slight cosmetic damage to the casing, some wear to the casing (I've used it every day for the past 22 months or so), charger, keyboard (connector, not Bluetooth), 128MB SD card, and manual. Phone is quad-band, GPRS but no Bluetooth or WiFi. If I can find the CD I'll bung that in, if not I'll burn you one with the commection software on it. It's Orange-locked so probably fuck-all use outside the UK (but I could be wrong). Would suit someone looking for a cheap PDA phone. I'll go so far as writing a quick-use guide, as (as we all know) documentation of these things is a pile of badly-written suck. Looking for offers around thirty, thirty-five notes the lot, or equivalent relative value in trade. If you want it, leave a comment with what you're offering.

In non-computer news, how about some Geek Media?

Saw Good Night and Good Luck. I was impressed, I have to say. Shot entirely in black and white, it borrowed a lot of pacing and stylistic bits from television of the era. While that makes it seem stilted or slow to some, I found it a refreshing change. There's little by way of actual tension or suspense, but the presentation (a review of Murrow's work in television) means that it doesn't warrant much actual drama. Looking at it as a dramatised docmentary makes more sense to my mind. The film conveys both the story and the message clearly, without belaboringthe point. Being interested in the role of the media and journalism, I was damn happy, but I can see how people wanting some more drama or faster pacing might be put off.

Paper-wise, Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers is coming to a close. Initial thoughts are that I'd happily use the books to illustrate some Mage concepts. Klarion, Guardian, and Mister Miracle illustrate Awakenings, while Zatanna is a perfect Seeking. Favourite of the bunch is Mister Miracle, though I doubt I'll be able to articulate why for a while. For now I’ll go with it being a fantastic initiation story with massive scope that has little to do with the overarching plot.

[0]: "It helps mark the end of a sentence." So does a capital letter. And the general writing style of anyone intelligent.
"Thousands of people won't change because it's what they know." Neither ignorance nor tradition have ever been an excuse.

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( 16 informants — We want information! )
dj_rabid_angel
Mar. 14th, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC)
>>[0]: "It helps mark the end of a sentence." So does a capital letter. And the general writing style of anyone intelligent.<<

Generally in publishing manuscript came marked up that way to make room for punctuation editing. I'm pretty sure that the two-spaces after stop thing came up when writing school/college work, when mark-up was expected. Unfortunately it seems a lot of people took that style to heart and just thought it was normal. :\
joexnz
Mar. 14th, 2006 10:57 pm (UTC)
double spacing
I got taught double spacing in typing class and have occasioanlly been forced to use it at work for formal letters. I believe it came from the days of typewriters and had to do with font spacing, so two spaces was an easier break to spot than one. And in the way of typing pools it got carried through. In this day and age its only traditional sticklers that make you use it. As typing is a much more universal skill and less menial than the days of secretary school etc
figg
Mar. 15th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC)
digitalraven
Mar. 15th, 2006 01:53 pm (UTC)
Spacing is LaTeX's problem. Not mine.

:)


Can LaTeX output .rtf/reasonably modern .doc? Because if so, I've got yet another reason to learn it.
(Deleted comment)
digitalraven
Mar. 16th, 2006 01:52 pm (UTC)
If I cared about .ps or .pdf then a) I'd have asked about those formats and b) I wouldn't have asked because I know the answer.

When a contract mandates .rtf or .doc for submissions, submitting .pdf or .ps means not getting paid. And frankly, fuck the morals and ethics of specific formats if upholding them means losing a grand or more of hard cash and a couple of months worth of my free time.
(Deleted comment)
digitalraven
Mar. 17th, 2006 12:03 am (UTC)
I am perfectly calm. The tone of the original response was for two reasons:
  1. Two days of fighting with COM automation and Word's frankly insane object model
  2. Having specified two possible formats in a query and getting back information entirely unrelated to those formats
Thanks for the links, I shall check them out and evaluate the tools therein.
figg
Mar. 15th, 2006 01:53 am (UTC)
Office UI: Apologies for third comment. This will teach you to fire my neurons.
Big Changes: {is this right?]
The menu is now a tab list, inside each tab is a toolbar.
In each toolbar is a chunk of related functions, which are buttons.
Extra tabs are added dependant on context.
Undo, Redo, Save and quick access button (to open a custom toolbar of chunks) are in the title bar, outside of the tabs.
The file menu is accessed by clicking the office logo, which has a two column layout, one for file options and another for recent documents.

A couple of quick thoughts:
The chunks, nor the tabs are customisable. This sucks.
You have two colour themes - one for XP and one for Vista. this sucks. It is doing the horror of custom widgets again :/
The Quick Access bar isn't a tab, so you don't have to click back to the tab you were using. This is nice, but it doesn't seem to be consistent, It feels like a hack. {On later screenshots: http://officeblogs.net/UI/QATGroups.png]
The file menu is nicely layed out, but wouldn't it make more sense to have the document icon in the corner instead of the office logo?

Summary: Not exactly ground breaking, already possible with existing widgets. Lack of customisation sucks. However, much nicer way of integrating menus and toolbars. Keyboard shortcuts still remain too.

Forecast: I can see this being cloned on almost every AJAX website badly. People will create horrible clones where common operations are in different tabs.

Wishlist: I would like to see this in a browser context. Preferably Opera. Have I mentioned that Opera is lovely, and is still the best browser I've used since lynx.

