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The Misadventures of Quinxy von Besiex truths, lies, and everything in between

21Nov/140

Another School Shooting, Another Round of Pointless Gun Debates

Every news story these days has a comment section which erupts into a slug fest between the politically left and politically right. The same arguments are made this time as last time, the same "proof" is offered this time as last time, and no one is convinced, and nothing changes.

What annoys me most is that neither side seems willing to debate their real point of view, they rely instead on dishonestly framing the debate.

On the right I wish they would admit, "Hey, look, if someone could could snap their fingers and get rid of all guns there would be a lot fewer homicides and suicides, but guns are a lot of fun, and people die left and right from driving cars and eating fattening food, so we've decided we're comfortable with the number of deaths from guns. And besides, it might theoretically make our government a little afraid of violating our rights, though admittedly they seem to be violating a lot of rights and we're not doing anything about it."

And on the left I wish they would admit, "Hey, guns are really scary. We're not hunter gatherers any more, and people who collect and shoot guns, especially at cute little woodland creatures, seem a little mentally disturbed to us. And if you want to carry them all the time, everywhere, and buy your kids Hello Kitty themed shotguns we really think you have a problem. We know there are so many guns in the country that banning them won't really do a lot, but it'll do something, and more important it'll feel like we're doing something. And maybe if we can damage the gun market now in a hundred years there will be less of them around, and maybe then society will be safer. And the sort of guns people have now haven't kept up with the hardware the government has, so give up on the argument that it'll keep us free from tyranny."

If both sides lead with that it would feel more honest to me, and at least make the debate potentially more productive.

^ Q

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15Nov/140

Balsamiq Suqs for Mockups

balsamiqThere are many pieces of software which achieve levels of success I cannot understand given their crappiness.  I've already made known my disdain (yet usage of) Evernote. Today I'll talk about Balsamiq, a tool for creating software mockups.

Most of my complaints and frustrations center around the their fervent belief that they know better than their users what features we want and how things should work.  They impose a rigidity which is painful, limiting, and often mind-bogglingly stupid.

Here are my chief complaints:

