Really, Amtrak? How did you decide to pick the trip that requires a transfer, takes significantly longer, ultimately transfers to the train I wanted anyway, and is the same price as the default option? And don’t even get me started on your session handling.
Archive for the 'Interface' Category
I’ve owned and used a 3650 for going on 3 years now, and it took me most of that time to figure out that not only is the round keypad “not that bad,” but I’d be prepared to argue that it’s actually good — if not better — than your average square keypad. You can call me crazy, but the reason is simple: the round keypad offers a one dimensional search space for numbers and letters:
Rather than having feel and count the possible subtle lines that separate buttons on most phones and remembering that “T” is sort of bottom middle and “2″ is top middle unless there are extra buttons above it, I just have to remember that “T” is near the end and”2″ is near the beginning. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it a “round keypad,” because it’s actually a linear keypad.
In addition to the linear, one dimensional search space (the same one that make’s the Mac’s menu bar so much nicer to use), each of the non-numeric keys have distinct shapes and positions. Where there are repeated shapes, they’re on opposite sides of the phone, and serve opposite purposes (answer and hang-up, edit input and delete/clear, select and back/exit). Recognizing that different button shapes help the thumb find what it’s looking for was one of the main differentiators that made the GameCube controller so great.
(Of course, off the deep end of different button shapes are the many many other Nokia phones that Beattie was actually talking about.)
I admit the keypad had a bit of a learning curve, but once learned, if not better, the 3650′s keypad was at least as good as your cookie cutter keypad. It’s too bad most people weren’t willing to give that different looking thing a chance; When I finally upgrade my phone later this year, I for one will definitely miss that quirky looking keypad.
It looks like a few changes to google maps were just rolled out and then quickly rolled back. While I definitely like the new “Set this as default location” feature (though in my few minutes of usage I couldn’t figure out how to change the default after setting it, and the first time I tried it it crashed Safari), the decision to put the sidebar information on the left and relegate the map itself to the right felt pretty terrible. Using it for several minutes, I repeatedly reached for the left edge of the browser for the zoom widget, and how is the map not the primary piece of information on that page?
Hopefully that left / right decision doesn’t come back when these changes are re-introduced. And sorry, I didn’t capture a screenshot while they were there.
Update: Okay, these changes are back, and I still don’t like the left right thing.
I was excited to hear about the movie support in iPhoto 5, but it turns out it’s just not any good. Here are the problems I’ve had with it tonight:
- When you double click on a movie, it opens in QuickTime. iPhoto doesn’t have any built in support for trimming my movies, so this finally spurred me to buy QuickTime Pro for the third time.
- So I enter my new QuickTime Pro registration key and start editing the movie in QuickTime pro, assuming that it’s going to work in the same was as PhotoShop does as an external editor for photos. In particular, I was expecting that I’d be able to hit “save” and it’d save a new copy of my movie, preserving my original movie in the process. Nope. It prompts me where to save the movie, and it doesn’t automatically import it.
- After tracking down where I just saved the movie and dragging it into iPhoto. Unfortunately, iPhoto apparently doesn’t recognize QuickTime Pro 7′s default save format, and informs me that “The following files could not be imported (they may be an unrecognized file type or the files may not contain valid data).”
- So I finally figure out which format iPhoto can import and I get all my movies edited and ready to export to my Gallery, but the export module will only export photos. Apparently I’m going to have to manually upload each of my movies to my gallery if I want them there.
Though now that I look at the iPhoto product page, they seem to only claim the only new feature with regard to movies “Import video clips from your digital camera,” which seems accurate since I ran into problems with editing, importing from the file system, and exporting.
Needless to say, this isn’t exactly motivating me to finish sorting through my New York and Las Vegas pictures for posting.
iPhoto feedback goes here.
I happened across a Nintendo DS in stock at Target the other day, so I figured I’d pick it up. I like it overall, but I have a few issues with it that I figured I’d enumerate just because I haven’t had anything else to say for awhile:
- The stylus that comes with the DS is really light, so compared to the hefty Palm stylii I’m used to, it doesn’t really feel like I’m holding anything. It’s also a lot shorter than Palm stylii, so I’m having to grip it differently.
