Archive for the ‘Geeking around’ Category
Word from comiXology now after many hand-wringing updates overnight is that Apple didn’t prevent comiXology from pushing to iOS apps, but comiXology made the call. In a letter on their blog page, comiXology CEO David Steinberger noted:
Ric’ Originally Wrote on April 9th:
Apple Computer’s been pretty absurd about trying to prevent mature individuals from enjoying mature content on their mobile devices.
What’s so special about mobile devices? Nothing, except that Apple has implemented a file system and application system that they can control, they can prevent the user from using for any content. There is only content Apple approves of, on apps Apple approves of. And they’ve been your nanny since day one.
But now they’ve gone a little nuts.
Tomorrow, one of the finest comics available, Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, will not be available in digital form on iOS devices. This is due to two “postage stamp sized gay sex scenes” that appear in the magazine. They’re kind of background images, literally like someone left a TV on in a scene, context is ambiguous and not flamboyant.
Still Apple takes umbrage, and is shutting down all iOS apps that might try to down the comic. No iPad, no iPhone, no. Because they’re trying to protect you from an image you can walk into any comic store tomorrow and buy without showing your driver’s license. And it’s not the first nudity or sexuality in the magazine. It’s undoubtedly because of the gay context that they get out their big censor stick.
This is a crime against art.
I’m not exaggerating, Saga is one of the best comic books available today. Smart, inventive, human, witty, lovely, and unique.
All things Apple used to be.
And now they’re just disappointing.
Sometimes we have to put the tech, and the presenting and the other stuff geeky aside and just enjoy a glass of wine.
But maybe we can combine a few of these. The latest tech in wine storage. The geeky flavor of an impromptu unboxing and demo. All on a Friday afternoon.
I got a lot of good feedback on The First Thing to Do to Your New PowerPoint 2013, thanks and wow – happy to help.
So OK, here’s the second thing you should do after you install Office 2013. It’s a bitter post, full of my opinion, and I’m perfectly willing to accept that others may disagree. However, in my opinion this trick corrects one of the most ridiculous mistakes made in Office 2013. You may consider it more of a taste issue. But I think that if you have taste you’ll want your Office interface to not look like somebody’s grandpa sending e-mail with the CAPS LOCK key on.
HEY, YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!
Yeah, that’s right. For some reason the designers at Office decided that years of calming down the interface, using readability methods developed and proven literally over centuries, should be abandoned so they could inject some “style” into the product. Beware of designers attempting to make their mark.
Application design should fall back against the content, should not stand there screaming HEY LOOK AT ME, or HEY, GET OFF MY LAWN, or HERE’S A JOKE THAT ALL MY SENIOR FRIENDS THOUGHT WAS FUNNY SO I’M ADDING YOU IN MY REPLY-ALL… just for example. UI should be clear, it should be available, but not garish and hard to interpret.
So one of the first things you’ll notice looking at Office 2013 is the ribbon. The ribbon that so many hate, and the rest just find somewhat annoying. Sure it makes it easier for novices to find things, but it’s proven that the ribbon limits experts from levels of productivity they had with the prior menu UI. But we’re kind of stuck with it, and I digress. You see how easy that is.
What we’re looking at most is the tabs. The little label tabs at the top of each ribbon. And they’re all screaming like grandpa.
Well, maybe you’re not bothered by it, and hey, good for you. But there’s so much basic knowledge about how typography works, how the eye interprets words and breaks, how recognition is speeded by properly applying basic typographic conventions… all ignored here. It’s tragic really when you consider the scope of Office, how many people deal with this UI on a daily if not hourly (if not constant!) basis. There were lots of people bringing up how ugly and broken this was in the open Beta for Office 2013, but Office designers decided they knew better.
Anyway, you can fix this, calm it down. I can show you how. It’s a little tricky, so follow closely.
We’re going to go into the customize ribbon command. Right-click somewhere on the ribbon where there isn’t a button or control, and you’ll see the hidden commands. Choose Customize the ribbon and you’ll see the ribbon customization mess… er… UI.
Now, if you’re pretty perceptive you’ll notice something kinda weird.
We’re looking in the right column, a list of the ribbon titles and the controls each ribbon contains. Funny thing is, all the labels are already in initial cap case. They are not in all-capitals. The UI let’s you change the name of any of these labels, see the Rename button beneath the list, but if you want to continue using the right names you’re kind of stuck.
The developers have special-cased these label titles for each of the individual ribbons so they display in all caps if they match the intended default label. Why did they spend their time doing this instead of fixing bugs or getting good features into the product? Who can tell. We can imagine the passionate arguments the designers put forward about not allowing users to destroy the delicate balance of their screaming grandpa design, but that’s just me recalling similar conversations. Probably nothing like that. But again, digressing.
A little experimenting will show you that the labels
Home displays HOME
HoME displays HoMe
HOME displays HOME
but it’s kind of hard to get it to just display “Home.” But not impossible. Just give it some space.
