Tag - software

Getting MobileMe errors on your Mac? Complete your move to iCloud – here's how

I’ve been getting odd errors in iPhoto lately – MobileMe alerts saying they didn’t recognize my password. Something like: “MobileMe didn’t recognize the stored password for …”

That’s fairly odd, since I’ve been using Apple’s new iCloud service for months, and haven’t knowingly used any part of the old MobileMe service for months, if not years. Finally I got annoyed enough to check it out (it usually takes more than a few alerts to stir me up enough to do something about it) and fix the situation. If you’re getting similar warnings, here’s what to do …

Complete your move to iCloud
You probably are already using iCloud, but you may not have completed the move. That’s because there’s still a MobileMe preference pan in your System Preferences (who knew) that may still be active. Or, at least be trying to be active:

MobileMe is deprecated (fancy for cancelled) so that’s the cause of your errors. But that handy little Move to iCloud button at the bottom of the screen is your savior. Click that, and you’re solving your problem.

Now you’re cooking with gas
When you click that button, you’re going to be taken to an online interface to move all your MobileMe data over to iCloud. If you’re like me and barely used MobileMe for anything at all, it’s a fast and simple process.

When finished, you’ll see something like this:

Sign in (and check “keep me signed in” if you wish) and you’re all set. Cloudy goodishness is yours for free (well at least 5 gigabytes of it).

Simple, easy, and no more Mobile Me error messages!

Apple and security: make up your mind

As Apple grows, there are going to be more security problems. The recent Flashback trojan is evidence of that.

But how bad will it be?

I had to laugh when seeing Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of the computer security products company named after him, say this today:

I think they are ten years behind Microsoft in terms of security

And then, not two lines later …

For many years I’ve been saying that from a security point of view there is no big difference between Mac and Windows

Umm … which is it? It can hardly be both.

Seriously, Entourage

I’m being forced to use Entourage, the Mac version of Outlook, on my work computer. And yes, it’s a major hardship. Not quite up there with communicable diseases or debilitating illnesses, but approaching. Definitely approaching.

First of all, it looks like a pilot’s dashboard. Simplicity is not part of the plan. This is after some serious effort to tone down the menus and email fields that display:

Worse, it’s stupid. I mean that quite literally. As an example, see this pop-up question:

That’s in response to a double-click on a recurring event – a weekly recurring event. Would it seriously open up the hundreds of recurrences over the next couple of years if I selected all? Is it not fairly obvious that generally users might want to see the details of the event, not to open up 52 copies of the event as it stretches out over the next calendar year?

Alas, iCal is not on speaking terms with our Exchange server … somehow the month field is being represented by a single digit in the details it’s sending up the line. Until I get that fixed, I’m stuck in 1998.

At least for calendaring.

Ubuntu Linux as a computing appliance

I have a lot of PCs in my house. No, I mean a LOT.

As a result of building software, testing, working with PC manufacturing partners, and owning personal computers, I have no fewer than 19 laptops, desktops, and netbooks in my home. Which prompts a number of problems … not least of which is “Daddy, can I have one?”

So a couple of weeks ago I took two netbooks that I received from Disney when working on the Disney Netpal project and slapped Ubuntu Linux, netbook edition, on them. And gave them to my daughter (14) and older son (10) … and sat back and watched.

The results have been unbelievable.

Sure, they’ve found and used the games. But they’ve also discovered how to install new software via Ubuntu’s Software Center. And the results are amazing. My daughter has downloaded the GIMP, and is playing with making, mixing, and editing images. My son is downloading games and other applications. They’re changing the desktop images, customizing their machines, and having a lot of fun.

The most fascinating thing for me, however, and the key to their whole computing experience is in how iPad-like Ubuntu can be. Think of iPad. Simple, tap, download, use, right? How could it get easier? That is almost exactly how my kids are using Ubuntu.

Of course, Ubuntu is a full all-purpose operating system with a user-accessible filesystem and all the grotty power of Linux, if you choose to go there. But on the surface, using it like a waterstrider bug walking on water … these kids are installing applications, creating documents, customizing their computers, and more. And if you ever tried to install the GIMP 5-6 years ago, that’s quite an accomplishment.

The OOBE (out of the box experience) of Ubuntu is impressive. Right from the desktop, it’s completely usable. With zero instruction, my kids were able to find games, open folders, use all their programs, and get new ones. That’s all enabled by a shell that basically displays all the computer’s functionality in an easily explorable way.