- It’s kind of a lot bigger than I expected, almost to the point of not being easily portable. It’s almost the size of two GBA SPs put next to each other. It’s not much bigger than an original GBA, but the thickness is a bit of a portability stopper.
- Holding the unit and playing a game with the stylus (Mario 64 in my case) can get pretty tiring on both hands in different ways: My left wrist gets sore from supporting the whole unit + the pressure of me styliing, and my right hand gets sore from gripping.
- On the bright side, the dual screens are really nice and bright. A lot brighter and sharper looking than the GBA SPs, in my opinion.
- Unfortunately, my unit has a dead pixel in the lower right corner of the upper screen, so I’m going to have to call Nintendo about that.
One last issue is that I’m not really sure that the DS is actually going to meet my “portable” gaming needs. In particular, I see problems with the following scenarios:
- Lying in bed, usually on my side, with one eye open and peering at the screen.
- The toilet. Dropping that stylus isn’t exactly unlikely.
- While playing Final Fantasy Tactics Advance on the drive to work. ;-)
How the hell d… Oh, actually, those are all good questions, but what I really wanted to know is “how the hell does this thing work?”(0)
Radiohead and The Flaming Lips have similar accessibility issues. Maybe I should do a usability study on them.
(Probably only Kevin is going to find that funny.)
Imagine if iCal and iPhoto were more tightly integrated: If you kept your iCal very up to date, you could search for “snowboarding pictures,” and iPhoto would know that since the picture was taken on date N, and your iCal said you were snowboarding on date N, then that iPhoto could assume that that picture is probably snowboarding related.
I’ve been meaning to write this since just a couple of days after I installed Panther, but it took me quite awhile to actually find a third irritation. But find one I did, so here we are:
- In Preview, the default tool that is selected when you open an image isn’t very consistent. Sometimes it’s the scroll tool, but more often than not it seems like it ends up being the selection tool, which is very irritating. This is solved somewhat by noticing that you can activate the scroll tool with command-1. Also irritating is that they changed zoom-in and zoom-out from command-up arrow and command-down arrow to command-+ and and command–. Probably more consistent in general, but irritating until I get used to it.
- An annoying holdover bug from Jaguar’s Preview: If you zoom in and then hit the “maximize” window widget, it never fully maximizes horizontally, even when there’s clearly plenty of room. It always makes the window just a little bit too small. More irritating, in Panther, it seems like this behavior now happens when you initially open an image, too.
- In Jaguar, I made backups in Disk Copy by using the “New Image From Device” feature. Unfortunately, when I try to make an image of my hard drive in Panther, it tells me that there was a “Device Busy” error. Instead, I have to resort to making a “New Image From Folder,” which is a little more work to do each time.
- The final irritation I’ve found has to do with the new application switching interface. In 10.2, if you hid an application and then hit command-tab once, you would return to the application you just hid. However, in 10.3, that newly hidden application gets moved near the end of the application list. In theory this is a good change, but in practice it seriously disrupts my workflow, because I would hide applications I was still actively using but that I just want off my screen for a second.
- Also irritating is that hidden apps don’t get shown when you use Expose. It’d be nice if there was some sort of modifier key to make it show hidden apps in addition to visible apps. Minimized windows, too, for that matter.
So, those are my first three irritations. As usual, feedback to Apple goes here. I’m sending the above comments to them pretty much as written.
I’ve played a lot more of Tactics Advance since my first impressions, and it being the marathon game that it is, that means I’ve got plenty of time for second impressions:
- In my first impressions I complained about how annoying it was to not be able to see how a given piece of equipment would alter a character’s stats. Well, it turns out if you hold start, it will show you how the equipment impacts the stats. Thank god.
- For some reason, I overlooked the fact that a character can equip two different Action “A” ability sets simultaneously. This is an important game play point, because otherwise a character is locked into the abilities of whatever job he is currently assigned. But nope! A character actually gets A abilities from both his assigned job, and one other selected job set.
