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Comment wmii (Score 1) 357

Since I don't mind fiddling with things to get my environment working the way I like, I have had great success with wmii, a tiling window manager which uses a very accessible runtime interface to allow for all sorts of scripting in a variety of languages. The normal usage of this sort of window manager is to use key commands to launch your apps. When windows get created they are automatically arranged either using scripted setups (like to arrange all of the sub-windows in GIMP) or to a default space where you can move them around, once again, using your keyboard. Development versions of wmii have a built-in dock which integrates into the information bar.

Comment Why did this story get promoted for all to see? (Score 2) 1003

Do people honestly have doubt that distracted driving such as operating cell phones is not a risk to traffic safety? Seriously? Sure, every accident has a multitude of factors involved and how they count the number of accidents where something is 'a factor' is shameful (if you get in an accident and a bottle of wine in your trunk breaks, suddenly your accident was 'alcohol related'), but come on people, having a conversation with someone not in the vehicle is not something a significant proportion of the population should be attempting to do. Trying to type and read off of a screen is a liability to yourself and others in your vicinity. I know we are all above average drivers, but they aren't and we sure as hell don't trust them.

Submission + - Adobe Discontinues Development of Flash Player on (

PNutts writes: ZDNet is reporting that Adobe has announced to its partners that the company has discontinued development on Flash Player for mobile browsers. The news comes roughly a year and a half after the publication of Steve Jobs' "Thoughts on Flash" open letter, laying out his thoughts on the use of Flash in mobile devices and explaining why Apple would not support Flash on their mobile devices.

Comment Re:It's change for the sake of change (Score 1) 1040

The problem that I have with all the new GUIs that are coming out it seems like it's all just change for the sake of change.

For this to be correct would suggest that what we already had was just fine and having to help people interact with previous-gen UIs on a regular basis tells me that it very seriously isn't. Windows XP, OSX, and Gnome 2 (not to exclude others I have less experience supporting) all have a slew of bizarre behaviors and ungrokable configuration layouts. If you want a very solid example of why these systems all fail your average user, take file management and the number of icons which exist on most peoples desktops. There is seemingly no end of problems for HCI designers to tackle.

Another issue which has changed a lot is a fundamental change in input method which has finally become prominent for many users: touch-screens. One of the great challenges of a touch screen is that even though people complained about Macs only having a single mouse button, touch-screens have to fake mouse buttons using tricks of touch duration and force, which are very poor. This makes several paradigms in design more difficult, and in particular it is difficult to do the click-drag which is at the center of a great many activities performed previously. When you see the changes in UIs such as Unity, Gnome 3, and the various mobile GUIs you can see efforts in this area.

So, while I think I have a bit of a handle on some of the problems trying to be fixed, I do have gripes about how they are trying to fix them:

Sorted grids of icons are a terrible way of organizing data so that it can be found. Yes, I understand that you can fit more icons on the screen if you do a grid, but it means that I have to do far more mental acrobatics to find anything once I have more than a few icons, so the only real usage case (wanting to display many elements) is the worst when actually using it. I have found a very strong correlation between people who are effective computer users and those that change their file browser settings to a proper list view (proper meaning not what Windows calls 'list', but what Windows calls 'details').

Unsearchable, fixed categorization is just maddening. Helping people override Gnome 2's program menu is something I have done far too many times to be reasonable. If I am someone's Windows computer and go into Control Panel and the user hasn't switched to 'classic view' tells me that the person using the computer doesn't come in here much. Recently I wanted to disable the Windows 7 edge of screen window docking feature and found it in the 'Ease of Access' control panel under 'Make My Mouse Easier to Use' and to top it off, to disable a feature I had to add a check to a box, which is totally out of paradigm. Making a series of choices among fewer options may seem like a good idea to reduce confusion, but it all falls apart if users can't relate to the organizational structure you have invented and if a user wants to invent his or her own structure it should be easy to do.