Here are my kids’ desktops:

I’m pretty impressed with Ubuntu … even for kids.

Anybody Can Do Usability (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Usability is like cooking: everybody needs the results, anybody can do it reasonably well with a bit of training, and yet it takes a master to produce a gourmet outcome.

One of the discount usability movement’s basic tenets is that we need a drastic expansion in the amount of usability work done in the world, and to make this happen we need more people to take on usability assignments.

via Anybody Can Do Usability (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox).

Business Software Alliance: win the battle, lose the war

Chinook school district in southern Saskatchewan just doled out $200K worth of payola to the Business Software Alliance.

The problem? Some drafting software that was accidentally copied on to all computers in a lab during an upgrade.

The BSA came calling – rather like the RIAA – and demanded more than twice the MSRP … almost $650,000. It’s almost like the local “business protection association” run by burly men with bent noses and Italian accents.

But here’s the kicker:

Because the incident was not a budgeted item, the school division has to identify areas of cost savings in its system. In particular, Choo-Foo said the division is looking at some of its licensing agreements. “We’re moving more into the direction of freeware and shareware that’s available, and finding products that still meet our needs.”

The BSA won this battle. But it’s likely going to lose the war …

5 Years of WordPress in Pictures

It’s hard to imagine, but WordPress is now over 5 years old.

A French blogger, Ozh, posted images of WordPress’s admin interface on his blog in December. I just saw it now, but wanted to see the images in a single presentation deck so that you can flip through them and see the differences at a glance.

So I grabbed the images, combined them into one PDF, uploaded it to SlideShare, and voila:

5 Years Of WordPress

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: wordpress interface)

5 years – hard to believe. I saw WordPress when it was at the very first version, in 2003, and first used it at the second version in, in 2004.

I had been blogging much earlier, actually, before the word “blog” was invented. As far back as 1999, although I prefer my 2001 version, which was built on a content management system that I cobbled together myself using PHP … using not a single graphic:
technophiliac-small1

But I’m not really a developer, and WordPress has been the best tool for blogging.

Thanks, Matt!

Skitch: the unbelievably easy image annotator

skitchA few weeks ago I went searching for a simple, quick image annotation utility.

I annotate images and PDFs every day, multiple times a day. And most tools currently in use for it are expensive or user UNfriendly, or both.

So I couldn’t have been happier when I found Skitch. Skitch is a dead-simple utility that allows you to edit image files, quickly annotating them with circles, squares, text, and arrows in a variety of sizes and colors.

Oh, and did I mention it’s drop-dead gorgeous? Seriously, if I can say this without losing all my card-carrying guy credentials, how many apps have an icon that beautiful? Here’s the good part: in this case, the beauty is not just skin-deep.

I happen to use Mac OS X’s built-in utilities for screen captures, or in some rare cases, Snapz Pro X. But Skitch can handle that as well.

One feature that has completely saved my Canadian bacon is Skitch’s history. In the course of a day of architecting software, creating wireframes out of pieces of this and pieces of that, I go through a LOT of screenshots. Being a bit of a neat freak in terms of my desktop, I tend to delete them just as quickly as I create them … sometimes too quickly. But fortunately, Skitch has a memory, and I’ve been able to retrieve images from Skitch that would otherwise have taken me multiple minutes to re-create.

An interesting add-on: Skitch is trying to make sharing screen caps a social activity: sharing them. I’m not too sure how big this will become – it seems a bit of a stretch – or if they are simply angling to be acquired by one of the big social networking sites. In any case, since most of my shots are work-related, I can’t post them to a public site.

OK. A picture is a thousand words, so a movie must be at least a hundred. As soon as YouTube finishes crunching my screencast, I’ll embed a quick video here of Skitch in action …

User-friendly: how to know your software is usable

Usability is the new motherhood and apple pie: unquestionably good … and almost as hard to find.

Everyone agrees that software should be user-friendly. But what does that actually mean? I’ve been architecting a LOT of desktop software in the past few months, and I’ve been revisiting some of my ideas about usability.

While it’s true that there are a million different factors involved in creating software that people love to use, the five key measures that Nielsen and Schneiderman created stand out in my mind:

  • Efficiency
  • Learnability
  • Errors
  • Memorability
  • Satisfaction

Efficiency
Can users do what they want to do quickly, simply, and without a lot of fuss? Or do they need to fight your software and perform circus contortionist acts to do what they want to do?

