Ric Bretschneider

My thoughts in your brain…

Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Take the Blue Pill…

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Just a reminder that this blog (at https://ricbret.wordpress.com) is no longer active and new content is appearing at http://blog.ricbret.com.

Please adjust your links and subscriptions as necessary to keep in touch.

You can subscribe to the active blog by going to http://blog.ricbret.com and using the subscribe control at the top of the page on the right.

And there’s a new entry there today! Kind of fun, maybe leading into something scary. I’m excited and hope you’ll check it out.

Oh, here’s a direct link! http://blog.ricbret.com/books/take-the-red-pill/

redblue

 

Written by ricbret

July 26, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Leap Motion – First Impressions and Demo

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Leap_Motion

Postman bought my new Leap Motion controller this week.  Minutes after installing it (and figuring out I’d placed it on the desktop upside down!) it was up and working.  This video is my first few impressions of the orientation application and the OSX integration application.

Video is in high resolution so click the zoom button to view full screen.

So, will this be a permanent and well-used addition to my physical desktop?  Hard to say.  Right now it’s a real cool demo, and it’s got some potential, but the fine tuning will the real test here. Even games require an exacting “touch” that will hard to match. And the reality here is that if you really want to replace my mouse this new method to exceed my current input devices.

Leap_Motion 3

Does it do that?

No, not really.  But I hope it will soon.

Leap_Motion

How Screwed-Up is Apple Safari? I Think It Needs Therapy.

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Some people think that because I worked for Microsoft for so many years that I’m an Apple hater.  Well, that’s not actually true.  Fact is, I’ve had a Macintosh on my desks, at work and home, pretty much constantly since their release in 1984, two of my family members have iPhones, and we have iPads, iPods, and Apple TVs scattered throughout the house.  This is being written on a 27″ iMac, the one use for about 90% of my day.

OK, part of that 90% is in Parallels running various versions of Windows and Windows Office.

Unfortunately this post won’t help my argument that I’m an open supporter of both leading operating systems.  Partially because these days I’m finding Apple so caught up in their image, their products exclusively, that they’re impressing me as a bunch of pompous jerks. Doesn’t make me automatically hate the products, but I’m no cool-aid drinking fanboy.  Apple is doing plenty of crappy stuff to their customers, turning them more into consumers than unlocking their potential as creators is the big one.  However, I’m getting off the point.  Which is a case in point of how douchy and inept they can be.

Earlier this month I wanted to watch the Apple WWDC Opening that was streaming from Apple.Com.  However, if you weren’t using Safari as your browser, you were blocked. My default browser is Google Chrome. Yeah, if you weren’t going to wear their colors to the party, they shut you down at the door.

OK, I don’t like Safari myself. Apple claims it’s the #1 installed mobile browser, but they don’t tell you that you aren’t allowed to remove it from their mobile devices, and you can’t set a different browser as preferred on their mobile devices.  How’s that for anti-trust?  (Remember the US Justice Department vs Microsoft for “bundling” Internet Explorer with Windows?)   I think Safari is way behind Chrome in so many ways, and Chrome’s cross-platform support is superb.  So I don’t use Safari.  I keep it around when I have to access some non-standard Apple site, like the one in question.

So I manually fired up Safari and started watching.

I may find time soon to comment on how sad the state of design has gotten at Apple, this Ives guy really isn’t impressing me as anything more than someone trying to create a new fashion, not as a real product designer, but I’m getting off track again.

So I watched the list of features borrowed from other OS’s that Apple was rolling out as Innovations.  And at some point I decided to see if there was a way to pop-out the video window, so it would take less room on my screen and I could continue to work on things that actually mattered.  No button on the video, so I started hunting…

This is what I saw when I right-clicked the Safari-embedded video.

safari

OldMacIE

The disabled PowerPC version of Internet Explorer, that apparently still works it’s mojo.

Yeah, it was like some amazing wormhole to an alternate reality had opened up on my screen.  There was Safari suggesting that if I want to open this streaming QuickTime, I should use the Ten Year Old, PowerPC-only, Macintosh version of Internet Explorer.

Wow.

Granted, the old app is still on my machine.  But even Finder recognizes it won’t run in the current OS.  If you double-click it, you get the message “You can’t open the application “Internet Explorer.app” because PowerPC applications are no longer supported.

I’ve kept the old app, and a couple of others, around because I’ve considered creating a virtual machine running the old PPC supporting OS X, just thinking I might write about some history there and it would be an easy way to pose the screen shots I’d need.

But this was strange, and kind of pathetic Safari.  I’d almost feel sorry for you.  If you weren’t such a douche.

Written by ricbret

June 23, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Calming Down the Grandpa in Office 2013

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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.

FILE  HOME  INSERT  DESIGN  TRANSITIONS  ANIMATIONS  SLIDE SHOW  REVIEW  VIEW

Hideous, right?

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.

