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Messages - JennyB [ switch to compact view ]

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Living Room / Re: Birth of an Avatar
« on: January 20, 2010, 05:47 AM »
Am I the only person who didn't like Avatar (besides my girlfriend)? :D

- Oshyan

Then you might like this snarky metacontextual version  ;D :P ;D

Living Room / Re: Great Britain is frozen!
« on: January 09, 2010, 01:13 PM »

Arthritis causes parts of me to lockup when the temperature starts dropping, even after I get "warm" my hands just don't work. At 60 wind chill puts the temp at 30 if I take the motorcycle. And my hands won't work for an hour after I get where I'm going.

I have a neighbour who claims never to have worn gloves for the last thirty years. His tip for cold hands - before you try to warm them plunge them into cold water and then dry them. It sounds daft, but it seems to work.

The present cold spell in Britain and Ireland is unusual these days, but I remember several almost as bad in the 1970's. I'm just glad I wasn't around for the Winter of 1947  :)

I don't know of any tutorials, but way back in the 8-bit days I wrote a little program that let me enter an arbitrary strling and then repeat it any number of times, reporting time taken and number of mistakes made.

A job for a FARR Alias?

Living Room / Would you buy this milk?
« on: December 17, 2009, 01:26 PM »
Just look at the reviews!   :tellme: :P

There seems of be a whole subculture of mock-ecstatic reviews for odd products - just check out the "also viewed items."  I was particularlly taken by the creative uses suggested for the Laptop Steering Wheel Desk

Living Room / A Stellar Advent Calendar
« on: December 11, 2009, 10:42 AM »
Better late than never.

via the Science & the Sacred blog:


Looking for a unique way to mark the days of the Advent season? The Web site offers an Advent calendar composed of images from the Hubble Telescope, both old and new. Each day, from now until the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, the calendar will offer a beautiful image from the heavens above.

The connection between Advent and NASA images might seem odd. However, the calendar offers us a chance to marvel at the wonders of God's works as we anticipate the coming of his Son. For as Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God."

Just... Wow!!

Living Room / Sausages and Science
« on: December 07, 2009, 11:08 AM »
A great quote by biologist/philosopher John Wilkins about the recent global warming leaked emails hoo-ha (the video he links to is well worth watching too):

One should not see, goes the old saw, laws or sausages being made. This is also true of science, for a reason. Before something is published, scientists argue, insult each other, discuss things in casual ways and use unclear jargon and terminology that looks like, to an outsider who is uninformed, as if the whole thing is just being made up on the spot for political and personal reasons...

The hacked emails are not a conspiracy, as the excellent potholer54 points out in a wonderful piece of science communication. It’s a sausage being made. Of course, those who do not make sausages themselves might be disgusted by this, but if they want sausages, that’s what you have to put up with – rigorous debate, trying out things, and so on. Science is human, who knew? Every single scientist and science student knew, that’s who. If the pundits don’t, that should tell you about the pundits.

Living Room / Re: Notepad Fun
« on: December 04, 2009, 10:02 AM »
Just for fun, I tried it in several text editors. Fastest by far that I found was NoteTab - there was no noticeable delay until I pasted it so many times that I was making over a million replacements.  :P

Living Room / Re: Solutions for blogging sketches and diagrams?
« on: October 27, 2009, 06:37 AM »
You could probably buy a new scanner much cheaper than a camera and you'd have much better results.

A friend of mine picked up one for about $20 not that long ago. It ain't the greatest scanner, but it does the job.

I sorted through my junk and found an Epson all-in-one inkjet I assumed just did direct-to-paper copying had scanning software too!  :-[

Here's a first attempt with that. [attach=#1][/attach]

I also found an Instructable on using a digital camera for copying.

Living Room / Solutions for blogging sketches and diagrams?
« on: October 26, 2009, 12:24 PM »
By which I mean take the sort of thing you would draw on the back of an old envelope and convert it to a GIF or PNG.

It looks like this would need some hardware, but should I be thinking of a cheap graphics tablet or keep the sketches on paper and use some way of digitally copying them? I have an old scanner, but it uses a parallel port, and the last compatible computer is banjaxed.

