New Outlook

New Glasses Yesterday, I bought new glasses. Its not much of a change, really. Black wire rims. The arms are thicker and more plastic. Its the same professional look I was sporting with the last pair, but the lenses are smaller and closer to my eyes. The nose pieces ride higher on my nose.

I likey.

As I have with every new pair of glasses, I can see things much more clearly. Of course, I’d probably be better by getting a new pair of glasses more frequently. Heck, I could never get the last pair clean because the anti-glare coating had eroded.

Something I noticed about shopping for glasses is most are horrendous. Now, I don’t know much about designers. Some brands seemed familiar from shopping for cologne? Do people really buy this crap? I went into the store with a list of possibilities. Interestingly, the storedidn’t have them organized in such a way as to make it easy to find them. Doh!

Elizabeth, the sales associate was pleasant and helpful. She picked up that I kind of knew what I wanted and avoided pushiness. A 180 from all the other times I gotten glasses.

A More Usable Usability

Previously I have seen usability describing ease of using a web site. These four essences of usability are interesting.

I believe that to satisfy customers, a Web site must fulfill four distinct needs:

  • Availability: A site that’s unreachable, for any reason, is useless.
  • Responsiveness: Having reached the site, pages that download slowly are likely to drive customers to try an alternate site.
  • Clarity: If the site is sufficiently responsive to keep the customer’s attention, other design qualities come into play. It must be simple and natural to use – easy to learn, predictable, and consistent.
  • Utility: Last comes utility — does the site actually deliver the information or service the customer was looking for in the first place?

Web Usability: A Simple Framework

The first two items deal with system administration issues like the network, server(s), database, or application. Redundancy and proactive dealing with problems before they impact the system hopefully maximizes availibility. Optimization for performance hopefully maximizes responsiveness. An unhealthy database could fail to deliver information.

The last two items deal with design issues. More utility issues are likely based in design than tuning.


UPDATE: In my past life as a “Webmaster,” my fingers were dirty in all four aspects of usability. These were my servers and while not my design, I certainly influenced it by cleaning up the HTML and presentation. We created in-house everything except some outsourced photography and the Apache web server.

Blackboard’s Vista is a proprietary application with decent opportunities for instructional designers to provide clarity and utility. As much as it provides, clients often purchase or create additional applications to integrate with Vista to fill in holes Blackboard left. Okay, technically, WebCT left those holes, but Blackboard took the same model with Academic Suite. Blackboard doesn’t really intend to fill in those holes. They should for issues affecting most of their customers on each platform. This is the same approach taken by open source products with the caveat that third party companies are not filling in the holes, customers are developing their own solutions and providing back to the community.

The declining responsiveness of Vista over time definitely seems to create one frustrating difficulty for some clients. As the database tables get larger, responsiveness of the sites declines. Ouch. Delete it all… Oh, wait… Can we really do that?

links for 2007-09-27

VM(Night)Mare

So, I need to install software on a couple servers which don’t exist. They are virtual: VMWare ESX. I can see and login to the web site. However, its frustrating to consistently get a working console. I get a partial page with “Error on page.” Going to the error reveals:

Browser#ResponseReceived(): invalid content type text/html (status 200) while processing vmNavigatorXml.do

What I have tried so far.

  1. Firefox 2.x is unsupported. I tried it; it didn’t work.
  2. So I tried IE6. That worked fine. Over a week later it doesn’t. Oh…kay…
  3. Figured iehttpheaders could have been the culprit. It was the last thing changed, so I removed it. Didn’t help.
  4. I tried Firefox 2.x again. No good.
  5. I tried Netscape 7.2. No good.
  6. Called workstation support, works for him, I removed IE6 and added it back. It worked! For a day.
  7. So I removed IE6 again and put it back. It didn’t help.
  8. Checked McAfee Buffer Overflow Protection. Still disabled.
  9. So I installed IE7. Still doesn’t completely load the page.
  10. So, I tried PortableApps Firefox 1.0.8 (which is on the supported list). No dice.
  11. I noticed I have multiple version of Java, I removed all but the next to latest, Java 1.6.0. No good.
  12. I removed all the versions of Java. No help.
  13. Figured out there is a VMWare plugin.
  14. Disabled the plugin in IE7. Nothing.
  15. Found where the plugin is installed. Uninstalled it. Now when I visit, I don’t get a request to install it.
  16. So I don’t have the plugin. Nor can I install it.

For you Apple Switchers who read this. Macs are not on the supported list. Though, Linux is!

I’ve wasted most of two afternoons on this.

Cell Phone Madness

In case you haven’t noticed, I have have a new cell phone. Give me a call if you have my phone number. Actually, if you can find the number, then I’d even more love for you to call. 🙂 If only to congratulate your mad skillz.

Back in December I read online Amazon had fantastic deals on cell phones with purchase of a plan. So I looked. It occurred to me I ought to be at the end of my 2 year agreement. I checked and sure enough I was. However, did I really want a new phone? What features did I want? Maybe I should switch carriers? The iPhone announcement surely didn’t help.

There wasn’t a straw. There wasn’t a deal. It just dawned on me that if I didn’t take the plunge right at that moment, then I probably would still be using the same old phone until I broke it. Maybe I’d even be that guy carrying a phone from 1985. in 15 years (assuming I didn’t break it). I did realize one of my apprehensions was visiting a store. So I looked online a couple times, dithered, and finally, I went with the Samsung SYNC.

New phone, new manufacturer, new menus, new features, new cables, new problems.

Problem 1: I made the move. AT&T’s web site didn’t say what would come in the box. Probably I could have found this out with some research. At the worst, I could have gone to the store. The whole point was to avoid the store. So, I ended up ordering accessories about an hour after getting the phone out of the box. Two of the three arrive today.

Problem 2: Profile timers are “teh win”. I am lazy. A feature I enjoyed of the candybar was the profiles could be set to expire at a specific time. So every morning I could set it to silent and expire after the end of the work day or after a movie.

Problem 3: Put MicroSD card in slot, try to format card, see “Error”. No, really. Just “Error”. What does THAT mean? I thought maybe the capacity of the card was more than the phone could accept. So, I looked on the web. Eventually, I did find that my card is of the right size and made by the right company, so it should work. Then I read that one of the cons of the phone is the springs have difficulty ejecting the card. Maybe they also had trouble in seating it? So I tried reseating it a couple times, eventually choosing to use a point object to push it more than in the slot. Bingo!

All that said, I am more than happy with my new phone.

Awesomeness 1: It feels right in my hand. The buttons are not made for 10 year old kids.

Awesomeness 2: The convenience of a camera in my phone.

Awesomeness 3: The brick contributed to the potentially illegal sagging pants.