iamom: (lookingup)
http://www.bing-vs-google.com/

Try some searches to see the differences. I can see differences, but I can't tell if they're substantive. I sort of like the look of Bing's pages more, though.
iamom: (sage muzzle)
I've been waiting for this...


Click the image for a full-size screenshot or
go to the Google Calendar Start Page

On [livejournal.com profile] wickenden's reco, I started using Upcoming.org's online calendar service, but although I really dug the RSS feed of my schedule (which I could slip oh-so-easily onto my NetVibes start page (NetVibes was also a great tip from [livejournal.com profile] wickenden, and it's a service which I love more than words can say -- especially since they added tabbed pages this week)), I found Upcoming.org's usability to be poor. Takes too long to create appointment entries and there's no feature to schedule recurring tasks at all.

Google Calendar solves all that with a super intuitive "Quick Add" entry field that parses a simple sentence into an event. Type "Lunch meeting with Don on Apr 30 from 12:00-14:00 at Salvatore's" and it creates an appointment for exactly that date and time and puts "Salvatore's" into the location field. Reminders can be sent by e-mail, SMS or phone, and the nifty "Agenda" view displays all of your upcoming appointments (the Agenda can also be mailed to you each morning at 5 AM if you like). It's beautiful! The GUI is also à la Gmail and integrates nicely into the whole deal.

If Google adds a decent project/task management/scheduling component to this and then rolls out a full release of Writely (the free, web-based document editing tool which Google recently bought) and then adds a simple spreadsheet app that covers the most common functions used by most folks, then we'll finally have a possible choice to migrate from MS Office for a fully-integrated productivity app. I'm very impressed, and very happy.

After using Google Calendar for a half-hour, I already have a hit list of usability improvements they could make, but knowing from my experience with Gmail how long it takes those suggestions to get implemented, I won't waste much time on that for now. I sure wish I could work on a usability team for Google Labs, though. I know I could help improve their interfaces and features really quickly.
iamom: (carclub)
I still haven't made the full-on jump into the Mac world yet (if I knew more about the new MacBook Pro laptop just released, I wouldn't be so reticent to switch), but one of the primary considerations for me has to do with keyboard usability. That is to say, I'm a huge keystroke junkie on the PC, and especially when editing text, I very seldom have to make my fingers depart from the keyboard to grab the mouse.

In the Mac world, that's clearly not the way things were designed. I believe that the original masters of the Graphical User Interface (i.e. the GUI) of Apple's OS meant for the keyboard to function as a text entry tool (granted, with several command options available) and for the mouse to work as an application launcher and all-round user assistant. (As I recall from my faint Apple history, Steve Jobs fought hard to keep a single-button mouse design in the original Apple computers; everyone else wanted 2, 3, or more buttons for 'increased usability', but Jobs insisted that the best usability experience was the most streamlined one possible.)

As I continue my pre-purchase research on Macs and Mac issues, one of the things I watch for the most is power user hints. In that spirit, I'm posting a link for future reference to these Mac keyboard shortcuts (plus the Google search results for same), along with a link to this review on Macworld about Quicksilver, the (seems like) excellent keyboard-driven application launcher for the Mac. This "desert isle" question about the most critical apps to have on your Mac is also worth keeping for future reference.

If any other Mac users out there have usability hints, user groups, or other web resources to refer to me, DO NOT hesitate to tell me about them, will you? After reading Macworld's early impressions of the new Intel-based Mac notebook, I'm no longer as scared to wait for a bit and maybe try getting one of those machines. I don't want to wait much longer than a couple more months or so to buy a laptop, but I also don't want to miss out on what sounds like will be a great machine. (Especially once all the native apps become available, hopefully with the next year or so.)
iamom: (flying)
The default display for my LJ tags appears to be a simple alphabetical list:
http://www.livejournal.com/users/iamom/tag/

I would rather, however, see them displayed in descending order by usage, if not more ideally as a cloud (examples: brad | wickenden on del.icio.us).

Does anyone know how to do this? Changing the order on my tags management page doesn't translate to my LJ. [livejournal.com profile] bridgetester? LJ's FAQs on tags don't seem to address this. Is it perhaps not currently a feature on LJ?
iamom: (pink)
These are Google's words on the new service, and this is the Google Base Homepage.

Usability freak Greg Raiz wrote about the new service here, with a quick follow-up here about how he thinks this service could spawn a new Google Wallet e-payment platform.