Living Room / Re: Best Laptop Input Device?
« on: October 21, 2009, 05:26 AM »
Thanks for the suggestions, folks. I think this is definitely a case of "try before you buy!"  :P

It seems to work quite well for what it does. The Create Coolkey context menu item is nice.  :up:

But it's a hotkey editor, not a  mouse replacement and should be marketed as such. How do you show the Coolkeys interface or delete a key entry without using a mouse?

The two perennial problems with hotkeys are:

  • Remembering them all
  • Picking one that isn't already assigned

It would help both if there was a coolkey action that popped up a menu of actions that could be triggered by the next key. If it had that, it would definitely be a keeper!  8)

Living Room / Re: Best Laptop Input Device?
« on: October 20, 2009, 12:22 PM »
Is there a specific reason you are sticking with the desk-easel rig and choosing not to just get the laptop it sounds like you need? I ask because there are usually many more requirements for the type of setup that you are describing that are important but not readily appearent.

Kinda of like why not use a wheeled cart of some kind so there is a flat surface available to use a normal mouse on? Not to mention better ergonomics if you can just stand normally in front of the computer instead of squatting in front of it for extended periods.

I'm using the easel because it gives me as much portability as I need. Basically, its a modified 28" trolley case with the tower in the bottom and the rest stored on top. Every place I'm likely to use it has a chair of some sort, but not always a suitable table. I could rig something to fold out from the front, but I think that would prove either unwieldy or unstable, and in any case I like the keyboard in my lap.

So the spec is for something that stores in one piece, no wider than a standard keyboard and no more than about 9" front to back, and preferably wireless.

General Software Discussion / Re: 10/GUI
« on: October 20, 2009, 11:41 AM »
I don't really know what a server app specifically is but I don't get why every app should be a server app and why it would improve the system? (aside from creating a uniform set of similar application I guess...)

Anyone have the layman translation?

Seems like it's about rebuilding an OS where as up to now, I was assuming JennyB's concept was just a macro monitor on steroids.

I think I got a bit carried away there!  :-[

What I was trying to convey was that an idea from the days of centralised processing seemed to be relevant again, that the heavy lifting might be done on one machine, which communicated with another to provide an interface that is perhaps unique to one individual. There are all sorts of possibilities for further simplification if we could start from a clean sheet, but for now let's think about is practicable with a current OS such as Windows running on the main machine.

For a concrete example of the keyboard/mouse replacement, think of a reduced set of keys with no labels, and a pointing device such that you can easily key any combination while using it. Current key assignments are displayed either on a controller display, of in a window on the main display. Any key may serve as a shift key, displaying a new set of assignments, so for any task you have the correct keys available, where you want them to be.

The problem I see is that for this to work with existing software is that the pointer needs to be a 'real' mouse pointer, so when you use it to select something different, how do the key assignments know to change?

General Software Discussion / Re: 10/GUI
« on: October 19, 2009, 01:12 PM »

Was IBM's dynamic model somewhat similar to what you had in mind?

From all I know of it (which is just what you have written above) it is very similar, because my idea seems to imply an "every app is a server app" model. It goes like this:

The current list of available actions can be likened to a directory listing. It can be changed by program action, by navigating up or down the heirarchy, or by  selecting a different object. A separate zoom control selects actions suitable for the appropriate level of nested objects, and changes the selection cursor to suit.  So, at the top level you would find actions for logging on and off, creating new tasks, and choosing which screen to focus. Below that, actions relating to individual windows (move, resize, etc), and below that, actions peculiar to the particular program.

On Object Selection (MouseDown)
Controller sends the mouse position. Server returns the object path (The list of all nested objects at that point).

If the actions currently displayed are still in the object path, they remain unchanged and the nested object at that level is selected. So if, for example, you have been resizing windows, a new window can be moved by selecting any point on it. No trying to click on lines, corners and fiddly little handles. Otherwise, show the actions suitable for the new object at the current level.

Optionally, change the action selection.

On MouseUp, the controller sends the current object path and the token for the current action.

The main difference is that I am thinking of the controller as a personal device, perhaps a netbook or a mobile phone, so standard controls are not the issue - no more QWERTY!

