My pet peeve with Gmail

When you open a mail in your Inbox, the view looks like this :

Gmail Inbox

When you open your Spam folder, what you see is this :

Gmail Spam folder

Notice the order of the buttons for deleting and marking a mail as spam/not spam - they are interchanged in these two views. I am used to hitting the Delete button on the right side in my Inbox (though of late, I prefer to use the shortcut - 'Shift' + '#'). The same tendency persists when I am in the Spam folder too. But thanks to the reversed order, I keep hitting the Not Spam button even for mails which graciously offer to help me overcome my 'insecurities'. Aaarghhh!!!

What's that? Why do I even bother deleting mails from my Inbox when I have so much space? Well, I prefer to think of it this way - just because you have a big house doesn't mean that you don't need to throw out your trash regularly. Now why do I check my Spam folder at all? You can't tell if an important mail has been incorrectly sent to the Spam folder if you don't keep checking it regularly. Morever checking the Spam folder in Gmail is hardly a chore - the spam filters in Gmail are very efficient and I hardly get any spam messages.

Tags : The Binary Files, Usability

Posted by Rajat @ 12:37 PM   |  Comments

Targeted advertising?

Yesterday I was checking out a page on Yahoo! News when I saw the ad below embedded in the page :-

IE ad from Yahoo!

Could this be some kind of targeted advertising for Firefox users like me? Or is this just a coincidence? Either way it is pretty funny when IE is recommended as an 'upgrade' to Firefox ;-).

Tags : The Binary Files

Posted by Rajat @ 1:01 AM   |  Comments

iPhone : What's in a name?

Cisco sued Apple for trademark infringement over the iPhone name. But I don't know how many people would actually associate Cisco with the name iPhone, especially considering all the buzz that had built up around Apple's much awaited gadget. Now with the highly publicized launch of the Apple iPhone, the chances that anybody will get confused between the offerings from Cisco and Apple are remote, to say the least. With a victory in the case (which is more or less assured) Cisco will also get to brag about the time when they put the mighty & arrogant Steve Jobs in his place. Not that many would be impressed. Jobs would be subject to some ridicule but will be secretly envied (revered?) for his chutzpah. Cisco might as well cash out when they have all the aces in hand. With this lawsuit, Cisco is now in a much better position to bargain with Apple.

Coming to the phone itself, the main problem with it would be the constant need to keep wiping its surface to remove the drool ;-). Of course, even without the drool, the multi-touch display would be prone to smudges - but nothing that a "crass wipe" against your pants can't correct. I suspect that a popular accessory will be a soft cloth with the Apple logo on it to clean the precious phone ;-). Anyway be sure to feast your eyes on the numerous images of the phone available through a quick Google search. After all, "a picture is worth a thousand words" and "a thing of beauty is a joy forever"... :-)

Tags : The Binary Files

Posted by Rajat @ 10:52 PM   |  Comments

Xgl on SUSE 10.1

What do you think of the image below? How do you think I generated it? Photoshop? GIMP? Some 3D image manipulation software?

Screenshot of my rotating desktop
Rotating Desktop

Nope, none of those. That is just a screenshot of my Linux desktop being rotated (taken using KSnapshot).

Yeah, you read that right. Desktop being rotated, courtesy Xgl.

I have SUSE Linux 10.1 on my home PC which is powered by an Intel Pentium IV 1.8 GHz processor on an Intel 845GL Chipset with onboard graphics card. I had tried to enable Xgl manually before by editing some configuration files using the instructions given here. That hadn't worked. But today I followed the method given on the openSUSE website and it worked like a charm (In retrospect, I realise that I had forgotten to enable 3D aceleration on my card :-)). I had also tried this on my test machine in office - a Dell machine with an ATI card. But no such luck there :-(.

The Xgl page says that my graphics card is totally unsupported (it is not even there in the hardware list). Yet it works. Of course, the display is a wee bit slower & Compiz doesn't support the theme I use on KDE. Also scrolling is slow and if I am playing music at the same time then the music gets jittery.

There are other cool things that you can do with Xgl enabled - check out the Xgl page for more details. The screenshot below shows one of them where pressing the Pause key gives you a thumbnail view of all open windows. Click on any window & that window becomes the active window while the other windows get back to their original state. This is similar to Exposé on Mac OS X.

Exposé-like effect
Exposé-like effect

Now if you are thinking that all this is just eye candy and has no practical use, you are wrong. Some of these effects are useful in making the desktop more accessible to visually impaired users. The cube view is useful in explaining the multiple desktop metaphor to users. The best part is the chance it gives you to show off to others (As you can see your opportunistic host has already grabbed this chance ;-)).

Red Hat has something similar to Xgl in Fedora Core 5 called AIGLX. I do have FC 5 installed but I haven't checked this out yet. I am not even sure whether the necessary packages are installed. I found the installation process for FC 5 very unfriendly. I had been a Red Hat loyalist in my college days. But after comparing FC 5 and SUSE 10.1, I am hooked to openSUSE.

Tags : Linux, The Binary Files, Usability

Posted by Rajat @ 11:05 PM   |  Comments

Browser War, Reloaded

In the last week of January, Microsoft released Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2. This works only with Windows XP SP2. I had read about the amount of freshly copied features from better browsers (read Firefox & Opera) which would be available in IE7. Curious to see how the new & improved(?) IE would look, I downloaded & installed the browser.

Check out this screenshot of my desktop with IE7 showing the Google search page :-

IE7 Screenshot

Quick! Can you find the Stop button? Time up. Now can you find the Refresh button? Time up. Well, could you find them? Immediately? No? Look hard at the top right area of the image. Found them?

IE7 Highlighted Screenshot

Typically one would be accustomed to having all the navigation buttons together at the top left. To achieve differentiation, Microsoft seems to have gone in for unintuitive interfaces. I want to stop some page from loading & I suddenly find that my Stop button is missing from its usual place. By the time I spot what I think is the Stop button & click on it, the page would have already loaded. Moreover I feel that both the Refresh & Stop buttons are not very responsive - they hardly seem to get depressed. And what is the reason for this wholesale shuffling of buttons? MS says they want to foil the attempts made by some sites to trick users into clicking on imitation toolbars at the top of the page. Huh? Whatever.

Tabbed browsing, anti-phishing tool(s), RSS feed detection are a few of the new features in IE7. But most Web developers want IE to support standards first - an area where IE has differentiated itself very well from its competitors ;-).

The release doesn't make any difference to me anyway. I have been using Firefox for a few years now & before that I had been using Opera (Before Opera? IE 5.x, of course. But those were the times when I was just getting my feet wet online. That's excusable, I guess :-)).

Interesting fact about the browser wars :- Microsoft is beginning to face stiff competition from Firefox, which actually rose out of the Mozilla codebase which in turn was contributed by Netscape Corporation when they were being blown out of the browser business by Microsoft in mid 90s. So, will Firefox become IE's nemesis and avenge its ancestor? We can only wait & watch.

Tags : Blogger Days, The Binary Files, Usability

Posted by Rajat @ 4:15 PM   |  Comments