- The first time I saw an extra character named “Foobar,” I thought it was cute and laughed a bit. But by the third time I’d seen an extra named “Foobar,” it began to lose its charm.
- The game time clock says I’ve been playing for 30 hours and 8 minutes,, and 72 missions. Of course, the 30 hours doesn’t take into account either (on one hand) all the times I fell asleep while playing only to wake up and just turn the game boy off in the middle of a battle, or (on the other hand) all the times I set the game boy down in the middle of a battle, only to come back to it awhile later and finish the fight. I don’t actually know if it balances out or not.
- Finally, it’s been a long time since I muttered something like “This game is a lot of work” about a game I was still actually enjoying. But seriously: a lot of work. And you know you’re in trouble when you start seriously considering writing software to help you play the game more efficiently.
Apparently AT&T snuck a bunch of shareware onto my phone while I wasn’t looking , because when I started up the application manager earlier this evening, it asked me if I wanted to install 6 new programs. In what was probably a foolish decision, I said “yes,” and quite awhile later I had a bunch of new programs that sucked.
One of them was “Active Toons,” which is apparently a little app for making “MMS” pictures to send to your friends. When I opened Active Toons, I was greeted with a little cartoon picture of a guy with blonde hair in a red shirt. The first menu item was “Edit Character,” which I clicked on, because I neither have blonde hair nor would I ever wear a red shirt.
On the edit character screen, there were menu items for “Change Skin Color,” “Change Hair” (with three or four options for haircut, and then an option to change hair color), and “Change Top” (with two options for shirt styles and option to change top color). But the first item in the list was “Become a Woman.”
So I did.
But the point is, with all of the other menu items consistently reading “Change X,” the “Become a Woman” verbiage only stuck out that much more. Admittedly, I’m not sure if “Change Sex” would have been any better, but at least it would have been consistent.
And then, when it comes time to compose an MMS, you have a few options to change backgrounds (there are a few cartoon backgrounds, or you can impose your character over a picture you’ve taken with the phone’s camera), and you can also select an emotion from the options of Happy, Angry, Sad, and “Surprized .”
Here’s the character I ended up with. I can’t imagine why she looks so surprized.
And that was the extent of the entertainment I derived from these programs. And they were less useful than they were entertaining. Thanks AT&T.
 Huh, I wonder if that’s why my phone’s been periodically refusing to make or receive calls sometimes, and the only fix I’ve found is to restart the phone. That’d be really awesome. SALLMRV.
 Yes, it’s spelled with a z in the program.
The most notable thing I can say about Final Fantasy Tactics Advance so far is that it’s put me to sleep about 7 times so far.
The intro to the game goes for at least 30 minutes before you can save the game, and closer to an hour if you’re a slower reader. The first time I played the game, I fell asleep before I could save it. The second time, I got to save the game, but when I started the third time, I couldn’t remember anything so had to go through the intro a third time before anything stuck. Variants on the same thing happened several times after that, where I’d fall asleep in the middle of a mission or forget what I was supposed to be doing, and just had to restart from the last saved game.
In addition to the slow pace of the game, there are a few other issues with the game. You’re rather suddenly dropped into things with a fairly steep learning curve, and this isn’t helped by the fact that equipment interfaces leave a lot to be desired. When shopping for equipment, you’re only told what jobs can use that equipment, meaning you have to remember what jobs all of your characters have. Worse, when you’re shopping, you can’t tell if any given piece of equipment will improve your character’s stats. And when you’re actually equipping items, you also can’t tell if the stats are improved — the only way to tell is to note your original stats, swap items, and then see if they improved.
But, this isn’t nearly as damning as it might sound. All those times I fell asleep, I was admittedly pretty tired, and playing right before bed. And the interface problems — while annoying — can be worked around without too much effort. Regardless, that doesn’t change the fact that this game is not for the casual gamer — anyone interested in this game is going to need to invest a lot of time reading things and learning the intricacies of the gameplay. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy and strategy games, check this out. Otherwise, I’d steer clear.