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Top Ten Persistent Design Flaws 1067

Posted by Hemos
from the good-ideas-to-consider dept.
jlouderb writes "Bruce Tognazzini former human interface evangalist at Apple, and currently a principal at web design firm Neilsen Norman Group has begun cataloging the top ten design computing flaws that we just live with with, but shouldn't have to. Only seven are found at his article, and (not surprisingly) three are Mac related. My favorite: the mysteriously dimmed menu options. Why are those darned things grey anyway?"
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Top Ten Persistent Design Flaws

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:47PM (#10944589)
    ...and some aren't.

    Like the thing about disk removal. The only thing Windows handles being removed "gracefully" is a floppy (and I'd hardly say "gracefully", if you had a file open on the disk). And Mac OS could have done that, but the idea was to prevent the user from removing the disk until, say, its contents have been properly saved. So Windows let you remove a floppy. So what? What if you hadn't saved the file on it that you "meant" to? Then what? At least Mac OS enforced the proper order of operations, i.e., finish what you're doing with the disk first, then eject. To insinuate that Windows gracefully handles the unexpected removal of USB and/or FireWire external volumes is crap. Since Macs don't even have floppies anymore, and this argument doesn't apply to FireWire/USB volumes (though he implies that it does), this argument is somewhat moot.

    And I can categorically say that his "computer not booting" story after he removed a FireWire drive is bullshit. If you remove the drive while it's asleep, yeah, it won't like that when it wakes up; usually, it will say a FireWire device has been removed before being unmounted. Worst case scenario would be rebooting the computer. But there is no way the computer just "wouldn't work" until the drive is plugged back in. That's just bollocks. Sounds like he had one bad/erratic experience that he thought was related to disk removal, and created this entire issue around it.

    Other observations are kind of generic wishlists for the behavior of various features and functions. Some of them are frankly good ideas.

    But when I read "Principle: The user is in charge and should be free to carry out any activity at any time without fear of reprisals" I just about lost my lunch.
    • The only thing Windows handles being removed "gracefully" is a floppy...To insinuate that Windows gracefully handles the unexpected removal of USB and/or FireWire external volumes is crap.

      Actually Windows (XP) doesn't nag if i just yank my USB thumb drive out without doing the "Safely remove hardware" thing.
      • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:58PM (#10944726)
        ...but you presumably knew you WANTED to remove it.

        What if a user has an open file, and yanks the drive? How does Windows "gracefully" deal with that? Answer: it can't.

        You can pull the drive on a Mac, too - the difference is that the Mac will say, hey, you should have unmounted this first...hope you saved everything. And instead of doing something like auto-unmounting-without-nagging-when-no-files-are- open, Apple just keeps the behavior consistent: the user should know they're done using the volume (unmount it) before they unplug it. This has been the behavior for 20 years. And no, I'm not saying just because something has been some way for a long time that it needs to remain, but I just don't see the problem. Not allowing a device to be removed, or "nagging", probably saves a lot of people from fucking shit up before they've properly saved and/or dealt with items on a removable volume, instead of allowing things to be unplugged wholesale. If the user unplugs something at an inopportune moment or with open files, how is the computer supposed to be able to deal with it? Cache up the changes and not tell you? Or tell you that something was removed when it wasn't supposed to be and tell you (and keep that behavior consistent even when you "might be done with it"), like Mac OS does?
    • by Pope (17780) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:54PM (#10944679)
      Heh, exactly. #1 complaint I've always heard about Macs? "Oh, you have to drag the disk to the Trash to eject it, that's not intuitive."

      Answer? Nothing about computers is 'intuitive' it's all learned behaviour. The fact that people actually whine and bitch about something that small makes me laugh, expecially now that in OS X the Trash turns into the Eject icon when you grab and move a removable disk.

      Bruce has always been the ultimate whiner, in and amongst some of his valid critiques, and he still wants a computer to be a mindreading typewriter at the end of the day.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I've always thought word processors were not intuitive. When I bought my first computer I wanted to write a letter but when I tried to use my pen on the monitor the ballpoint doesn't seem to work. I tried a sharpie and things were going fine until I needed to undo the marks I made on the monitor. The stupid computer didn't remove those sharpie marks. In fact, it didn't seem to do anything! Then I tried talking to the computer and it still didn't do anything ("Hello, computer?"). Oh, you have to use th
      • by JungleBoy (7578) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:11PM (#10944867)
        To quote someone whom I can't remember:

        "The nipple is the ONLY intuitive interface. After that, it's all learned"
      • by malfunct (120790) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:15PM (#10944924) Homepage
        Agreed, many of his bugs were of the sort "this damn machine can't read my mind". They are good to have around though because if you solve them it could make you some money.

        The one I found funny was the continuous save. Computers "used" to do things that way (in the 70's) and if the power went out not only was your in memory copy bad, so was the one on disk because it was saving when the power went down (well back then it was on casette but the damage was the same) and is corrupted. Thats not even thinking about the fact that writing to disk all the time would slow the application down to the speed of molasses flowing uphill in January. This isn't to say that there is no happy medium. I find that 5 minute saves are plenty for me and I prefer them to go into a "backup" file that the application can handle instead of being saved in my actual document.
        • by bentcd (690786) <bcd@pvv.org> on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:44PM (#10945248) Homepage
          If you do continuous save, or any kind of automatic backup saving, you basically need to always save to a fresh file and keep the previous file hanging around until you're sure your new save was successful. Failure to do so will result in the problem you bring up. This isn't a problem with automatic saving as such, it's a problem with faulty implementations of the concept.
          I doubt many applications would cause noticable performance degradations these days just by doing automatic saving. Save for a few specialty applications, there are more than enough idle cycles hanging around to do that work while the user picks his nose.
        • by B'Trey (111263) on Monday November 29, 2004 @04:02PM (#10945440)
          Because someone found a silly way to implement a concept doesn't mean the concept itself is valid. Do some research on journaling file systems. They're called "journaling" because they keep a journal of what happens to the disk. If you lose power, it pulls up the journal and replays it to repair any damage done to the file system. An application could do the same thing - keep a journal of every command done to a file until the file is succesfully saved. If you lose power, you restart the app, it opens the file at the point of last save and replays the journal on the file in memory, putting you right back where you were at the time of the loss of power.
          • I have wanted something like that for a long, long time. Somehow the software development world has never seemed to grasp the fact that it isn't the instability of the computer that pisses off the users so bad. It's the fact that when it does crash, you often end up losing everything you've accomplished for the last day, week, month or year. Tell me you haven't heard of or seen cases where a file that someone has been working on for weeks or months has been totally corrupted. It happens. It happens entirely too often. Sure, there's no substitute for backups, but you know you've lost entire files because you just created it that morning and hadn't done your daily backup yet. There are limits to the reasonable usefulness of backups.

