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Comment Re:Doorway amnesia, gorilla arm, and 2-page monito (Score 1) 913

How would these 720p-class displays (1280x720 WXGA and 1280x1024 SXGA) not admit two Word documents? Word existed in the 640x480 era, and at a nominal 96 dpi, 640 pixels cover 6.67 inches (169 mm), or the width of a US letter or A4 sized page minus standard 1" or 25 mm margins. Heck, back in the day, an XGA+ (1152x870) display was considered two-page.

You forget that applications have changed. Have you actually tried looking at two word documents side by side on a 1280 screen? It's the same with the web -- back when smaller displays were common, pages were designed for smaller pages, but as displays have grown, so has the standard width of a page, which then interferes with the ability of the larger displays to accommodate two pages side-by-side.

Comment Re:Task != application (Score 1) 913

What I think both gnome-shell and the metro interface attempt to do is put the task you're involved in at the center of the experience.

But their attempts aren't successful in a lot of cases because a task may use more than one application, and keeping both applications visible provides context to the user. One example is reading a web page and taking notes. This task uses two applications: a web browser and a text editor. Another example is web development: a text editor in one or more window to edit HTML markup, style, script, or a PHP program, and a web browser in another window to view the output. The task involves refreshing the page, inspecting the output, and tweaking the code to make the output more closely resemble the expected output. This task likewise uses more than one application.

Yes -- you're right of course. If an application can't contain your task, then the metro-app=task equation fails. This is where gnome-shell, with its multiple desktops, succeeds. The shell focuses you by stripping away the distraction of panels, etc. but also allows you to set up tasks however you want by using multiple desktops and making it easy to snap windows into place for multi-window use. The way gnome-shell allows the dynamic creation and destruction of desktops also encourages you to think of each desktop as a separate task.

It wouldn't be hard for Windows to follow a similar model, but it seems like they don't really conceive of their desktop as a part of their metro interface at all -- it's just an ugly 2nd cousin of the new interface.

But I imagine we exaggerate the importance of looking at multiple windows at once.

I'd say any task in which you traditionally would have overlapping windows rather than side-by-side windows would be a case where switching between full screen views wouldn't be so bad. The utility of the overlapping windows is to give you an easy way to remember what else you were doing and how to get back to it -- the metaphorical visual "stack" of windows mirroring the "stack" of stuff you're doing -- and both Windows 8 and gnome-shell have fast ways to switch between tasks you were recently doing (getting to your "last" task is especially fast w/ touch on Windows 8).

Finally, I'd add that on most laptops, side-by-side screens aren't really that great: a typical laptop at 1280 or 1360 pixels wide doesn't really allow two standard webpages or word documents to be displayed next to each other, so unless your work involves a terminal or a text editor, it's unlikely the side-by-side windows are all that handy.

Of course, all of this will be different if we can get really big displays -- those will call for whole new UIs, and in those cases, we'll be able to keep lots of windows spread out much more easily -- but for now 1920x1080 is the biggest most of us will be using and even at that resolution, two full applications is the most you'd ever really use side-by-side, and that is the one use case already built into the "metro" interface on windows 8 (albeit with flaws, mentioned earlier, but flaws that presumably could be improved in the next upgrade, much as Vista was fixed with 7).

Comment Re:Wide screens are for side-by-side windows (Score 1) 913

.... What about if I need a third window open? Or a fourth? Say I need to browse documentation, or crunch numbers on a calculator, or to keep my Pidgin windows open? And I honestly hate having to switch windows, mind you.

To be fair, the windows folks have left the traditional interface there, so you can have windows spread out in the traditional desktop if you want. But I think folks are right that this is ultimately destined to be a "second-class" interface. What gnome-shell did, where they totally killed the traditional gnome, was more intellectually honest.

One or two running applications may be sufficient for some number of users (and I use the same interface myself at times), but why would you take away a paradigm that does so much more and doesn't cause any harm on top?

Well, the traditional interface *does* cause harm. The main complaint I (and many others) had about traditional Windows was that it was constantly interrupting you. Something would flash on the panel, or a window would pop-up with a complaint (from a website, from an OS update, from an IM, what have you). The whole thing seemed designed to constantly remove you from control.

What I think both gnome-shell and the metro interface attempt to do is put the task you're involved in at the center of the experience.

I won't make any claim that it's a step up or that it will succeed in the corporate world. But you have to recognize that there are trade-offs, and that you do gain something by moving away from the traditional DE to the new "Metro" one.

Comment Re:Wide screens are for side-by-side windows (Score 1) 913

Windows 8 still supports the snappy window mode in the old-style desktop, and it has a way to look at two "apps" side-by-side in the new-world desktop (metro or whatever).

The only obvious problem I've seen is that if you like your browser in the new-world mode, they don't seem set up to let you have *two* browser instances side-by-side, which is obnoxious. You could just go use your browser in the old-world desktop mode, but then you lose all the elegance of the full-screen task-bar-less experience.

As to real coding work -- just use emacs fullscreen and divide your window as many times as you like, all from the keyboard. Why would you bother dragging windows around when you've got buffers!

Comment Windows 8 does have some elegance w/ touch (Score 1, Interesting) 913

So my wife just got a Windows 8 touch machine from Asus, and I have to say that two weeks in, it is very nice.

