296 posts • joined Tuesday 12th August 2008 17:57 GMT
I also live at 123 Fake Street, London.
Could you pick up some milk on your way home?
Ask Paul Fitts or Jason Spisak or Bruce Tognazzini or Jakob Neilson
Or any other HCI expert. They'll tell you how and why, big, simple, clear interfaces are good. Or you could just use it for a while, get over the "OMG some things are different" shock and then bask in the relaxing ease of use.
One thing the GNOME team did, long and hard and with much heated debate among many people, was actually *think* about usability. Big simple menus make sense for all but the most powerful of power users. Power users like yerself don't matter, because they're never going to browse menus and the shell has a good and fast Deskbar/Do-alike incremental search anyway.
I've also been using GNOME Shell since very early releases and I don't use the application menu because all the apps I need are a few - fast and easy - keystrokes away. I barely even *see* the shell interface any more, my stuff is just there. When I sat my decidedly non-techie housemate down in front of it recently, her reaction was "oh wow, I never knew I had all this stuff on my computer"
See also Ryan Quinn's awesome Mezzo desktop, which is surprisingly similar to GNOME Shell, and one of the most usable (imo) interfaces ever to grace a computer screen. Once you get over your ingrained feelings of how a computer "should" work because you're used to the bodged up over 20+ years gui we've had since the bad old days, not to mention get down to actually using it rather than just "having a play", you might just find you like it. Might. :)
Because Michel Gondry is making it.
One I forgot to email in
Cowl, by Neal Asher.
Would film up rather well, I think.
I thought that
So I did:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome3-team/gnome3
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gnome3-session gtk3-engines gnome-themes-standard gnome-tweak-tool
And huzzah! There was a GNOME 3.0 session available from GDM. It'll roll into the official repos at some point, but the rate of change is a bit rapid right now even for Canonical's rather cavalier (compared to Debian, anyway) attitude to stability.
Given my attempts at installing GNOME 3.0 under a plain Debian were going nowhere fast, this was a pleasing PPA to find.
Now my side-by-side comparing of Unity with GNOME Shell can commence. I think GNOME Shell is my favourite so far, but there are pluses and minuses to both.
A chart of interestingness
I recently "downgraded" my 36" 1080p screen to a 42" 768p one, and the image on the new one looks far sharper (after turning down the insane oversharpening, obviously) and nicer than the older screen, even with 1080p sources. My living room isn't big enough - according to the chart above - for it to make any difference, and my experience certainly bears that out.
shame it's so ugly
I use Zimly, which is free and pretty. And by pretty, I don't just mean nice looking, I mean nice working too. I tried the Poweramp demo and didn't get on with the UI very well.
Other people's milage may, of course, vary. It's nice there are choices.
Overall, I like it.
But the lack of a keyboard status indicator for StickyKeys breaks it so much I can't use it as my day to day interface.
I really hope that will be fixed soon. I rely on StickyKeys due to physical issues I have managing the various twists and finger gymnastics needed to hit metakey combinations. Ubuntu's Unity has the same problem, and KDE4 did when that launched too. Seems odd it slipped through in GNOME 3.0 though, given the prominence given in the new panel to the Accessibility Menu, that they don't seem to have finished implementing such. Ho hum. I've filed a bug.
The customisation stuff will be back, if maybe not quite so detailed as before - the GNOME team acknowledge that's something people want but it wasn't really a launch goal for them. GKT3 is nice, but it could look a lot prettier than it currently does.
I do miss minimising windows - it's not something I do often, I tend to just switch to an empty desktop - but it's nice to have the option.
All things considered, a good first (and big) step, and with a bit more polish it'll be great.
I beg to differ
The music scene is more exciting and dynamic than ever before, and it's partly the internet that has let it become so. Cross pollination between styles and genres has never been healthier, and making and distributing music never been easier. Just because the mainstream pop industry is as boring and insipid as it's ever been, that doesn't mean that the awesome isn't happening underground, where it always did.
When I was a teenager, you had to put some effort in to find good music - listening to late night radio (Oh John Peel, the world misses you so), swapping tapes with friends (funny, home taping didn't kill music then, either), going to random gigs, getting friendly with your local record shopkeeper and so on. That's all still happening: except there are thousands of radio stations, you no longer swap tapes with a hundred or so friends, you swap tapes with a few million of them, and the record shop is infinitely big.
