Michael Maclean
Monday, August 08, 2005
A couple of random comments.

I've just signed up for a Linux virtual server from Bytemark. It's a User Mode Linux machine running in userspace on top of another Linux machine, which has the advantage that it can be rebooted, moved to other hardware, or blown away and started from scratch in seconds should it need it. It doesn't have as much RAM, CPU or hard drive space as a standard colocated server but it's a lot cheaper. So far, they seem to be pretty good. They supply secondary DNS and backup MX service for free and the setup was pretty painless. Support times seem pretty quick as well, and their status reports are in RSS. More ISPs need to do that.

I've been using Windows machines more often these days, and I'venoticed a few things that irritate me compared to the Macs and GNOME desktops I've been using recently. I will admit that Windows XP is a lot nicer than I gave it credit for. A lot of the time the problem is an application doing something non-standard. One example is Skype. As good as it is, its GUI does some odd things. When a tab isn't selected, it's greyed out. That makes me think that it's disabled and I can't use it for some obscure reason. However, if I click on it, it works normally. Windows Media Player is good at doing odd things as well. It usually appears to have a rounded window, until you move the mouse to where the title bar should be and at this point the conventional window decorations appear duplicating the ones that were already there. What's the point of that? I usually try to click through the window to a full-screen PuTTY behind it when this happens and fail.

Apple and GNOME have guidelines for developing graphical interfaces,which means most applications are standardised. Windows doesn't seem to have that, and too many applications try to have their own layouts just to be different and do unexpected things. I think the key thing in UI design is consistency. If a UI has an unusual way of doing things but is at least consistent in its operation, people will get used to it.

I've also got back into doing a bit of PHP code recently, returning from doing my project in Java. That's another place that could do with consistency. Function names are all over the place so I always have to look at the manual to find out which variation_of_spacing or runningwordstogether has been used to construct the function name. Several other people have written far better articles about this and other features of the language than I could so I'll just link to one: http://tnx.nl/php. I'm tempted to go and have another look at Ruby but beyond installing it on my new server I haven't really got time at the moment.
I talked to the computer, it hates me

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