Брайтон-Бич. Ужасы нашего городка

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Mint.com acquired by Intuit

This is sad news. While early Intuit was a pioneer of personal finance software, currently the company is a pale shadow of former self, driven primarily by greed and an urge to milk customers for as much money as possible. Annual rehashes of the buggy and bloated piece of software, each one with a time bomb to ensure customers continue to pay, in-program ads for those who have already paid, no visible progress over the last 5-8 years. Mac version that is a joke. You name it…

I’ve joined Mint precisely because it was an opposite of Intuit/Quicken. What an irony!

As much as I like Mint, I don’t hold my breath about it’s future, no matter how rosy the former owners’ prognosis is. As mentioned before, Intuit is greed-driven like few other companies. Free Mint cannibalizes the sales of one of it’s cash cows (albeit the smallest of the three) – Quicken. How long will it take before Intuit decides to increase “synergy” by limiting free features and offering a Mint Deluxe? I think, not long.

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Обалдели родители

Женька (пересказывая братику свежепрочитанную “Сказку о Рыбаке и Рыбке”): “Сидит она в тереме. На ногах у неё сафьяновые сапожки. Обалдел дедушка…”

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Время переходить на марсианский

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Игра “Gazprom”

Идея игры состоит в следующем: Есть Россия с Газпромом, который вырабатывает… м-м-м… газ. Россия окружена государствами, которым она газ поставляет. Все окружающие государства – vragi или таковые же, временно прикидывающиеся друзьями (но рано или поздно показывающие свою личину.)

Газпром прокладывает трубы и устранавливает на трубах вентили. И то и другое стоит денег, требуя тщательного планирования трубопроводной сети. Прокладка труб должна быть достаточно дорогой, чтобы предотвратить ситуацию, когда у каждой страны есть “своя” труба и/или “свой” вентиль. Цель игры – обеспечить газом друзей и закрыть вентили для vragov. Как отключение друзей, так и неотключение врагов чреваты снижением avtoritetа.

Дополнительные кунштюки: otkat за беспроблемные поставки, veernye отключения т.н. “друзьям,” возможность сбросить на соседнее государство бомбу.

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Интересно, на чем же я пролетел?..

Мой результат теста
“Проверь себя: Сдай ЕГЭ!”

Александр Беликов!

Твердая четверка. Если вы взрослый и уже давно окончили школу, значит, вы, видимо, много читаете или у вас гуманитарная профессия. Если вы юноша, готовящийся к выпускным в школе, вам стоит полистать учебник, чтобы закрасить кое-какие пробелы в знаниях.

Кстати, обращаясь к собеседнику, следует писать “Вы” (пример того, как не надо – здесь). Так что авторов теста – тоже в детский сад.

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Gap.com IT Development for dummies

Thank you Gap, for a wonderful offer!

I am going to pass on it, unfortunately. Not sure if I want the same coding monkey, who programmed this banner in the first place to write logic for my store card balance management.

Besides, I’d rather opt for the card that would allow me to save up to $I.nf instead.

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Products that suck: Frog Pod by Boon

There are crappy products and there are ones that are outright dangerous. Boon’s Frog Pod squarely falls into the second category.

The idea is nice: instead of stuffing child’s washing accessories around the tub or on unseemly shelves, one would use a cute frog-like container. It looks nice and it keeps things tidy and my kid absolutely loved the way it hung on the wall. Not bad for thirty bucks.

I followed fairly detailed instructions on surface preparation and mounting to ensure that there are no surprises. Friendly manual suggests that the Frog is “hung up out of the reach of children,” which is exactly what I did. The container was loaded with 2 small shampoo bottles, two rubber duckies, and a small washcloth.

Well, lo and behold – today, 5 days since I mounted the thing, I was greeted with a loud boom from my bathroom. Turns out, the damn thing came crashing down. It was mounted as instructed. It was not overloaded. The surface was prepared as expected. And yet it fell down.

I am very lucky that my daughter was not in the bathtub at the time – she could’ve been seriously injured. Because of this, Boon should feel very lucky as well, otherwise my lawyer would be already calling them.

Bottom line: unless you like things coming down on you in a surprise fashion, do not buy the Frog Pod. Alternatively, you can still buy it but do not follow the mounting instructions and opt for screw-based mounting. It is much more work, but your kids will thank you.

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Been there, done that…

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

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Joel – good! Microsoft Live Search – bad!

Microsoft Live Search is now… uhm… live. Naturally, I’ve tried it out – and lost interest promptly after the first query.

Microsoft is clearly trying very hard to replicate Google success. The problem is, part of the Google appeal is clean and usable UI. Unfortunately, Microsoft Search folks still don’t get it. Branding and replication of [rather garish] desktop UI elements pretty much ruin the experience.

To substantiate and quantify my qualms, here is a list of things that made me think this round of improvements is still years behind Google in terms of both UI and usability:

  • The results are shown in a scrollable subwindow inside the main window – so that we could always see the footer. That’s right, one thing we should see at all times is the copyright statement. I think, Microsoft people should go further and add the disclaimer as the first result for any search.
  • The scrollbar for the results window is very cute. There is only one problem with it – it no longer driven by my mouse scrollwheel. So, all the user experience with scrolling things using the scrollwheel is out of the window. Welcome back to the glorious days of Windows 3.0. (Granted, I’m using Firefox in Linux, but I am yet to see another site where I couldn’t scroll things with my scrollwheel!)
  • The toolbar Live Search sports is more distracting: of course, some people will find the panel with shadow transition effects cute, but in my opinion it loses to the clean and unadorned links Google sports.
  • Another “cute” feature – a scroller in the upper right corner, that apparently controls how much detail is displayed for each result. It took me some time to figure out what that thing does, especially since controlling it also controlled the number of search results. There is no tooltip, no lable – most users will not have a clue what this thing does.
  • Finally, this is highly subjective, but I don’t appreciate the Gray on White color scheme for the Search results details. I find it not as readable as Black on White used by Google: I do feel a significant eyestrain when reading the results.

I find it extremely ironic that this event concided with another excellent Joel’s article on software usability. The bottom line of the article: Something is usable if it behaves as expected. Microsoft Live Search is a living proof to that statement. It does not behave as expected, which makes it at least not as usable as other offerings. Which means, it will continue to lag in terms of user share.

I understand that Microsoft will eventually fix these bugs and will become at least as usable as Google. Still, this is pretty sad: the company that defines the UI on 98% of the desktops in the world is incapable of replicating the usability of a white webpage with a bunch of search results on it! This might explain why people have to curse through changed UI paradigms every time a new version of Windows or Office is released.

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