Posts tagged ‘design’


New Google Interface

Apparently if you’re running a late enough version of Chromium or Google Chrome I really don’t know how you enable this, but you might experience that Google’s home and search results page have been revamped to a new style. I’m running Chromium 5.0.335.0 5.0.356.2 (on the dev channel).

This is what these pages look like for me now:

Notice how the buttons and search text box is bigger, and the Google logotype now lacks shadows and the trademark symbol has been taken off of it. This page no longer features the fade-in effect, but shows everything on the page immediately. Though I have to say, in Chromium, the page reloads much, much faster anyway, than in Firefox 3.5.8 (current version in Ubuntu 9.10 as time of writing).

Update (2010-03-12): Fade-in effect is now activated in the new design as well.

Moving on to the results page now:

As you can see there is an entirely new menu on the left hand side. This menu is collapsed by default but I expanded it to show what it looks like. The options that were available before–such as sorting by date, and other attributes–can now be found under “More options…” also on the left hand side. The first menu on the left is very smooth-looking with its little favicon/thumbnail style of icons, and probably AJAX-powered, with its smooth expanding and collapsing. The menu below it however, unfortunately is not very smooth and seemingly even reloads the page when one expands/collapses it. It also resets the state of the menu above it.

Update (2010-03-23): The lower menu is now much more smooth and does not reload the page. It also features a few options (two at first: “All results” and “Page images” and more as you use other options), and the menu has now been titled “Recommended Tools”.

Update (2010-03-12): The little icons in the left-hand side menu are now colored as opposed to monochromatic/gray-ish.

Another thing to notice is the integration of the search button into the search text box, giving them both a more coherent look.

One thing I’m really missing from this new interface is the handy dictionary on the right side. If you search for a word that Google’s dictionary recognizes, there would otherwise be a link to its definition (see image below). I can’t see that anymore, but hope it resurfaces some day.


Windows Restarting Automatically

Really? Still? Are you serious?

O.K., I’ve been using Windows since just before Windows XP came out, and Windows XP had this thing called “Automatic Updates”. This concept is brilliant, and is used these days in many, many popular, more or less advanced pieces of software. One example is of course, as mentioned, Windows XP. Other examples include Mozilla Firefox, with its incremental updates that can download automatically; Mac OS X has security updates and major version updates to the operating system itself and accompanying software, such as iTunes, Safari, etc; and Ubuntu has free updates to all of its software packages, and the operating system itself upgrades to major new releases, just as most other free (GNU/)Linux distributions.

One huge gripe I always had with Windows XP, which was never resolved—not that I know if it was even considered a problem by anyone else but me since it was never fixed—was that once updates had been installed, it pretty much ALWAYS required me to restart the machine. The keyword here is “me”. Or rather, isn’t, but we’ll get to that. (Yeah, you bet we are!) And not only this constant restarting of the machine whenever there was an update, there would always be a notification stating this fact, asking me whether I wanted to restart Now or Later. I always chose Later, because for goodness’ sake, it’s not like I sit down in front of the computer just to restart it again while I’m in the middle of my work. But this damned notification keeps popping up at regular intervals, incessantly driveling about the same stupid question! NO I DO NOT WANT TO RESTART AT THIS POINT IN TIME, IS THAT NOT AN ACCEPTABLE ANSWER? If it’s not an acceptable answer, why ask the question in the first place?

We-e-ell, isn’t that an interesting question. In fact, if you didn’t keep answering the same question over and over, and just let the dialog sit there for a while, Windows XP would start asking itself the very same question, and it would actually RESTART ITSELF, without permission! RIDICULOUS behavior! This brings us back to present day, not only because this is still a problem with Windows XP, but because I’ve now moved on to Windows 7 and the problem is still as blatant as ever! Thank GOD that isn’t my only operating system and I only boot into it every once in a blue moon.

So today I was just minding my business, playing Counter-Strike: Source, when suddenly the game just shuts down and even Windows says “shutting down”. It wasn’t a crash and it certainly wasn’t an error on my part where I accidentally hit a key combination that would minimize the game and shut down the operating system. No, what had happened was that Windows received information about an update it could install, downloaded the update, installed the update, and just threw me out. Past the curb and straight under the bus! Stupid Windows design flaws, get it right for once in ten years! EVERYBODY ELSE KNOWS HOW TO DO IT.

