Inane mouseover bad UI design – Google Voice

Here’s another installment in mouseover poorly-thought-out design.  This time, we’ll visit Google Voice (a great service BTW, do yourself a favor and check it out).

On their page, they have this as a left-hand menu:


Ok, looks innocuous enough, but if you want to click on “contacts” and you make the bad mistake of approaching that with your mouse from above, you glide over “More” which instead of a clickable drop-down, it is a mouseover drop-down.  So look what happens:


Oh dear, now I can’t click on “contacts”, can I?  Even WORSE… if you move the mouse over there and click on “contacts” quickly, the stupid popup whips out under your mouse and grabs your click!! Now you get “recorded calls” or “Placed calls” and have to dismiss that in order to get what you really wanted.

This is irritating UI design and is poorly thought out.  Users shouldn’t be surprised by getting something they didn’t intend, and they shouldn’t have to creep up on menu options from the right direction in order to use them.  C’mon, Google, get a clue.



Saw this in an email today: “I will be sending out a conformation email…“

Now, given that conformation generally means a “structural arrangement” I can only assume that this much anticipated email will contain details on how we’re going to get together.  LOL!

Recycle Bin – take your propaganda elsewhere

We used to have a trash can on both the Mac and Windows.  This was a neat idea; a place for discarded items to go before they are really deleted so you can get them back if you have to.

Then, Microsoft decided to “go green” and renamed it to “Recycle Bin”.  Since this was a system object, you couldn’t rename it back to “Trash”.  Fortunately, in windows 7, they have lifted this restriction, so my desktop is no longer polluted by Microsoft propaganda – I have a trash can again.  Of course, all the dialogs related to discard confirmations and such still reference “Recycle Bin”.  They should get the verbiage from the object they are relating to, as if you rename the object, there is now room for confusion as the dialogs and the object do not match.  But I digress…

Why does this irritate me?  Or perhaps you didn’t even ask because the weirdest things irritate me and now you’re used to it.  It’s quite simple: Other than aluminum cans, recycling does not work.  Sorry to burst your bubble, if you happen to think it’s really groovy.  Recycling is a “feel good” waste of time and money which we do because it seems like it ought to be a good thing do do, but we ignore that for the most part it pollutes more than not recycling.

“Save a tree” is pointless.  Paper comes from trees planted in farms by paper producers.  Nobody is carving up the rainforests for this.  If we buy and use less paper, they’ll plant less trees.  It’s simple supply and demand.  Trees are a GOOD thing, we want to encourage people to plant more of them.

Plastic recycling: The recycling process itself introduces more toxic products into our environment than making new plastic does.

Did you ever wonder why nobody will pay you for used paper and so forth, but they will pay you for aluminum cans?  That’s because recycling aluminum actually makes sense and is a good idea.  Most other recycling is government subsidized wasting of time, money, and in many cases is harmful to the environment.

So, the bottom line?  Count me out.  I’m not playing the game.  Companies like Microsoft pushing their sociological agenda via my desktop (or any means, actually) is unwanted and annoying.

Are you sure? Really sure? Recycle Bin paranoia


Why yes, I AM sure, that’s why I selected “delete” in the first place.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good to confirm things which may be questionable, such as “Are you sure you want to launch the ICBM?”.  However, deleting a file doesn’t really delete it.  It just puts it into the “Recycle Bin”.  If you really didn’t mean to do that, or have pangs of regret a few minutes later, you can get it back.  So why do we need to be pestered for confirmation of an undoable event?  Answer: We don’t, it’s just inane.

Here’s an excerpt from Tim’s UI Guidelines (coming soon to a theater near you):

Don’t pester the user.  Confirm actions that cannot be reversed, but otherwise allow the user to do what they want, when they want.

Microsoft? Are you listening?

