cogito ergo mac

Bad Design: Amazon Listmania Creation

It always surprises me when web companies that have been around for a long time, have millions of users, and have obvious resources to do better fail miserably at something.

I tried creating a list to submit to Amazon's Listmania the other day. I had fifteen titles I matched to their product offerings and wrote reviews for all of them. When I clicked "preview", I was given an error message that said "one of your entries is more than 400 words." This is the "new and improved" Listmania I'm using, btw.

The entry fields for the reviews show about 5 lines of text so it was not immediately obvious to me which one was over the limit. I guessed at a few, trimming them to something clearly less than 400 words. Try again with each one, fail. "One of your entries is more than 400 words."

I tried trimming a couple more. I might add here that it's a little time consuming to edit something that is brief to begin with. Try again, fail. "One of your entries is more than 400 words."

So I quit and relinquished the work I had done. Can't they write code good enough to tell me which entry is more than 400 words? Or give me an interface so I can see which one might be?

Epic Fail.

Why I don't use Safari

  1. No separators in Bookmarks Menus
  2. No Preference setting to force links that are coded to open in a new window to open in a new tab

How your printer tricks you into buying ink and toner when you don't need it

How to fight back against the lying, infuriating, evil ink-and-toner cabal.

By Farhad Manjoo - Slate Magazine

The application VLC quit unexpectedly

Unexpectedly my ass! It happens about once every three times I close the video window. Tiger, Leopard, PPC, Intel. Other than that it's hands down my program of choice for video.

[UPDATE] As of version .0.9.9 I'm not crashing any more, at all.

Address Book and

When I launch Apple's Address Book application and try to open the Preferences window, Little Snitch tells me that Address Book wants to connect to If I deny the connection, the Preferences window will not open. I don't care about the benefits this might have behind the scenes. This is evil.

I allowed the connection once, quit Address Book, relaunched it and I was not prompted to allow another connection to That seems odd. The Preferences window opened without a problem.

I took my computer offline, no internet connectivity, and was able to get into the Preferences window. I don't know if this is because I already allowed the connection once, or if Apple has some way of determining if a connection is available and only demand the connection to if there is one.

Googling around suggests this has something to do Software Update. I don't care.

It's Evil and wrong for applications to phone home without user consent, and it's DOUBLY EVIL and wrong to disable application capabilities if the secret phoning home is uncovered and disallowed.


Bookmarklets for movie and dvd searching

Reviews & Info

IMDb Bookmarklet
MRQE Bookmarklet Movie Review Query Engine
Metacritic Bookmarklet
All Music Guide Bookmarklet (flaky, and their site is so slow)
Rotten Tomatoes Bookmarklet

Wikipedia Bookmarklet (because they often have useful external links)

DVDs and consumer reviews

Netflix Bookmarklet
Flixster Bookmarklet
Yahoo Movies Bookmarklet
Amazon Movies Bookmarklet

Alternative sources

ALTFG Bookmarklet Alternative Film Guide
Late Mag Bookmarklet
Getamovie Bookmarklet
Plume Noir Bookmarklet
Not Coming Bookmarklet
Film Database Bookmarklet
Worst Previews Bookmarklet
Beyond Hollywood Bookmarklet

Asian sources

dvdAsian Bookmarklet
Snowblood Bookmarklet Asian Extreme Cinema
Hancinema Bookmarklet
Asian MediaWiki Bookmarklet
Illuminated Lantern Bookmarklet

Movie posters

Labels: , ,

Amazon 24 months NO interest NO payments MacBook Pro

[UPDATE] I need to update and point out that the really crummy organization here is GE Money who plays the role of Amazon's credit department in this story as they are the bank that underwrites, or guarantees. Amazon CS reps have the call notes from the day of purchase that quote the credit department: "we were told by X, from credit, no interest and no minimum monthly payments on selected computer." Some total winner named Gwen from GE Money said "I don't care what X said, she's only one person in the company."

I "bought" my new MacBook Pro a couple months ago when Amazon offered a deal of interest free financing for 24 months with NO MINIMUM PAYMENTS. The catch is that if I have to pay it off in full within 24 months or the interest is charged retroactively.

I couldn't believe it so I called Amazon customer service to confirm. They confirmed. I had to pay for it with an store card, so I opened an account. Problem was that the card had a $1500 limit, so we conference called the credit department to increase the limit. No problem. I had the credit department confirm, again, that I didn't have to make any payments for 24 months. I asked "Are you saying that I don't have to pay a thing, that when the monthly bill comes I can ignore it?" That seemed like an unequivocal enough question.

They confirmed.

Two months later I got a call from Amazon credit (GE Money). They wanted to know why I hadn't made a payment.

Damn. They denied ever making such an offer. No interest, sure, but no minimum payments was not part of the deal they said. The young woman even kind of mocked my idea that such a deal would have been offered. I screamed at the top of my lungs into the phone. She hung up on me.

I googled and wayback-machined for hours trying to find some evidence. None. Amazon doesn't google-cache well. I should have taken a screen cap of the offer. I wrote down the names of the reps I had talked to but Amazon has call centers all over the world and nobody was familiar with the names I offered.

