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Comment Re:The debate is moot. (Score 1) 484

...what about older users? Should we just dismiss their needs?

If their "needs" are to have every app look and behave exactly like some obsolete physical object, then frankly yes. Old people are not incapable of learning or adapting, and they've already had to do just that for many years now.

Are interfaces really encumbered because they feature a wood-textured background?

Bit of a strawman, there. When Apple revamped the Address Book app for Lion, they made it into a "book". Gee, sure looks nice! But suddenly you couldn't use the old three-pane view (which showed more information and was just better at navigating many contacts) because it didn't fit into the "book" metaphor. Not only that, but being a "book" implies lots of things that you couldn't actually do with Address Book. As John Siracusa wrote in his Lion review:

Address Book goes so far in the direction of imitating a physical analog that it starts to impair the identification of standard controls. The window widgets, for example, are so integrated into the design that they're easy to overlook. And as in iCal, the amazing detail of the appearance implies functionality that doesn't exist. Pages can't be turned by dragging, and even if they could, the number of pages on either side of the spine never changes. The window can't be closed like a book, either. That red bookmark can't be pulled up or down or removed. (Clicking it actually turns the page backwards to reveal the list of groups. Did you guess that?) The three-pane view (groups > people > detail) is gone, presumably because a book can't show three pages at once. Within each paper "page" sits, essentially, an excerpt from the user interface of the previous version of Address Book. It's a mixed metaphor that sends mixed signals.

The three-pane view is kinda back in Mountain Lion, but you still can't adjust the relative sizes of the panes (presumably because the two sides of a real book are always the same size). This restriction makes no sense for a digital contact app and makes the app less useful, but it's dictated by the designer's slavish devotion to the book metaphor. A minor thing perhaps, but as a designer, you should know that these little things can quickly add up to make a product utterly (and needlessly) frustrating to use.

Comment Re:Extrapolation (Score 3, Insightful) 926

Exactly right. Any idiot can make a model that fits past data, but these models all mysteriously disappear when their predictive power is put to the test (only to be replaced by newer, "better" models that simply reflect more recent events).

The fact that these guys released their model before it had a chance to predict anything doesn't inspire confidence.

Comment Numbers & market incentives (Score 5, Interesting) 134

We all can see that the Internet is getting slower.

Can we? I'd suggest that most people are unaware of any such trend, perhaps because it has happened too gradually and too unevenly. Indeed:

A full solution has to include raising awareness so that the relevant vendors are both empowered and given incentive to market devices with buffer management.

Exactly. Consumers don't know or care about low latency, so the market doesn't deliver it (that plus lack of competition among ISPs in general, but that's another kettle of fish).

We need a simple, clear way for ISPs to measure latency. It needs to boil down to a single number that ISPs can report alongside bandwidth and that non-techies can easily understand. It doesn't need to be completely accurate, and can't be: ISPs will exaggerate just like they do with bandwidth, just like auto manufacturers do with fuel efficiency, etc. What matters is that ISPs can't outright make up numbers, so that a so-called "40 ms" connection will reliably have lower average latency than a "50 ms" connection. That should be enough for the market to start putting competitive pressure on ISPs.

What kind of measure could be used for this purpose? Perhaps some kind of standardized latency test suite, like what the Acid tests were to web standards compliance? Certainly there would be significant additional difficulties, but could it be done?

Comment Re:Why is this needed? (Score 1) 199

When asked what happens when there is no viable competition - say for a drug that can save lives but which is administered in private clinics so as to keep competing pharmaceuticals from gaining direct access to the drug - his reply was that he would then just grab a gun, go to that clinic, and get some of that drug himself and woe the person who would get in his way.

In the general case, that's extremely unlikely to happen barring threat of violence (by the racists or by the government). It takes only one entrepreneur, looking to scoop up easy profits ignored by the racists, to crack a market wide open. At that point the racists face the choice of being out-competed, or dropping their prejudices and adapting to reality.

