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How Do You Get Users To Read Error Messages? 951

A BOFH writes "The longer I do desktop support, the more it becomes obvious that my users don't read anything that appears on their screen. Instead, they memorize a series of buttons to press to get whatever result they want and if anything unexpected happens, they're completely lost. Error logs help a lot, but they have their limits. I've been toying with a few ideas, but I don't know if any of them will work and I was hoping my fellow Slashdotters could point me in the right direction. For example, I was thinking about creating icons or logos to identify specific errors. They might not remember that an error is about 'uninitialized data' but they might be more able to remember that they got the 'puppy error' if I showed a puppy picture next to the error message. Or for times when finding images is too time consuming, you could create simple logos from letters, numbers, symbols, colors, or shapes, so you could have the 'red 5' error or 'blue square' error (or any combination of those elements). I've even wondered if it would be possible to expand that to cover the other senses, for example, playing a unique sound with the error. Unfortunately, haptic and olfactory feedback aren't readily available. I like to think that my users would remember the error that caused them to get a swift kick in the balls. And if they forgot it anyhow, I could always help them reproduce it. Does anyone else have experience with ideas like these? Did it work?"

Vista Sales Strong, Higher Than Expected 394

An anonymous reader writes "Despite reports, it seems Microsoft is not only alive, but has been thriving these last few months. Following Apple's solid earnings yesterday comes above-expectation reporting from Microsoft. Profits jumped 65% from the previous year, and sales of its Windows operating system were strong: 'Microsoft said it deferred $1.2 billion in Windows Vista revenue to the third quarter, to account for upgrade coupons given to PC buyers during the holiday season before the consumer launch of the new operating system. Excluding this figure, client revenue totaled $4.1 billion, 30 percent higher than last year.' Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell said Vista beat internal forecasts by $300 million to $400 million, and Office 2007 sales were $200 million better than expected."

Hardware Implants Mimic Brain Cells 230

An anonymous reader writes "PopSci is reporting that Ted Berger, a USC scientist, has been working to engineer a brain implant the mimics the functions of neurons. Early tests on rat brain cells have shown promise, and if successful, Berger's implant could remedy everything from Alzheimer's to absent-mindedness — and reduce memory loss to nothing more than a computer glitch"

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Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.