I decided to keep calling Amazon CS in the hopes that I might stumble upon the person I originally talked to or someone who new of them. All I got was condescending, yellow laughter.

Then I found Kai. He searched back through my account's call records and found a call record that quoted the name I had taken down from the credit department which said "we were told by X, from credit, no interest and no minimum monthly payments on selected computer."

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I post this here in case someone else jumped on the deal and is googling around looking for a little evidence that it was offered because GE Money is trying to deny offering it. Maybe it was a typo, but on May 20, 2008, it was there.

Labels: ,

Annoying stall before open/save dialog with firewire drive attached

I think it's the wrong choice to have the stall happen before opening the dialog box instead of letting you get to the dialog and decide from there. If you want something on the external drive, or if that's where you want to save a file, then it should spin up the drive. It shouldn't spin up the drive unless a request is made of it. More often than not, I don't need anything from the external drive and yet I have to suffer the stall and I think it's wrong to spin up the drive when there is no explicit access requested. Better to just leave it sleeping. Spin up/spin down is unnecessary wear and tear, I would think.

My ongoing Browser Wars

Flock SidebarThe big news is Flock. It calls itself the social web browser and uses the same Mozilla engine Firefox is built on. It's essentially Firefox with a different interface designed to act as a central host to all the social network sites you work with by plugging into them. It's got a built-in blog editor, photo and video uploader, feed reader, and a layout that keeps all the social networking accounts you belong to, if it supports them, in a sidebar for easy access. I don't use any of its built-in tools except for the feed reader because my work flow isn't made any easier by switching to them. I use it passively, as a viewer instead of actively as a tool. Since it uses the Mozilla engine, it supports Firefox add-ons and extensions, but there would be no reason to choose this browser over Firefox if you don't kick sand in the social networking sandbox.

Flock is in beta (what software isn't?) with version 2 at this time. Flock version 2 equals Firefox version 3. That's big news version 2. Firefox 3 is now an almost usable web browser. I've never liked the look and feel of it, just can't dance to it. But it's gotten quicker and more polished with version 3. There was no chance for Flock v1 or Firefox v2 to get anywhere near my computer. Firefox is still a Windows application dressed up to pretend it can fit into a Mac environment. It's on my computer but I've removed its icon from my dock.

Camino remains my main browser for the time being. I love its easy to find and use preference for blocking Flash. I can't find the words to describe how much more pleasant a web browsing experience is with Flash turned off. Camino feels like a Mac application and is rock solid for the most part. It's does NOT feel like the fastest browser and may eventually fail me if it doesn't pick up some speed.

Safari has gotten a lot better, and faster, but there are a few picayune factors that prevent me from using it as my main browser. It still feels thin to me. It doesn't support separators in bookmark menus, and the ongoing refusal to support Mozilla-made Bookmarklets really pisses me off. Bookmarklets are at the heart of my browsing experience and I will never reconfigure all of them just so I can use Safari.

Finally, I still keep using and updating a little browser called Sunrise for reconnaissance missions. The reason I use it instead of Safari or Firefox is because it lacks the pretension of those big name guns.

How to change a Mozilla bookmarklet so it will work in Safari

A sample Google search bookmarklet's javascript code broken into three lines so we can see the differences. In usage the code must all be a single line.

Mozilla Google Search

if(!Qr){void(Qr=prompt('Keywords ...',''))};

Safari Google Search
if(!Qr){void(Qr=prompt('Keywords ...',''))};

If I knew JavaScript this might have been a no-brainer, but I don't. I would have thought a google search on the subject would have revealed a clear and easy answer right away. But no, so here it is.

[UPDATE] Not quite there yet. This solution doesn't work if the selection is more than one word. I believe the proper terminology is that it doesn't escape characters properly. A becomes <%20>, for example, not an escaped %20 but a real one, like "two%20words". Shit. This has become my white whale.
[UPDATE v2] It appears to depend on where it's escaping from, on something I can't pin down. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Maybe on the text-encoding of the web page?

Labels: ,

Camino is winning me over

In previous bloggage I expressed a great displeasure for Camino. I thought it too ugly without any upside.

Things change.

I've all but retired Netscape, my browser of choice for years. The number of sites that it doesn't render properly has grown substantially over time. I keep it around for accessing obscure, or questionable sites—a canary I send into a coal mine. I think it's important to keep one browser around that you're not afraid to get tainted, that you let accept all cookies, all pop ups ... all the crud.

I've also started to use a speedy little weirdo browser called Sunrise for reconnaissance missions.

Shiira has fallen completely out of favor and has been removed from my computer.

Opera is still on my computer. I update it from time to time, but I've removed its icon from my Dock ... a near fatal blow.

Safari is still in the Dock, but I never use it. It's a slow, fragile browser. Thin and weak, I think.

Firefox is still in my Dock, but I can't dance to it. It just doesn't feel "Mac" to me. I fire it up from time to time to get into retarded web sites, like Farmers Insurance, that do a browser check and won't even let you try to use Camino.

I still miss the way Netscape handles many things.