General Software Discussion / Re: 10/GUI
« on: October 17, 2009, 04:54 PM »
Keyboards are actually pretty good at making multiway selections. They are superior to touchscreens because the usual choices can be made by muscle memory alone, without having to look.

Excellent point. I tend to like hotkeys myself.

The only problem comes when you start supporting multiple applications with widely varying sets of controls and features. You'll see this mostly in music, media, and graphics applications.

Here's an interesting video of what was possible in that direction nearly 15 years ago, and a sensible use of multi-touch support. In either case, the main point is to move away from the mouse having to select both the action and its object.
Eventually you run out of logical key combinations for all the tasks you want to have a key for. Once that happens, you're forced to use arbitrary and non-intuitive ones. A good example is V for PASTE or W for CLOSE in most apps.

Yes, that's one of the reasons I gave up using Dvorak!  >:(

That's why I'm proposing that keycodes not be hardwired to particular keys or gestures. 

The idea comes from ColorForth which uses only 27 keys of a normal keyboard - have a continually updated display of key assignments (not on the keycaps - you should not be looking there anyway) that is generated from lists of currently available commands. The user only sees the command label, not the keycode that it returns. Think of it like a link in the Help index.

Initially, with a new program, no keys are assigned - or perhaps the input device auto-assigns those with familiar labels. Commands are selected by picking with a mouse, or perhaps in FARR style.  When you learn a command and know you are going to use it often, drag a copy off the list and place it on a spot associated with a particular key.

General Software Discussion / Re: 10/GUI
« on: October 15, 2009, 01:43 PM »
Actually, I was more thinking that the command surface would also dynamically change based on the app. When you're running something like Photoshop, the main part of the panel would display Photoshop controls. When you switched apps, it would switch to a 'control panel' for that app.

Standard items like file open/close/save/print/next/previous/etc. could be assigned permanent locations (ex: an icon bank across the top of the command area) among all apps for consistency.

Or a zoom-in/out gesture  - screen-app-window-object?

In many respects (and much as it pains me to say it *choke*) Apple's iPhone incorporates a lot of this already. My GF just upgraded her AT&T cellular plan and got a 3G as part of the deal. Despite my general dislike of Apple for their proprietary closed platform and elitist mindset, even I have to grudgingly admit that the interface design is, for the most part, quite impressive.

But with the way most apps work these days, right now I think the alphanumeric keyboard might actually be in danger of being on the lagging edge of where interfaces are heading.

Keyboards are actually pretty good at making multiway selections. They are superior to touchscreens because the usual choices can be made by muscle memory alone, without having to look. Whatever variety you use (standard keyboard, chord keyboard, or marking menu as with KeystrokeCE) the limit (without shifting) seems to be a 32-way choice, which is also a good limit for the number of options to display at a time.

I'm not sure if this can be done in Windows, or any other OS, but it potentially splits the program from the interface entirely.  All the former has to do is provide lists of functions it makes available, which the interface device displays and selects as it sees fit; and send a list identifier at the appropriate point to tell it which list to switch to.

General Software Discussion / Re: 10/GUI
« on: October 14, 2009, 10:03 AM »

Another thing that I would miss would be the ability to have say two windows one side of the screen and one on the other - but neatly filling the screen - a la GridMove. This hasnt really been considered I think.

The basic idea could be extended so that dropping one window onto another would stack them vertically. Each window in the horizontal strip could then be a vertical strip of windows, which are manipulated in the same manner.

Living Room / Re: Best Laptop Input Device?
« on: October 08, 2009, 04:45 PM »
What about one of these?


That looks like a neat thing for a media centre or presentations, but not so good as a mouse substitute when keyboarding. I've been looking a lapdesks, which provide a portable 'wide armrest' but none seem to address the question of what happens when you need to do something else. Ideally, I want to be able to pick up everything I have in my lap and put it away or carry it elsewhere as easily as I would a laptop.

Living Room / Re: Best Laptop Input Device?
« on: October 01, 2009, 06:12 AM »
You can buy keyboards that have trackpads or trackpoints (those little rubber knobs that stick up between the keys that rjbull was talking about). There are even keyboards with integrated trackballs as well.

The question is, which of these is best for comfortable input, rather than for optimising space?