            If a computer crashed a dozen times a day and then always came back right where it stopped with all open documents fully recoverable, it would merely be an annoyance. Most people wouldn't care that the system was unstable. Those crashes would just give them a chance to stretch their legs for a minute while the computer comes back up. But instead, their computer crashes once every 3 months and they all too often wind up with documents that are completely unrecoverable, or a totally unbootable computer. Half a day's wasted work that must be rebuilt from scratch. That's the kind of thing that makes a guy pick up his keyboard and start beating on his monitor until it falls off his desk. We've all seen the video, and we've all felt exactly like that guy at least once in our computing career.

            If someone would just take the time to come up with properly implemented full-data journaling for some common applications, they would make a fortune the likes of which Microsoft has never seen. I don't understand why common data loss is still acceptable. This is the 21st century after all. Computers have been around for half a century. Yet the closest I've seen is Word's auto-save and recover feature, which more often than not seems to fail to recover your file. Many times I've seen it "recover" on line or even nothing from a document that was many pages long. Not cool.

            I tried to pitch an idea for application-level journaling on a BeOS developers' mailing list a few years back and got nothing but blank stares. As far as regular users are concerned, it would be the ultimate advancement in desktop computing, yet they (the developers) couldn't conceive any reason you'd want to do such a thing. "Get rid of one of the biggest annoyances of the whole computing experience? Why would we want to do that?"

            Oh, well. Maybe in another 30 years, eh?

      • by wfberg (24378) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:16PM (#10944937)
        Heh, exactly. #1 complaint I've always heard about Macs? "Oh, you have to drag the disk to the Trash to eject it, that's not intuitive."

        Answer? Nothing about computers is 'intuitive' it's all learned behaviour. The fact that people actually whine and bitch about something that small makes me laugh, expecially now that in OS X the Trash turns into the Eject icon when you grab and move a removable disk.


        As the saying goes; the only intuitive interface is the nipple (and even that barely qualifies, some babies have a hard time coming to grips with it). But at least a user interface can be consistent. Dragging the floppy to the trash would suggest wiping the entire floppy disk, but it doesn't do that; in fact, it makes sure your files aren't deleted!

        In fact, good graphical user interfaces are user-friendly (to neophytes at least) not just because they're consistent, but because they are modeless - vim is pretty consistant, but not modeless.

        I think this is a justified gripe, now matter how easily it is learnt. Other user interfaces might have more deficiencies, and ones that are harder to overcome, but mac ain't perfect either.
      • Heh, exactly. #1 complaint I've always heard about Macs? "Oh, you have to drag the disk to the Trash to eject it, that's not intuitive."

        Not only is it not intuitive, it's counter-intuitive. Can you comprehend the difference?

        Only stupid and careless people can figure out the mac interface by themselves - intelligent, careful people won't perform certain experiments. Example: Nobody with any sense will ever drag a mounted network drive to the trash can, because that would erase their network drive. So

        • by Lars T. (470328) <{moc.liamelgoog} {ta} {regearT.sraL}> on Monday November 29, 2004 @05:15PM (#10946182) Journal
          So what is the intuitive way to eject a floppy with a GUI?

          And what will it do for all other objects? There is a difference between an intuitive interface and one that takes a metaphor to damn literal.

          And finaly [kernelthread.com]:

          Since the original Macintosh had no hard disk, and a single floppy drive, it was expected that users will typically use several diskettes while working on the Macintosh. A convenience feature of the system was that it cached (in memory) the list of files on a diskette even after it had been ejected. This was indicated by a grayed-out icon for that diskette on the Desktop, clicking on which would prompt the user to insert the appropriate diskette in the drive. If a user wanted to free-up the memory used by a diskette's cache, he would have to drag the grayed-out icon to the trash.

          Thus, even if a user intended to permanently eject a diskette, two actions were required: the eject command, and dragging an icon to the trash. The redundancy was removed by combining these actions to a single action: dragging an "active" (non-grayed-out) icon to the trash caused the disk to be ejected, and its cache to be deleted.

      • by he-sk (103163) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:29PM (#10945092)

        Heh, exactly. #1 complaint I've always heard about Macs? "Oh, you have to drag the disk to the Trash to eject it, that's not intuitive."


        This complaint is crap. You don't have to drag the disk to the Trash to eject it.

        In Mac OS X you can also eject a disk by clicking the eject button in the Finder. Which makes good sense as a UI operation, especially since you "eject" other mediums (shares, usb disk, iPods, ...) the same way. The morphing Trash icon in the Dock is simply a short cut. If you use the Desktop a lot, it's actually quite handy.
    • by !isontime (823514) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:58PM (#10944727)
      But when I read "Principle: The user is in charge and should be free to carry out any activity at any time without fear of reprisals" I just about lost my lunch.
      I haven't been able to read the article yet, since it appears to be /.'ed, however I would have to agree. As with driving a car, flying a plane, or just about operating anything, use comes with some responsibility.

      As for the above, swap user with driver and you may see my point.
      • Agreed... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by daveschroeder (516195) *
        ...and even more ironic is that Tog already used the automotive analogy for his number one issue, i.e., "imagine if a car did this", and then turns around and says the user (driver) should be allowed to do anything at any time.
    • by RealProgrammer (723725) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:09PM (#10944851) Homepage Journal
      • But when I read " Principle: The user is in charge and should be free to carry out any activity at any time without fear of reprisals" I just about lost my lunch.

      It appears that everyone is guilty of having a framework. This guy, you, me, everyone. We think that what we experience in the world, and what we think about it, is all there is. We're all pretty small, even the wisest of us.

      In this case, a Mac guy says the user is in charge, and thinks it's a law of nature.

      Microsoft treats users as a renewable resource, to be used and reused as needed.

      We Unix types, on the other hand, know that users are an unfortunate side effect.

    • But when I read "Principle: The user is in charge and should be free to carry out any activity at any time without fear of reprisals" I just about lost my lunch.

      And people wonder why software engineers get testy with designers sometimes. We're supposed to engineer systems that let users do whatever they want without reprisal. I can't think of anything else I use where I have that guarantee... even something as simple as using of humankind's oldest tools, the knife.

  • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@nOSpAm.gmail.com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:48PM (#10944602)
    Not adding enough coolant to prevent the web server from melting down due to the /. effect.
  • In My Book... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:51PM (#10944647) Homepage Journal

    Tight security where it doesn't matter and sloppy security where it does.

    Inexplicable configuration. This is broad a broad item and includes buried preference settings where you'd never think to look, default settings to most frustrating (think Word), system settings under inappropriate categories and items with more than one relevence only found under one.

    Pop-Up windows which steal focus immediately from whatever task has focus (active rather than passive bulletins) Ever been typing something, and hit ENTER just as something pops up? Gee, what the heck was that about?

    • Re:In My Book... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Pxtl (151020) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:48PM (#10945278) Homepage
      Amen. Stealing focus should be punishable by death, especially if a dangerous option could pop under my pointer.

