go ahead, mac my day

a Macintosh girl in a Microsoft world

September, 2008

  • go ahead, mac my day

    iTunes and my big library


    At home, I've got a last-gen PPC Mac Mini serving as a media centre. It's getting long in the tooth, but I haven't gotten around to updating it. It's had issues playing back video files that are saved on it. I've mostly been able to get around that by playing the files through my Xbox 360 instead.

    But the problem keeps on getting worse. My iTunes library is a behemoth. I've currently got more than 15,000 tracks in it, a number that grows every month. I mostly only use iTunes for music, and the vast majority of it is music that I've ripped myself because I still like CDs. iTunes usually takes 3-5 minutes to launch. It's a limitation that I've come to accept and deal with. But now it's having issues playing back files, too. This morning, I realised that it was sucking up 100% of my CPU.

    Updating the Mini has been on the to-do list for awhile, but I don't really have a great replacement for it. The current generation of Minis is still woefully underpowered. The iMac isn't a great solution for me because my Mini is hooked up to my television. The Mac Pro is way too big and too loud for a living room solution.

    How are you guys managing a big iTunes library?

  • go ahead, mac my day

    why developers complain about the App Store


    A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about why Mac users complain about the App Store. In the intervening weeks, the story about the App Store has just gotten worse. Today, Jason Snell of Macworld wrote a story about the developer side of matters. He titled it , but he could have titled it 'Why developers complain about the App Store'.

    The App Store is new for Apple, so it's unsurprising that they're learning things as they go along. For me as a user, the App Store is difficult to navigate and use. For people who want to develop iPhone apps, getting your app into the store can be difficult to navigate. Here's hoping that the folks at Apple can figure out how to deal with these problems and make a store (and a process for getting into the store) that meets everyone's needs.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    an iPhone observation


    When you're in an organisation where at least half of the people around you have an iPhone, it's amusing to watch everyone start patting their pockets when an iPhone rings or sets off the reminder tone. By extension, that means that in any given meeting, you know when it's 15 minutes before the hour because everyone's iPhone is reminding them of their next meeting.

    For all that it's sometimes amusing (and sometimes annoying) when this happens here in MacBU, I can't help but wonder what it's like at Apple.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    got questions? go on and ask


    I haven't done an open Q&A post in awhile, so ... if you've got questions, go ahead and ask 'em. I'll answer to the best of my ability. That doesn't mean that you'll definitely get an answer, but I'll do my best.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    OOPSLA 2008 early registration deadline extended to 15 September 2008


    Due to some server issues over the weekend, we're extending the early registration deadline for OOPSLA 2008. You've now got until Monday, 15 September 2008, to get registered! The conference itself is 19-23 October 2008, in Nashville, Tennessee.

    See you there!

  • go ahead, mac my day

    Q&A: What do you mean by a user indirectly telling you something?


    I just got a question via email:

    in your latest post, you mention that users can indirectly tell you something. what do you mean?

    A lot of what I do isn't actually about listening to what users can verbally tell me. That's important, but it's not the whole story. I spend a lot of time observing users to see what they don't verbalise, what they often don't notice happening.

    There's often a difference between what people think they want and what they really want. That's not to sound arrogant ("I know better than you do what you want"), it's that it's easy to identify a solution to your problem that doesn't actually get at the underlying problem. For example, I often get asked by Entourage users when Entourage will support MAPI. For the vast majority of these users, they don't actually care what protocol Entourage uses to connect to the Exchange server. What they care about are the Exchange features that they can't use in Entourage. That's one difference between what the user says they want and what they really want.

    I just read another great example in the Adaptive Path blog: a bench with two seats. Designers of exhibits at San Francisco's Exploratorium discovered gender differences in kids' behaviour at exhibits. The kids never could have told them about this, but by watching the kids, they observed behaviours that let them tweak their design just a little bit to give everyone a better experience. It's an awesome case study about why it's important for me to be out in the field observing our users.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    listening to our users


    My job is about listening to users, and translating what users tell me (either directly or indirectly) into actions that my app teams can take to make our apps better meet your needs.

    As part of that, I've been analysing some of the feedback that we get about our help files [1]. Some of this is easy -- if everyone who submits comments about our help says that a particular topic isn't helpful, then my writing team has some work to do to try to make it better. But some of it is hard.

    For example, here's one comment that we received about the help topic titled "About organising projects":

    Show examples of projects. Use the birthday party example and fill it in. I don't understand what Entourage does. Still.
    Great feedback -- this is really directed and tells me exactly what you want. It points to a discoverability problem with the Project Center: if you click on the Project Center button, there's nothing in there to help you get started, and the New Project Wizard doesn't really give you any information about why you might want to use the Project Center.

    Here's another comment to that same help topic:

    I have no idea what the user is trying to accomplish, and he hasn't given me enough information to puzzle it out.

    So help me listen to you. Giving us feedback is really helpful to us. When you're in the help, just submitting the basic feedback about our help tells us a lot about where we need to make improvements. If you're going to enter comments, please be verbose: tell me what you're trying to accomplish and why the help doesn't meet your needs. If my team can't puzzle out what you're trying to tell us, we're going to move on.

    [1] Whenever you use the help for one of our apps, there's a question at the bottom of the helpfile asking whether this was helpful. You can click "yes", "no", or "somewhat", and you also have the opportunity to type whatever you want to give us more details.

  • go ahead, mac my day

    questions for you PowerPoint users


    I asked Entourage questions last time, so it's PowerPoint's turn ...

    1. Do you use slide themes? If not, why not?
    2. Do you use a built-in theme, one that was given to you (say, a theme your company requires you to use), or one that you made yourself?
    3. Do you ever tweak a theme? What changes do you make?
    4. Do you settle on the same theme (or small set of themes), or do you use lots of different themes?
    5. Do you have a favourite theme in Office 2008? Least favourite?
    6. What do you like about the built-in themes? Dislike?
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