Internet Elephant (in the Corner)

In the web design and web application world, Internet Explorer is always the Elephant in the Corner. The most popular web browser is one of the more cantankerous and annoying web browsers to design HTML and JavaScript for use inside it. For a long time a few web designers have preached a need for Web Standards. However, IE’s lack of standards made that unlikely. Only when IE actually move ever so slightly towards standards did the WS crowd feel vindicated.

Additionally, Internet Explorer is the gaping hole in computer security. People rarely need to patch Windows or Office so much as patch IE (and often).

Normally I roll my eyes at just about anything Dvorak writes. However, he does point out a new argument for the “No More IE” crowd. Unfortunately until Microsoft stockholders put the pressure on the company to change, I really doubt this elephant is going anywhere.

Column from PC Magazine: The Great Microsoft Blunder

I think it can now be safely said, in hindsight, that Microsoft’s entry into the browser business and its subsequent linking of the browser into the Windows operating system looks to be the worst decision—and perhaps the biggest, most costly gaffe—the company ever made. I call it the Great Microsoft Blunder.

Underplanned Internet

My have things changed. The number is probably in the millions to tens of millions considering people often set up networks at home.

RFC 1118 – Hitchhikers guide to the Internet. E. Krol.

When the Internet was designed it was to have about 50 connected networks. With the explosion of networking, the number is now approaching 1000. The software in a group of critical gateways (called the core gateways) are not able to pass or store much more than that number. In the short term, core reallocation and recoding has raised the number slightly.

Email Cheats

I was hoping this article might help me. However, I already use some of these. Maybe I just need to refine and use them a bit more?

Inbox Zero: Five sneaky email cheats | 43 Folders

  • The template
  • The link
  • The question
  • The “I don’t know”
  • The delete key
    (Ones I use in bold)

The template has been part of my arsenal for years now. The Outlook signature tool makes this useful without springing for plug-ins or dealing with MS forms. Since I do web design, I have made tons of FAQ web pages. Instead of re-typing that information, I pop into the message my tempate response which links to the appropriate FAQ entry. Responding to simple inquiries takes one minute not ten.

Deleting things is hard. However, I do delete pretty frequently.

I don’t like to say “I don’t know” too much. It would be a lot easier
to just say, “I don’t know”. I could do the “Do you still need this?”
more.

Another cheat I use is filtering. Perhaps too much so. I encourage customers who call or email me to use the appropriate online form. Results of those forms go to one of the folders under “to-do”. Bolded folder names with a number beside them warn me how many notices of certain types are waiting on me. Much easier than going through my Inbox for which are important and which can be ignored.

Badly behaved

This article has sat in the back of my mind for quite a while. It is one the major reasons I use Bloglines.

I doubt we are being inundated by them. One can always hope….

Boing Boing: Badly behaved RSS readers gobble bandwidth

Glenn Fleishman has posted some analysis of the impact of RSS aggregators on his blogs’ bandwidth use. A well-behaved aggregator should always check to see if the file it’s after has been updated before it gets a copy of it, but lots of badly designed aggregators mindlessly pull the same file a couple times an hour (or more), and once you’ve got ten or a hundred thousand of these pointing at your RSS, going 24/7, it can get awfully expensive.

JPG Lossable

Why you should never use ‘Save’ when working on a jpg image – SympleByte

In typical ‘you never get something for nothing’ fashion, the greatest asset of a jpg image is also its greatest downfall. Most people know that a jpg image is a compressed image, which means that it has been compressed using an algorithm that makes the file size smaller. This can be a huge advantage when trying to transfer the image electronically, which is what you’re doing every time someone looks at your webpage. Some people know that the method used to create jpg images is what is called a ‘lossy’ compression algorithm, which means the image you end up isn’t quite the same as the image you started out with. What a lot of people don’t know is that every time you save a jpg image you decrease the quality of that image, which can be a real problem if you don’t pay attention to what you’re doing.

Blackboard and WebCT Merger

The threats to switch to Moodle are a little premature over the announcment of the Blackboard and WebCT merger. Moodle seems more like a content management system than a learning management system. Some thoughts

  • Support for WebCT’s existing products is not going away in the near term.
  • Products currently in development probably will finish.
  • Blackboard has excellent design concepts WebCT can use and vice versa. A combination of the two could be the best of both worlds.