"Adult" music just the same. Get thee to bleep.com and tell me there aren't exciting, challenging, imaginative, "adult" albums there, in DRM-free, lossless formats with beautiful album art. Just because you personally haven't been keeping up, that doesn't mean nobody else has.
Mine's the one with the headphones in the pocket.
Lynch can beat Lynch's effort
The mythical three+ hour film that Lynch shot - albeit never edited - has been pieced together by the fans using his original shooting script. If you own one of the Dune DVDs, you have all the footage, so can (I think, local laws may vary) legally download the version by "Spicediver" which is easily findable using Mr Page and Mr Brin's Patented Searching Engine.
Much better than the theatrical release, which I thought was excellent anyway. Lots more coherent, deeper and apparently the script was Herbert-approved too (Frank, not Brian). I'm sure I read somewhere that the sonic-gun/weirding modules were Herbert's idea, even, because he felt the whole prana-bindu Bene Gesserit combat thing was too complicated to explain in a film.
Alejandro Jodorowsky is probably free
Shame Dali can't make it.
Greatest film never made, that. Lynch's effort - especially the 3-hour-long fanedit based on the original shooting script - was pretty good, but Dali, Jodorowsky, Gieger and Mobius all working on the same film, with a story by Frank Herbert?
Can't see the accountants in charge of modern movies going for it though. Sad face.
I may not be old enough
But I don't recall not being allowed to listen to records before buying them.
That was one of the best bits of record shopping, going up to the counter with an armful of vinyl and having a listen on the shop turntable..
broken is rather an odd term
GDocs is a pretty good basic word processor, extremely useful if you move between computers/operating systems a lot and/or share files between many people. I do both. GDocs is definitely faster on a small machine than OpenOffice. Gdocs, Calender et al work fine in all browsers I've tried it in, but works best in Chrome. I chose it as an example because it's relevant to the way *I* use my machine, not as a reason for you to use Chrome.
I use Chrome because in all aspects it's faster, more stable, lighter on memory and it's bookmark/password sync is far better than Firefox's on my little linux runnin' netbook. Also I like it's economical use of vertical space and UI. I use Firefox on my big heffin' desktop machine. Can't stand Opera, I personally find it ugly and unwieldy. Other people's mileage may, of course, vary. Isn't it nice that we have the choice though. :)
Since more and more people started browsing on smaller and less powerful machines.
Makes no odds to my quadcore desktop with it's stack of fast ram and shedload of cpu grunt, but on my little single-core atom-powered system, browser (and indeed all software) speed is important. Chrome is much more responsive than Firefox on my netbook, especially when running script-heavy things like Google Docs.
on the plus side
If we can find some way to extract electricity from the rotation of Philip K Dick in his grave, that'd be the energy crisis sorted out.
PKD fans might be interested to know that the Radio Free Albemuth movie has a trailer out now.
my phone reads onscreen barcodes all the time
title says it all. my laptop's screen has plenty enough resolution and contrast for my phone to scan a 2D or 3D barcode from, without blowing up the code to stupid sizes either (ie, the barcode is no bigger than it would be if displayed on a phone screen).
My HTC Legend phone isn't exactly ancient, but it's hardly cutting edge either.
Interestingly though, the webcam on my laptop can very rarely read barcodes from the real, high-resolution, world, let alone a screen.
yes and no
While most of the so-called 'green' tariffs are something of a con, ecotricity actually do produce at least one KW/h from renewable sources for every KW/h I use. It's not a long drive from my house to see hundreds of wind turbines installed by them, providing power. I'm not so naive as to think that a wind turbine rotates and the power it generates come down the wire direct to my house. But even if they are lying about how much power they produce, I support a company who's entire business is renewables - the more wattage they install, the more money they make. Wind is one option, but wind can power pumped hydro for when it's not windy, and it's often windy in one part of the UK when it's not in another.
Biodiesel doesn't have to come from food land. It shouldn't, that's a silly thing to do. Plenty of advances being made in producing biodiesel from tanks of algae and so on. It's not there yet, but progress is happening. I wasn't necessarily suggesting biodiesel was a viable alternative at this stage, more that it has potential.
On a small scale, I can just use the biodiesel processor in my garage and blag used vegetable oil off the local chippy. That's not scalable, obviously.
if I had an electric car
the CO2/km would be much lower than 81g. Because I pay a little bit extra for a 100% renewable (mixed sources, mostly wind) electricity tariff from ecotricity.
