"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

Mac Life: Fixing ‘Drag & Drop’ Firefox Pain

Posted: August 1st, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Technology | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

While I’m still loving my new MacBook Pro there are definitely moments of pain that I could do without. One of those recurring pains has been from Firefox, in that every time I want to drag a link into one of file bookmark folders a really long and annoying tooltip pops up saying; “Drag and drop this icon to create a link to this page”. This tooltip fades after three seconds, but often the folder I want to drag the link into is underneath the tip.

Well thanks to a tip from PK you can now rid yourself of this interloper. Simply type about:config into the address bar at the top of Firefox, this will make a list of configuration properties show up. Then find the one that says browser.chrome.toolbar_tips and double click it to set it to false. Bingo. No more tooltips, and no more obstructions to bookmarking.

One thing to note about this solution is that it disables all tool tips, not just the one we don’t like, but for me that’s a liveable solution. It’s also a reminder to everyone developing UI to keep your tool tips short!

MacBook Pain: Won’t Boot, Very Hot – Fixed

Posted: July 28th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Technology | Tags: , | No Comments »

This morning I had a mild heart attack as my new MacBook Pro decided not to come back up from sleep mode. It had been sitting on my desk all night, plugged into the power having being put to sleep. I opened it and heard the fans whirring away, but nothing happened on screen. After a few minutes I held down the power key to re-boot it – on starting back up though I just had the grey apple logo and spinning wheel, but no visible progress!

I rebooted the machine a few times, and once it got through to the login screen, but in the background the ‘OS X Booting’ dialog box stayed on the screen. So I rebooted again, thinking that would clear it down – but then it wouldn’t come back up at all. Great.

I restarted the machine in verbose mode (press Command + V on startup) and watched the output, all good until a SATA disk drive error (something about block 0 missing) came up repeatedly on screen. OK. So a hard drive problem, my worst nightmare. This time I rebooted into single user mode (Command + S) and ran fsck – ‘File System Check’ – it turns out that most of my hard drive settings were out by a few blocks at all levels, and some parts were completely missing. Ug.

Luckily fsck repaired the drive successfully, and after entering reboot at the command line the machine came back up without apparent problems. Phew. I then backed up my recent files to DVD just in case and had a coffee.

Of course now I want to know what caused this. A few posts online indicate similar problems – my machine was super hot, even though it was off and recharging – had that upset the hard drive? In which case it’s something that could easily happen again. Or is this something to do with installing MacFuse recently so I could try and write to my PC shared NTFS drives? A lot of the posts with the same problem had been running Parallels, a Windows exection package. If anyone has any ideas please let me know!

First iPhone Experience

Posted: July 28th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Yesterday I got my first chance to play with Apple’s new iPhone at their 5th Avenue Store. First impressions, it’s cute, feels great in the hand, has many genius ideas but some annoying niggles still came up even in a short time.

The first thing that strikes you is the quality and clarity of the display – the background is a really dark black, and the icons really pop out. The glass in front of the screen also feels very smooth and cool to the touch, and even with my greasy, sweaty fingers it didn’t seem to pick up any fingerprints – that alone is an amazing development that I wish all of my handheld devices had. The iPhone is a comfortable size in the hand, and surprisingly thing – akin to the latest generation of iPod but with rounded edges on the front.

Using the iPhone is relatively intuitive. The icons are obvious, bold & easily clickable – plus they have small text descriptions below to guide you. Though small, the text descriptions are incredibly clear and easy to read, another facet of the excellent display. There is a slight learning curve when you read a web page, using two fingers slide apart or together to either zoom in or out of the page, then using a single finger to drag the screen apart (as opposed to the MacBook’s two finger drag). Reading or viewing anything is aided by the in-built orientation sensor, that tells at what angle you have the screen and rotates the display accordingly, although in youTube mode it sensibly forces you into landscape orientation for best viewing. Yes, youTube is a front menu option, it’s just a shame that the download times are a little slow over the phone network, but not so slow that they are unusable.

Zooming in and out of web pages to read is not as easy as I’d thought it could be. My website rendered correctly, unsurprisingly given the Safari engine embedded in the iPhone, but having to zoom in/out to get posts to the correct scale to read was a bit frustrating. Once you’re at the best zoom level scrolling with your fingers is easy and fun. I wonder how many sites have already started iPhone optimisation looking at the iPhone’s user agent in the header?

For entering text Apple has plumped for an onscreen keyboard, as opposed to the defunct Newton’s ‘written’ text. The keys are much smaller than the average finger tip, but Apple has developed a method that works out which key you meant to press by looking at the center of your finger. This works pretty well, except at the edges of the keypad. I found myself pressing ‘P’ instead of ‘O’ regularly. Like most touch keypads it is most likely something you learn to do better with time, but that initial usage was mildly frustrating. I wonder if offering a larger button keypad as well would help, time will tell.

There are many other interesting features to look through, I didn’t get a chance to make an actual phone call for example! Nice little touches such as a one click, highly visible airplane mode, are present all through the device. That said I’m not convinced enough to splash out $500 for the cheapest model, with only 4Gig of unexpandable (what!) memory and a lock in to an AT&T contract. Roll on iPhone v2 – I’m sure that will be even more perfect.

Footnote: Originally I had hoped to do this blog post from the iPhone, spelling mistakes and all, but for some reason I could not log into Blogger. I’m sure that was just something I’d have to work out, but given it also took me a good three minutes to even get my username & password entered it was a task left for another day.