Sigh

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.

right click taskbar and select Customize the Ribbon

Now, if you’re pretty perceptive you’ll notice something kinda weird.

customize ribbon ui

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.

lowercase tab labels

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.

alltabscontextual tabs display at the bottom of the list

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.

the import/export change file command

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.

-Ric

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!

Written by ricbret

January 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

The First Thing to Do to Your New PowerPoint 2013…

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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…

Written by ricbret

November 1, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Four Days to Better Presenting – Yes, You Can!

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Oh dear. Another drab blog entry about presenting.  Well, maybe not.

If you hear the title Presentation Summit, you might picture an international cabal, those folks from around the world whose job it is to keep presentations bland, sleep-inducing and dreaded.  The Illuminati of bullet points, of text too small to read, creators of impenetrable charts, and irrelevant clip art.  Lord, I can picture them too!

But no, that’s not it at all.  In fact, its almost exactly the opposite.

Scottsdale AZ, Presentation Summit 2012

For almost a decade Rick Altman has been bringing expert professional presenters together at events around the country to show attendees that there is no inevitability to Death by PowerPoint.  Originally titled “PowerPoint Live” this Presentation Summit is something I personally look forward to each year whether I’m presenting or not.

What you will learn

To be a great presenter you need a number of things.

  • Respect for your audience – to know them, to know their needs, and to know how to move them
  • A message – what you are delivering, where you want to move your audience
  • Skills – crafting your message, making it meet your needs and engaging your audience
  • …and a certain je ne sais quoi. That certain something in your presence that makes the audience want to follow you to the end

And I’m not exaggerating when I say that you can grow your presenting skill set in all four areas at the Presentation Summit.

How’s it work?

The conference is three tracks of presentations, over three days.  There’s a bonus fourth day you can sign up for even more intense training.  The three tracks are

Design It, where you learn how to better construct slides to more clearly communicate with compelling graphics and just the right amount of message per slide.

Build It, the track that concentrates on learning the tools, presentation, photographic, and graphic construction, that help you craft the right presentation to support your conversation with the audience.

Present It, the art of standing in front of a room full of strangers and helping them see the benefit of your message. One of the most difficult things to do well, and certainly one of the most valuable skills to build.

Over the course of the summit, there’s more than enough to keep you busy and build your ability to present.  But there are also larger group sessions, mixers and networking opportunities, vendor fairs, group excursions… it’s hard to imagine how it all gets crammed into a few days.

Who is there?

OK, I’m one of the people presenting, and I’ll talk more about me later.  But I’m only a small part of a big talented crew.  Professionals from all over the world, from England to Australia, from India to Silicon Valley, it’s a talented team.

But I want to spotlight a couple of folks who attend who are closer to being the Presentation Illuminati, and certainly a lot nicer.  The PowerPoint MVPs.

PowerPoint MVPs at the Presentation Summit, left to right: Geetesh Bajaj, John Wilson, Echo Swinford, Me, Julie Terberg, Sandy Johnson, Troy Chollar, and Glenna Shaw – A few of the Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs who will be in attendance.

If you don’t know what a Microsoft MVP is, you should read about it here.  In short, they’re experts in a Microsoft application, chosen by Microsoft to have direct contact with the development team to provide feedback and help other users of the program.  The PowerPoint MVPs are the best of the best.  No brag, just fact.  Google any of the names above if you need evidence of this.

Interested?

So if you’re interested in finding out more, Rick Altman the father of the feast says it best on the Presentation Summit web site.  There’s more information on session specifics, the presenters, and how to justify going to your boss.  No kidding, it’s like he’s doing all the work for you!

A little fun

OK, a little fun now.  You may have noticed that the Sessions page for the summit has little videos from most of the presenters.  Mine should be up there, but I was late getting them to Rick and he’s off on some island now resting up for the run-up to the October event.  So they’ll be up there eventually, but in the meantime I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at what I’m presenting at this year’s summit.

Enjoy

-Ric

Pecha Kucha Lessons for Business at Presentation Summit 2012

I’m presenting on how business presenters can learn from Pecha Kucha presentations at this year’s Presentation Summit. This video is a short introduction for that session, which will appear on the Presentation Summit schedule page. I’ve given it a little twist of humor, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Yes, some of the punchlines blink on a little too fast to see the first time. That’s intentional. I’m weird. Thanks for your concern.

Presenting on the iPad at Presentation Summit 2012

I’m presenting a how-to and how-not-to session on using the iPad as your primary presenting tool at this year’s Presentation Summit. This video is a short introduction for that session, which will appear on the Presentation Summit schedule page. I’ve given it a little twist of humor, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Hint: Pay attention to the background.

Written by ricbret

August 11, 2012 at 11:03 pm

PowerPoint History, 25 years ago…

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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)…

And of course there’s more, but you’ve got to read it for yourself or wait for my later review.  OK, one more thing, how’s this for a blast from the past…
It's kinda like looking at cave drawings....

It’s kinda like looking at cave drawings….

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…