Category Archives: Life

Downsides of SaaS

Software-as-a-Service has its downsides, as one commenter notes:

We’re beginning to see the pitfalls of software-as-a-service in general: loss of control for for the user, increased security risks, and being entirely at the mercy of the providers’ future business strategies.

The context is Google discontinuing its RSS Reader.

A small outfit has motivation that a big one doesn’t. It matters not just to the provider, but the user. Opportunity abounds.


Downsides of Collaboration

Here’s an outstanding video on how collaboration can not only kill creativity, but dupe our very perceptions. Steve Wozniak:

Most inventors and engineers I have met are like me: they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything revolutionary has ever been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who is an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.

And it gets better from here.

You’ll undoubtedly apply it to situations closest to your heart.  It resonates with me and the software I write. Of course we can’t just make up our own requirements, but the final product needs to come from you.

I also hear a call to courage. Don’t be arrogant, but stand your ground. Use your best judgment. Don’t be dulled–or let your project be dulled–by the strongest personalities in the room.




Insidious Ad Award

Here’s a screen-shot of’s main page, as of today.

Watch that download!

Notice the giant Download button on the right. That’s really an ad for who-knows-what. To download ClamWin, you want the much-smaller download menu item on the left.

Caveat emptor.

Then the LAN, Now the Cloud

We use Google Calendar for some things. Who doesn’t? Any Android phone you buy pushes you to use it.

And it’s very cool. Your calendar magically sync’s with the web, available wherever you go.

What’s not to like?

Two decades ago, we touted the LAN. Sit down at any computer in the enterprise, log on and do your work. Super-cool.

Then we rely on the LAN, and when it’s down, lots of expensive people are sitting around.

Now when “the cloud” is down we get the same thing. And, yes, the cloud does go down.

Google says oops

As mysterious and cantankerous as the LAN could be, the cloud is more so. More out of one’s control. Makes me nervous. Am I being curmudgeonly or prudent?

Google unavailable

And though it’s cool that the apps are free, how much leverage do we have over Google to keep it all humming, or fix it fast when it breaks?

Conserving Screen Height: Killing “Height Cruft”

With the onset of HD, monitors are now wider than they are tall. Great for video, but not for computing.

If you’re a developer, consider screen height a limited, precious resource. Conserve it. Trade width for height. Kill height cruft. (Can I coin that?)

Button bars: traditionally horizontal at the top of the app. Can you make it vertical, to the left or right?

Even the traditional menu bar (“File Edit View … Tools Window Help”) crowds you down by its height.

Case study: Amazon’s Instant Video in Internet Explorer. IE adds menu items and multiple button bars at the top. Then amazon’s web-site adds its headers across the top. The video winds up a tiny fraction of its potential size, squeezed by all the height cruft. Not to blame Amazon: there’s a “full screen” button, and F11 in IE takes away a bunch of stuff (if you know about it).

The lesson: when every layer adds its own, it compounds.

Software developers take heed.

As a user, there’s lots you can do to conserve height.

Did you know you can put the Windows task bar to the left or right? I put mine to the left, as narrow as possible. You lose a little of the icons’ descriptions, but mousing over gives them back. It flushes out some bugs, too: some programs start in the upper left corner, winding up under the task bar. (To move the task bar, put the mouse on the middle top edge and drag it to the middle left.)

Most software today lets you move menu bars, and the best ones let you dock them to the left or right, making them vertical. Very nice, though they can truncate text menus. Your word processor has several: don’t live with them crowding you. It’s worth retraining your eye to work with them vertically. (Convince your complaining co-workers, too.)

For working with source code, height is particularly valuable. Source-code flows down, and seeing more at once is better. I have a two-monitor set-up on my desk-top, and my cheap, last-generation NVidia video card lets me turn one monitor sideways. A $40 monitor stand and you’re in business. This has been an indispensable productivity boost for me. Don’t work with all horizontal monitors.

When looking at code, can you bump your font-size down one? You’ll see a lot more.

Update. I promise I’m not making this up: one day after this pontification a client passes along a request to do exactly this: rearrange things to conserve screen height in a program I wrote a couple years ago. File this under eerily prescient or physician heal thyself?

Google Art Project

Google has just introduced its Google Art Project.

It’s Google Street View inside the prominent museums of the world, with high-resolution images of each work.

What a great concept! Hat’s off to them.

I’ve been through Amsterdam three times (stop-overs to other destinations), and never got to see either the Rijksmuseum or the Van Gogh Museum. I look forward to exploring them here.

I hope and expect that this will increase museum traffic.

LinkedIn broken?

As of right now, a couple LinkedIn connection requests I made, that were accepted, still aren’t showing up in my connections list. I received the e-mail that we’re connected. So it’s half-working, half-broken, even after 30 hours or so. (Surely the electrons can travel from one end of LinkedIn to the other in that time.)

The mind boggles at the mess this could potentially be if they’re dealing with a breakage of something that fundamental. My heart goes out to them. I hope they have (or can create) the right view of their system to make it all good. I haven’t seen any announcement to that effect.