Jan 032013

Today, I missed that a meeting that I run was about to start, because while all the other attendees knew about it, it wasn’t on my calendar for this week. It’s a biweekly meeting, and my calendars show it as happening next week.

This is not a new problem. It’s not even a rare one. Calendar sync is a problem that has continued to almost uniformly suck beyond words since people first started carrying gadgets around. Interestingly, it seems to have gotten worse, rather than better. Problems with my calendar being out of sync were rare back in the days I was carrying a PalmPilot around, syncing it using the good-old-trusty HotSync® protocol and a cradle. Nowadays, though, it seems to be the norm for my calendars to be entirely out of whack.

This is, of course, probably because I expect my calendars to be accurate in more places. Web apps, my iPhone, my iPad, two desktop computers, and a laptop. I use them all to update calendar information. Perhaps I need to give up on this expectation and hope, and just use one gadget for all my calendar information from now on.

I shouldn’t have to do that, though. This shouldn’t be an impossible problem to solve, especially since the information is being maintained on a server.

I’m tired of not being able to trust my calendar to be correct. Why hasn’t this been solved yet? I’ve been using electronically synchronized devices to keep track of my schedule for almost 20 years now (I started with a Newton MessagePad 110 in 1994). There’s no reason why this should continue to be so frustrating after all this time.

I’d appreciate tips on what you do to reduce these problems!

 Posted by at 11:54 AM
Sep 072012

Families share photos. We have multiple computers. Why are there still no home photo servers that let multiple users share a library and maintain the photos, metadata, and so forth all at the same time? Not having a way to this nowadays is absurd.

iPhoto is by and large a nice piece of software (although it has a number of quirks; don’t get me wrong). But it’s not set up to let me sit at my laptop and manage the family’s photo library, which is kept in iPhoto on my daughter’s iMac. That iMac is the source for all our photo syncing to iPhone and iPad devices, as well as for our AppleTV. I don’t like having to sit at my daughter’s computer when I want to import new photos, edit them, and add metadata to them. Her desk is small and uncomfortable for a big guy like me. And often the times I want to be working on the photos is in conflict with her wanting or needing to be at her desk.

On top of that, adding comments and ratings to photos is exactly the sort of thing that’s nice to be able to do while sitting on my laptop (or, dare I say it, my iPad) in front of the TV.

Someone is likely to think, “Why not store the library on a NAS?” That doesn’t work because you can’t use it from multiple computers at the same time, which I need to be able to do. There are too many people (and devices) in my house that want or need to access the library at the same time. And I don’t think it makes sense that I should have to compromise on something that should be a basic, obvious requirement nowadays.

It’s absolutely ludicrous that there’s no way to do this. I’ve spent a lot of time looking for a solution for this, and there’s pretty clearly not one.

 Posted by at 9:17 AM
May 012012

I was ecstatic to discover that Mozilla has opened a position for a Mac Platform Integration engineer. While Firefox works, and works pretty well, on the Mac, there are a lot of quirks and oddities that get me down.

In some cases, it’s a matter of the uncanny valley effect. A long time ago, Firefox felt like a Windows application on the Mac. The UI was distinctly different from every other Mac application, and it stood out like a sore thumb. But you knew what you were getting into. You started it up, and because it looked nothing like a Mac app, it was okay that it didn’t really act like one. You didn’t expect it to.

But then we put a fair amount of work into making it look a lot more like a Mac application. As a result, we now have a Firefox that looks much more like a Mac app… but doesn’t quite act like one. There are little, subtle things that just feel wrong. This gives you this uneasy feeling, very much like the uncanny valley effect, and it’s unsettling. This really needs to be addressed, because it’s a big turnoff to a lot of people (myself included).

There are big things, too, of course.

A few things, right off the top of my head, that bug me:

  • Pop-up menus don’t behave like real Mac pop-up menus. This is one of those uncanny valley problems; they used to act totally different, then we made them much closer, but there are still differences, and they’re annoying.
  • Our pop-up panels (like the one that appears when you go to edit a bookmark) look very out-of-place, and many of them are not resizeable even though they would be much more useful if they could be resized.
  • Text selection behavior is subtly different in ways I can’t put my finger on, but I know the issue is there.
  • Drop-down sheets — particularly the one for configuring the toolbar — are just not right.
  • If Firefox isn’t running, and you click a link in another app that causes Firefox to open to open that app, and Firefox has an update pending, the update installs, Firefox restarts, and you don’t get your link opened. This was fixed at one point, then rebroke (possibly around the time we switched from Carbon to Cocoa). This drives me nuts, especially since I run on Aurora and/or Nightly, so it happens to me all the time.
  • We could use more and better gesture support. At one point, we had swipe to top and bottom support, but that vanished at some point. With Lion making it clear that gestures are the wave of the future on Mac, we need to get on board.
  • With Mountain Lion on the way, we need to look at integrating with the new Notification Center as well as the operating system’s built-in sharing service. Being able to quickly tweet using that service would be a really nice touch.

That’s by no means everything, but just what I could think about in the five minutes or so it took me to compose this post.

So if you’re a Mac developer looking for work, consider Mozilla! You’ll be glad you did! It’s a kick-ass place to work, and a lot of fun. And you’ll be making a great browser greater on the best operating system around.