Also see:
http://www.mozilla.org/unity-of-interface.html
http://www.mozilla.org/blue-sky/misc/199805/intertwingle.html
And this, since jwz is a funny writer:
http://www.jwz.org/doc/groupware.html
figg
Mar. 15th, 2006 02:10 am (UTC)
Re: Office UI: Apologies for third comment. This will teach you to fire my neurons.
Also see:
http://herpolhode.com/rob/ugly.pdf

A look back at unix.

Choosing which tool to use is a problem for most users. Therefore when one tool came along that did everything - Perl (Ugly) - it took over.

Once, the commonest Unix program wasgrep. Today, it’s emacs or mozilla. People prefer integrated environments and browsers.

digitalraven
Mar. 15th, 2006 02:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Office UI: Apologies for third comment. This will teach you to fire my neurons.
This isn't a surprise to me, though it's interesting to read.
digitalraven
Mar. 15th, 2006 02:03 pm (UTC)
Re: Office UI: Apologies for third comment. This will teach you to fire my neurons.
I don't need to reply to your comments, you do that plenty yourself it seems.

The chunks, nor the tabs are customisable. This sucks.

EXPN. Your statements that 'X sucks' do not offer enough information on why you think that to formulate a rebuttal, which is why 'X sucks' is the least useful form of criticism.

Sample answer: The chunks and tabs are not customisable because there is less need for them to be. 95%+ of features are available in one chunk or other, and groupings are more logical. Chunks can be scrolled swiftly using the mouse wheel. Apart from "Just because", why should they be customisable? How does this aid useability more than giving easy access to functions that were hidden in the menu hierarchy?

It is doing the horror of custom widgets again :/

Agree. Productivity apps do not need skins.

The Quick Access bar isn't a tab, so you don't have to click back to the tab you were using. This is nice, but it doesn't seem to be consistent, It feels like a hack.

Adding chunks to the QAT is new in the latest beta upgrade. Hence, it's got a lot to be ironed out. TBH, it's a nice idea but the chunk-adding rather than command-adding could be a downfall.

The file menu is nicely layed out, but wouldn't it make more sense to have the document icon in the corner instead of the office logo?

Agree. Another new feature like chunks in the QAT. Document icon or application icon is the most likely replacement, as few people grok the Office logo.

Have I mentioned that Opera is lovely, and is still the best browser I've used since lynx.

What is it that you like so much about Opera over other browsers? Honestly curious from a features/usability standpoint.
figg
Mar. 15th, 2006 02:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Office UI: Apologies for third comment. This will teach you to fire my neurons.
EXPN: Customizable Ribbon.

I wrote "it sucks" because it's a moot point in general.

For example: Macros

I have a macro which does "paste as plain text" I would like to put it into the text manipulation group.
I use a custom style a lot. I would like a button to apply it.
I have a document with macros. I wish to make these functions easy to find and use, thus I would like a tab please.

People will do it anyway:
If you don't allow people to change some parts of the user interface, a third part app will hack around it. See the totalitarian controls apple has on it's interface, and the amount of hacks around it.

The interface should be right 95% of the time so I don't have to customise it. Not the other way around. Usability is about making sensible defaults, with the intention of least suprisie. If they've made the wrong decision, why should I have to live with it?

"Chunks can be scrolled swiftly using the mouse wheel." Cool.

On Opera:

Keyboard Shortcuts. Lots of them. Almost everything works without the mouse. See: http://help.opera.com/Mac/8.52/en/keyboard.html

Page zooming works and scales images as well as fonts.

A fit to window width option, that works.

It crashes less, It's smaller and lighter, and I haven't had to get a security update yet, either.

When I click on the location bar, a toolbar appears below with home, most visited sites and bookmarks. Typing changes this to a list of recent entries, as you would expect.

Author Mode: Disable styles from the document, and apply user customisable styles. This makes some of the most horrible web sites readable.

It has session management. When I close it, or when it crashes, It allows me to open up with all my previous tabs open.

In general, most of the good firefox extensions I've seen are copies of opera features. Opera has had tabbed browsing since It came out.

Opera just sucks less than every other browser I've used.
digitalraven
Mar. 16th, 2006 02:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Office UI: Apologies for third comment. This will teach you to fire my neurons.
I have a macro which does "paste as plain text" I would like to put it into the text manipulation group.
I use a custom style a lot. I would like a button to apply it.
I have a document with macros. I wish to make these functions easy to find and use, thus I would like a tab please.


From what I've seen, macros that were tied to any CommandBarControl object (be they added to a menu or a toolbar button or whateverthefuck) get their own tab by default. This is a) better than breaking them entirely and b) not the best solution. Nothing's come out about the ribbon and code exposure and customisability yet, but I'd be very surprised if it were locked. If it is locked, I give it two months until there's a hack.

Tangent: Styles are one of the few things that Task Panes were actually useful for, and thus is one of the few things still on a Task Pane. And thus setting up a new style and making it globally available is ultimately already exposed to the user.

If you don't allow people to change some parts of the user interface, a third part app will hack around it. See the totalitarian controls apple has on it's interface, and the amount of hacks around it.

Noted. Also agree with your next para about the 95% right rule.

Read JWZ' paper on interface design, and it's got me thinking even more on the subject. I'll have to see...

Opera testing starts tonight. I expect I'll end up using it as my main browser, especially with the session management. I'll have to see about some bits (the personal taste angle) but it certainly sounds like an improvement over what I have.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 17th, 2006 01:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Office UI: Apologies for third comment. This will teach you to fire my neurons.
Following myself up:

On customisability

http://blogs.msdn.com/jensenh/archive/2006/03/16/552825.aspx

Jensen Harris' blog on the Office UI tackles customisability. The comments (and the reply to some questions raised) are interesting.
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