Webcam gadget for windows sidebar – TWIV (Timed Web Image Viewer)

For the last few years, I have been doing my annual pilgrimage to the gadgets gallery looking for a gadget that will take a URL of a webcam generated image, and will display it on my desktop, refreshing it on some schedule.  You wouldn’t think this would be a difficult thing, would you?  Every single one of these I have downloaded and tested seems to work, after a fashion, but has issues.

My goal is this: As you know, I live in the mountains.  In the winter, this means snow.  So, I want to keep a couple of the local road condition webcams in little windows on my desk so I can watch conditions, and if they are deteriorating fast then maybe I’d leave work early before things get bad and congested.

Finally, I found one that seems decent!  Click here

This is called “Twiv” (Timed Web Image Viewer).  You give it the URL for an image out on the web, and it displays it for you in a 320×240 window – a good size.  You can set the refresh time in seconds, and that’s it.  Very simple, no goofy features, and who knows, maybe this one will actually run without causing horrible system performance problems like the others I have tried.  I now have 3 webcams on my desktop, which is ideal.  I set them to refresh every 5 minutes which should keep my system load at a minimal level, and that’s more than frequent enough for road conditions.

Update: Cyber-D has released a new version so now you can have multiple webcams and they will persist through a reboot – Thanks, Dario!

Winter will soon be here. Time to think about snow!

Well ok, not everybody in sunny Southern CA needs to think about snow.  I happen to live in the mountains, and so it is a factor for me.  I thought I’d share my recent thoughts & discoveries in this area as ski season approaches.  Every year, we get “flatlanders” who drive up the hill woefully unprepared to deal with snow.  They drive rear-wheel cars with low clearance, and don’t bring chains or anything!  Needless to say, the roads are a mess with people stuck and blocking the road for no good reason other than their own lack of preparedness.

My primary vehicle is a Toyota Prius.  This is a great car, but not well suited for snow.  The biggest problem with it is low ground clearance.  I can put chains on it and it does well, but since it’s so low, the front spoiler/bumper gets torn up plowing the snow in between the wheel ruts.  My solution was to buy a cheap 4WD vehicle and put snow tires on it.  That’s really nice because 99% of the time you aren’t required (and don’t need) chains, you just drive on through the checkpoints and don’t have to sweat it.  Still, I keep chains in the Prius just in case I end up needing them.

When we first moved up the hill, I wanted chains I could very quickly put on and take off, as I’d be doing that twice daily.  After some research, I found Spikes Spiders.  These are really great:Spikes-Spider SportYou install “hub rings” on your wheels.  When you want to put the chains on, you shove the plastic thing (above) over the tire, and the black disc with the red handle in the center locks them in place with a twist.  I can install these on both wheels, without moving the car or laying out chains, get back in and drive off in literally less than a minute.  Other folks with chains and cables are still untangling them and laying them out – it’s quite amusing to see their faces.  Removal is just as quick.  Unlock the hub, pull them off the wheels, then back the car up a couple of feet and they fall off.

The big drawback with these is price.  They are expensive (for the sport model I need, about $550 per set – ouch).  Traction isn’t as good as chains, admittedly, but it’s good enough for my needs.  I never had traction problems with these installed.  They’ve been through several seasons and the links are wearing very thin, so I was thinking about what to do about that.  Their website offers parts, but these parts aren’t cheap either.  So, that makes me look around to see what else is out there.

I came across two products which seem easy and fast to install and remove, and also have the additional feature that you can use them on multiple cars with different tire sizes!

Jeko, an Italian company has some neat products.  Their “Put & Go” tire straps look really easy to use.  Also, on the same website, they have a really neat RV leveling device.


I also like their claims of low vibration.  Spikes Spiders rattle the car (and your teeth) a LOT when you are driving on anything but deep snow.

This appears to be an Italian company also, and they don’t have distribution in the US, but they are willing to ship.  They quoted me € 180,00 per set, and € 95,00 FedEx shipping to the USA. (roughly $374 – dirt cheap compared to a new set of Spiders)