      And the corollary, applications that don't steal focus and don't create an entry in the taskbar - so they just sit there in behind your windows - like Winzip at its license screen. Did it finish loading? Where is it? Idunno. Or even worse, windows properties windows and the way they pile up back there.

      But the biggest one: apps which can have a subform that disables access to the rest of the app, but if you move to another window and then move back, you can obscure the active subform with the disabled forms, leaving you with a missing form and a curiously locked application.

      you can tell I'm a windozer can't you. And anyone who complains about mounting/unmounting should find out what an excruciating pani the old 3.5" drive is on a win box.

  • by kidgenius (704962) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:51PM (#10944651)
    He mentions that computers shut-off without any juice. Not surprising that computers do that. I don't think this is a design flaw, simply because there are things in existence, known as UPS's, that are there to buy you time to save and close everything.
    • by thunderbee (92099) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:59PM (#10944733) Homepage
      It would be trivial to have a small battery, on the DC side of the power supply instead of trying to hook up a UPS. Just 2 minutes worth of power to cleanly shutdown.
      UPS is ok to weather the power shortage, a battery inside the power supply would allow for clean shutdown.
      • by shepd (155729) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .gro.todhsals.> on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:31PM (#10945114) Homepage Journal
        It would be trivial to have a small battery, on the DC side of the power supply instead of trying to hook up a UPS.

        Trivial? Not really. Your power supply is probably at least 300 watts maximum output, right?

        300 watts @ 12 volts = 25 amps. And that's assuming perfect efficiency (impossible).

        You can get that from a lead acid battery, sure. You'll only quintuple the price of a power supply. Oh, and then there's the disposal issues and other environmental laws. Let's make that octuple.

        Yeah, there's other batteries. No, almost none of them can be tossed, and they're all more expensive, too.

        I've seen these supplies where the UPS is built in. They usually start at about $150 US...
      • by jonadab (583620) on Monday November 29, 2004 @04:12PM (#10945575) Homepage Journal
        > 2 minutes worth of power to cleanly shutdown. UPS is ok to weather the power
        > shortage, a battery inside the power supply would allow for clean shutdown.

        It shouldn't even need to be enough to shutdown -- all it needs is to dump the
        RAM and processor state (register contents and such) to a designated area on
        the hard drive (or flash RAM dedicated to this purpose, or whatever) from which
        the BIOS firmware can restore everything when power comes back. The OS would
        not even need to know the power was ever out, except to fix the system time.
    • by Bopper (47004)
      It is a design flaw, and UPS's are a hardware patch.

      I remember reading about a OS that they demo'ed
      by kicking the plug out of the wall.
      After plugging it back in, the machine would
      replay its "journal", and continue as if nothing
      had happened.

      If someone remembers the name of this system, or
      has a link, that would help.
      • I don't know if it was meant to be that way,
        but I love the free-verse format of your post.
        Really, all /. posts
        and main article submissions!
        should be done that way.
        The editors might do something then.

        Mel would've liked that.
  • by Sebby (238625) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:54PM (#10944678)
    Well, dimmed menus are a heck of a lot better than hidden ones, a la Windows (with the stupid down arrow thingy you have to click to have everything show), which is totally counter-productive (typical Windows) instead of actually being helpful. I'd like to punch the person that thought that stupid thing up.

    • Re:Dimmed menus (Score:5, Informative)

      by savagedome (742194) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:58PM (#10944721)
      I agree. That is one of the first things that I disable on a Win2000 box.

      Right click on the Taskbar and open up Properties. Then uncheck the 'Use Personalized Menus' box to disable it.
      • Re:Dimmed menus (Score:4, Informative)

        by Epistax (544591) <epistax@NospAM.gmail.com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:08PM (#10944829) Journal
        Right, except "Personalized Menus" makes catastrophic changes aside from that one. such as no longer having personalized menus. It's like telling someone if they don't want any salt on their eggs to not have eggs to begin with.
        • Re:Dimmed menus (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Feanturi (99866)
          I forget.. Why are automatically personalized menus a good thing? They are hardly personalized really. They just hide stuff you haven't used recently. Well I didn't personally ask for that. There might be an option or shortcut that I rarely use, but want to be reminded that it is there. Particularly since I use it so rarely, how else will I remember where it is unless I see it from time to time? I think it's an answer to a problem that didn't exist. Menu clutter can be managed in other ways.
        • Re:Dimmed menus (Score:5, Informative)

          by Yosho (135835) on Monday November 29, 2004 @04:10PM (#10945543) Homepage
          I don't think you understand what the "Use Personalized Menus" option does. The only thing it does is automatically hide menu items that haven't been used in an arbitrary amount of time. Each user can still have their own set of menu items -- in fact, at my workplace, the "Use Personalized Menus" option has been disabled as part of the company's domain's group policy, and the only effect is that users are no longer confused by disappearing items.
    • by ArmorFiend (151674) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:24PM (#10945030) Homepage Journal
      While we're administering the beatings for bad UI decisions, there's the pig-froker who dreamed up scroll bars that snap back to their original position if your mouse cursor gets too far away from them during a drag. What was the twisted thought process behind that decision? Oh, the user's forgotten they're using the slider, even though they're ACTIVELY HOLDING DOWN THE MOUSE BUTTON? We need to launch reprisals at them for not keeping the mouse cursor inside an invisible rectangle?

      Its all part of MS's policy of torturing their users until they buy "intellimouses" with scroll wheels.
  • On the Written Word (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cyranoVR (518628) * <cyranoVR AT gmail DOT com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:55PM (#10944688) Homepage Journal
    Noticed a fallacy in the "Bug List" under Item #5 - URL Naming Bug. The History of this bug reads:
    People separated written words with spaces from the time writing was invented up until around 30 years ago whenaspacebecameavaluableobjectnottobewasted.
    Not true. It is well-established that ancient Greek (as well as many other classical languages) was written with no spaces between words.

    SOATYPICALSENTENCEWOULDREADLIKETHIS!
    • Bah .. Greek's nothing. Check out these German beauties -

      Oberammergaueralpenkrauterdelikatessenfr&#252;hst& #252;ckskase
      Fussballweltmeisterschaftsqualifikat ionsspiel
      Vierwaldstaetterseedampfschiffahrtsgese llschaft
      Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftsoberka pit&#228;n
      Fussballweltmeisterschaftsqualifikatio nsspiel

      (borrowed from here [serve.com])

      • grey doubt (Score:4, Interesting)

        by n3k5 (606163) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:41PM (#10945209) Journal
        If anyone's interested in the opinion of a native German speaker (with recidences in two cities located at the danube [= Donau] :-): You can construct very long words in the German language, but it's not required and mostly considered poor style. Oberammergaueralpenkrauterdelikatessenfruehstuecks kaese is not a German word, it's a fantasy product name. Vierwaldstaetterseedampfschiffahrtsgesellschaft is a fantasy company name, also not a German word. Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftsoberka pitaen is a proper German word, but it is only used when someone wants to construct a very long world. It's a job title that refers to a position that only existed in an earlier time, when Austria's bureaucracy was infamous for using overly pompous technical terms that were very difficult to decipher for a layman. Fussballweltmeisterschaftsqualifikationsspiel is a proper German word, and it's even used in practice sometimes. It's the proper translation for "soccer world championship qualifying game". But seriously, would you consider this monster term over "qualifying game for the soccer world championship"? Nah. So it's the term that's silly, not the language. And usually the context would have already been established when you want to use the term, so just saying 'qualifier' would do just as well.

