Archives » February, 2003

February 18, 2003

Boycott TurboTax

Ed Foster’s Gripe Line is reporting that a lot of readers are up in arms, demanding a boycott of TurboTax software because it uses Product Activation. I’ve never used tax software before (I keep my life simple enough that I’ve never needed anything more than a 1040EZ), but this seems to just be the latest in a long line of compaints against Intuit. I’m sure that when the day comes that I am in the market for tax software, I’ll remember the name “Intuit”. And not in a good way.

I’ve been against the idea of Product Activation from the start, anyway. It’s always been a “Guilty until proven innocent” way of treating piracy that has never made much sense to me. It’s bad enough that Microsoft legitimized its use, but now to see that other companies are jumping on the bandwagon — that takes my concern to a new level. TurboTax exists in a much more competitive environment that Windows or Office, though, so there’s hope that some combination of a boycott and ordinary users getting fed up will place market pressure on Intuit, and persuade them to drop it. Monopoly software might be able to get away with it, but there’s no reason for anybody else to.

More from The Head Lemur.

February 16, 2003

OmniFi

The Internet comes through for me again. In response to my request yesterday, Henk de Jonge pointed me to the OmniFi from Rockford Fosgate, a Wi-Fi enabled car stereo. That rocks. That rocks hard.

St. Charles Hotel

The Nevada Appeal today has a little story on the history of the St. Charles Hotel, Carson City’s other historic hotel. The St. Charles, unlike the Ormsby House, has never been torn down and rebuilt like the OH was in the 1970’s. It’s still the original structure from the 1860’s, predating even the capitol building. The article is a nice little slice of Nevada history for anyone who’s interested. And it looks like they’re putting another restaurant downstairs, in the space that has held what seems like five other restaurants in as many years. Good luck to this new endeavour.

BloGoogle

So Google has bought Blogger (and Pyra, the company running it). I’m not even sure where to go with this. Yeah, it’ll be good for folks on this side, putting Blogger on more powerful servers, and really good for the reliability of Blogspot sites (which mine is not). But what does Google get out of it? How does this fit in at all with their mission? If anything, they’ll have to work harder to maintain credibility now, since any time a Blogger site gets a high ranking, people will start to wonder. I know they’re smart enough not to let their ownership of Blogger influence search results at all, but people will still suspect it. I’ll be curious to see where they take this, and what plans they have for Blogger.

More from Anil Dash, and about a dozen more at the bottom of Dan Gillmor’s article.

February 15, 2003

What I want

What I want is pretty simple. I want a car stereo that not only plays CDs, but also stores and plays MP3s. And I want it to have 802.11b built in, so it can connect to my WiFi network while the car’s in the garage, and I can upload songs from my computer.

That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

February 13, 2003

New Boxes & Arrows

Now at Boxes & Arrows —

The New R&D: Relevant & Desirable

But it’s an equally big mistake to focus our attention solely on users (which is one reason I’ve never particularly liked the term “user-centered design”). At worst, I’ve heard people argue we don’t know anything about designing for users except that which we learn through usability testing.

Focusing exclusively on users like this is just plain wrong — it’s the equivalent of software development’s discredited “build and fix” approach. But more importantly, it’s indicative of dangerous tunnel vision, and it hurts our profession, our businesses and clients, and, yes, our users.

What’s Your Idea of a Mental Model?

To illustrate the consequences of having a mismatched mental model, I describe a person who goes into a buffet restaurant and waits for someone to take their order. The person’s mental model of how that restaurant operates doesn’t match the actual situation, and he would experience confusion and frustration until he modified his original model to include buffets.

Unheard Bands

In the comments of a post from a couple of days ago I was pointed to the band Carbon Leaf. I checked them out, and it’s pretty good stuff with a nice Celtic slant to it. On their website they have a few samples for download, and they also have some tracks on MP3.com. Worth a listen if you have some music time in your day.

Also worth a listen is a band I stumbled across, Lazy Fingers. I don’t like country music, so it’s rare for a guitar and fiddle band to catch my ear. But catch it they did. Since they’re from Austin, some of their tunes have the requisite amount of twang, but it’s the songs without that really stood out for me. Their version of the old Herbie Hancock standard “Cantaloupe Island” was one, since for a moment at the start they actually made me think their fiddle was a trumpet. Some of the other numbers are just downright jazzy. And on their site they have eight full tracks for download. Always a good way to get some attention!

Have a listen!

February 12, 2003

Idols

I’ve been cruising around Sarah Hepola’s site, following links hither and yon. I went to her article on interviewing celebrities, as well as to this audio clip (25-minute .mp3 file) of Terry Gross interviewing Gene Simmons last year. It’s pretty funny to listen to, since the interview starts out okay, but soon devolves as Gene starts acting like a rockstar and an ass, and the normally unflappable Terry Gross is left speechless at some points and starts fighting back at others. Classic train wreck.

Sarah’s article on interviewing, especially the part about the junket she went to, reminded me how much I detest Hollywood and the pack of flies that seem to follow celebrities everywhere. I mean, I enjoy movies and TV shows, and I’ll glance at the IMDB often to see what someone has been in in the past, or what they’re doing next, but my interest stops there. I don’t need to know about their lives or where they eat or any of that. My wife watches E.T. every now and then, and I try to tune it out from my seat at the computer, but that stuff is just so mind-numbing; it makes me want to switch to Jerry Springer just to get away from it.

I don’t know if this attitude is normal for someone who lives “out in the sticks” (okay, I’m only half an hour away from Lake Tahoe. But it’s not like I see Bill Cosby playing blackjack every time I go up there). You always hear about the archetypal farm-girl from Kansas, who dreams of moving to LA and meeting all the celebrities. And downtown Hollywood is always popular and crowded, usually with out-of-town tourists, even though that place is seedier than 1975 Times Square. I don’t even feel safe parking my car down there, but people travel across half the country just to stand next to a wax dummy of Ahhnold and put their hands in his cement imprints for good luck. I just don’t get it.

Anyway, what’s my point? Probably that my priorities are screwed up. My idols aren’t on TV or in the movies, they’re writers and they’re on the Web. I’d rather spend fifteen minutes chatting with James Lileks or David Weinberger, or even Sarah Hepola, than Tom Cruise or Nicholas Cage. And I don’t need breathless “entertainment correspondents” giving me the latest “star news” in 30 second chunks. I can just go to thier damn sites and read it for myself, in their words. Thanks but no thanks, Hollywood.

And oh yeah, go read Sarah’s site. A lot of good stuff there.

Cardboard Magnets

Jonathon Delacour: “you can’t fight terrorism with shoddy cardboard”.

It looks like you’re suing Microsoft

It looks like you’re suing Microsoft. Would you like help?

This is still a second to my all-time favorite, Looks like you’re committing suicide!