Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Everything is up to date!

Error messages and information dialogs and displays. Oh, what a prime subject for commentary and criticism.

I started blogging in 2005, and one of my early posts was Note item not found in November of that year. Later on I made several other posts on similar matters, such as An error was encountered while opening a window and a more general critique: Reveal the error, for crying out loud. Am I right, or am I right?

When I worked at IBM, I spent many years supporting midrange systems, starting with the IBM System/3 and then the IBM System/38 and its descendants (IBM AS/400, IBM iSeries). At other stages I worked with IBM mainframes (starting with IB< System/370 released in 1970, the year that I joined IBM), the IBM System/7, the IBM RS/6000 (their first product running a variant of UNIX), and networking products such as the IBM 37xx family of communications controllers.

These IBM products were all extensively documented, and had excellent information about information/error messages.

After I retired from IBM and started working with Windows systems and Windows-based application packages, I found myself in a totally different rough-and-ready environment, more like being in the Wild West where just about anything goes. The same can be said about Web browser interactions and Web apps, as well as apps running on smartphones and tablets.image

I find this especially to be the case with the information/error messaging side of things. Perhaps my greatest bugbear is the Something went wrong class of error message> They indicate that an application’s designers and developers have paid little attention to conveying accurate and pertinent messages.

In the picture at right, at least we know something went wrong in a Web browser environment, but I’ve seen similar messages pop up -- out of the blue, on one of the four monitors on my system – which might have been generated by any one of the dozens and dozens of foreground and background tasks running om the system. The worst of these have a blank title bar and give not the slightest clue about where they originated! Oh so cryptic. Oh so hopeless.

When developing NotesTracker (now passed on to Alex Elliott at AGECOM to support and continue development) I painstakingly paid attention to providing users with accurate and detailed information and error messages. Here are a couple of them:




My approach, when specifying and coding apps,  is to give both positive and negative feedback, and whenever an error occurs be sure to give clear instructions (or hints, at the very least) about the steps needed to recover.

I also made sure to review and refine the messages with each new version of the product, to reflect user feedback plus changes and enhancements in the product. Stale, out of date information is anathema.

Well alright, enough of my complaining about the faults of the software industry. Today’s diatribe now ends, let me move on to happier thoughts.

This post was kicked off by my amusement when I checked for updates to my installation of Everything Search Engine (for Windows). It’s an excellent free utility that I use all the time to ferret out files and folders from amongst the millions that I have on my system. It claims to “locate files and folders by name instantly” and it sure delivers on its promise. Well, perhaps it overstates its promises in the following info dialog that it produces:


Everything? … Everywhere? … Now that’s a claim!

Reminds me of the following claim made about Kansas City:

What’s next? They’ve gone about as far as they can go!

The developer of Everything Search Engine, David Carpernter, has informed me that if you’re unfortunate you might see the following error message heaven forbid:

Everything has stopped working

Monday, August 15, 2016

Discover Lotus Notes–The Fastest Way to a Responsive Organization (1993 demo)

What’s old is new, even if it’s old, and Lotus Notes (nowadays called IBM Notes) certainly is one of those things.

Some of the basic concepts and capabilities of Lotus Notes still are of great benefit to organizations using Notes, even though its fundamental architecture comes from the 1980s and early 1990s. Some of the NoSQL database products that have evolved over the last decade have variations (and improvements?) of what Notes provided way back then

Here’s a little something I’m leaving for posterity, which will possibly bring tears of joy (I hope) to the eyes of anybody associated with Notes in its early days -- in my case that was 1993, starting after my 1992 early retirement from IBM.

Lots of you won’t have seen this diskette-based presentation Discover Lotus Notes–The Fastest Way to a Responsive Organization so I’m giving you the opportunity to run it on your own PC. Only a few minutes of downloading and setup are required.

Firstly, download the zipped diskette image from my website … 

Please retain a copy for archival purposes (since every year I’m getting closer to my “use by date” and upon my expiration there won’t be anybody to maintain the site so it will disappear into the great bit bucket in the sky).