As more renewable/low emission electricity sources come online, the emissions for electric cars will drop. Diesels - and much as I love my little 65mpg diesel car - may squeeze a little more efficiency, but at the end of the day, you're still burning fossil sunlight. Biodiesel, of course, is a different matter. That emits CO2 when it combusts, which can be measured at the exhaust, but is slightly misleading as the net atmospheric CO2 doesn't change.
CO2 emissions aside, electric cars don't spray soot, NOX, SO2 and an assortment of fairly nasty hydrocarbons out of their exhausts into the local environment.
so don't use it
Use LXDE, KDE, XFCE, Gnome Shell, Enlightenment, Unity, whatever.
Just because Debian (and Ubuntu, currently) defaults to Gnome, that doesn't mean you have to.
You try installing any flavour or derivative of Debian on a Dell Poweredge R310 using the onboard RAID controller.
I lost a couple of weeks of my life trying to do that. Then I bought a new RAID card and all was well.
To be fair to Debian, I've installed it on a lot of hardware over the years and never run into problems in the past. It still remains the only choice in my opinion for servers - hence the battle to install, hence not settling for CentOS (which installed fine).
I don't see Gmail ads
'cos I use IMAP to access my mail using an old school, standalone email client. Thunderbird certainly has it's faults, but I still prefer it to gmail's web interface.
cows, also sheep.
"A bovid is any of almost 140 species of cloven-hoofed mammals belonging to the family Bovidae. The family is widespread, being native to Asia, Africa, Europe and North America, and diverse: members include bison, African buffalo, water buffalo, antelopes, gazelles, sheep, goats, muskoxen, and domestic cattle."
Mine's the one made from exploding wool.
fans of Gutenberg
Should also check out feedbooks.com - an excellent source of free ebooks both new and old (Charlie Stross has some books on there, as does the excellent Peter Watts), and if you sign up for an account, you can even have them generate custom pdfs for your device. Can't beat reading in 10pt Helvetica.
see, that's all fine
A PS3 would make a rather good HTPC, they're quiet and powerful and they come with a wireless controller - you could put some games on there too (mmmm, ScummVM on the big screen!) and using it for crunching Hard Numbers if that's your thing too. I'd definitely like to have a PS3 as part of my video processing and image stacking system. Lots of grunt in those Cell cores for that kind of thing.
The problem, from Sony's point of view, is the PS3 unit itself if a loss leader. They lose money on every console they sell - they make it back when you buy games, download stuff from PSN and so on. But if all you do is install linux, then Sony are just subsidising your HTPC, and they don't want to do that.
There were quite a few people using them - standalone or clustered - for Science, at least until it got cheaper/easier to use a stack of GPUs and OpenCL for most things. Sony, as a business first and foremost, didn't want to be paying for research that they didn't benefit from. I understand their point of view, but they handled it badly - they should have known that removing OtherOS would have triggered this kind of arms race, one they will always lose. How to handle it any other way is the difficult question - although it's possible that the negative publicity they're seeing now is costing more than a handful of PS3s!
"Android came equally out of nowhere to capture 2.3 per cent of the market with total shipments of 2.3 units, by far the majority of them being Samsung Galaxy Tabs."
Where can I buy my 1/3 tablet from?
John Young outclasses Assange by several orders of magnitude.
Also, openleaks.org is up. And their launch content (little more than their FAQ) has already been leaked to and posted on cryptome.org
such a leaktease
If he's got goodies, and genuinely wants to expose them, he should just publish already.
I know he's a massive self-publicist and everything but it's reaching the point where I'm starting to genuinely doubt he has any real commitment to getting anything published except column inches about Julian Assange.
last time I bought a telly
But a few short months ago, the chap in Curry's was extremely well-informed, and interested in what he was selling (to the point where he excitedly got out a magnifying glass so I could admire the extra yellow pixel on the Sharp display). I did feel this level of service was rather unusual, but I did leave with a bigger, and more expensive (and better!) TV than I went in with.
In East Anglia, we're lucky enough to retain an independent electrical goods supplier - Hughes Electrical. Never, not when asking about fridges, TVs, dishwashers or whatever, have I spoken to anyone who isn't knowledgeable, helpful and able to answer any question I have without attempting to upsell me pointless crap. I happily pay the little more they charge because it's worth it for the service. Also, most recently, they're the only place any more who will let you listen to headphones before you buy them.
yes and no
If you hammer a flat surface, that's definitely bad. but then same same for a keyboard.
If you learn enough control of your fingers to maintain a light touch, then it's OK. I use a scissor-action/short-travel (laptop-style) keyboard because the pressure+impact of a standard keyboard is too much for me - keys that push down also push back, don't forget.
