Blog

Contracts Everywhere

I recently handed over my car to a valet parking at Venice beach in Los Angeles. Just before I let go of the key, I noticed a sign saying



This contract limits our liability. Read it.


The intention was clear: By handing over my keys, I was implicitly agreeing to the contract. The contract was printed with small type, on a poster, sitting in floor height. So in order to know what I was agreeing to, I’d have to get down on my knees, take out my glasses, and spend ten minutes reading it....

Read more…

User Interface Fashion

Looks Are Deceptive



When I bought my last car, I thought it looked slick, fresh, cool. But then, a couple months later, a friend of mine bought a new car that looked even slicker, fresher, cooler. I could never look at mine with the same eyes again. It didn’t have the same freshness anymore. I have to get a new one, now!





What does this have to do with software? Well, software’s got to look fresh, too. You may think that you buy software on pure rational merits, but often, the...

Read more…

Subway Sounds

New subway cars were recently put in service in New York city. I had my first ride with one of them today, on the 6 line from Astor Place to 59th st. And I don’t like them. It’s not that I generally hate the MTA. In fact, I love New York’s subways. It’s just that I use them every day, so when the MTA does something stupid, I feel compelled to comment on it.





The new cars have many usability problems: The light’s terrible, the materials used are sterile and...

Read more…

MetroCard Mess

MetroCard Vending Machines, Brooklyn Bridge station, New York





Metrocard Vending Machines. If you’ve been on a subway station in New York during the last year or two, you know what I’m talking about: The humongous boxes that people use to buy the MetroCards you need to ride the subway.





The Good News



One school of thought recommends that you start out with saying something positive, when what you really want to get at is a critique. I’ll honor that principle here: They’re actually not that heinous to use. If you’ve ever...

Read more…

A Humidifier by Tom Wolfe?

This past Moday, i ordered a humidifier from drugstore.com. (I didn’t know then that I could have saved the shipping fee and gotten instant gratification by buying the exact same machine at the exact same price in the local CVS around the corner.)





I got an email Wednesday morning saying that they’d shipped it, and yesterday, Thursday, I received it at my office (not bad for standard 3-7 business days shipping). I didn’t open it, since it was for use in my home, although I...

Read more…

The Future of the Database

New Groups of Users



Within the last few years, relational database management systems (RDBMS), such as Oracle and Sybase, has seen a whole new class of users. Up until recently, an RDBMS was primarily a tool for the big corporations. They’d use it to manage their payroll, for production management, for financial management, etc. In short, mission-critical applications where data integrity and security is far more important than flexibility or cost. Joe Nerd had no interest in using a...

Read more…

Datastructures in Tcl

This document will teach you a little about building more complex data structures in Tcl. I’m assuming you already know basic Tcl stuff. If you don’t you can pick up some at <a href=”http://www.arsdigita.com/books/tcl/”>Tcl for Web Nerds.



Take Advantage Of Arrays



You probably know well by now that Tcl doesn’t support any complex datastructures very well. You might also know from <a href=”http://sicp.arsdigita.org/text/sicp/”...

Read more…

Upgrading an ACS Installation

This document will walk you through upgrading ACS from one major version to the next. If you need to upgrade across several major versions, take them one at a time. If you haven’t kept up-to-date for a really long time, it may be better to start afresh and invent a way to move your old data into the new system. See the <a href=”http://www.arsdigita.com/doc/upgrading”>other upgrading document for how to do that.





The process being outlined here involves shutting the...

Read more…

Task Manager

Yet another software design proposal.



The Big Picture



I need a tool to help me manage my time. It’s my time, and the tool should recognize that fact. It shouldn’t try to make me do anything I won’t, and it shouldn’t get in my way. That’s the main idea here.





Here are the main requirements for my task manager:





  • I want my tool to help me remember tasks that I must get done. But I also want it to remember things that I’d like to get done, that are not critical...

Read more…

HTML for ACS Use

Ever wondered how you could make your postings in forums, news and similar places more interesting?



HTML is the answer and you can learn the basics in just a few minutes. Read on if you would like to enhance the clearity and usefulness of your postings and make your voice heard.



Line and Paragraph Breaks



The most important thing to notice about HTML is that a line doesn’t break unless you tell it to do so. You break a line by typing <br>, and you separate paragraphs with <p>.





...

Read more…