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Perils of automatic invisible software updates

A couple of days ago I noticed my Google Fiber uplink was only 100Mbps instead of 1Gbps. While debugging with the tech via phone, it seemed as though any time I had something connected to port 4 on the network box, the speed dropped. I moved cables around until the speed was back to normal, and they scheduled a tech to come swap out the box. Today the tech arrived and was unable to reproduce the problem.…

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Wolfram Alpha

When Wolfram Alpha was made public, like everyone else I went to the site to see what it could do. The demonstration queries produced pages which looked really useful. I could instantly imagine how I might find the site invaluable. Then I hit a wall. I thought of things I would like to see displayed by Wolfram Alpha, and for each, I wondered: how would I persuade it to show such a thing?…

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VMware and Ctrl-Z

I use VMware for running legacy Windows-only software. It’s generally a fine product, but there’s one piece of UI design that just drives me insane. What are the most frequently used keyboard shortcuts on a Windows system? Probably cut, copy, paste, and undo. Ctrl-X, Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V, Ctrl-Z. In the VMware client, however, Ctrl-Z is “suspend the virtual machine immediately, without even a warning dialog”. So if you realize you made a mistake in your Windows app, click on the VMware window to bring it to the front, and then type Ctrl-Z, the entire VM is immediately suspended to disk.…

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Microsoft technology at work, again

ZDNet Australia, 2006: The Queensland Police Service (QPS) will add a business intelligence (BI) layer to its core records management system used for basic police duties. The records management system is provided by Canadian vendor Niche Technology and forms the basis of its integrated policing solution, dubbed QPRIME (Queensland Police Records and Information Management Exchange). QPS said its current QPRIME implementation made use of Microsoft’s Reporting Services, Report Builder and Analysis Services tools to deliver information analysis and reporting.…

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Form design: You're doing it wrong

One of the most valuable qualities for a software developer is an ability to recognize and admit when they have been doing something wrong. Yesterday I discovered an excellent summary of HCI research regarding online form design, and discovered that I’ve been designing forms incorrectly for years. In summary, the best way to lay out a form is with labels above the fields, left-aligned. The labels should be in smaller regular text, not bold.…

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