The problem was in the first week. The first night of using the machine it seemed incredible how many usability problems there were. There's no real "how to use this machine" intro when we booted up and the key things you need to do are not intuitive enough that you can just "learn" them right away. Now you might think that's an immediate strike against the UI, but the principle of discoverability is routinely violated by Apple, and there UI's are universally loved (there are tons of secret tricks on Macs that you have to read about to learn and the most radical thing about the iPod was that it had no on button, meaning it wasn't even clear how to start it when you first saw one). Anyway, the lack of an intro was compounded with some software problems -- specifically, there was a bug with the app store so we couldn't download anything at first and had to drop into a windows troubleshooter to clear it up (thanks Google!).

Now that we've got the app store thing ironed out and we've learned the swipey commands, the machine feels really graceful and fast to use. At least as simple to use as my Gnome shell, which I dearly dearly love. It actually has many of the same goals -- apps are always full screen, which is usually what you want, typing to search works nearly *everywhere*, etc. And the touch screen is fun. And if there are apps that haven't been app-ified, you have the old school Windows desktop mode to fall back on.

In short, Windows 8 manages to merge many of the conveniences of iOS devices with many of the conveniences with a full operating system. It's quick and easy to use once you know what you're doing. Slick packaging and attention to detail seem essential, however, and this is where Windows is at a disadvantage compared to Apple, since they don't in fact control the whole user experience. Do we blame Asus or Microsoft for the fact that our machine shipped with a buggy OS and a broken App store? Is Asus or Apple to blame for the fact that the one "intro" video Asus included was just advertising for the machine that showed us how beautiful it could look, and not anything that showed how to use the touch screen interface? It's not entirely clear to me.

Comment We are already connected...and it's not all good (Score 3, Interesting) 568

At least where I teach, we *are* connected. The school has a website that links to all courses, the grades are all in an online gradebook that families have access to, and on and on.

As with many systems, things aren't as well integrated as they could be. The ecosystem of ways to share is so rich that what we end up having is a cobbled together system where people use what's most comfortable to them -- some use online calendaring for assignments, others use a static web page, others a blog, others email distribution lists, others just use the online gradebook to post things, etc. It's tricky as the tech director to decide when to regulate and enforce a common solution for consistency and when to let the diversity flourish to allow for innovation. In our case, we've standardized on the online gradebook and some form of course website, but that's not to say the other forms don't flourish as well (sometimes well integrated into the required forms, others not).

There are, however, some real downsides.

The biggest downside is putting everything in electronic form gives parents a weird level of insight into our grading process. By allowing them to peek into everything we do, we no longer choose how and when to communicate with parents, and the result ends up being some weird expectations (parents who right in with anger and concern when there kids have a low average early in the semester when we've only graded 2 assignments, etc. etc.). I also find that by having moved everything online and made things much more public, we are ennabling a lot of parents to continue coddling their kids and lowering expectations for them. Certainly it seems like parents expect us to put everything online.

Note: I don't speak for all schools, but I can say that here in the Boston regional area, what I'm describing is not at all exceptional. I work at a charter, but the same kinds of expectations are there at the major public districts that surround our suburban town.


Submission + - Google posting New Hampshire Primary results befor (

tomboy17 writes: "I was googling "Santorum" this morning for now obvious reasons and I noticed that google showed New Hampshire primary results reported for "January 10, 2012" with "100 percent of precincts reporting" with the source listed as the AP. I can only imagine this is some kind of enormous screw-up on their end, as the polls aren't even open yet. Googling any of the candidates names or "New Hampshire Primary" gets you the chart. The google results have Gingrich in first, Bachman back in the race, and Romney finishing in 6th with just 7.5% of the vote."

Simpler "Hello World" Demonstrated In C 582

An anonymous reader writes "Wondering where all that bloat comes from, causing even the classic 'Hello world' to weigh in at 11 KB? An MIT programmer decided to make a Linux C program so simple, she could explain every byte of the assembly. She found that gcc was including libc even when you don't ask for it. The blog shows how to compile a much simpler 'Hello world,' using no libraries at all. This takes me back to the days of programming bare-metal on DOS!"

Comment Doodling is a more effective than email... (Score 1) 569

I find that pen is the better choice not because of any particular property of the course material or my transcription thereof, but because of the question of attention.

Over my years in school, I've finely honed the art of doodling -- it keeps me just distracted enough I don't start daydreaming without sucking up my attention so I get lost. It allows me to tune in and out as needed.

There's really no netbook equivalent of doodling, and since, in the vast majority of classes, there will come a time when I'm bored, I'm likely to start doing something like checking my email, reading a blog, or, worse, doing some other work, which is far more distracting than doodling. When I've brought laptops to meetings (haven't done it in classes yet), I've found I often miss important information, which is pretty embarrassing.

Until I figure out how to doodle on a computer, I'll keep it out of the classroom.

Comment Re:Whose problem? This is just a power play. (Score 2, Interesting) 703

Am I the only one who wishes the government in the U.S. would implement something like this?

Don't get me wrong, I speed all the time under the current system, just like everyone else. But the two times in my life I've been pulled over I felt it was unfair -- why? because I knew lots of people (just like me) had gotten away with far worse hundreds of times. If the rates really are unreasonable, there will be a demand to change them once they're universally enforced.

The traffic laws as they now exist are simply an excuse for police to pull over whoever they want to and harass them. Traffic laws are the most common contact citizens in the U.S. anyway have with the law, and the blatant unfairness in traffic laws leads to a general cynicism about the application of laws as a whole.

I for one welcome the day when all our cars have sensors on them and speed limits get automatically enforced. But, far more important, I would love it if sensors on the road could detect tailgating and send tickets for that. That would make me very happy.

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