        Oh well ... I should change my sig to "You should see what happens when I don't even intend to post on topic to begin with."
    • by Vaevictis666 (680137) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:13PM (#10944897)
      This also notably applies to Japanese and Chinese - typically the characters jusr run on and on. Any spaces added are typically a modern addition (I believe japanese newspapers space their words)
    • by Eternally optimistic (822953) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:15PM (#10944927)
      hey, Italians don't even seperate spoken words with pauses when they have something to say
    • In english, the space is a rather recent invention. Look at any illustrated manuscript to see what I mean...

  • Lists (Score:5, Informative)

    by eMartin (210973) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:57PM (#10944706)
    How about combo boxes, that only show X number of items. and you have to scroll to see the last 3. Until recently, AutoCAD was one of the worst examples of this, with it's layers toolbar popup, that only showed 10 items and truncated them horizontally (even though most AutoCAD drawings have many more layers and they often have similar names, so they appear the same in the tiny list at the top of the screen).

    Or how about non-resizable dialogs with a set number of items in a list which displays all of the items minus one. WTF!?!
  • by gmuslera (3436) on Monday November 29, 2004 @02:57PM (#10944720) Homepage Journal
    #1-Removing power from a device that maintains his information on devices run by power (i.e. RAM)
    #2-Thinking that computers do "magic", or at least should do to not have design flaws
    #3
    #4
    #5
    #6
    #7
    #8
    #9
    #10- Making top ten list without having 10 things to list
  • by adolfojp (730818) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:01PM (#10944762)
    Design flaw #11

    Using very large golden gradient shadowed GIFs each worth over 4K to represent the numbers 1 - 10 in a "Top Ten Persistent Design Flaws" webpage. It not only looks ugly, makes the website slower consuming more bandwidth, but it also takes away a good chunk of the left side of the page.

    Cheers,
    Adolfo
  • by juglugs (652924) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:02PM (#10944770) Homepage
    Alas, this site is no longer updated, but it still serves as my very favorite "UI Hell" page...

    http://digilander.libero.it/chiediloapippo/Enginee ring/iarchitect/index-1.htm [libero.it]

    Check out the hall of shame section, it's hilarious!

    PS - this link is a mirror of the original site
  • Stealing Focus (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hope Thelps (322083) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:02PM (#10944777)
    It doesn't seem to include evil applications (or operating systems) that suddenly throw new windows on the screen to grab keyboard focus away from you just as you type something.

    You lose your thread of thought AND the computer decides you said "OK" to "do you want to email your credit cards around the world" while you sit there wondering what just happened.
  • Reverse dates (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey (83763) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:04PM (#10944787) Journal
    On the ASCII sort "bug", he writes dates have to be reversed to sort correctly. No, the correct way to write a date is 2004-11-29, what's the problem. That sorts correctly! ;-)
    • Re:Reverse dates (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pla (258480) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:19PM (#10944970) Journal
      No, the correct way to write a date is 2004-11-29, what's the problem. That sorts correctly! ;-)

      Ah, someone else that agrees with me on that!

      The US style of writing dates (and I live in the US) drive me completely batty. MM/DD/YY? No! That makes no sense. YYYY-MM-DD makes the meaning far more clear, and you can even extend it arbitrarily... YYYY-MM-DD-HH-MM-SS-uu.

      As an aside, how often do you have secretaries and public clerk type people (ie, the DMV) freak out on you because you write dates like that?

      I often get "How long did you serve", since apparently the military (only some branches? no clue, just speculation) encourages that date format.

      I have learned that any answer involving the phrase "lexical order" will only result in blank stares. ;-)
      • Re:Reverse dates (Score:5, Informative)

        by scribblej (195445) on Monday November 29, 2004 @04:01PM (#10945431)
        I might point out that YYYY-MM-DD, in addition to being easier to sort, IS THE ISO STANDARD FOR DATES IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

        So you people who still insist on MM/DD/YY, you are OLD AND BUSTED.

        YYYY-MM-DD = NEW HOTNESS.
        MM/DD/YY = OLD AND BUSTED.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:06PM (#10944804) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft's GUI has, from the beginning, given users the freedom to remove their disks without notice, recovering quite smoothly from the surprise events.

    Um, hate to burst your bubble, but MS GUI does not recover smoothly from such events, unless one considers a BSOD smooth recovery. Since Windows 95, and still today in Windows XP, removing a CD or floppy from the drive before Windows is finished with it will result in the system hanging at best, and BSOD at worst. Not exactly what most people would consider smooth operation.

    Neither Linux nor Apple nor Microsoft correctly address the problem of removable media:

    • The first problem is bad physical design: the same people who brought us a filesystem where a failed write ruins the disk (*cough* CD-R *cough*) previously brought us the brain-dead floppy drive, where a user could mechanically eject the disk in the middle of a disk access. Without the hardware facility to be notified of media change, there weren't any disk-change events for OS drivers to capture, which lead to:
    • OS designers didn't write drivers to correctly handle an eject event. Windows either doesn't listen for, or doesn't care about CD eject events. The result is that a CD or floppy can be ejected and the dumb OS attempts to continue as if the media were still present.
    • Iomega got it right - the zip disk drivers signal the OS that an eject has been requested, and then (theoretically, at least) the OS flushes the write queue, unmounts and ejects the media.
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:06PM (#10944805) Journal
    Bug Name: Tog's raging hard on over the Dock.

    Duration: [in years]: seems like a thousand centuries ago...

    Supplier: Tog

    Alias: "I have no concept of the difference between objective and subjective usability complaints."

    Product: Tog's parents.

    Bug: Tog's perceptual abilities.

    Class of error: Intellectualy density.

    Principle: "My opinions are holy."

    Proposed Fix: Zoloft

    Discussion: Some of the things he lists as flaws in the Dock are things that I acutally like about the Dock. It's a very subjective thing. Some of the things he laments losing from Mac OS 9 were not the bee's knees he seems to imagine they were. He was just used to them, is all.

    Bug first observed: Can't check the date on the original Dock whinefest because his site is slashdotted. It happened some time after Tog ceased to be relevant.