There was absolutely no way that I could have spotted any potential warnings Windows would have given me about the reboot just because I was running a full-screen game—although considering the circumstances I doubt there even was so much as a little icon in the task bar letting me know what was going to happen. Yet other times, ironically, the game just minimizes for no reason and I’m met with an empty desktop.

I don’t know what Windows’ problem is. I’m guessing those geniuses at Microsoft are thinking “if the user isn’t around anyway, it’s probably safest to just install this update and restart the computer so that the computer will be updated and ready to go when the user comes back. Or something? NO THAT IS A STUPID DESIGN. I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING, I JUST. DON’T. WANT. TO INSTALL THE UPDATE. ATTHISPOINTINTIME. IS THAT A CRIME? There’s just no excuse. I mean what if you’re a speaker at a huge conference or something, or you’re running a program that displays something on a public screen in the middle of the street or your store window? All of a sudden it just decides to restart automatically, just because you’re not monitoring the screen every second, un-maximizing all of your full-screen applications to see if there is an update, and when there is spend all day clicking Restart Later until closing time of your store.

THE CONSEQUENCES COULD BE MAJOR LOSS OF IMPORTANT DATA. Which in turn could mean loss of revenue, and lack of food on the table. STUPID. I could’ve been a professional computer-game player, playing an extremely important match of Counter-Strike: Source against my arch rival team or something, and I was the last surviving player on my team! IN THE FINALS OF A CHAMPIONSHIP. And all of a sudden, Windows 7 just bombs out on me. WOW. YOU SUCK, MICROSOFT. AND YOU SUCK, WINDOWS. What a piece of crap product and operating system just for this problem alone. Take a lesson from Ubuntu and Mozilla Firefox and just about every other piece of software that has automatic updates. Ask the question once. And when we answer “No”, all you say is “Don’t want to install it now? Alright, I won’t bother you again, sir/madame. Have a good session and I will install updates upon your next reboot.” AND BE DONE WITH IT.

I loathe Windows.


Bloat Warning

On my system, iTunes and QuickTime take up a combined space of over 180 MiB. That. Is. Crazy.

For a piece of software that I use for nothing else than transferring my songs from one place to another, 180 MiB is an astronomical length. iTunes takes up 106 MiB. The rest is accredited to QuickTime. I don’t even use QuickTime! But iTunes refuses to start without it! I use other free and open-source software to play media than iTunes:

On Ubuntu/Linux:

  • Rhythmbox
  • MPlayer
  • Totem

On Windows XP:

  • Winamp
  • VLC
  • XBMC

That covers all of my media-playing needs. Combined, these players, on each system respectively, play just about every format in existence. And MPlayer, VLC and XBMC are available for multiple platforms, it’s just that they run smoother/more gracefully in my experience on the respective platforms mentioned above that I use.

Back to the matter at hand: As I mentioned, I use iTunes for one reason and only one reason — to transfer songs to my iPod. That task does include fetching album cover art, but I count those two as one task. I don’t play any media in iTunes; no music, no podcasts, no videos or movies, nothing! If I have that kind of setup and needs, why shouldn’t I be able to uninstall the unnecessary modules of the software and save some space? I mean I can understand iTunes. It has quite a lot of features, and I assume that all drivers for every single product that iTunes supports comes with the installation of iTunes, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

Alternative #1

Imagine that you just bought a device from Apple. Let’s say it’s a new iPhone.

As soon as you plug in the iPhone for the first time after installing iTunes, iTunes recognizes that you have a new device and suggests to download the necessary drivers, or whatever it needs, to be able to work with your iPhone. Perhaps installing them as plugins, or integrating it with the software in some other way. BRILLIANT. Now, for any other features I like to use in iTunes, enabling them as I go.

Alternative #2

You just bought a new iPod Nano 16 GB (like I have), for example, and you go to the download page for iTunes to download and install the necessary software.

