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.

ЕГЭ

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.

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.

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.

Improving Wireless Network Throughput


Forget MIMO. Donate your Linksys speed booster to charity. Now you can boost you wireless network speed dramatically using the scientifically proven technology.

“..WiFi Speed Spray™ can overcome the effects of pollution, increase fidelity, and provide you with the fastest wireless data transfer possible. Compatible with ALL 802.XXx standards!”

I hope it is patent pending.

From the Standardized Test for Immigration Officers

Question 106: A person is approaching you, requesting entry to the U.S. (see picture). His inventory includes the following items:

Your actions are (choose one):

  1. Greet that person welcome and let him in.
  2. Detain the person based on the inventory above and send an inquiry to the Royal Canadian Police.
  3. Confiscate the items, briefly question the person and let him in.

Correct choice: 3.

Running SuSE Linux 9.3 on ASUS Pundit

Recently, I have finally decided to upgrade our home server. My wife’s old Dell Dimension 8200 that has been in this role for a while would move to a summer house as a main PC and I would get a new server.

After shopping around, I finally ended up with the following do-it-yourself configuration:

  • ASUS Pundit barebone.
  • Intel Celeron D 2.4GHz
  • 512 MB of RAM
  • Seagate 300GB hard drive
  • Lite-On DVD writer.

Using ASUS Pundit as barebone seemed like a good idea. It is small, elegant, inexpensive, and it was said to have a good Linux support. The entire configuration cost $400+, which is significantly lower, compared to the Dell and HP prices for similar systems.

Continue reading “Running SuSE Linux 9.3 on ASUS Pundit”

Will it cost us to develop for Windows Mobile 5.0?

Smartphone Thoughts is running a rather lengthy discussion about whether the development tools for Windows Mobile 5.0 are not going to be free. The Slashdot crowd has immediately jumped onto the issue as usual blaming Microsoft of a vile conspiracy.

The core of the issue is the fact that Microsoft is trying to unify all of its development tools underneath the Visual Studio 2005 umbrella. Since Visual Studio is not freely distributed (unlike the Embedded Visual Tools development system), the argument goes, there will no longer be any free development for the Windows Mobile platform.

I find the argument flawed for a number of reasons. If we look at the trend, there are actually many more free development tools available from Microsoft compared to the past. In fact, looking specifically at CE development tools: in order to develop for Windows CE some 3-4 years ago one had:

  • To acquire a Visual C++ development system, and
  • To purchase an add-on for Windows CE development.

Nowadays, one just has to spend 15 minutes downloading eVC++ 4 for free. Same goes for Windows-oriented development. Same for dozens of other SDKs. There are ways to develop for each and every Microsoft platform using free tools from Microsoft.

What is going to happen actually, in my opinion, will be similar to the situation with development tools for .NET framework:

  • There will be a freely available SDK with a set of tools allowing free development for Windows Mobile 5.0 platform just like there is a free .NET SDK with a set of compilers and tools allowing developers to create .NET applications.
  • VS.NET 2005 will be positioned for Windows Mobile 5.0 development in the exactly same manner VS is positioned for Windows and .NET development. That is, it will not be the only tool available for such development but the sheer convenience, integration and automation will appeal to a broad segment of ISVs compelling them to purchase it instead of going with free tools.

Now on a personal note. I think, I am willing to pay $299 if this would give me a single tool that would provide coverage for all Pocket PC and Windows Mobile target platforms without the sheer madness of having to install eVC++ 3, eVC++ 4, VS 6, and VS.NET 2003 (let alone a half dozen of platform SDKs). This alone is well worth $299. 😉

RTVi

Телегадюшник под названием RTVi не перестает умилять. Во вчерашнем выпуске новостей – опрос мнения телезрителей: “Одобряете ли вы выбор кардиналов в отношении нового Папы?” (я не шучу)

Как оказалось, 63 процента виртуального Брайтон-Бич решения кардиналов не одобряют…