Or one space to be exact
Select one of the tab labels in the list and click the Rename button. Adding a single space character, either before or after the letters “Home”, apparently is enough of a Jedi Mind Trick that the developer’s force to upper-case code is told “these are not the glyphs you’re looking for” and they pass along to be displayed unharmed. Do this to each label, and you get a nice initial cap label and a much calmer interface.
Yeah, Grandpa is still yelling FILE. If you can figure out a way to get him to calm down there, let me know.
A couple of things
You may want to do all the labels ahead of time. There are more than what are initially shown. Just open the list at the top of the right column and choose All Tabs.
Notice a bunch of items got added to the bottom of the list. These are the “contextual tabs”, tabs that show up when you select certain things, like shapes and tables, to give you control over their options.
It does take a few minutes to change all of these labels, but you’ll find the pattern is pretty easy to get used to. Might take you 15 minutes to add spaces to the end of each label. I think that’s the easier technique to use.
And don’t worry about making a mistake. If you do, you can nuke all your changes and reset the UI to the defaults again. That’s what the Reset button at the bottom is for. You can reset all, or just the selected tab.
And One Last Thing
Which leads us to the last tip here. It’s Extra Credit, so feel free to skip it.
If you’re a writer or instructor or someone who needs, occasionally, to make your UI look like it’s fresh out of the box, you can use the Import/Export UI changes command. It’s just beneath the Reset button.
This lets you save a file with all the customizations you’ve made as a file that you can reload later, even share between machines. So if you need to undo your changes and go back to the just out of the shrink-wrap smell, save your customizations, then Reset everything.
Later when you want to stop grandpa from screaming, just Import the saved settings again and you’re back to a calm, mature looking UI.
Let me know how this works for you.
This somewhat silly article is dedicated to my dear departed father, a grandfather and computer user himself, who eventually learned to just use all lower-case in writing his e-mail.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the first few versions of the Apple computer did not have the ability to display lower-case letters? The keyboards had a shift key, but it was used almost exclusively for shifting number keys to access punctuation characters. The Atari and Commodore Computers were among the first personal computers to introduce lower-case letters as a standard personal computer feature!
I’m a big fan of books. Not just the stories, but the book construction as well. From bindings, paper choice, typeset, typography, layout, it’s all interesting to me.
Mark Z. Danielewski is most famous for House of Leaves, an inventive experimental work of layered stories and typographic morphing of most everything we think of as the printed page.
In this video I do a short review of House of Leaves for those who are not familiar with the work (and to allow those familiar with it to berate and chastise me for “getting it wrong” I suspect) and then do an unboxing of his latest work The Fifty Year Sword, which comes in a unique box and exhibits some of the same traits found in House of Leaves.
I hope you enjoy, and I hope those trying to make a purchase decision on this book are aided in their decision making.
Warning, I’m pretty opinionated when it comes to a garish design that I have to look at for hours at a time. I find it personally offending and I’m not going to mince words here.
Luckily there’s a quick fix for PowerPoint 2013, and I’m happy to share it with you before you suffer permanent vision loss…
This has to be quick. Sorry for any typos or errors, but I’m packing, medicating, and generally running about today and this could not wait.
I got a very nice letter from Bob Gaskins yesterday. If you don’t recognize the name, here’s a clue: He’s the guy who “invented PowerPoint”. Quotes are there because 1) there were a couple of other guys involved in the birthing process and 2) I think the product gets reinvented with every new release. However it was Bob who built the vision for the product and made it happen.
Bob’s written a new book, called Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint. He wrote it specifically to celebrate the 25th anniversary of PowerPoint. And I’m reading it right now (along with preparing for two separate conventions and five panels I’m on this weekend, I did mention running about crazily, right?). So I’ll do more of a review later, but wanted to get this out to you, dear reader, because you’re special to me.
I’m really excited about this. Bob left just before I joined the team, and notes that fact on page 14, saying
Ric Bretschneider (Wizard #77) joined just after I left, stayed with the group for 17
years (twice as long as I stayed)…
What else does it say? What’s all that Wizard 77 stuff? Well, you’ve got a chance to find out for yourself because it’s available on Amazon right now, right here: Sweating Bullets: Notes about Inventing PowerPoint
I can’t wait to see how it ends…
Ok, I’ll apologize for that title first. Sounded better in my head.
Wanted to get this out fast because according to a quick poll of friends a lot of people may have missed the news.
Hope you already had a Skydrive, because if you did you just got upgraded to 25 gigabytes of storage!
All you have to do is log in to Hotmail/MSN/live and click the link to Skydrive. If you’ve ever stored a file up there you should get an option to upgrade your account to 25 Gigabytes of storage for free!
Among cloud services that’s gotta be the best deal available. There are iPad, iPhone, and Win7 phone apps available and you can always access your files via login with browser. Also PC and Mac desktop apps.
It’s noted this is for a limited time, so head right over! And, reader from the dark and mysterious future where this is already past, wipe your tears as the new base storage is an industry leading 7 gigabytes anyway!
Way to make the Google Drive announcement sound limp Microsoft!