I've tried trackpoints, trackballs and touchpads, but I am not convinced that any of them are superior to a mouse. Perhaps the ultimate would be a split keyboard with a multi-touch screen in the middle.

For the present, I am experimenting with my Blue Peter solution, which is a piece of cardboard taped to the back of the keyboard, so that the mouse sits between my wrists as I type. It works OK, but it needs to be adjusted so that I do not hit the mouse button with the base of my thumb.

Living Room / Best Laptop Input Device?
« on: September 25, 2009, 01:13 PM »
Not that I have a laptop, but I have rigged up a sort of folding easel that I use to move my ex-desktop to various locations, most of which do not have a desk. I often find myself typing with the keyboard on my knees and the mouse hanging over my upper left thigh. The keyboard position is fine, but there must be a better solution for the pointing device, one that doesn't involve dropping something every time you move.  :mad:

I'm sure there is a market for this among laptop owners too, so what devices are available, and how do they rate?

Living Room / Re: How to Lucid Dream -- Nice wikiHow page
« on: September 10, 2009, 12:21 PM »
I once got shot in a dream and went down, thinking I was going to die. Then I realized I was dreaming, wasn't actually hurt, got up and finished robbing bank. It's never happened again.

Dreams (reality) = good.
Lucid dreams (alternate reality) = awesome!

So long as you don't start thinking reality works like that!  ;)

I've been able to dream lucidly since I was very young, and remember being bitterly disappointed when I discovered the limits of their "reality".  There is a fine line between being aware of that sort of weirdness (otherwise you fall into normal dreaming) and letting it happen without questioning it too much (otherwise you wake up). For example, I start to levitate in a dream, and I realise that I can't "actually" be doing that, because no one else is taking a blind bit of notice. But I think of the dream world as a coherent and objective whole, so I begin to wonder if they can tell me what I'm "actually" doing. Of course, since it is my own brain that is both confabulating the dream and trying to make sense of it, I have yet to get a satisfactory answer!

It does launch quite fast. A related problem I had with it is that there weren't many options for how it opens. IIRC you can either have it open all the tabs you had open before, or start fresh every time. There isn't an option like there is with Firefox (and IE I believe) that asks you what you want to do. (see attachment in previous post)What I found really bothersome is that if you close the program by closing the last tab with the little "X" on the tab it would open that tab again the next time you launch the program. I rarely want the last tab(s) to be re-opened so this is one instance where I would personally prefer to be asked every time I close the browser.

I used Chrome for some months after I downloaded a new version of Opera and couldn't get my mail imported from the old one (fixed that now). I never got used to the way closing the last tab closed the whole browser, but I kept it because it loaded again so fast.

It may be a fact that it launches each tab as its own process, but in my experience if one tab crashes the rest will go with it anyway.

That's my experience too.

Another thing it does is it puts a resizing... uh... "chevron"* on every text box that allows you to make it bigger. It's real useful for forums. I bet there's a Firefox extension that will do the same thing though.

That's one thing I really miss in other browsers. I began to reply to this post in Opera, and then opened it in Chrome instead for the extra space and the spell checker.  :-*

I think I'll keep Chrome as the default browser for local files, for forums and (naturally) for Google Mail, Groups and Reader, and use Opera for everything else.

Site/Forum Features / Re: Server blocking of sessionid
« on: May 31, 2009, 05:10 PM »
Some people who have been used to surfing the dc forum without cookies enabled are reporting getting the new error page and having some trouble enabling cookies or otherwise getting pages to load.  We'll see if we can make this a bit smoother.

Not sure if this is related, but six new topics turned up in the Google reader feed yesterday that I can't access, and don't appear on the forum Topic list. They all seem to be productivity-related, and were posted between

Shutdown, after turning off specific programs, or running others.
Members Only! A good way to randomly view DC

This is a fork of right? what are it's differences?

No, it's server-based (apache, PHP, MySQL) software for collaborative working


AFAICS, the only documents you can actually create on-line within OpenGoo at present are WP and presentations that are saved as HTML, but you can upload/download any type of file for work offline, tag them, comment on them, check them in and out, manage who can see and work on them, and link them with other objects. So yes, in that sense it will interact with OpenOffice, but it's a very different animal.

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