One of the things that I like about being a blogger and reading blogs is that you get to watch a debate unfold in interested and unexpected ways. I've been following the online debate over the Windows Vista shut-down button.
If you haven't seen it yet, the whole thing started with Joel Spolsky complaining about the button. He suggests that the multiple features that are there can be replaced with a single b'bye button. He's got a long and involved discussion of why he thinks that it should be that way. Next into the fray was Moishe Lettvin, an ex-Vista dev who was part of the team who worked on that, and he explained its development from his perspective. The latest entry is Arno Gourdol, an ex-OS X developer, who blogged about the design of the OS X shutdown feature.
I disagree with both Arno and Joel on this point: there needs to be more than just a b'bye for everything. I mostly like how OS X currently has it. The option to log off is important to me, since my home Macs are shared. And I like having a shut-down option, too, since my Mac Mini is under my desk and I don't want to crawl around to turn it off. I'm not sure if I like having the option for fast-user switching be in a different location than the other login type options, but I'm not unhappy with where it is. I do like having my username in the upper corner, since it reminds me which account I'm logged in on.
Sitting, as I do, at the crossroads of Microsoft and Apple, this whole kerfluffle is interesting to watch. It's an excellent insight in how different companies, with different processes, different goals, and different people, approach the exact same problem. Apple values simplicity above all else, and Arno wanted it to be even simpler than the three options that are given to users. In Vista, it looks like they're trying for the best of both worlds: two buttons which will satisfy 99% of users, and then a series of additional options for that extra 1% who want things just so.
It's also interesting to read about Moishe's experiences on the Vista team. My experiences here in MacBU are entirely different. I don't think that there's anything in MacBU which has 43 people touching it. There's only ~180 of us, so I can't imagine what would get fully just under 1/3 of us doing something to it. And while I do go to a lot of meetings (moreso now that I've got an open position, but that will be better once we get someone hired in), I certainly don't have weekly meetings on any single feature. App, yes, but not feature -- and a quick catch-up on what's happening in each app is quite useful for me. There's not lots of different layers between me and someone else working on the same feature or application. When we're deciding what needs to happen in our apps, we don't have to wait months to figure out what's going on. We do have some coordination to do with other teams, such as the WinOffice and the Windows OS team, but it's nothing like what Moishe describes.
Where do we in MacBU fall? Do we aim for absolute simplicity, or all of the options you could ever want? We're somewhere in the middle. We can't go for absolute simplicity, since compatibility with WinOffice is important to us. But we do value simplicity, and try to simplify our features and interface to be in line with Apple design principles. We have to make trade-offs to serve our users, and we haven't yet found a way to be everything to everyone. But we're hard at work on the next version, and the one after that, so maybe we'll get closer next time 'round.
It's the time of year for the spammers to ratchet up their efforts. I blame all of the spam in the world on my father, who actually bought me a miniature remote-controlled car from his spam a few years ago. If he hadn't made that mistake, we wouldn't have spammers. Just like if no-one bought that junk on infomercials, that scourge on society would go away.
As much as I whinge about spam, it's occasionally at least a little bit entertaining. (As are infomercials, since you can entertain yourself for a couple of minutes with thoughts of who would actually buy that kind of junk.) I always glance through my Junk Mail folder before emptying it, to ensure that there are no false positives in there, and to see if there's something that makes me laugh.
My spam these days seems to consist of mail-order brides, *ahem* male prescriptions and enhancements, and a few 'buy Microsoft Office for $199!' things. But one of my spams today takes the cake. 'Need a gift for your father?' shouts the subject line. I do, in fact, need a gift for my father. The gift suggested is Rogaine. What kind of daughter do they think I am? 'Dad, I noticed your hairline is receding, have you ever considered doing something about it? It really looks bad.' I'm sorry, but I just can't do that.
Dad, I tried, but if I don't get some assistance soon, you're getting ties for Christmas. I'm not giving you a three-pack of Rogaine, no matter what my spam suggests.
Edited to add: At least I'm not the only one getting some amusement from my spam. DocBug is too: At least the spammers feel sorry for us ....
I wasn't sure if anyone was actually reading today, but the first question has already arrived. It is:
I have a client who uses Entourage with an Exchange server. What is the best way to backup emails that reside on the exchange server and take into consideration that she's a mac user?
I think that the one of the best resources for Entourage users is the Entourage MVP site. If you're not familiar with it, MVP stands for Most Valued Professional. It's a Microsoft thing: these are non-Microsoft employees who are expert users of our applications, and they like helping out other people. They know the apps backwards and forwards, and they can make the apps sing and dance. In short, MVPs rock.