Microsoft SkyDrive – Skydrive.live.com
There are some things that are such a pleasure to do, to pass along, to endorse… it kind of feels like cheating, like “duh” this doesn’t even have to be said.
Yeah, this is one of those.
I love the Duarte group. Their talent, their staff, their ethic, their genuine passion, all so refreshing and inspiring. And when they produce something you, Joe and Jane Everyone, can hold in your hand for a couple of bucks, well that’s really cool.
And I’m going to stop right there. No further loving hyperbole. No more glowing endorsement. Just one instruction that will cost you absolutely nothing.
If you have an iPad, click here to get to the iTunes page. There it’s easy to download the free sample of a section of Resonate. Watch that. Read it. You’ll be captivated from the first match strike, from the inspired visualization of how an idea travels between people, the power of a speaker and audience connecting, and then you’ll start to learn to do it yourself.
Yeah, that was really easy.
I signed up for Intuit’s new GoPayment card system yesterday. Thought I’d share a few thoughts.
GoPayment is a way for regular folks to take credit card payments from other regular folks using your cell phone or tablet. It’s advertised pretty much like the Square system, the first credit card device and service for regular folks. The major benefit is that it’s cheap, no monthly payment, and it has a cute device that plugs into the phono jack on you device that you use to swipe the card. Both GoPayment and Square charge a very low percentage per transaction (Are you listening PayPal?) lower than commercial rates, and no monthly fee. GoPayment is so much like Square… well I haven’t seen any written description of it that hasn’t included a reference to Square. I’ve liked the Square system, but was curious about Intuit’s entry. Given it was free, I figured what the heck, give it a try.
Haven’t got the reader yet, but already it’s coming across as a whole lot more in my face than Square.
I got a big follow-up annotated bill in e-mail this morning with a lot of line items and $0 due notations. Like that’s supposed to make me feel good? My first reaction was “WTF? A bill?” OK, maybe that’s just the three cups of morning coffee talking.
What really bugged me was GoPayment had this “hidden” credit card they issue you as a way to get your money. That wasn’t at all obvious until I got the confirmation that I’d ge getting the card in the mail. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need or want another credit card. Not for SkyMiles, not for Dinner Credits, not for an additional 5% off on my purchases. It’s already hard enough to track my intentional spending, and if I was the victim of identity theft I want to make as few calls as possible if it becomes necessary to shut things down. So I try not to have a lot of credit cards, especially specialty cards.
Of course, after a call to their customer service, it turns out I don’t have to use or keep the card. I kept saying things like “So when I get the card in the mail, I can destroy it immediately and not have that affect my GoPayment account?” The guy was a bit unnerved about that, suggesting I activate the card first, then call in to terminate it. Um. Yeah. That makes sense.
You can still get the money transferred to one of your accounts, just like Square does, but they default to using the rechargeable credit card. But how many people are really going to rebel like me? So many just accept that “well this is the package, guess I’ve got a new card to monitor.” And we all know that terms on cards can change when the bank thinks it’s not getting enough profit on your business. Right? It’s just another thing to monitor, reading all the bland, poisonous notes in the monthly statements. And I hate that.
If I was going to devil’s advocate their design decision here I’d guess they found that most people were unable to complete their process if it required the banking codes necessary to do the direct deposit dance. Issuing a credit card was much easier, just requiring an address, social security number, and a couple of additional personal data chunks. Probably, but that’s a big part of what’s wrong with the credit industry in general. I’m not going to dig in on that speculation, it’s not the real devil that I think is in play here.
I’ll probably give it a whirl when it arrives, but I expect I’ll be dumping this. Square stays silent until I use it. So far it hasn’t tried to sign me up or send my info along to other companies. I’m not feeling the same warm fuzzy about Intuit.
Sunbeam Oster. It wasn’t even three years old. I know, I know, they don’t make things like they used to. But it’s just a toaster, it’s supposed to be pretty fundamentally simple. Remember the toaster in Red Dwarf? The joke was they had put all the crazy AI and voice tech in the toaster such that it drove the user crazy suggesting that “now was a great time for a piece of toast.” Well, this one just has a bunch of buttons for various preset bread types, and a dial for darkness. Nothing terribly cutting edge. (Wait a minute… bread type settings?)
Reading up on this brand I see comments about failures and people opening it up to find “scorch marks on the circuit board” and how they really didn’t think they had the components to fix the board themselves. Which lends to three questions:
1. There are people who consider trying to fix the circuit board in a $40 toaster?
2. How did we get along for decades with toasters before we had integrated circuits?
3. And why doesn’t this thing connect to our WiFi so it could have downloaded an update that might have prevented the scorching, or at least a security patch?
Feeling a little weird about disposing of the toaster too. I guess it goes on the pile of outdated or broken tech junk waiting for a tech recycling day at the local middle school. Given it has circuits it’s likely there are components that shouldn’t go into landfill. And it’s still so shiny and pretty, it feels wrong to dispose of it just yet. Maybe we can rip the guts out and make it into a planter. Isn’t that the solution for so many of these problems?