    Observer: Harvey Birdman, Attorney At Law

    Bug reported to supplier: No. No point. You cannot argue with self-proclaimed learned wisemen.

    Bug on list since: Whinefest first published.

    • by rk (6314) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:46PM (#10945270) Journal

      Or another Tog bug, based on 5.

      Bug Name: Tog knows nothing about the history of the web.

      Duration: Just discovered, but probably years.

      Supplier: Tog

      Alias: "I'm trying to impress you because I used the web WAY before you chowderheads did."

      Product: Tog's Design Flaws list

      Bug: Tog's incorrect memory of history.

      Principle: "I will spout off knowing nothing about what I'm talking about."

      Proposed Fix: Lateral Cranial Impact Enhancer of your choice.

      Discussion: Claims to have reported URL space bugs to Netscape in 1991 and Microsoft in 1992. However, Microsoft didn't have a web browser until 1995 and Netscape didn't even exist in 1991.

      Bug First Observed: Today.

      Observer: Hopefully, the greater part of the Slashdot readership.

      Bug reported to supplier: Ha!

      Bug on list since: about now.

  • by Spencerian (465343) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:06PM (#10944806) Homepage Journal
    Item 1; Power failure crashing

    In my experience, this affected Macs much less in a brownout situation than PCs. The Macs (at the time, desktop G3 systems) stayed up after a power blink of 0.5 sec, losing no data. I think current Mac OS hardware is more robust in this area, but this is not really a fault of the computer or the OS. No power, no computer worky. Sorry.

    Workaround in a mission-critical area: Buy an uninterruptable power supply, petition Apple to make a computer with very expensive (but non-volatile) flash RAM, or use an Apple laptop, which has its own battery that makes it resistant to brownouts and blackouts.

    Issue 2: The Dock in Mac OS X.

    Grousing. In the old Mac OS 9 days, there was a Dock analogue called the Launcher. It was ugly, and I rarely set it up for users, but it worked. Some people still use it for their Classic apps in OS X.

    Workaround: Many, most third-party. Apple's interface, until OS X was icon-centric for launching apps, rather than menu-centric (in Windows Start menu). The Dock is no more perfect than the Start menu, but at least it provides a consistent launcher for common apps, instead of having the user search through folders for the right app icon to launch.

    Better: Have installers ask user to add icon for applications to the Dock, which isn't done most of the time, forcing users to search about in the Applications folder.

    Issue 3: Dimmed menus.

    A bit of a grouse, but logical. Some OS X apps by third parties HAVE shown info in the greyed out menu as to why the option is not available. I believe it is more programming efficient to leave a greyed out menu than to attempt to hide it (affecting where and the order of menus on the menu bar from one moment to the next, which would confuse the hell out of me).

    I believe Tog's thought, of adding a special option in a greyed-out menu as to why this command is dimmed, could be useful. Otherwise I think he is blowing the issue up. Of course, the more complex the app (especially with palettes and THEIR commands, the more weight his argument holds.

    Issue Seven: Disk Drive Nazi.

    Not a problem, at least until removeable drives arrived.

    The Mac OS has always been intelligent, preventing you as the user from accidentally ejecting or formatting a disk you are using, including network devices. This is a Good Thing. Compare this to the behavior in Windows, which will still allow you to eject media in use, causing All Kinds of Hell.

    Workaround: His point seems more specific to USB and FireWire drives. Unless Apple creates a hardware lock that physically locks a device, preventing the thing from being removed, then there's not a lot to do there, except Apple making the OS more robust in screaming at people to tell the OS that the drive is to be disconnected before they physically remove it.
  • Good so far (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sootman (158191) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:09PM (#10944844) Homepage Journal
    Only down to number 3 so far, but #1, "If the computer loses power for more than a few thousanths of a second, it throws everything away", is sooooooooo perfect. 20 years ago I had a clock radio with a 9-volt battery so it would keep time during short power outages. Why don't current computers have something? I know how big UPSs are; I imagine something the size of a couple D-cell batteries hooked to the motherboard could keep it running for momentary power outages, tripping over the cord, accidentally stepping on the power strip's button, etc.

    And on that note, why can't the BIOS battery be rechargable? Why should my computer *ever* think it's 1969, or 1980, or 1984?
  • Mirrordot Link (Score:3, Informative)

    by shaneh0 (624603) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:09PM (#10944850)
    Mirror dot [mirrordot.org]
  • text in full (Score:3, Informative)

    by oscast (653817) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:10PM (#10944866) Homepage
    Welcome to the Over the Hill Gang, design bugs that have been around so long that we've begun to think of them as folk heros. However, the usual requirement for turning a public enemy into a folk hero is death, not longevity, and so it should be for these worthies: Their executions are long overdue. These bugs aren't necessarily fatal. The are all at minimum highly irritating, and they have all survived for a minimum of five years or five product release cycles, whichever came first.

    In some cases, the bugs have outlasted the original developers, persisting so long that their successors may not even realize they are bugs--they seem the result of "natural laws." In other cases, the developers know these bugs full well, but refuse to address them. These all need to be addressed, and that address should be far out of town.

    Bug Name: Power Failure Crash

    Duration: >30 years

    Supplier: Desktop computer manufacturers

    Alias: "Oh, Sh--!"

    Product: Desktop computers worldwide

    Bug: If the computer loses power for more than a few thousanths of a second, it throws everything away.

    Class of error: "That's the way Grandpa did it..."

    Principle: Protect the User's Work

    Discussion: Somehow, the most destructive act a computer can carry out, other than destroying the contents of a hard disk, got "grandfathered in." Somehow it became OK for computers to just die if the power fails.

    If cars modelled this behavior, you might drive your car from New York to Miami, run out of gas in Fort Lauderdale, 10 miles from your destination, and suddenly find yourself back in New York.

    Immediate Fix: Web Developers

    Store (encrypted) information in cookies even before transfer to the server, so information is preserved from all but the most serious "melt-downs."

    Proposed Fix: Application Developers

    Convert your existing software and write new software to perform Continuous Save, so users cannot lose more than the last few characters typed or gestures entered. Do not fail to provide sufficient Undo and Revert facilities enabling users to get back to where they were before they started doing the wrong thing.

    For all the drawbacks of the crude system most applications have had until now, one advantage was that new drafts did not take the place of old until we said so.

    Oh, and by the way, a dialog saying, "This action cannot be undone. OK Cancel," is not a suitable substitute for a Revert facility for anything at any time.

    Proposed Fix: OS's

    Build support for Continous Save and Revert into the toolbox.

    Proposed Fix: Computer Hardware

    Add very short term batteries or tantalum capacitors to systems with volatile memory with enough power to dump the memory to disk and go into hibernation, perhaps 30 to 45 second worth.