Learnability
Have you designed your software, menus, buttons, and tabs so they are easily understandable, even for a first-time user? Or is a first-time user completely lost and unable to proceed without a manual or a training session?

Errors
This is strongly related to learnability – how many errors do new users make? Do they continually make the same or same kind of errors? If they make an error, how easy is it to reverse, correct, or undo the error?

Satisfaction
How do users feel while they are using your application? After? Is it frustrating? Do their stress levels rise? Does the software give them a feeling of competence and power, or ignorance and failure?

. . .

As mentioned previously, there are a million other factors that influence software usability. And it can be hard to measure – there’s usually not a binary yes/no answer.

But if your software scores high on these five attributes with users, chances are you have strong usability. And, chances are people will like the software well enough to use it, talk about it, and maybe even purchase upgrades for it.

Funny – or not

You gotta love this: software for the hotel industry to remotely train workers so they don’t incur travel expenses for off-site training:

“The Virtual Classroom gives hotels a low-cost tool (travel expenses are eliminated), for providing advanced or customized training,” said Kelly Gray, Newmarket’s Director of Educational Services. “Web delivery also affords hotels enhanced “speed-to-market” capabilities. For example, upgrade training for users at 400 different sites can now be done simultaneously, while traditional methods would take months.” (link)

Happened to see this as I was looking for classroom software …

Usability & knowledge: UI Strings

I’m working on a usability project for desktop software right now, focusing on “UI strings.”

UI strings are the messages that you see in an application … what it tells you. Obviously, the better these are written, structured, and presented, the easier the application, and the better your experience with it.

Four things are really coming to my mind as I’m going through this. Three of them are directly related to UI strings. They enhance usability when …

  1. You know what the software will do before you ask it to do it
  2. The software does exactly what you asked it to do: not more, not less, not different
  3. If something goes wrong, the software tells you in simple terms what happened, why, and how to fix it (this can be hard!)

The fourth thing is not really about UI strings, but an aspect of the application itself: revocability. Revocability, of course is the opposite of irrevocable (as in: can’t be undone).

The connection to UI strings is that if you know something is revocable … you’re less hesitant to try it and see. And that makes you a more confident and therefore happier user.

The overall goal of UI strings is giving the user the right amount of information at the right time. And the only way to know if you’ve got it right is to do usability testing during and after launch.

Economic crisis = software2.0 opportunity

So SAP’s in some trouble

Adding fuel to the raging fire on which stock valuations are now burning, SAP (SAP) Co-CEO Henning Kagermann this morning warned in a statement that market developments of the last few weeks have been “dramatic and worrying to many businesses,” which has triggered a “very sudden and unexpected drop in business activity” late in the company’s third quarter.

Well, when you sell multi-million installations to major companies, you’re extremely vulnerable to the onslaughts of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that is currently plaguing the interconnected global economy.

This is an opportunity for smaller, nimbler, simpler, and – yes – cheaper software. Web2.0, enterprise2.0, everything2.0 … this is your chance.

The needs have not changed. The requirements have not changed. If anything, they’re getting bigger, harder, and more intense. Because of this crisis, companies have to ramp up innovation, ramp up marketing, ramp up workloads just to tread water.

If they can’t afford the $150,000 solution … maybe they can afford your $500/month pay-as-you go software service.

Social media: blessing or curse

Have you ever seen DearAdobe.com?

It’s a site created by a designer who knows and loves Adobe products … and hates their many flaws. Visitors can add new gripes and vote up existing ones – just for fun, check out the top gripes. Most gripes are about Adobe’s installers (horribly awful), prices (sell-your-organs high), world pricing policy (schizophrenic), and bloated software (slow and complex).

Now imagine reading this as an Adobe exec. Do you think:

a. What great client input!
b. Uh oh – bad press!

Your response determines whether social media will be a blessing or a curse to you.

HP Scanjet G4010: Not actually Mac compatible

I just bought the G4010 and am having the exact same problems as this poster on Apple’s support forums … which leads me to believe that the G4010 is not actually Mac compatible, as HP claims it is.

1. If I power-up the scanner while the iMac is running, the mouse pointer freezes, and the only way out I have found is to restart the computer. Bluetooth mouse or USB mouse are the same. This is very irritating.

2. If I leave the scanner powered up all the time, whenever I wake the iMac from sleep it causes the HP scanner application to launch and a blank scan is started. I have to abort the scan and quit the application. However, I use the scanner only occasionally, so really don’t want to leave it powered up.

And, of course, that HP’s software is a steaming pile of you know what.