Archive for September, 2006

Festivus Blasphemy!

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

I caught the Festivus episode of Seinfeld this evening. Damned hilarious episode.

In any given Seinfeld episode that has some random invented subject or product, there is always a random set of products launched around that. Festivus is no different.

The lamp caught my eye. Both because it is a fairly neat Lamp design in that it apparently bolts to both the ceiling and floor, thus providing a bit of stability well beyond a regular lamp.

At the same time, it is just so totally not a Festivus pole with all those lights and stuff. Blasphemy, I say! Such a pole should be a plain aluminum pole because of its very high strength-to-weight ratio.

Coincidentally, Festivus is celebrated on the same day as my anniversary; December 23rd.

Dell followup: Apparently, bbum is a journalist that doesn’t deserve a job

Friday, September 8th, 2006

Of course, any time a post critical of some company gains any attention on the Internet, it attracts ridiculous responses that attempt to apologize or justify the state of whatever is being criticized.

And the silliness ensues….

Two of my favorites (so far).

“Bob” posts:

Any of you jokers notice that little “search” box up top. If you know the freakin’ product name, type it in for cryin’ out loud… Of course, when you don’t have a lot of content, it’s easier to organize it. There are only seven different Apple Products — MB, MBP, iM, iP, XServe & RAID. But then again, being not a fanboy to the extreme, I shoud be confuse: should I choose Store, How to buy, Where to buy, Why to buy, Hardware, Pro, or Watch our Commercials. Wow, how extremely terrible! (doofi!)

So, Bob, you are claiming that a search box at the top of the page and the customer having to remember a non-obvious product name ornumber across two page transitions is a good (or even passable) user experience? That it is somehow acceptable in comparison to, say, whipping out some 1993 technology and actually providing a direct hyperlink?

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Dell Followup: Dell Responds!

Friday, September 8th, 2006

Update: Dell site design folk are actively reading the comments on the original post to evaluate how to better improve the user experience. Neat.

The whole “What the Dell?” design rant received quite a bit more attention than I expected (thanks to an initial link from Daring Fireball and snowballing from there).

Quite a few comments, too. Including comments from Dell employees that spawned a bunch of email communication with them. I have a new found respect for the company.

Aside: Yes, to be perfectly clear, I am an Apple employee. This weblog, however, is completely disconnected from my day job other than that many of my hobbies and my profession overlap. I am speaking entirely for myself here.

Initially, many of the respondents pretty much agreed with my opinion of Dell’s site design. Go read the original post if you want more context.

About 20 comments in, a comment from RichardAtDell shows up:

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Amazon’s Cardboard Conspiracy

Friday, September 8th, 2006

Has anyone checked to see if a cardboard box manufacturing magnate is on the Amazon board of directors? That is the only way I can explain their packaging policy.

Boing Boing posted a story of ridiculous packaging from Amazon; 9 towel sets in 18 boxes.

Very large box containing very small item....

I recently ordered a magnetic knife holder from Amazon. It kicks butt.

But the packaging, pictured at left, was just plain silly! The knife holder is basically a big chunk of stainless steel in a box. Yet, Amazon sent it in a box with about 20 of those little air cushions.

To package all this air, the box was easily 10x taller and 10x wider than the actual magnetic knife holders packaging! And the knife holder box wasn’t wrapped at all. It was simply floating free in the box.

What a total waste of cardboard (and little plastic balloons)!

What the Dell? Site design so bad, a little bit of my soul died writing this.

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

I was whipping through my NetNewsWire feeds and saw that Dell is selling some kind of all-in-one, entertainment oriented, luggable. Curiosity piqued, I clicked through.

OK — wow — that’s ugly. And I’m trying to figure out where they would stuff 8 speakers into that box, much more how they would do so and get anything resembling decent sound.

So. I wonder how it compares to a similarly configured 20″ iMac Core 2 Duo?

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Traffic Light Food Labeling

Monday, September 4th, 2006

The Food Standards Agency of the UK has developed a food labeling system that is modeled after traffic lights.

A low resolution example of this system is seen on the left. I ran across this on SlashFood (brilliant weblog, that) some time ago, but have started to see this in the news more often.

Now, this is brilliant. A quick glance gives one an exact advisory as to the relative content levels of the most important health related variables in the product.

Sure — it doesn’t replace the detailed information found on a typical label, but most consumers either don’t pay attention or are incapable of interpreting that information appropriately anyway.

Reading the google news search for traffic light food labels reveals an interesting and, unfortunately, not terribly surprising history.

The food giants were totally opposed to the idea. “Too simple to be useful”. “The consumer needs more information and in percentages.”. “We will developer our own system.”. Translation: “We will create a system that is so rife with mis-marketing opportunities such that we can claim foods that will kill you are actually good for you.”

Fortunately, it appears that the “obesity epidemic” is actually tarnishing company’s reputations to the point where actually using something like the signpost labeling is turning into a viable marketing opportunity.

Now, what are the chances something like this could be deployed in the United States? Unfortunately, current climate do not indicate there is much hope.

Into the CodeMines….

Sunday, September 3rd, 2006

Chris Hanson pointed me to Mark Bessey’s Weblog, Another Day in the Code Mines.

I worked with Mark on Xcode before he left Apple. Awesome dude.

His weblog is worthy reading. Both for the entertainment and for the technical screeds. In particular, every software engineer should read Now they have two problems… and Hell is a multi-threaded C++ program.

Good stuff. Subscribed. Hopefully, I’ll have the privilege of working with Mark again someday.

Installing NextStep/OpenStep on VPC

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Several years ago, I spent a while working on a project that involved converting a huge pile of Objective-C, NIB files and C++ from NeXTSTEP to Mac OS X.

One tool that proved to be critical to the process was Virtual PC v5.0. In particular, because the applications to be converted used a bunch of custom palettes and NIB files, we had to write some code on both NS 3.3 and OS 4.2 to do the interface conversion.

I wrote a bunch of installation notes. These are a few years old and VPC has changed since, but these should still mostly work.

Yes, both NS 3.3 and OS 4.2. While Mac OS X will sometimes open some of the NIB files from NS or OS, you really want to open and save each NIB file on a version of each major release of the AppKit since the original platform.

And because of certain idiosyncrasies of the NIB files, we had to write IB palettes on OS 4.2 to do some conversion there, too.

We also modified the NS -> OS conversion scripts to turn them into OpenStep 4.2 -> Mac OS X conversion scripts, mostly by adding a phase to turn Display PostScript calls into NSBezierPath invocations.

Fun stuff. Someone just asked about this on the cocoa-dev list, so I figured I would pull the notes forward from my old weblogs.

Update: Ovidiu asks if you can boot OpenStep/NeXTSTEP directly on an Intel Mac. Honestly, I have no idea. Lacking a bootable floppy drive is the initial hurdle, though.

However, there is a better way. You can run NeXTSTEP and OpenStep under Parallels under Mac OS X. There were some issues with the 1.0 release of Parallels, but I think they have been addressed in later releases.