    Bug first observed: 1976

    Observer: Tog

    Bug reported to Apple: 5 Mar 1985. Quote from that memo:

    The age of computers that die when the power goes off will fade to an interesting footnote in history, just as radio gave way to TV. The question is not whether Apple will [address the problem], but when. I believe the time is now....We
    have the opportunity to add another dimension to computers; let us take it.

    Should happen any day now...

    Bug on list since:List inception: 1 Dec 2004

    Bug Name:The Macintosh Dock

    Duration:Four and counting

    Supplier:Apple Computer, Inc.

    Alias:"The Cool Demo"

    Product:Mac OS X

    Bug:There are actually nine separate and distinct design bugs in the Dock, probably a record for a single object. You can read about them all in my Article, "The Top 9 Reasons the Dock Still Sucks."

    Class of error:Confusing a demo with a product

    Principle:Demos and products are two separate entities. The Demo's purpose in life is to help sell the product. The product's purpose is to serve the user.

    Proposed Fix:Leave the Dock just as is. It looks great on stage durin
  • Eight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by downward dog (634625) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:14PM (#10944907) Homepage

    Bug name: PDF

    Duration: 10+?

    Supplier: Adobe et al

    Alias: Why-is-it-so-hard-to-write-decent-software?

    Product: Various PDF viewers, primarily for Windows

    Bugs: One: Acrobat kills Mozilla. Two: Hidden "check for updates?" box locks up IE.

    Class of error: Poorly written software

    Principle: Simple software shouldn't hog resources or kill other apps.

    Discussion:
    Why is it so hard to write a decent PDF reader? Preview for Mac is fast and doesn't crash anything. And yet Acrobat for Windows (and maybe for Mac--I haven't tried it) is slow, a resource hog, locks up Mozilla/Firefox until the file is done loading, hides its "check for updates" window (without a tab on the XP app bar), and locks up the PDF-viewing window in IE until the "check for updates" box is dealt with.
    • Re:Eight (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bergeron76 (176351) * on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:45PM (#10948085)
      Agreed. This has been a thorn in my side since AcroRd32.exe version 5. My solution is to always kill AcroRd32.exe after I've read the PDF. It's a pain in the ass, but it keeps my system sane. I tried Acrobat 6 for a brief time, but it sucked hard ass, so I quickly reverted back to 5.1 (because it sucks less).

      I think FireFox would be very well suited to build it's own PDF viewer into the core code (or at least promote a module for Win32 users that ISN'T Adobe's).

      Another big bug in Acrobat reader is that if you're in FireFox and try to issue a keyboard command while reading a .PDF, it won't work unless you click to a different tab (Try hitting F11 while reading a PDF for example).

      If the Mozilla foundation included sane PDF capability, it would end up in even BETTER perception of improved response. Uninformed users automatically make the psychological connection of "poor Acrobat PDF performance"+"IE"="poor IE performance".

      I think it would be wise for the FireFox crew to capitalize on this because it would give the user an [even] better browser experience (on Win32).

  • by javaxman (705658) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:16PM (#10944934) Journal
    My favorite: the mysteriously dimmed menu options. Why are those darned things grey anyway?

    Uh, they're grey because they're disabled ?

    I'm sorry, I don't understand how this is a design flaw. You'd rather the menu in question _always_ do something? What do you want copied when nothing is selected? Would you rather the menu was enabled always, but just beeped or did something else ( i.e. not the desired action ) when clicked ?

    The menu is grey to let you know it can't do anything until some other action is taken. It doesn't just disappear because location/muscle memory is how we remember where that menu is. What would be the better design? How is a disabled menu a flaw, again? You'd rather get a dialog box telling you that you need to do something before clicking here... how could you have known ? Why is clicking "copy" bringing up a dialog box ?

    TSFA says :
    The software "knows" why it has dimmed the item. Some decision or decisions led to the flag being set. At the same time as the flag is set, the reason why should be made available. If the user clicks on a grayed-out option, the reason or reasons should be made known. And none of those, "Gosh, Oh, Gee, it could be any one of these 14 reasons or maybe something else" messages. The message needs to be intelligent, responsive, and accurate. This one is important. This one needs to be done right.

    Ok, so the issue is that you want to know why the menu is disabled. So, which of 20 different on-screen objects do you want a message to indicate could be selected to enable "copy" ? Even if you manage to get the message "right", how useful is the message "You must select something to copy." going to be after the second time you see it? At that point the greyed menu tells me everything I needed to know.

    Gee, I wonder why that one hasn't been fixed. Yea, that's a real design bug, right there. Just like the dock, which even my mother-in-law can use, with it's 9 bugs and all...

    Now, ASCII sort and reasonably flexible data entry ( aka Bug Name: Let's you save me some work ) now, those are real design bugs. Design bugs which are usually there ( as the article notes ) doe to lazyness of the software designers/creators.

    A few of these design problems I can agree with, but IMHO, if you're troubled by a disabled menu, that's a clear sign you don't understand the function of that menu, and you might want to try a menu item that isn't greyed out, like that one labeled "Help".

    • by pHDNgell (410691) on Monday November 29, 2004 @04:09PM (#10945534)
      Ok, so the issue is that you want to know why the menu is disabled. So, which of 20 different on-screen objects do you want a message to indicate could be selected to enable "copy" ? Even if you manage to get the message "right", how useful is the message "You must select something to copy." going to be after the second time you see it? At that point the greyed menu tells me everything I needed to know.

      This argument doesn't seem very consistent. You're suggesting that the first time you see something and it's not obvious to you, it should tell you so you'll know, but at that point, it's not useful to you. What if someone else is using your computer and has not seen that message? Would it be useful then?

      Do you realize that there are more menu items than just ``copy''? I use a lot of applications with a lot of menu items (i.e. Final Cut HD) that will occasionally have something that sounds like what I want, but it's greyed out. Why would I not want immediately contextual information describing what I need to do? Is it really practical to suggest that I pull out the manuals and try to figure out what all is required to use something when I could just hit the brief contextual help?

      A more concrete example: I'm in gimp which is giving me the option to scale my image, but not crop it. Why is that? Why can I move this layer down once, but not twice? I happen to know these answers, but it wasn't very long ago that I did not, and it was frustrating to want to bring a layer to the bottom and having gimp just refuse to do so with no explanation as to why (which was added in 2.something...but not on the menu).
  • Comments (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:17PM (#10944955) Homepage Journal
    Power Failure Crash

    This is due to the save file paradigm. Changes only get saved if you tell the computer to. People have long realized this is bad; this is why some programs have autosave. I am all for saving changes continuously - and forking a file if you want to have distinct versions.

    The Macintosh Dock

    I guess this is more of a personal thing. Personally, I think the Dock is great, although I prefer separate launch icons and open window icons (aligned at separate edges of the screen), a la NEXTSTEP. The Mac doc certainly kicks the Windows taskbar (and imitations') ass.