On the Entourage MVP website, they have a page all about backing up your Entourage data. That looks like a pretty thorough list of the back-up options in Entourage, so I think it will take care of you.
If you have more questions about backing up Entourage data (or, for that matter, anything else about Entourage), check out the Entourage public newsgroup. There are lots of Entourage experts there, including many (most? all?) of the Entourage MVPs. You'll get great responses to pretty much anything you ask.
Another useful thing for you is the Office:Mac 2004 resource kit. It provides all sorts of guidance for using all of the Office apps, including guidance for users in Exchange environments. It's possibly the single most useful Office document that you'll find. There's a lot of Entourage information in there.
There are, of course, lots of other Entourage resources out there. The best ones are linked on the Entourage MVP page.
It's a quiet holiday week. Many of my co-workers are taking some of their vacation time this week. My hallway is remarkably silent. Me, I'm here all week, since I'm burning through all of my vacation time in December.
So here's what I'm going to do this week, blog-wise. Ask me a question, and I'll do my best to answer it. There are questions that I can't answer, but I'll at least tell you that I can't answer them. Remember that I can't talk in any detail about the next versions of Office or Messenger yet, no matter how much I'd love to.
Clearly Apple is trying to tell me that it's time to upgrade. They announced today that they're teaming up with six airlines to deliver iPod integration. Seats will have iPod power connections, and video content will be delivered to the seatback display.
The press release doesn't say whether the airlines will make this available only in first class, or if it will be available to those of us who have to travel in cattle economy class. That's probably up to the individual airline. Sadly, it's not going to be available until mid-2007, meaning that I can't give it a go on my upcoming 14-1/2 hour flight to Sydney on United.
So maybe it really really is time to upgrade. I still have my trusty old 2G iPod. It's still happily buzzing along, and I'm stuffing it full of content for my upcoming flight, but having in-seat power for it would be very nice. It doesn't get its full 10 hours of battery life any more, but still does a respectable 8 or so.
It occurs to me that all of this iPod integration is locking Apple in to their current connector, and possibly to their current form factor as well. The accessory manufacturers have had to simply absorb the changes, but Apple's swimming with bigger fish than Belkin now. With all of these other companies laying out significant piles of cash to integrate with the iPod, Apple probably can't risk ticking them off by changing the connector, not to mention confusing the huge number of users who already own iPods and won't understand the distinction between the various iPod generations.
I know that it's a bit early for this kind of post, but I'm going to be out of the country for most of December , so I feel like I might as well get the ball rollin'.
Here are ten things that I want from Apple at MWSF. This isn't a list of what I think will actually happen at MWSF, this is a wishlist. My Amazon wishlist has all sorts of things that I don't think I'll ever get, and I view this in mostly the same way.
Okay, that's what I want at MWSF. What would you like to see Apple announce at MWSF?
 I'm headed to Sydney for Christmas, so I'm gone from 06 Dec through 02 Jan. Don't expect any posts from me while I'm gone. :)
 And yes, I know that I'm setting myself up for disappointment. It's just like when your favourite book gets turned into a movie, and the film is all wrong because it's nothing like what it's like in your head. The iPhone, if it ever does come into being, will be exactly like that.
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Book title: A Pattern Language for Web Usability
Author: Ian Graham
The title of this book is promising. However, the promise does not hold. The author clearly does not understand patterns or a pattern language. The so-called patterns given here are not patterns in any way. Instead, they are an attempt at a roadmap for the design of a website. I would refer to the design methodology here as a flowchart, not as a pattern language. (And how can a computer scientist mistake a flowchart for a pattern language?)
If you ignore the dreadful attempt at creating a pattern language and simply focus on the usability, the book is marginally better. However, there is almost no focus on the user. There are merely a few rules to follow that may or may not result in a usable website.
If you are conversant with patterns from the seminal Design Patterns by the Gang of Four (Gamma, Helm, Johnson, Vlissides), do not purchase this book. I have not yet found a reasonable book that discusses patterns as applied specifically to web usability. Most of the books in this
field either miss the point of patterns or are not conversant with usability.
If you are new to usability in general, I would recommend Barnum's Usability Testing and Research. It gives you the necessary background, plus can be used as a handbook to design your own usability test. It is an excellent introduction to the subject.
If you are a bit more experienced with usability, but not necessarily with the special considerations for websites, I would recommend Nielsen's Designing Web Usability. It is a much better-written book and describes the necessary concepts much better than this one.
If you are simply looking for a book because you've heard that 'patterns' and 'usability' will help your career, read through the books that I've listed above, in the order that I've listed them.
Amazon's page about this book