Archive for the 'odd and ends' Category

Amazon needs smarter warnings

I had pre-ordered Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 from Amazon a few months ago.  Today, I get an email stating that my credit card that I used to place the order would be expired at the time that the order would be fulfilled.  

It was kind of disturbing, because my credit card that I used expired back in August, but Amazon knew that the Black Ops 2 is released on November 13 and knew when my credit card expires.  Couldn’t they at least notified me back in August?

One good thing that I can say about Amazon is that their customer service is pretty good. They do answer question in a timely manner. 

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Epic Design Fail

Apple tries very hard to do unique designs, but I think my iPod Shuffle 3rd Generation has a serious flaw. It has no control buttons on the unit itself. The controls are embedded inline with the earbuds. The control has a single button operations where a single-click starts and stops playback, a double-click moves you forward on your playlist, and a triple-click moves you backward on your playlist. While playing a song, a single click-and-hold initiates a Voice-Over feature where the name of your current song is spoken above your song. On a superficial level, it seems so simple and modern. So, why is this necessarily an epic design fail?

Let’s set aside the fact that this Shuffle model requires earbuds with remote functionality. If I lose my earbuds, I would have to buy either a new set of these “special” earbuds, or by an adapter that has the controls. I thought that I can accept this fact, so I was OK with the situation.

Alas, the situation has changed. This morning, I was doing a half-hour cardio program on a treadmill while listening some tunes. After a half-hour, I was working up a good sweat. All of the sudden, the Shuffle starts to tell me the name of my current song and keeps repeating it. Then, it goes into a mode where it starts announcing every song in my current playlist. I thought that the remote control was stuck or something, but it was not it. It got so annoying that I just shut the unit off.

Eventually, I was able to figure out what was going on. Because the control is near the earbuds, the control switch rests at the top of my chest. Since I was doing a lot of cardio, the top of my chest was covered in sweat. The control was swimming in a pool of my sweat and most likely started to short out. I tried different configurations but there is really no good fix. If there was buttons on the unit itself, this would not be an issue.

In most circumstances, we accept a certain level design failures. Our tolerances are very high, especially with electronic devices. The design fail becomes epic when you cannot use said device in normal, practical scenarios. It does not matter if the design looks good, if it is not functional, then its useless.

Lexical Illusion

Occasionally, I have an issue where my grammar is bad. I can’t count how many times this problem when I comment my code. I always thought it was a cut and paste issue or a typo, but how come I could never catch it when proofreading? Then, I realized that my problem may be in my proofreading.

For example, read the following text:

Many readers are not aware that the
the brain will automatically ignore
a second instance of the word “the”
when it starts a new line.

Now read the same text, with the line breaks in different position:

Many readers are not aware that the the
brain will automatically ignore a second
instance of the word “the” when it starts
a new line.

See the problem? This is called a lexical illusion. It is more prominent now than ever because of the use of IM, text messaging, and email. It appears in documents that are written in text editors rather than word processors, because most word processors have grammar correction. When proofreading, people often miss the errors because brains like to process information fast and lazily. When we read from one line to the next, our brain is willing to filter duplicate or redundant words at the beginning of a line. It takes extra concentration to catch the illusion.

Reflecting back, I noticed that it often happens when I shorten or lengthen existing code, rather than creating new comments. So, I have to make extra effort to find when this happens.

Trying Pylons

So, I was looking into trying some of the Python web frameworks this past weekend.  I originally started to look into Django and TurboGears, but after seeing nxsy’s comparison, I decided to try Pylons. My initial thought was that all three have similar goals, but have different approaches. A decent Pylons book by James Gardner is available online, too. You can also get the dead tree version at Amazon.

A second reason that I wanted to try Pylons is that there is a well-known, real-world application written using Pylons. I think its a good thing to see how someone else uses a framework that you are evaluating. I may not want to copy their style, but it gives me great insight.

Snow In Bay Area

So my first night in the Bay Area was relatively painless. The big story here is that it snowed in the valley areas. I guess it is not a common thing here, because the funniest thing was that news footage of some kids playing in a small patch of snow. I don’t know why it is funny to me, but those kids seem to enjoyed it. Given that there’s a snow storm brewing that is going to hit the Cleveland area when I fly in, I expect to be delayed.

Travelling Light

I’m getting ready to fly to San Francisco tomorrow on business. This- will be my first flight since January 2004 when my wife and I went to Las Vegas. Some recent changes to “airline policy” will irk me. For instance, the airlines started to charge for luggage, which I think is the most prominent example of nickel and diming your customers.

Since my trip is business, I am reimbursed, but it still sucks for someone. Luckily, I am only going to be in San Francisco for a few days, but it would be different if I was taking a trip for a vacation. If I was spending two weeks in California, I don’t think one bag would be enough. So, the thought of being charge $100 for luggage would literally drive me nuts.

Eh, so next time I travel for vacation, maybe I take a train.

Teagan’s Surgery

 

This is Teagan getting ready for his preoperative check-up.

 

 

Teagan is having surgery today.  You can follow his status here. Good luck, my son, and get well soon.