    Mysteriously dimmed menu items

    I don't necessarily agree these are bad. The alternatives are removing them (bad because menu structure changes), not disabling them (makes no sense - they are disabled because they aren't meaningful right now), or not dimming them (bad because you don't signal the action is unavailable).

    The proposed fix is a good idea, though.

    ASCII Sort

    This issue has never affected me much. The alternative is is having lots of black magic exceptions to get items sorted the way humans might sort them. To me, it seems these exceptions are hard to deal with for machines, but for humans as well. I don't think it's worth the trouble.

    What is good, though, is having proper metadata support, so that we can sort not just by filename, but also by author, project, modification time, etc. Add in a search function, and you don't even notice the asciibetical sorting anymore.

    URL Naming Bug

    Some browsers already convert spaces in URLs to '%20' or '+'. I think this is the way to go. I'm not sure if stripping spaces (as the author suggests) is a good idea. Does he mean to make "my birthday pictures" internally translate to "mybirthdaypictures"? Why? My filesystem can deal with spaces just fine. Perhaps stripping all spaces after the first (i.e. removing errorneous spaces) is a better option.

    Let's you save me some work

    So, not accepting multiple formats for the same data is bad. I have to ask why the multiple formats exist in the first place. If we're talking about SSN, library card number, etc. there's always an authority issuing these numbers. Why not use the same format they use, everywhere? If users want to be inconsistent, they must be prepared to deal with the consequences.

    The Disk Drive Nazi

    I, too, hate that machines don't let me have my device back. Linux and BSD (and probably other unices) can be particularly annoying in this respect. Someone once tripped over the USB cable of my webcam, unplugging it. Nothing but a reboot would let me kill the program (which was in uniterruptible sleep), reload the (confused) driver, plug the cam back in, and start streaming video again. Grrr. Isn't this what exceptions are for?
    • by Tackhead (54550)
      And while we're at it, from the article:

      > People separated written words with spaces from the time writing was invented up until around 30 years ago whenaspacebecameavaluableobjectnottobewasted

      Tog, that whistling sound is the point going over your head.

      30 years ago, we took spaces out of filenames not because we needed to save characters, but because we were all using a CLI, and we did it because we were using spaces to separate words.

      then: vi ~fredfoo/stupidapp/stupid.cfg
      now: vi C:\Documents an

  • Drenched in irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by oexeo (816786) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:43PM (#10945241)
    Kinda ironic the article brakes almost as many usability rules as it points out:

    1) No alt tags - you've used images to number your list, yet no alternative text for blind users (or those with images off), this is a very well established as bad usability

    2) Confusing title - you say top 10, but don't actually have 10 items on your list, an important aspect of usability is clarity, which your title lacks.

    3) Consistency - you've divided each item into sub-sections, yet the sub-sections are inconsistent with from one item on the list to the next. If a sub-section is not applicable, I suggest you add, for instance: "History: N/A," this will save readers scrolling back and forth for a section they might believe to have missed

    4) No submission form - You provide an option for people to submit suggestions for your list, yet fail to provide a basic HTML form for them to do this, instead you opt to let them do the work.

    There are more, but I'll stop here, since I expect this to be modded down anyway. I hope you see the irony.
  • Sin number 0. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zangief (461457) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:47PM (#10945277) Homepage Journal
    Everything should be possible without a mouse, without having to emulate one.

    If you are not playing quake or starcraft, a mouse is just a luxury. Design to avoid its use.
    --
    Wiki de Ciencia Ficcion y Fantasia [uchile.cl]
    • Re:Sin number 0. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DLWormwood (154934) <wormwood@@@me...com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @04:54PM (#10945988) Homepage
      Everything should be possible without a mouse, without having to emulate one.

      Actually, in the early days of the Mac, the rule was in reverse. That is, everything should have been possible without a keyboard, without having to emulate one. Keyboardless Macs were actually common during the 68k era; they were used for kiosks, printing stations, status checking and other tasks which didn't require data entry.

      For every user who has trouble manipulating a mouse, there is a user who has trouble dealing with a keyboard. This notion that 2-D manipulators are a inconvenient UI concept boggles my mind; I just don't see how you can use software like graphics editing, page layout, or reality simulation effectively without some form of input from a mouse, trackball, or tablet...

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@noSPam.yahoo.com> on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:49PM (#10945296) Homepage Journal
    1. The Power Failure Stuff...
      Dynamic electronics tend to like power. That's in their nature. If that upsets you, use static RAM (which doesn't need refreshing, so has a retention level that can handle power spikes and stuff) or FLASH RAM (which retains data indefinitely without power). You get a performance hit, but you can't always get it all ways. If you absolutely must have the performance, then use full log journalling for all transactions. If you can't afford to be down, then use hot-standby High Availability. So what's your excuse for ignoring what is already out there?
    2. Dimmed Menus...
      Dimmed menus work a hell of a lot better than not having the options at all, which is a popular alternative. (It's popular, because you don't end up with a gazillion greyed options cluttering your menus.) The problem is not the dimming, the problem is that menus are too big. The dimming has nothing to do with it. Keep It Simple, Stupid is the only bug you can legitimately claim here.
    3. ASCII Sorting...
      DOS and Windows' DOS shell don't sort at all. Windows' GUI doesn't auto-place unless you tell it to (and even then it can require a crowbar and the suitable application of threats). Unix and all derivatives allow you to pipe ls through any text processing code you like, and GNU's ls has so many sorting options built in that you almost don't need to do that. If this is an Apple bug, don't blame everyone else.
    4. Space bugs...
      I know of no browser on Earth that doesn't allow you to escape a space. What, that's extra typing? That's not the bug described. The bug described is that spaces "aren't allowed". You know what? Yes they are. Even if your browser won't let you enter spaces directly (and I know of none like that), there are ways round it. All you need is something that swaps spaces for a %20. What, you can't do macros? Don't blame software engineers. Maybe blame your browser, but most likely you need to take a good look in the mirror and blame that person instead.
    5. The Formatting Bug...
      This is one of the few genuine bugs I've seen on the list. And it's not exactly unique to computers. It's also nearly unsolvable. Let's take the date 01/02/03. Is that European format? (February 1st, 2003), American format? (January 2nd, 2003), or International format? (February 3rd, 2001). You can't tell from that information, as it's ambiguous. That's a good word to learn, in computing. Computers don't like ambiguity. You'd need an additional drop-down menu, from which you would pick the format. For EVERY data entry panel. The format list would be between 4-2,000 entries long, depending on the type of data. You don't think that would confuse the users a hell of a lot more?
    6. Disk Drive Nazi...
      Many problems fall in this list.
      • Computer ate your disk? Ummm, you see that small round hole by the drive? The "emergency disk eject" mechanism? You think that might let you get a disk the computer has locked in the drive?
      • Disk contents would be corrupt, if you eject the disk? Try flushing the buffers. Works for everyone else. (Older Unix users use sync. AT&T Unix users use sync;sync;sync. Modern Unixes and derivatives do the syncing when you run eject.)
      • Nothing is written to disk? Try clicking on save. Then sync, or whatever.
      • Computer complains when you eject the disk while the drive is still spinning? What did you expect, applause?