In the case of a trade secret that a single company holds, there are several responses. One is that the rest of the market is likely to reverse-engineer or otherwise duplicate the secret quickly, given all the potential profits at stake. Another is that such a cure is more likely to be discovered by a non-racist than by a racist, because the market punishes irrational discrimination as described above (meaning there should be few successful, racist drug companies). Yet another is that if such a racist company discovered a miracle cure today and was prevented by law from selling it only to certain races, mightn't it just destroy the formula instead (since we're assuming it's willing to ignore potential profits)?

It's a bit like the what-if objection to private property: "What if some rich guy buys up all the land in the world, becoming its de-facto ruler?" Yes, that's "possible" in the sense that the definition of private property doesn't preclude it; but it has never come close to happening and is so unlikely to ever happen (for various reasons, including that the price of the last few parcels of land would be near-infinite) that it doesn't constitute a realistic objection.

Comment Re:"Dimwits" unlikely to win support (Score 1) 410

I don't think the media industry execs are ESR's intended audience; it is likely impossible to convince them. As Upton Sinclair said, "it is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"

Unfortunately, this is the exact reason why the letter will also have no effect whatsoever upon its intended recipients.

Comment Where's the evidence? (Score 2) 72

Let's step back a moment and examine the bigger picture. Lots of people support patents because they believe patents encourage innovation, and indeed that's more-or-less the Constitution's stated purpose in granting Congress the power to issue them:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

But here's the question I have never, not even once, seen a patent advocate address: where is the evidence that patents actually promote innovation (i.e., that they cause a net increase in inventions, discoveries, etc.)? Indeed, there are some compelling arguments being made against patents and other forms of intellectual property, like Boldrin and Levine's Against Intellectual Monopoly, mentioned previously on Slashdot. Should we not demand that such a costly and disruptive regime as the patent system be supported by hard evidence that it actually does what it's intended to do?

Comment Re:Top & Bottom (Score 1, Insightful) 647

A modern iMac is painful to use. Your choice: place every app in the upper-left corner of the screen, or move the mouse over a thousand pixels each way.

Don't ignore Fitts' Law-- the menu bar at the top of the screen has an effectively infinite height, so even though you have to move your mouse farther, you can just slam it to the top of the screen and only have to aim horizontally. This is actually more important with higher-resolution screens, as the UI elements are smaller (at least until we finally get a resolution-independent UI, any decade now...).

Besides, the idea is to use keyboard shortcuts for menu items you use frequently. Much better than having to aim for a tiny rectangle on the screen, wherever it's located.

The OSX dock is unusable too. The fact that an app is running is indicated by a tiny dot under the icon.

For better or worse, Apple is trying to do away with making users know or care about whether an app is running, much like how things work on iOS. For example, there's a new API in Lion called Automatic Termination that allows apps to let the system automatically terminate them when the system needs to free up resources. See John Siracusa's Lion review for more details.

The fact that a second instance is running (rather difficult to do BTW) is indicated by a second icon located nowhere near the normal dock icon. You don't get a second dot. Seriously, WTF?

Oh, come on. How common do you think it is for users to want a second instance of an application, rather than just another window? I mean, I've only wanted to do it maybe once or twice in the five or so years I've had this Mac, and I'm very much a power user.

Comment Re:I Don't Agree with You or Jaffe (Score 1) 313

Your perspective is very hard for me to understand. I couldn't care less about the story, or the characters and their motivations. Take a modern game, cut out all the dialogue/cutscenes, remove all the pretty textures etc., and it would still be the same game as far as I'm concerned. If I wanted story or characters, I'd be reading a book.

It's like when I hear people praising the lyrics of a song-- it's incomprehensible to me, since I view the human voice in song as just another instrument. I don't really care about what the artist is trying to "communicate" to me; it's all about how the music strikes my ear. Otherwise I'd be reading poetry.

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