 Posted by at 8:05 AM
Mar 072010

I recently started blocking ads in my browser. I don’t actually mind advertising, and I resisted blocking ads for a long time. I understand that some sites rely on ad revenue to earn a living, and I’m fine with that.

Why, then, have I started blocking ads?

Simple. Companies that insist on using tricks to try to force you to look at ads you don’t want to see. Pop-up and pop-under ads, for example.

Worse, to me, is those ads that pop up if you simply mouse over text in the middle of a news story. This is the epitome of skanky behavior on the part of advertisers. It’s offensive and disruptive. This is why I block ads now. If advertisers would simply realize, “Hey, if we only put some ads here and there in the main page and refrain from making them stunningly distracting, from interfering with the actual usability of the site,” then I would be perfectly happy to turn off the ad blockers and let the ads back into my life.

Until then, I’ll block the ads.

 Posted by at 12:11 AM
Oct 092009

The last month and a half have been filled with productivity killers, from illness to hardware problems. The hits keep on coming.

For the last few days, my iMac, which I use when I’m writing because I have so much screen space on it (three screens, courtesy of the integrated screen, the video port, and a USB->DVI converter box), has been acting oddly.

Yesterday I ran some tests on it, and lo and behold, TechTool Pro tells me the video subsystem is bad. Apple’s hardware test utility says the disk controller is bad. I have no idea what exactly the problem is, but clearly all is not well in iMac-land.

So I have an appointment to take it in for service tomorrow evening. In the meantime, I’m working on the MacBook Pro.  Which is a great machine, except I don’t have a really good place to work on my laptop for extended periods. My desk is far too crowded to put a laptop on, so I’m working in the living room. Which is not the optimal place to work for many reasons, both ergonomic and Sophie-nomic.

The point to this pathetic little rant: if you’re expecting or hoping for something from me, I’m running a bit behind at the moment, so please be patient! Sorry!

 Posted by at 12:33 PM
May 202009

That doofus Larry King tweeted the results of “American Idol” less than 10 minutes after the show ended on the east coast. What the hell?  I’ve unfollowed him… not that it does a lot of good now.

Yeah, it’s a stupid show. Blame my musician brother for getting me hooked on it. He insisted on watching while he was visiting last year, and I’ve been unable to kick it since then.

 Posted by at 10:24 PM
Nov 052008

I’m very confused and disappointed by the hateful response some people have to President Bush.  Just because you don’t like him or agree with things he’s done doesn’t mean you have to be crude and nasty.

Although I wound up voting for McCain in the end, this was a tough call for me this year.  It’s the first time I wasn’t able to make up my mind many months before the election.  That says something, although I admit I’m not sure what.

While I certainly understand the passion people can have, especially for someone as engaging as Mr. Obama, I don’t get the kind of hate that flows in the other direction.  It’s shameful, and it makes me sad to have to listen to it from so many people I otherwise like and admire.

All that aside, congratulations to President-Elect Obama.  Good job, and good luck, sir.

 Posted by at 1:49 PM
Sep 042008

It’s time to admit that we need to keep the Space Shuttle flying for a few more years. We simply can’t give up our only access to space (and the space station) for multiple years until Constellation is ready to fly.

This is especially critical now, with our relationship with Russia taking on a more complicated edge, and with Congress about to recess without approving permission to buy more seats on future Soyuz craft. As NASA administrator Mike Griffin says, this is going to almost unavoidably result in a period of time during which only the Russians will be aboard the International Space Station.

This can’t be allowed to happen. Congress needs to get off its butt and fund both the Space Shuttle through 2014 as well as fully fund the Constellation program. It’s time to man up, boys, and do what needs to be done to ensure the United States maintains its leadership role in space exploration.

 Posted by at 4:42 PM
Aug 262008

Repeat after me: Don’t discuss politics with friends.

I have far too many left-leaning friends with whom I have extremely strong differences of opinion to engage in political debate with them. They tend to all come at me at once, so that I feel like I’m being ganged up on by them and their (from my perspective) ill-informed views.

It’s not conducive to legitimate discussion, and I always wind up offended and frustrated, which usually results in me storming off in a huff.

Here are a few examples of ways good friends can force me to withdraw from a political discussion in sheer exasperation:

  1. Repeatedly call our leaders lunatics or idiots without backing it up with any kind of logical argument.  Me, if I don’t like someone, I just say that.  Just because I disagree with someone doesn’t make them an idiot or a lunatic.
  2. Insist that someone’s motives are entirely driven by greed, malice, or sadism, despite a total lack of evidence that such is the case.  If you honestly think that, you’d better have a reason for it, otherwise shut the hell up.  Just because you don’t understand why someone does something doesn’t mean their motives are impure.
  3. Argue that our country shouldn’t defend its interests, no matter where in the world those interests lie.  Isolationism doesn’t work, and never has.

I think it’s a low form of debate to use such arguments as 1-3, and I think people that don’t think we should defend our interests around the world are just stupid. I’m fine with arguing degrees to which things should be done, but to flat-out argue against it is insane.

 Posted by at 11:20 PM
Jun 202008

In the past year, we’ve blown through four routers. They keep failing on us, usually right around the same time we have a cluster of outages with our cable modem service provider.

Is it possible that the cable modem is somehow damaging the routers plugged into it? I have no idea, but it seems hard to believe that so many routers — each a different brand — would be defective.

 Posted by at 8:00 AM