Automatically generated lists of 'recent' or 'frequently used' resources (like applications and documents) are unreliable and highly problematic. I frequently hear the cries of users who become accustomed to accessing a resource via these lists and then freak out when they don't know any other way of finding that resource if it disappears from the list for some reason. If people aren't accessing resources from a reliable source which only changes when they intend it to, then this will be a problem.

The OSX dock is a terrible idea and it is creeping into other UIs where it is even worse. The idea is definitely engaging in that a user who wants to open a frequently used application should just click the launcher for that application whether it is open or not, so just 'pin' a reference to the application manager. The problem comes when we want to then separate the act of initiating a new instance of an application or selecting a currently running instance. Now we have to have hovering sub-windows or alternate clicks.

I could go on, but I hope you see that there is a lot to complain about classic UI design which really should be addressed, so it isn't simply for the sake of change that these people are proposing changes even if I think that the changes they are proposing are ill-informed and sometimes are trying to solve problems which they have invented without a personally explainable cause.

Comment Why all of the panic about caps? (Score 2, Insightful) 530

Bandwidth capping is NOT the problem. There is a marginal cost curve associated with increased bandwidth use and it is only appropriate that this cost be reflected in the price we pay for our services. Without usage based fees, those who underutilize the service are subsidizing those who overutilize it (which I guess the latter would be highly overrepresented here at /.). The problem is lack of competition and effective regulation perpetuated by political overrepresentation of service providers. Please be willing to give up your internet subsidy and get in touch with your elected officials, friends, and family to let them know that their ISPs are screwed up and we could have faster, cheaper internet if we take back the reins.

Comment Why more grids?!? (Score 1) 317

I don't understand why there is such a push to use grids to display sorted lists. Unity, Gnome 3, Android, Windows Explorer, iOS, MacOSX, etc. (even posix CLI commands such as ls): all of them have default settings to take a list of elements and then break the list up into meaningless rows and display a grid. I find it far too easy to miss important elements in these grids and I observe this behavior in others. Why are grids so damn popular?

Note that in this instance I am not complaining about grids where the user can create an arbitrary organization (such as a desktop not set to auto-arrange), but when the computer is taking a list of items and organizing it for you in a grid.

Comment Bitcoin is a Fad for Libertarians who are Ignorant (Score 5, Insightful) 858

This is not to say that all Libertarians are ignorant, but that Bitcoin appeals to Libertarian ideals and requires ignorance of how money works to be sold. Bitcoin has no in-built velocity. Taxing authorities won't accept them and having a fixed amount of them means that they don't have a debt-based life-cycle as does the money most of us claim ownership to. Also, even if Bitcoin were to take off, as demand for it increased, it would create its own valuation bubble where it becomes more valuable to hold the money than it does to invest it. Nobody would be able to borrow in Bitcoins at a reasonable rate of interest, real demand drops, then speculators are left holding a bunch of worthless digital currency. If you think that Bitcoin is a good idea, you are likely in need of an education in economics and accounting and need to lay off of the conspiracy theories.

Comment A step in the right direction! (Score 1) 863

It's a problem that you don't have to carry around pockets full of change and pay a sizable portion of it just in the servicing of thousands of machines all over town? Too bad all of the profits and savings are now going to a private profit making entity instead of your tax coffers.

I hope that the inconvenience finally gets people to start parking outside of the city center and cities will invest more heavily in public transit. Maybe we can turn to digging up some of these streets and putting in useable space for people instead.