Machines Better Programmers than Humans

… Computers now create programs that solve complex problems better than programs designed by people….

Grasemann and Miikkulainen applied genetic algorithms to solve the fingerprint compression puzzle in work supported by the National Science Foundation’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering directorate. They provided their computer with the basic programming instructions needed to compress graphic images and then waited for a better algorithm to be born. The progress of the evolving program was tested at each generation. After 50 generations, the genetic algorithm consistently outperformed the human-derived WSQ.

Machines Better Programmers than Humans

Goody! First my job could be going to offshore outsourcing. Now my job could be going to a computer.

Web Design Job

UPDATE: Position filled.

Valdosta State Information Technology is hiring 2 Web Design student assistants.

Web Design student assistants are responsible for creating and maintaining several department web sites, surveys, and other projects. Individuals will be responsible for interacting with representatives to build web pages and perform basic graphic design to complete websites from existing web template designs. Additionally, individuals work with any students, staff, and faculty who require assistance in developing class or work related sites.

Qualifications:

  1. Ability to learn. Candidate must show they can adapt to the rapidly changing technology landscape.
  2. Some experience with one or more web design or image applications:
    • Photo Editing: Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Paint Shop Pro
    • Web Design: FrontPage, Netscape Composer, Dreamweaver
  3. Effective verbal and written communication skills and the ability to interact professionally with a diverse group of users and support staff.
  4. Ability to clearly document all projects.
  5. Desire to learn web scripting languages: Perl, ASP, PHP

Students majoring in computer science, art, public relations, or marketing preferred. Self-taught designers welcome.

Send resume and examples of previous work to me.

Hidden Project Pitfalls

Project management materials always discuss things in the problem-solving methodology:

  1. Define successful criteria, constraints, and release criteria. (Define and understand the problem.)
  2. Write a plan, define tasks, identify risks, and estimate costs. (Develop a plan.)
  3. (Try the plan.)
  4. Record actuals and estimates. (Collect data.)
  5. Evaluate at milestones. (Evaluate data to determine if plan succeeded.)

This is all pretty good stuff, but I think it leaves out some pretty basic stuff which no one really quite cares is involved in any major software implementation project.

  1. Adequately staff the project. You are more likely to underestimate the amount of resources needed not overestimate. It would be better to overestimate as those resources can be applied elsewhere.
  2. Buy-in of the affected. The people who are going to be affected by changing software are the ones who most need to approve the decision to change and provide the information about what it will need to do. A high level manager in Finance probably does not know what the day-to-day needs are in Marketing. Yet all too often, someone without any understanding of what the business processes are makes the decision to go with one product or another because it fits his or her vision.

    This is asking for causing a massive amount of complaints, retro-fitting later, or even abandonment of the implemented product. The more objective and detailed view the decision makers have regarding the actual needs of everyone affected, the better match that can be made between prioritized needs and solution. No, not everyone’s problems can be solved. However, making no effort will result in the decision makers shrugging their shoulders in confusion as to why so many people are upset. They have no strong justification for why they picked on solution or another.

  3. Pilot tesing allows those truly masochistic souls to experience the learning curve and bleeding edge while the normal people are safe. Nothing will create more havok than a roll-out full of bugs and problems no one knows how to resolve.
  4. Transparency in the decision making process may not eliminate all complaints, but it sucks the wind out of rumor. The more people who know the hows and whys decisions were made, the less finger pointing there will be. When decisions are made in secret meetings and never disclosed to the affected parties, rumor mills have the fuel to burn down a project.
  5. Some people need a long exposure to something new to get used to the experience. Not everyone can “get it” the first time. The more complicated and difficult a program is to use, the longer people need to work with the program.
  6. Train, train, train, and train some more. Some people are going to need to attend training (more than once). Some people are going to want to just play with it. Some people are going to refuse to learn the new program. There needs to be available assistance with every aspect of a process in a formal instructor to class setting, one-on-one setting, and self-help materials.
  7. Every individual understands each nuance differently. The more diverse the affected users, the more diverse the approaches to helping them understand what it does and how it works. Users ultimately want to know, “How does this affects me? I just want to do my job and not get yelled at by my boss or anyone else.” Using Economics jagon in talking to a Graphic Designer may be the least effective approach. Essentially consider every individual as… an individual.