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

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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.

The 10 nastiest feedback mistakes

I think it’s a part of every soft skill course, giving feedback. When something goes wrong or happens, your pc or gadget gives you feedback about what happened, but my oh my, those programmers could do with a decent course in soft skills.

10: Feedback is misspelled
Usually, this is the source for some humor, but it is simply ugly when there are spelling mistakes in your feedback.

9: Feedback is warning you for something that is a 1 in a million case
Ever unplugged a USB drive without unmounting it first? And, what happened? What is that warning for?

8: Feedback gives you the illusion of choice
A feedback window telling you that the download completed successfully, with both an “ok” and “cancel” button. What’s the difference?

7: Feedback is abundant
“Program closed successfully” or “goodbye” messages when you’re closing a program. I really detest the “are you sure?” message when I try to power-off my phone, sometimes it’s still there the next morning.

6: Feedback is not there though it should
Logical result of someone being to scared of number 7, oh you expected an e-mail that your order was received? To bad.

5: Feedback is unclear
Ever saw a 0x34669-something error? There you go, you don’t have a clue what to do with that.

4: Feedback is simply wrong
Ever saw the message “program closed successfully” after a dozen error messages? Been there, and it’s nasty. Ever installed a program and got the message “installation successful”? That’s where you have to be extra carefull.

3:Feedback is not configurable
I don’t want to hear all your mistakes or get notified every time I get a message. I want to be able to turn these off.

2: Feedback is to prominent
Your entire PC hangs because some weird program thinks it needs your attention. Let me decide that. Web pages in IE tend to jump to the front when the page is loaded. Incredibly annoying.

1: Feedback is not imminent
When you click a button, the click should be shown immediately, not hang the program for a minute. Ever tried to click a button a gazillion times because nothing happened? This is the cause. This is the most time-consuming and frustrating activity you can have on your computer. If something went wrong, I want to know it, and I want to know right now.

…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.

Watch your watch

Good morning, did you have your morning run yet? yes? Great, because I did as well, and there’s something I’d want to talk about. It’s on the wrist of most people, and nowadays you don’t see them to often anymore because they’re replaced by mobile phones. I’m talking about watches, look, here’s mine:

IMG_1114

Did you know there are at least eight different functions to my watch behind five buttons and a rotating disk? Amazing isn’t it? And every function has different functionality for each of those buttons, except for the one on the bottom left, because it always takes me to the next function and the one just below the rotating disk, because it turns the light on.

Well, that is where the fun ends. Digital watches like mine are one of the most unfriendly objects in our world, how can you put so much functionality behind so few buttons? I hardly even know which function I’m at, let alone how to use each of the diffrent functions and what each button is for. Every time I use a different function I have to find out what each button does and memorize it, because the watch isn’t telling me anything. Buying a watch with as many functions as possible was the trend for a while, even though you only used a few of them. As Robert A Norman said:”Added functionality comes at the cost of additional complexity.” Digital watches are an excellent example of this.

Pinterested?

Yes, this is another Pinterest review. This is Pinterest from my point of view, you see?

Pinterest is a photo-centered blog application. You can write small blogs, but the most important part is the picture, and that is what immediately catches your eye when you start the application. The pictures take up the most of screen real estate, so they are most important.

My first impression is that it’s a nice design app, which immediately causes me to ask the question: is this the design at the cost of functionality? Fortunately, the design seems to come with beautiful functionality as well.There is no abundance of functionality and I immediately found everything I needed to cover the basis.

how to go back?

how to go back?

There are some disadvantages to the design though. I keep losing the “back” button in images since I don’t expect it to show the “pinterest” bar when I scroll up and in small situations like when viewing a single photo, it causes the page to refresh. Though the idea of “scroll up to show buttons” is quite nice and adds to the design. The scroll up to refresh functionality has another disadvantage, because I like to read up on my backlog, I have to scroll all the way up to refresh the page again, causing me to lose the point where I was before the update.

The practical semi-permanent categories at the bottom are quite useful, whenever you unfollow someone, you can find someone else to follow looking through your favorites by theme. I ended up with a nice mix of technology, humor and just nice pictures. Editing your profile or pictures works quite nice, but in the few hours I’ve been using the app, I’ve never seen a news item so I don’t know the usefulness of the “news” section.

And finally I have my doubts about the actual overall functionality of the app. what is it good for? What makes this app a useful addition to my collections of applications, other than it being  another way to waste time? If you like to watch at beautiful pictures or like to be entertained, this is an app for you, otherwise, get out and use Facebook.

So to summarise:
+ for the design
+ for the “scroll up to see buttons” function
– for the refresh to scroll up
– sometimes refreshing takes a long distance to scroll when you’ve scrolled way down
– overall functionality use/usefulness unclear