The advantages of not having a mouse (reaching off to the left/right to reach pointing device from your centre position is Bad), scrollwheel and other RSI-nasties probably outweighs the potential disadvantage of no key feedback.
iirc, the fingerworks board had a bit of give in it. not that I ever got to see one, thanks Steve.
I was saving up for a Fingerworks keyboard
Then Apple bought them and shut down sales about a week before I had the cash.
I blame Steve Jobs* for my RSI.
* not really. Although I still do harbour a minor grudge against Apple for removing such an awesome piece of tech from the market.
I've done two of those
It doesn't give you night vision. Not noticeably more than the original visible-light more camera could see at night either. IR-only cameras do create some rather pleasing photographic effects, but to use them at night you'd need an infra-red illuminator of some kind (a TV remote will work fine over short range).
It's entirely possible that the cheap-and-nasty sensors in most webcams just aren't up to the job. I expect someone ripping apart a DSLR and removing it's IR filter could get better results at night. I have no intention of taking a screwdriver to mine to find out though!
the thing is
There isn't really a version number for HTML, not in any meaningful sense. What there is, is browser support for a variety of features, depending on the browser. As a developer, you can only use elements which are well supported by the majority of browsers - you can't just say "let's use html5 or html4 or xhtml or whatever", you make decisions based on what (rough) percentage of users will or won't be able to use your site. You don't say "we'll use HTML5 for this", you say "we'll use <canvas> because it's an intranet site and we know that company runs the latest version of Chrome on it's desktops" or "we'll need to use Flash for this because we can't rely on enough users for the client to be happy having support for the <video> tag"
Hixie is right on dropping the version number. It's meaningless and always has been for the whole 15 years I've been making websites for a living.
The silly logo and so on is just pointless noise from Marketing hats who want to brand everything so they can talk about it and pretend to be techies. Thanks to this kind of nonsense, there will be studios all over the world where clients are demanding "the site must be html5" because they've heard of it and feel clever when they use acronyms and numbers, then the sound of facepalming devs will echo shortly after. Dropping any sort of version number will help this problem.
since last year
The spec hasn't changed. WebM doesn't suddenly have more capabilities than it did a year ago. That's kind of the point of a specification - how are the soft and hardware manufacturers to do anything if the goalposts keep moving?
Encode/decode speeds have increased as the various codec software has been optimised, but that doesn't change the fact that WebM is fundamentally less capable than H.264.
There's a reason there aren't many newer comparisons. It's because they're not needed. I did look. You're welcome to post a link if you know of any.
This comparison is a bit more recent, although a lot less interesting and less useful and devoid of nice screenshots with which one might draw one's own conclusions: http://compression.graphicon.ru/video/codec_comparison/h264_2010/appendixes.html#Appendix_8
I hope they make WebM suck less
Because it barely compares to H.264 for quality right now, not to mention compression.
Very technical, and interesting if you like that sort of thing, or skip to the end for screengrabs and conclusions. One interesting bit worth pulling out (he does cover just how much h.264 code appears to be in WebM in detail elsewhere):
"Finally, the problem of patents appears to be rearing its ugly head again. [WebM] is simply way too similar to H.264: a pithy, if slightly inaccurate, description of [WebM] would be 'H.264 Baseline Profile with a better entropy coder'. "
I wish I'd signed up for one now
I'd have kept it in it's original packaging and it'd be worth a fortune on eBay in ten years time.
No, wait, I'm probably thinking of Transformers.
The unified menu bar was possibly Bruce Tognazzini's greatest contribution to HCI
The menu buttons on the top of the screen are "infinite" - once your mouse hits the top of the screen you can keep scrolling up as long as you like and you'll never roll off the button - which makes them very, very easy to hit. The cognitive load associated with finding a menu option on a Mac is lower than on other UIs where you have to find the menu, then hit a small target which could be anywhere on the screen.
Right now, I can flick my mouse and hit the top-left menu bar (currently in Ubuntu, so it's Gnome/Applications/Places/System up there) without even looking. If you're on Windows, you can hit the start button with similar lack of thought. If I wanted to find out which version of Firefox I'm currently in, I have to look up, locate the menu bar on the window I'm in - which moves around and doesn't have an infinite top rail on it - then scan along it to 'About', then target a relatively small area - 'Help' - with the cursor and move there. It's more steps to do that than if 'About' were at the bottom of a menu on the top-left pixel of the screen (iirc, the Apple menu has 'About' at the bottom of it, Macists correct me if I've misrecalled), which is one of the five "blind" pixels you can hit without looking.
