Upgrade upgrade upgrade

I just don't get it. How every software package can be so annoying and pop up a window after a window after a window about so great oh and dooh new version of it. How can we - users even cope with it? Security? Come on! Can't OS handle it some how? While using Ubuntu for the last decade I got so pampered with upgrades (everything gets updated with one click and it can be even automatized) that it now annoys me even more. 

Recently (Friday - 4 days ago) Firefox wanted to be upgraded. I was in the middle of a task and clicked on "Remind me later". I haven't been using my laptop for 4 days and today I got the same annoying window. I decided to upgrade from a version 3.6.X (I have no idea which) to 3.6.4. After Firefox restarted it greeted me with this windows:

It was a surprise to greet me with a recommendation for a new upgrade! Haven't I just decided to upgrade and upgraded it and it restarted the whole browser? And now I have to do it once more? I clicked on the link and a new page withe the latest version 3.6.6 showed up. Can it get more annoying.

Yes! Firefox never checks if my plug-ins are going to be compatible with a new version upfront. I would appreciate if it would tell me in advance which plug-ins are not going to work (although I remember it once doing it). Right now I ended up with a few non compatible plug-ins. But at least they wont crush my browser anymore.

PS: I do like FF. I do like its extensibility. I do like the philosophy behind it. I do understand why it is important to upgrade with latest security patches. But since Aza is in charge of its usability I would expect better. ..... And I understand that Linux distributions have software repositories. And that OS X has AppFresh  (or similar software) but it just isn't the same user experience.

PSS: Windows 8 will supposedly have a repository of software as well (App store kind) which might be a good or a bad thing (forcing developers to stick to their rules)

Rescue photos from currupted memory card with ProtoRec

I have been given the task to empty the family camera's memory card (this is my job to do since I'm the computer guy in the house) a few days ago. I took the card out of the camera, put it in a card reader and plugged the reader in my laptop. A red light turned on it but it turned off immediately which was not a good sign at all. My OS X complained that the disk was not properly dismounted. I tried the reader on other two laptops (two other OSes) but with no luck. I put the memory card back in to the camera and a few more photos were taken since then.

I bought a new reader yesterday, came home, put the memory card in and plugged the reader into my laptop. It took forever to read it (not a good sign at all) but after the card was recognized there were no photos on it!?!? I put the card back in the camera and it claimed that card has no photos on it as well!?!? My conclusion was that the card was probably corrupted

There are a lot of good tools out there to restore data from corrupted memory cards but most of them are for Windows. I remembered once using a decent command line software which I tried to find but it took me a while (There's a good paper on how we find information on the web that was found already in the past)1. It is called PhotoRec and is cross platform as well. Although their web site has detailed instructions on how to use the software I still wanted to share my straight forward procedure step by step on a Mac for less technical users (but you are still doing it at your own risk).

Continue reading "Rescue photos from currupted memory card with ProtoRec"

Remote car key

It's funny to hear people complaining about usability of toys they use. This one is from a friend of mine who just bought a new car a few months ago. The key of a car has two remote buttons:

  • one for unlocking a car and
  • one for locking a car.

But there are 3 functions associated with these 2 buttons:

  • when pressing the unlock button the car opens (which is to be expected)
  • when pressing the lock button ONCE the car locks (which is to be expected)
  • when pressing the lock button TWICE the car locks and it disables the inner door latches so the car can not be opened from the inside - to prevent someone opening the door from the inside after breaking the window (as it is explained in the manual)

Now the user has two choices: locking the car in a half safe mode (the second option from the list) and locking the car in the full safe mode (the third option from the list) :). The question is why would someone lock the car without this safety feature (pressing the button only once)? My friend is now complaining that he always has to press the button twice to lock the car and he never presses it once because he doesn't want to leave the car in a half safe mode.

There is another question to this. Who would like to stay locked in a car and not being able to open it from the inside. Imagine if pressing this button once would lock the door from the inside as well (as my friend would like it to have). Imagine pressing it by accident and being involved in a car crash and not being able to exit. So there's a user's safety issue involved. But the same the button could be accidentally pressed twice while being in the car (the possibility for this is small but it still exists) and the driver is in danger again.