    As for problems with docking bars, the Windows GUI, etc, that's what FTP sites are for. Prefer a UNIX-like environment to MS Windows' desktop? Just download Afterstep for Windows, or use the X11 package from Cygwin.


    If solutions exist, but you persist in living in the problem, why the hell should anyone feel sorry for you? This list is about as valuable as a Windows user complaining about all the security holes and speed issues, KNOWING there's plenty of free alternatives, but CHOOSING to ignore them, because only by staying with Windows can they continue to feel sorry for themselves.


    When living in misery is a choice, the misery ceases to be a defect of other people and their work.

  • by avandesande (143899) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:51PM (#10945315) Journal
    How about modal dialog boxes with error messages you cannot copy and paste (like to search deja with)? Its always some cryptic crap that is hard to type.
  • Rebuttal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NaugaHunter (639364) on Monday November 29, 2004 @03:52PM (#10945328)
    Ignoring his confusion between Design Flaws and Bugs...

    1) Power Failure Crash
    -- A "Continuous Save" is unpractical. Committing every action to permanent storage, aka a hard drive, would both kill performance and shorten the drive life. It would also increase the risk of hard drive failure during the crash by increasing the likelihood that the drive would be in use.

    2) The Macintosh Dock
    -- "It's not that the Dock sucks so much as a productivity tool as it is that Apple threw away so many more powerful, useful objects in its favor." So it works, but there were better options in his opinion? You'd be hard pressed to find anything that couldn't be described in this way.

    3) Mysteriously dimmed menu items
    -- I can see the point of wanting them to say why, but it is very short sighted to say the message must be exact. A much better solution is that in Help, every menu option should be searchable and explain exactly when it can be used and how. (Though I miss the Apple Help Balloons. Heck, now that I think about it I think they worked and could explain disabled Menu Options but no one bothered to fill them out.)

    4) ASCII Sort
    -- This is a consistent extension of alphabetic sorts, and will likely never change in standard file system listings. The example of iTunes is a specific application with a specific data set, and any application should organize data as appropriate for the use. Part of the point of iTunes IS to organize files in a way that makes sense for what they are, whereas the operating system must treat all file names equally and not make assumptions about what they represent.

    5) URL Naming Bug
    -- Correct history: filenames didn't have spaces because the early command line parsers separated tokens by spaces. Even today, command line parsers need help either by quoting the entire name or escaping the spaces. (The Apple II worked because the parser was even simpler; every command was only one word and everything afterwards named the object to be acted upon.) The problem with the proposed fix is that the only place spaces are not allowed is in the machine address part; spaces are allowed willy nilly in the directory portion as per the server's setup. There is no consistent way to know whether spaces in that portion should be dropped. While the browser could be written to automatically remove spaces in the first portion doing so in the directory portion would be disastrous for many web sights. Having it do both would seem to be a blatant inconsistency.

    6) Let's you save me some work
    -- This is actually reasonable, and as a programmer it's a pet peeve of mine that the computer should do the work. It's not always possible though, and sometimes compromises must be made. I prefer if the field only wants numbers it would say so and prevent numbers from being typed without beeping or anything. I think it's a good compromise between getting a clean entry and not interfering with the user, since any spaces/dashes would just be ignored.

    7) The Disk Drive Nazi
    -- This was a feature. It prevented floppy or system corruption. (The System was on a floppy and could otherwise be ejected.) OS X is much more dynamic in recovering from these incidents, having to deal with USB, Firewire, and Network drives. The incident with the Powerbook described is most likely the result of using a non-Apple drive with a bad driver. Booting from an emergency CD would eliminate. Given the author's history it's even possible he was using OS 9, increasing the likelihood of a driver problem.

    8) 9) 10)
    Apparently, he's counting in base 7.
  • Rebus icons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Michael Woodhams (112247) on Monday November 29, 2004 @04:28PM (#10945741) Journal
    Bug Name: Rebus icons

    Duration: 15+ years

    Supplier: Eudora, Rational (now part of IBM)

    Alias: "Let's play a game - can you guess what this means?"

    Product: Eudora mail reader, Atria/Rational/IBM ClearCase revision
    control system.

    Bug: Eudora: The 'check mail' icon has a picture of an envelope and a
    "check" mark. ClearCase: The 'check in' icon has a picture of a
    document, an arrow (in a direction arbitrarily ordained to be 'in') and
    a "check" mark.
    Notice the use of the "check" mark to imply the English word "check".
    Not only is this going to be completely opaque to every non-English
    speaker, it is very murky to about half of the world's English speaking
    population also. "Check" is the American name for this mark, in British
    (and Australian, New Zealand...) English it is a "tick" mark. It took me
    two years before I realized why it was on Eudora's "check mail" button.

    Discussion:
    Icons are supposed to transcend language barriers - not to limit
    themselves to one dialect. A related bug are the highly stylized icons
    found on Swedish home appliances: circles, crosses, dotted arcs etc.
    These are quite incomprehensible without a manual, which likely has been
    lost. If they just wrote Swedish words, at least I can find a
    Swedish/English dictionary in my local library.
    Bug first observed: c1987, "Eudora" mail reader, c2000, Rational (now
    IBM) ClearCase.

    Bug reported to supplier: Reported to Rational c2000. They told me where
    I could find the bitmap file for the icon so I could edit it myself.

    ---------------------

    As an aside: I expect this one has long since been fixed. Macintosh,
    c1990, in a shared computer room environment: You'd start using a
    computer, and at some point the computer would demand that you insert
    some floppy disk. Said disk belonged to the previous user of the
    computer, who has left. The computer would refuse to do anything at all
    until you supplied the (unavailable) missing disk. The only solution I
    knew of to this was a reboot.
  • by c0d3h4x0r (604141) on Monday November 29, 2004 @07:15PM (#10947747) Homepage Journal
    1. Engineering a solution that is more complex and problematic than the original problem it was intended to solve.

    2. Expecting that users will (or should have to) read anything.

    3. Expecting that users will (or should have to) possess technical expertise or jargon.

    4. Expecting that users will (or should have to) configure it before using it.

    5. Guessing or questioning the user's intent.

    6. Neglecting to handle all possible failure cases gracefully.

    7. Neglecting to save state frequently enough or at all.

    8. Pointless rearchitectures (if it ain't broke, don't fix it).

    9. Avoiding necessary rearchitectures (you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette).

    10. Designing based on your own motives (in-product advertising, etc) rather than on the user's needs.

"You don't go out and kick a mad dog. If you have a mad dog with rabies, you take a gun and shoot him." -- Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, about Muammar Kadhafy

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