I agree that it's not perfect - no UI is - but it's one of the few things I miss from not using MacOS on a daily basis (with plenty of windows open and non-maximised, thanks). I've used MacOS, Windows and Gnome all a lot, they all have their excellent points and they all have their foibles. MacOS is, barring a few major clunkers (I can't type sftp://location into a finder window? wtf?), probably the slickest and easiest to use - once you get used to it. See next paragraph.
Tognazzini's other major contribution to UI was the discovery that there is no such thing as intuitive, only familiar. That's why MacOS feels weird to you, you're not used to it. MacOS users have the same problem with Windows - you can make every argument you just made about menu positioning but the other way around, if you're used to a single menu bar. Technically, from an HCI point of view and backed up with plenty of actual Science, you can make *more* arguments as to why Windows-style menu bars are less usable than Mac-style ones, but that's not really my point here.
Mac apps are also extremely consistent about how they lay out their menus, which makes moving between apps very easy and simple. Other GUIs are not as good for this, an eg: how many different places can you find the "Preferences" panel on a random selection of Windows apps? Gnome isn't much better, although KDE tends to be. On a Mac, 'Preferences' is in the same place in the same menu (not to mention in the same place on the screen) almost every time.
Full disclosure: I'm not a Mac fanboi, nor a Windowsist, nor a Linuxtard. I like my computers to work and work well, and I don't particularly care how they do that. Right now, I use a lot of linux because that's what currently works best for me.
Some of the best zombie effects I've seen, and on TV too. Surprisingly good on that front. The half-a-girl in the first episode is particularly grim.
Shame the show is so dull though. I lost interest about halfway through. Weird how some shows can take a situation like that and strip out all the tension from it. The will-they-won't-they-make-it should be easy enough to ratchet all the way up and then some, but - after an admittedly strong start - The Walking Dead just shambled around slowly, mindlessly and without direction for a while before falling down to rot somewhere until season two. I'm hoping they can get a bit back on the ball by then.
I entirely agree
Fallout New Vegas was excellent, as was Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, but while I enjoyed both a great deal, I put so many more hours into Demon's Souls. So many hours. So nice to play a game that was actually difficult, a game that - in parts - genuinely scared me (can't remember that happening since the intro to the original AVP, years ago). Looking back, perhaps a dark and stormy night, alone in the house, wasn't the best time to head down to the plague lake.
So yes, Demon's Souls for game of the year, no question.
just install Android or Ubuntu on it.
It's nice hardware, shame to waste it running Windows.
If I hadn't just bought a new mini laptop, I'd seriously consider one of these.
Mine's the one with the linux CDs in the pocket.
half a review
AC:Brotherhood never claimed to be anything more than an extension of AC2, so deja vu is to be expected. Personally I'm quite enjoying having more of a game I really enjoyed the first time around. AC3 is, I'm sure I read somewhere, going to be properly different.
However. There appears to be no mention in this three page review of the biggest and bestest new feature of Brotherhood - despite having several screenshots from it - the multiplayer option. Online assassin-offs against real people is great fun - team or individual modes both work really well and are what will keep me coming back to this game long after the single-player story has played out.
I think they did have high-tech weapons
But as they very briefly explained at the very start of the series, they couldn't use high-tech, computer controlled stuff 'cos the Cylons would infiltrate it. In Caprica, set 60ish years before BSG, they have much higher tech stuff kicking around than you'll ever see on BSG.
One of the reasons the Galactica survived where other Battlestars didn't is that - dating from the first Cylon war as it did - it was largely low-tech/mechanical and couldn't be compromised by high-tech (cyber) attacks. It was on it's final flight before decommissioning when the Cylons attacked.
Anyway, kinetic weapons in space are pretty handy things, what with the lack of air resistance and everything. I'd have probably expected railguns on the ship rather than chemical explosives, but they don't flash and bang when firing so don't work as well on TV. Nukes are a cheap, relatively low-tech means of creating a very big bang. Quark bombs and matter/antimatter devices are bigger bangs, but take more tech to make and use.
Without wanting to spoiler the series ending too much - if you haven't seen it, you should probably stop reading before the end of this sentence - the humanoids in the BSG universe are not aliens by your definition. Clue is when BSG is set - in the far, far past.
Mine's the one with the robot hidden in the pocket.
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