More info by Google about it is here. Apparently you can upload RSS feeds to it too, which must have implications to people who want to broaden their audience from blogs. But I don't think I understand the true value of this yet. Info has to be specifically uploaded to Google Base and it's not automatically included in the Google search index unless it becomes highly relevant by web links. But people will have to know about Google Base and search it separately for stuff. And if this stuff is so important, why isn't it already being found in the index? Ostensibly it's because it's not relevant enough, isn't it? Is that because the information hasn't been found yet? Is this then just a way to get your own personal information and resources online and searchable with Google? Maybe it's as simple as that.
iamom: (mos def)
When our compact and durable little Sandisk 1 GB MP3 player died Sunday, I made it a priority to replace it with a 2 GB iPod nano as soon as possible. (It only cost $40 more than the refund amount from our old player, and the nano has twice the memory. I also feel utterly incapable of running without listening to music right now. Extremely cool packaging for this thing too, by the way. Size of a double-CD case.)

Anyway, since getting an iPod means being forced to migrate to iTunes (usability crime #1: force users to install unneeded additional software), I installed iTunes 6.0 onto my PC and pointed it to my audio files to populate its library. (Since I have always organized my MP3s into directories by genre, then artist and album with Windows Explorer, I chose not to have iTunes consolidate my library into whatever directory structure it saw fit.)

In very short order (like, less than a minute), I was impressed to see that iTunes had generated a complete catalog of my 13 GB of 2,000-odd audio files. Proof positive that iTunes can work seamlessly with your music collection no matter where the files are stored. (It appears to do this with an SQL-driven database of your music library which links to the actual location of each MP3 on your hard drive when it's time to play a given song. This library can also be exported to an XML or TXT file.)

cut for those who don't care... )
iamom: (suntrees)
[livejournal.com profile] jjjiii just hipped me to Boston-based Greg Raiz (bio | blog) who has a hell of a lot to say about software usability, especially from a development standpoint. Since I'm on the lookout for new feeds to test the Google RSS Reader I've been playing with recently, I added this guy's blog to my syndicated feeds to keep up with what he's saying.

He just posted what I thought was a mind-blowing (or at least, VERY clear) entry about what Linux needs to do to kill Microsoft in the usability department and, basically, take over the world in the operating system sphere. Now, I'm a total Linux-phobe myself, although I've always been interested in trying it out because I know that it's an inherently more stable OS (or kernel, or whatever) and I dig supporting open source in principle and practice whenever possible (the LJ platform is open-source too, for those who didn't know -- the code is here). The reason I'm scared to try Linux is because I've heard it's not user-friendly and very command-line-oriented, which I don't have time (although I do have the inclination) to learn right now.

Anyway, he basically threw down what I thought was a very well thought-out manifesto on OS usability in this blog entry, and he had me clapping with joy at his insights, until I read some of the 139 comments on the entry (bear in mind it was just posted TODAY!) that went fairly far to cut down his logic, in my opinion. Now I don't know what to think, but boy, did the guy ever inspire a good discussion.

And I still don't know if I have the guts to try a Linux install. Maybe I'll partition off a piece of my second (older) hard drive and try it out sometime. If a majority of those comments are to be believed though, it sounds like I could derive similar technical benefits with increased usability by getting a Macintosh with OSX on it instead. (As a side note, I know that LJ founder [livejournal.com profile] brad uses the Debian distribution of Linux on all of his desktop machines, so if I try anything, it'll probably be that one.)

Incidentally, while reading the comments on that entry, I came across this supposed blog from a Microsoft developer, which appears to be a sham but was funny to read anyway (though tough for me to understand as a non-developer).
iamom: (looking out)
My favourite website usability guru Jakob Nielsen (handsome guy, ain't he?) just published a good article about usability design errors in weblogs. Obviously these guidelines aren't pertinent to people whose blogs are mainly for personal consumption, but I found them to be helpful tips when considering how to lay out more promotional-style weblogs. From his article, his list of Top 10 Design Mistakes in Weblog Usability is as follows:
1. No Author Biographies
2. No Author Photo
3. Nondescript Posting Titles
4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
5. Classic Hits Are Buried
6. The Calendar Is The Only Navigation
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
8. Mixing Topics
9. Forgetting That You Write For Your Future Boss (ooh, that's a good one)
10. Having A Domain Name Owned By A Weblog Service
It's funny, because last week I updated the front page of my LJ with some of these ideas unwittingly in mind. Increasingly, I find myself aware of how I present myself through my blog. It's so easy to find it on Google that I find myself thinking of it as a personal greeting card or something.

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iamom: (Default)
Dustin LindenSmith

January 2013

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