Ten open source alternatives that save you from downloading illegaly

Downloading open source software is a new, rising alternative for downloading your software illegaly or paying big bucks for them, but the open source community is cluttered with poorly functioning and hardly maintained bad software which clouds you from some real jewels. In this list some familiar and unfamiliar pieces of software which are, at least as good better than the commercial alternative. Be prepared to find some software on there you already have, to surprise you: that piece of software you’re running on your computer is open source, you can download the source code, and modify it to your needs if you know how. For some of these, that’s why they are so good. Throughout this listing I will be looking at the pros and cons of the different open source alternatives, as well as the reliability towards the future (where does it get its money, how is it financially backed?). Continue reading

You’re unique!

Every person is a unique individual, even single-egged twins aren’t exactly the same. As you grow up, you learn new and different things which influence your interests and the choices you make in your life. These interests influence how you perceive the world around you, what gets your attention and what doesn’t.

The difference in this perception is a big issue for developers and designers. How can you make a program or object that suits everyone? This is something that’s impossible to decide by yourself, in order to find out whether your program is of any use, you’ll need to test it with other people in real-life situations. Sometimes this means that you’ll need to design different versions of your software for different (groups of) people.

The most common example of this is software being in different languages, but this difference could go further than just language. White cars reflect the most amount of light, thus meaning that they are cooler and easier to cool in hot countries, but harder to find in the snow in cold countries. Designing a practical and worldwide useful object suddenly becomes a lot harder!

It is time for something new

“Progress, for the sake of progress, should be discouraged” – the character Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series.

Today, my leisure time organization launched their new membership administration website. Change has always been a very peculiar thing in the world. First of all, from an organizational point of view, it comes with risk which can be avoided, so the improvement should be bigger than the risk it takes to implement the change. On a more individual level, change has always divided people into two groups: the change adorers, who welcome the new situation, and the change haters, who detest the new situation or, in most cases, just simply don’t want to change.

The psychological interest in the last group has grown over the years, especially with the development and change of technologies in recent years. According to theory, change has three stages: the unfreeze stage, in which the audience of the change is prepared for the change, the change stage, in which the change is implemented, and the freeze change, in which the day-to-day activities are resumed, with the change implemented. In a way, change has always met its resistance during all three of its stages, whether the change is an improvement or not. If you’re changing any functionality in your software or tool, be prepared to lose some of your customers just because of it.

The pocket knife of the internet

Originally, my interest in user interface design came from the poor design of websites. Back then, websites had poor designs (even poorer than nowadays) and were hard to navigate. Every website has its own method to deal with the problems of limited screen real estate and too much functionality. A nice example of a good way to do this is Google. pocketknifeThe products and possibilities they offer keep growing, but the complexity of their products has been stripped down to a minimum. A nice example of this is their main page, where there are two buttons and a menu bar. The design of their menu bar has been based on a swiss army knife, take out what you need, everything opens in a new tab, and whenever you are done using it, put it back again. I think this is a good example of a design of a big complex website.

Let the museum come to you

I admit, museums aren’t the most popular day activity. So a post about museums is a challenge, but I like a challenge.

Today I ran into this museum website: http://www.computerhistory.org . It’s both a museum you can visit (located in california) as it is a website about the history of the thing you are reading this from – whether it is a computer, laptop, a handheld tablet/phone or something different entirely. Apart from being a very good example of a poor website design (I got lost in five minutes, try to stay on longer), it has a few online exhibits ranging from the marketing side of the computer to the technical details of a silicon chip. It’s worth checking out to find out where the thing you are holding actually came from, and you’re done browsing Wikipedia.

What you inherit from your previous owner is…

I think that a student room or studio is one of the biggest hand-me downs in The Netherlands. The many times such a room has been handed down from previous owners is uncountable – and I don’t want to know to be honest. So whenever you change something in your room, you might want to consider the next owners: is this of any use to them? Maybe consider the building owner or maintainer, is this something you could sell to them after your use, like a brand new wooden floor? In my girlfriend’s studio, I found something of which the use seems quite useless, two power plugs against the ceiling on places where I’d guess a previous owner saw the use of putting a power plug over there, but we keep guessing at the point of it. Got any ideas? The only idea i can think of is a light, but where would you put the lightswitch?Jump to the ceiling and put it on (or off)?

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…and what your stopwatch should look like

Following up on this post about the poor design and functionality of watches, this is how an actual stopwatch should look like.

stopwatch

It’s the runmeter app on my iPhone, I can select a route and an activity, the start button is present and easy to reach, it changes into a stop button when I’m running, everything I need is just right there. With this app, comes a lot of additional features that ordinary stopwatches don’t have, like an extensive history calendar and the actual route of my run. This is a nice view of how technical developments enable us to make gadgets not only more user-friendly, but also have more functionality at the same time. From being a general watch which you had to wind up yourself and correct every few minutes, we definitely got a long way in a relatively short period of time. The speed of this development suggest that we’re in the midst of an information and technology revolution, where the possibilities are only limited by our imagination and resourcefulness.