This situation has two modes (with the car being locked):

  • while in a car I would like to be able to open the doors from the inside (some cars lock the door automatically when the car starts so no one can for example open the door while a driver is waiting for a green light at the intersection)
  • while not in a car I would like not to be able to open the doors from the inside (if that is considered more safe by the automobile industry)

There is another mode in which car is not locked:

  • while in a car I would like my doors to be unlocked (some people don't like being locked in a car for various reasons)

The solution could very simple (with sensors for example). First thing to do is to offload the burden from a user:

  • if someone is in a car disable locking the doors from the inside if the lock button is pressed (X times)
  • if there's no one in the car lock it from both sides if the lock button is pressed

Now the user has the same two buttons and the same three functions but locking the car works differently without user knowing it - so concerning the user there are two functions only. Putting it differently there are still two locking modes but the user doesn't need to know it because it is not affecting her/him directly. User only presses the lock button once.

Edit 22/6/2010: It just crossed my mind; doors could be automatically unlocked in a car accident so someone could open it from the outside to help. It could be done automatically when the airbag fires up for example.

Interfaces that have 3 buttons and 27 features are always considered bad (Donald Norman, The design of everyday things).

Sort multiple citatations in Latex by citation numbers

I was trying to solve this problem a while ago but found it only now on an internal mailing list.
Let's assume we have a text like:

"... Some researchers have argued that the world is flat [43, 5, 16, 32, 22] ..."

Instead it would be nice if the citations would be organized or sorted by citation numbers so the previous sentence would look like:

"... Some researchers have argued that the world is flat [5, 16, 22, 32, 43] ..."

To sort them, two additional packages have to be used:



And that's sorts the sorting problem.

Finder and its Preview function

Ok, I have to admit it. Finder is my file manager of choice. And I tried many. I used Norton commander on DOS, than Windows Commander (later changed its name to Total Commander) on Windows 3.1, then I switch to Windows Explorer on Win 95 because it used a better font (I didn't like everything in bold in TC), I tried to switch back to Total Commander a year later but went back to Explorer, then I used midnight commander in Linux terminal, Nautilus on my desktop PC and Thunar on my laptop. I even tried some exotic ones like  BumpTop, FSV and StepTree. Nowadays I use Finder and I like it a lot. I'm not sure if tabs would work for me (there is a huge fuss on the web to add tabs to Finder) in a file manager but I would give 'em a try (I use Nautilus on my desktop that has tabs but I never used them). 

One function that I really like is the quick preview (pressing a space key brings up a quick preview of a file). But there are some things that annoy me:

  • When I'm previewing images in a folder I select the first image, press the space key and then scroll down image by image with the down arrow key. It works fine if quick preview is not in full screen more. If it is in full screen then switching between images is not working anymore!!!

  • When I'm previewing a pdf document (or doc) I often want to see all pages of it and quick preview one of them. Finder allows me to switch between pages clicking on left or right arrow on the thumbnail (see the image above). It takes me some clicking to get to the desired page (be aware that this is still in Finder) and when pressing a space the first page of that document shows up instead of one I'm looking at its thumbnail in Finder.

If Finder knows all thumbnails of a document, why is not showing them all at once like in the image below (which I made quickly). I would rather scroll all pages (and see more than one page at a time) than click on the thumbnail every time I want to switch page. And selecting one thumbnail page could preview it as well.

But I agree to what you are going to say - use the "real" Preview app. I use real Preview to do what I just described with documents. And I use Sequential to scroll images in full screen mode. But every one has their own ways of doing things. That's what makes us unique. And nonetheless I would expect to be able to switch between quick previewed images in full screen mode as well and quick preview a page that I'm looking at in the thumbnail.

Edit 2. 6. 2011: I just realized that quick preview show what it is selected - this is the icon in a list of files (left side of the above image). Even if the thumbnail on the right is for example on the page 8, the icon thumbnail of the file on the left is still on the first page. And that is what quick preview shows.