Bookmarklets: a list for mozilla browsers

For quick answers:

Wiki Bookmarklet
Answers Bookmarklet (this site has become so add heavy ya gotta use one of these to get in there)
Oxford Bookmarklet Bookmarklet

For more general searches:

Google Bookmarklet
Yahoo Bookmarklet
About Bookmarklet

For books and movies:

IMDB Bookmarklet Internet Movie Database
Powells Bookmarklet The great Portland, OR bookstore
Amazon Bookmarklet will search books. For a general Amazon search: Bookmarklet

To see if a book is full-text online:

IPL Bookmarklet Internet Public Library

Some special interest bookmarklets:

Snopes Bookmarklet Urban Legends
Urban Dictionary Bookmarklet

Wayback Machine

To be continued ...

How to change a Mozilla Bookmarklet so it might work in Safari

Bookmarklets for Movie and DVD searching

Labels: ,

Keyboarding vs the mouse

We’ve done a cool $50 million of R & D on the Apple Human Interface. We discovered, among other things, two pertinent facts:

  • Test subjects consistently report that keyboarding is faster than mousing.
  • The stopwatch consistently proves mousing is faster than keyboarding.
This contradiction between user-experience and reality apparently forms the basis for many user/developers’ belief that the keyboard is faster.

—Originally published in the AppleDirect, August, 1989

I believe in something demonstrably false.

Tog, in pointing out the use of command-x, -c, and -v, concludes "two-handed input can result in solid productivity gains (Buxton 1986)." I believe that.

Know where to save ...

What's wrong with this picture?

What does the single downward-pointing arrow do in the above picture ... (a save dialog box)?

Echo from drunkenbatman:

There are two distinct types of users: Those who go in and click everything to see where it takes them and what it does, and those who are afraid of clicking anything at all for fear of getting into something they won't understand or screwing up what they'd set out to do. In the first case, the user will have clicked the triangle and seen that they'll get a larger panel, but the latter group may never even know it exists.

I encourage people to be proficient and efficient computer users. The majority of them fall into the "those who are afraid" category. But this one is not their fault. It's bad design.

The first thing I say to new adult users (kids rarely have this fear) is "Don't be afraid, click everywhere, right-click everywhere." The second is "When you go to save a document, click that little triangle so you have some idea of where you are and where you can save your document. I have no idea why Apple thinks this is a useful default."

Hyphens are not dashes

Stop! Go back and re-read the subhead above—at least 2–3 times—then let it sink in before continuing.

The sentence above illustrates the proper use of the hyphen and the two main types of dashes. They are not the same, and must not be confused with each other. In some fancy fonts the difference is more than just the width—hyphens have a distinct serif. If you don’t know the rules already, let’s review them. First, though, a definition:

An “em” is a unit of measurement defined as the point size of the font—12 point type uses a 12 point “em.” An “en” is one-half of an “em.”

Though some of the finer points in the rules are complex, their basic applications are clear-cut and their misuse easily identifiable. First, neither an em dash nor an en dash should be confused with the hyphen (-), which is used to join compound words together.

The correct use of em and en

The em dash () is used to indicate a sudden break in thought (“I was thinking about writing a—what time did you say the movie started?”), a parenthetical statement that deserves more attention than parentheses indicate, or instead of a colon or semicolon to link clauses. It is also used to indicate an open range, such as from a given date with no end yet (as in “Peter Sheerin [1969—] authored this document.”), or vague dates (as a stand-in for the last two digits of a four-digit year).

Two adjacent em dashes (a 2-em dash) are used to indicate missing letters in a word (“I just don’t f——ing care about 3.0 browsers”).

Three adjacent em dashes (a 3-em dash) are used to substitute for the author’s name when a repeated series of works are presented in a bibliography, as well as to indicate an entire missing word in the text.

The en dash () is used to indicate a range of just about anything with numbers, including dates, numbers, game scores, and pages in any sort of document.

It is also used instead of the word “to” or a hyphen to indicate a connection between things, including geographic references (like the Mason—Dixon Line) and routes (such as the New York—Boston commuter train).

It is used to hyphenate compounds of compounds, where at least one pair is already hyphenated (as in “Netscape 6.1 is an Open-Source—based browser.”). The Chicago Manual of style also states that it should be used “Where one of the components of a compound adjective contains more than one word,” instead of a hyphen (as in “Netscape 6.1 is an Open Source—based browser”). Both of these rules are for clarity in indicating exactly what is being modified by the compound.

Other sources also specify the use of an en dash when referring to joint authors, as in the “Bose—Einstein” paper. Some also prefer it to a hyphen when text is set in all capital letters.

Some typographers prefer to use an en dash surrounded by full spaces instead of an em dash. Others prefer to insert hair spaces on either side of the em dash, but this is problematic with some web browsers (see the section on spaces for more detail).

Hyphenate This

That hyphen you can insert with the key next to the zero on your keyboard is an ambiguous character suffering from an identity crisis. It can’t decide if it’s a hyphen, a minus, or an en dash—in fact, the Unicode specification describes it as “hyphen-minus” and defines very specific replacements for each of its personalities.

... excerpted from an article written by Peter Sheerin for A List Apart
Read the entire article here.