Upon installing iTunes, you are given — oh, I don’t know — OPTIONS REGARDING WHAT YOU WANT TO ACTUALLY INSTALL, as so many other installers do for other software. Then in those options it might say something like “I would like to be able to play music and video”, perhaps separating music and video into two options, and selecting those options would install QuickTime as well (although it’s ~75 MiB is inexplicable to me).

Alternative #3

Release the module that transfers content between hard disk drive and device as a stand-alone application! I understand that you need some type of technology to recognize which types of media can be transferred and played on the actual device, but that doesn’t imply that you also need the technology to play the media before you transfer it to where you actually want to play it.

That was a little messy, so let’s illustrate with a helpful and suitable analogy: You don’t need to take a bite out of the apple to realize it’s an apple! Otherwise I assume people would look at you strangely whenever you go to the grocery store for example. Sampling all the apples before you pick them up.

At the very least, iTunes should include some install-time options. I’m not really sure, but as far as I can remember, I couldn’t even select where I wanted to install it.


The Horror of YouTube

If you’ve watched a video on YouTube in the last few months, you must have noticed the new advertising system they integrated into their Flash-based player a while ago.

My guess is that the advertisement isn’t added to videos that were uploaded before it was enabled. So if you watch a fairly new video you’ll see it. For your convenience, here’s a picture of what it looks like.

YouTube advertisement.

YouTube advertisement.

See that? That thing slides up from the lower edge of the video – not immediately after you start the video, no no, but after a few seconds, right when you’ve let go of the mouse and started to sit back and relax as you watch the video. That’s when it comes up. And sometimes it covers a lot of what you’re trying to watch, for example if the video has captions or subtitles. So not only does it catch you off guard, but it makes you rewind videos! WHAT A STUPID THING.

I loved Google Video when it came out, and I love it today because the player and the whole thing is just a lot cleaner, and the player itself works better, than YouTube. Then YouTube was acquired by Google. Things started to change, and YouTube got a lot of enhancements, not only the obvious changes to the player in terms of style, buttons and recently the different choices of quality of the videos, but also more subtle things like (dis)agreeing with text comments by giving it a thumbs up or down, and other things that make the loading of content in general run smoother than before.

At that point, I really started to think about whether I actually favoured YouTube over Google Video… But, no. Forget that. Never. The player is still junk (seeking is HORRIBLE among other things, not to mention the ads), the pages are waaaay to over-loaded with moving images and content with different styles and colors, and there’s no intuitive way to download the videos to your own hard disk drive to view later or to put on your portable player for instance. And what are those stupid, annoying annotations anyway? Just put it in the description box, will you? If I’m not interested in reading your “LOL”s and your “LMAO”s inside the video, I shouldn’t have to! “But you can turn off the annotations by just by cli…” I KNOW THAT, but it’s ENABLED BY DEFAULT. And if you reload the page, IT COMES BACK ON. AND SOMETIMES YOUTUBE’S PAGE RELOADS AT RANDOM.

Google Video’s player, however, seeks beautifully, the pages are clean and contain barely anything but the video in a large window and the comments and other things to the right of the video neatly ordered in tabs, and you can download the videos. Even to iPod formats, so you won’t have to convert them yourself! Yet there are more features(!), such as choosing any size of the video by resizing the browser window itself, with the lower limit of the original size of the video. You can choose Original Size, Double Size, Fit to Window and Full Screen. There’s even a “Smooth Video” option if the quality of the video is too poor for the size at which it is being displayed! The latter in my opinion is a much better solution to the quality problem than “HQ” (High Quality) and “HD” (High Definition) options at YouTube.

And now I hear that Google Video is about to stop accepting new videos and Google is focusing all of its video efforts on YouTube. What a waste!

There are still great options for people who want to upload content to Google, and we invite them to explore YouTube’s dynamic global community or Picasa Web Albums.


We’re confident this decision is the right one for our users,

Not for me.

and we’re looking forward to making Google Video an even better place for you to search and find videos from all over the web.

Yeah maybe, if I could watch them using the Google Video player, that’d be AWESOME. Then I’d have all the videos from YouTube but in the format of Google Video’s player.

A man can dream.

Thank God for brilliant software solutions such as the YouTube plugin for Totem (the video player of GNOME).