Comment How is this not part of the argument? (Score 1) 159

Although I am in strong support of net neutrality, the debate around it is not completely without merit. Having worked for a small local ISP I know first hand the difficulties of managing available bandwidth in an age of ever escalating average use load. Your ISP made promises of a certain amount of bandwidth at a certain price based on how much they expected the average user to use during peak times. There are costs associated with changes in these usage patterns and the issue of net neutrality is how to reduce load, increase revenue, or accept lower earnings. Net neutrality legislation would not allow ISPs to a: shift costs onto content providers who are changing average usage rates or b: target internet traffic only used by a small portion of very high usage customers to be deprioritized. At this point there aren't many options aside from increasing the cost of bandwidth, taking less revenue, charging for data transmitted instead of just bandwith, or (my preference) charging for quality of service based on amount of data transmitted. If we get net neutrality, our ISPs are going to have increased pressure to change their business strategies and may move to strategies like the one here, so in this sense, it is intimately linked to the discussion.

Comment Re:Missing option: (Score 1) 913

This all depends on your view of taxation. When corporate taxes go up, employee benefits will likely be impacted or the price of goods will go up. Even if you don't pay any bills called a 'tax', taxes are built into the price we pay for all goods and services already as well as the compensation our employers choose to offer us.

Another hidden tax we all pay is the taxation which comes when people make a lot more money than we do. When money has differential value to market consumers, inefficiency grows. The price of goods and services will reflect that there are people for who will pay more, not because that person values the good or service more, but because that person values the unit of exchange (money) less. For any fixed price good or service, those who value their money more (the poor) are paying a tax in value.

What would be the effect of creating additional tax bills for the poor and working classes? The question comes down to the ability of these classes to pass the burden of the taxation onto their employers. The less capable these folks were at passing the cost of taxation onto their employers, the greater their reduction in quality of life would be, and given the small margins these economic classes have, that would mean a lot of folks who would be unable to pay for electricity, rent, or food. If they were able to transfer the cost onto employers, then those employers who rely on cheap labor would have to compensate by either shrinking, or passing costs on to their customers.

The upshot is a general understanding about taxation. When you tax a group either it will be able to pass the costs on to others and eventually the tax is aggregated on everyone, or that person's quality of life must decrease. In either case, the rich have the greater advantage as they are more capable of passing on the cost to society and reductions in their quality of life are less likely to reduce their ability to provide for their basic needs. Combined with other issues such as differential value means that it is best to tax people progressively based on their income.

That said, the way that most countries tax is obcene. This is made worse by the ability for some entities to shop around for the most adventageous tax locale. Too many tax authorities create taxes simply for their income generation abilities instead of understanding their economic impacts and undesired consequences.

Comment Re:Citation, please (Score 1) 561

You could also use a citation because the corrolation of monetary supply to booms and busts is not necessarily causal.

Also, just to look at the obvious a bit, financial institutions such as Leahman Brothers and AIG show how an ineffectively regulated market can foster systemic risk and the government has a central role to play in exposing systemic risk so that it can be incorporated into decisions. Austrian school economics overly emphasizes the ability of the market to self-correct appropriately. While I won't disagree that the federal interest rate policy created pressure on financial institutions to find ways to obscure risk in order to provide financial products for those fleeing treasury bonds, I don't think it is reasonable to say that this policy is to blame for the failure of these institutions to responsibly manage their clients money.

Comment Don't Blame the Equation (Score 4, Insightful) 561

This seems to be a popular story for the past few weeks, but it is a mistake to blame the statistical method used. The problem wasn't that they were all using the equaton, it is that they were all mis-using the equation. All statistical tools can fail to be sensitive to certain aspects which may be critical to an application.

People in finance applied these statistical tools believing that they would be able to master risk with them. Unfortunately, they made assumptions that certain things would continue to be the same in the future, plugged the information into the equation, and now science was telling them that everything would be alright. If everybody on Wall Street was making decisions based on the Magic 8 Ball would we blame the ball or the foolishness of those misapplying it?

The Internet

Submission + - Cross-browser Web application testing made easy

An anonymous reader writes: Ideally, every Web application should be tested to ensure that it will work perfectly on every browser that might access it. But with the fragmentation of the browser market and the increasing importance of the very fluid world of mobile platforms, that's a practical impossibility. Still, you can come closer than you might think. This article shows you a wide array of tools for cross-platform Web testing.

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