Then extract the diskette image into a folder called NOTEDEMO on your Windows system (C:) drive, which should contain three files:  AUST.DSP, DEMO.EXE and PLAY.EXE

You need a PC x86 emulator to run the demo, and my suggestion for this is DOSBox, an x86 emulatimageor with DOS but you may prefer something else.

Perhaps run the installer (DOSBox0.74-win32-installer.exe) as Administrator to overcome any execution-time permissions. I suggest this because I’ve found Windows 8 and 10 tend to be rather finicky regarding permissions, but you shouldn’t have any problems with the demo.

There’s a built-in manual to assist you:


Launch the DOSBox emulator, and enter the following three commands (case insensitive):

  1. mount  C  c:\NOTEDEMO
  2. C:
  3. play


The demo fires up, and away you go! Follow your nose through the various sections of the demo (using the keyboard to navigate, not the mouse). Here’s the initial part of the Discover Lotus Notes 1993 demo:

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

A race you don’t want to win–the Skin Cancer Susceptibility Index

New Zealand and Australia have, by far, the highest incidences of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Susceptibility Index created by Derma Plus (website shows both German and English versions).

In the southwest Pacific, down here where I live, things look pretty grim for Aussies and Kiwis, as I know from personal experience.

Go to the original article to see how your own country rates.

(click on the image to go to the original article by Derma Plus)

Friday, July 08, 2016

What do great programmers know (that average programmers don't)?

Programmers, developers, code hackers, or whatever you like to call them …

Here’s a very interesting discussion over at Quora:
      What do great programmers know that average programmers don't?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Murderous meetings

Having retired, I’m very fortunate to no longer be bombarded with meetings.

I do have an annual general meeting to attend next month. Some AGMs can be excruciating, especially when they involve complex and occasionally vitriolic debates about articles of association and rules of membership (not to forget financial matters).

Anyway, I came across a couple of articles about meetings that you might find very useful:

Meet is Murder - They’re boring. They’re useless. Everyone hates them. So why can’t we stop having meetings? (Also read the other articles, via tabs at the top of this one.)

Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule -  One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they're on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.


Wednesday, June 08, 2016

The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity (by Carlo M. Cipolla)

This paper is not to be missed!

               The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity Stop Stupidity
    by Carlo M. Cipolla  
    illustrations by James Donnelly
        (PDF document)

If the above fails, then try this link.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Why wealthier people are more likely to survive melanoma

Can’t really say that I’m surprised by this:

“We already know that poverty is a risk factor for poor health and premature mortality, according to a 2004 meta-analysis of income inequality and health in the journal Epidemiologic Reviews. But a new skin cancer study finds that wealthier people actually have a higher chance of being diagnosed with melanoma—as well as a higher chance of surviving it.”

See …

Friday, May 27, 2016

Computers and their peripherals, old and even older

I just read the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) 2015 report: Improving the Management of IT Acquisitions and Operations about "federal IT investments too frequently fail or incur cost overruns and schedule slippages while contributing little to mission-related outcomes" which is an outcome not unique to the U.S. government by any means!

It got me thinking yet again about old computers and old software, and the reliability of these today and in the past. See my earlier post: If it’s safe enough for NASA, then it’s good enough for me (software coding rules)

The other day I stumbled upon another fascinating tale about hardware, software and user interfaces between the two, that I strongly recommend. Be sure to read  Apollo Guidance Computer: A Users View (PDF) by astronaut David Scott.

Just think about it. Jet-setting to and vacationing on the Moon, back in the 1960s, with your life relying on computing equipment about as powerful as a $5 wristwatch these days.

But most of us were unaware of all this as we gathered boggle-eyed around out TV sets to watch grainy live broadcasts of the various Apollo landings – not to forget the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission.

This will goad (or goat) you into laughter

Watch this amusing video:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Men's essential reference manual now available in paperback edition


Just letting you know that the popular men’s handbook "Understanding Women" is now out as a paperback …

Re Men's reference manual now