  1. Their UI library (see top bar in screen shot) insists on using stupidly huge image buttons.  Hope you have a high resolution monitor, because if you don't you're in for some screen robbing ugly.  Many programs in similar situations at least give you a small button option.  Not Balsamiq!  Workaround: Use ctrl+l to hide/show the UI library.  But why should I have to do that?  Make a small icon version!
  2. Stupidest Arrows Ever!  Their arrow element is the most unbelievably stupid implementation of a connecting arrow in any software since the mid-1970s.  Want to draw an arrow between things? In normal programs (Visio, any vector drawing program, etc.) you just drag the end points and optionally drag some middle item to change the curvature. Not so in Balsamiq! Balsamiq is just weird about arrows. The arrow you drag from the UI library can only move through 90 degrees without using one property panel item to flip it to cover 180 degrees and then you have to use another property panel item to let you flip the curvature to give you the remaining 180 degrees.  It's just confusing, screwy, and painful to use.  How on earth can people supposedly focused on great design, ready to preach to everyone about great design, create this monstrosity?
  3. Want to duplicate an item by ctrl+dragging like in most programs?  Nope!  Your only option is ctrl+d (or ctrl+c, ctrl+v)
  4. Want to duplicate an item and shift the copy horizontally or vertically only? Nope, when you duplicate or copy/paste it offsets the copy both horizontally and vertically (down and to the right) so you need to go back and re-align the item horizontally or vertically.  This wouldn't be the case if you allowed ctrl+drag!
  5. The Property Inspector (the properties panel for any object you have selected, and which you need to use) is supremely annoying, it feels like it is constantly in my way.  And their docking solution is weak and no help (it still takes up a lot of canvas real estate), and their collapse solution is of little help (since you can't see or use the contents).  Why couldn't they do what everyone else more intelligently does and make the content more compact and horizontal or vertical so it could fit in the space used in part by the UI library?
  6. The send backward feature of most intelligent programs understands that if you are performing that operation you must want the object(s) you have selected to move behind things that it is on top of. You therefore don't need to click send backward many times because you are only sending it back one time for each object below it. Not so with Balsamiq! It seems to move you backward by your z-order, meaning, if there are a billion things below you in the z-order, even if only 2 of them are under you, you're going to have to click back potentially billions of times until you happen to pass the z-order of the two items in question. Thanks, Balsamiq!  Workaround: It's not super useful, but grouping can help you through some of this.
  7. There is a companion site to the software, Mockups to Go, which has user submitted libraries of common UI elements (such as Android Lollipop UI elements).  This is potentially great!  But, don't expect to be able to copy things from the Mockups to Go files you download and use them in your existing file, because for some reason things don't look the same when you copy them into your existing documents.  Why?  I don't know.  Some missing meta information, some lost reference to something?  Whatever the case may be, it seems to mean you can only use the Mockups to Go items by using their document to build your mockup, which is limiting, frustrating and weird (in part because of the next item).
  8. Need more room on your canvas? Not so fast!  They limit the size of your canvas, you can only make it so wide or high.  Beyond that you need to create a new file.  Why not a new page instead of a new file?  See next item.
  9. Each Balsamiq file is one page, no multi-paging here, despite their restricting the size of your pages and forcing you to use multiple pages, which is therefore forcing you to use multiple files.  Hope you're good and consistent about naming schemes for pages spread across many files.
  10. Pasting in or importing an image? Hope you like messy file systems!  Balsamiq doesn't include pasted or imported images in their file format, nope they create an image file of your clipboard paste and put that in the file system, and reference imported images.  Hope you don't expect to move files around!  Maybe their main file format is XML or something, but come on, lots of XML-based programs at least zip up their meta file with their file assets, so the user just as one file to deal with.  Why couldn't you do this?
  11. Exporting a PNG? Want to pick your own name for the file? Nope! It exports the first time as the same name as the document, on subsequent exports it asks you if you want to over-write the original or pick another name. Why don't you just do it like everyone else? Let me pick a name, default to that name in the save dialog on every other save, letting me choose each time with minimal fuss.
  12. Want to scroll over to an area off the current canvas size? Nope, you can't. You need to add some object you don't want to then drag it outside to give you more room so you can perhaps think or get a more comfortable look at something.  Other programs let you scroll into empty areas, but not Balsamiq!
  13. Want to change the thickness of a vertical or horizontal line? Not allowed.  I get that this isn't a drawing program, it's a mockup program, but line thickness can convey importance and meaning and help you build widgets you might want to mockup.  But, nope, we can't be trusted to use line thickness wisely, apparently.
  14. Mouse pointer to show context related behavior? Nope, no built in mouse pointers to help you show how mouse hovers might work in a UI.
  15. Balsamiq uses simple markup to let you use text to create items which are bolded, italicized, linked, etc.  They also let you create checkbox groups this way using [ ] and [x] and the link.  But what they don't do is make these things consistently available.  One text element might support these sorts of markup many others don't.  What the hell?  Be consistent!  Why do I have to remember that this thing is a checkbox group text field and this other thing is a label text.  It's frustrating to want to add something and discover I'm using the wrong kind of text element.
  16. Want to set color of text inside an input widget? Like a light gray instead of black?  I don't know if you can.  You can't do it by using the properties inspector, where you'd expect to. Perhaps you can with markup, but I get tired of trying things in an unintuitive program.
  17. Changing the line spacing on a block of text? Not possible!  I don't want this to do fancy stuff, but a few times I've been trying to align lines of text with content from another widget (like rows of checkboxes from a checkbox group with lines of text) and it can't be done.
  18. When I try to switch between open (already loaded) documents (of moderate complexity) it takes more than 10 seconds, and that's on a nearly new top of the line i7, with 16 GB RAM, and SSD.
  19. And last but not least...  Balsamiq is a Java program, and suffers from everything that Java desktop programs do, such as clumsy, non-native interface, poor startup performance, poor UI refresh performance, etc.  I love Java, have worked in Java for years, but desktop Java programs never feel as nice as using native ones.

I am tired of fighting with this software to get things done, tired of limitations they defend as "intentional" to promote proper use of the tool.  Trust your users, empower your users, don't talk down to them, don't limit them.  Less is not always more. Sometimes a little more is more.

I am happy to have returned to the freedom and power of Visio, where arrows work and I am trusted to decide whether something should be rotated or not.

Q

19Sep/140

Travels in the U.S.A. – 46 states down, 4 to go

usmapToday I realized that I've been to 46 states out of the 50 in the US.  Admittedly many of these were driven through on cross-country drives rather than enjoyed or experienced in depth.

The only states left to go are:

  • Alaska
  • Hawaii
  • North Dakota
  • Michigan

I've lived (for at least 3 months) in 7 states:

  • Washington, D.C.
  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia

And I've spent at least a week in:

  • New Hampshire
  • Nevada
  • Maryland
  • Idaho
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • Maine
  • Tennessee
  • South Carolina
  • Louisiana

Q

Image via MapLoco.

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26Aug/140

The Magic of Cults

want_to_join_a_cultCults have always fascinated me.  It is only natural as several relatives of mine have been members of organizations which most people, myself included, would consider cults.  Of course these relatives don't believe their groups are cults, no cult member ever does.

The other day I had occasion to think about cults and it struck me that cults are really just magic shows on a grander stage, and with far more and lingering audience participation.  Everyone who joins a cult joins to see "magic" worked in their lives.  They can no longer wait for or no longer trust the more traditional routes to their better selves.   And so they seek out or end up at the doorstep of any of thousands of cults, religious or corporate, ready to be deconstructed and reconstructed.  And if they give the group their money, their time, their compliance, and often a bit of voluntary servitude, they just might become the people they imagined was lying beneath all the accumulated baggage from their many pre-enlightened lost years on this good earth.

But the magical analogy goes further, I think.  Because a magician's show is built as a collection of tricks.  And the tricks themselves are clever combinations of many discrete techniques chained together (e.g., the "force", the "dual reality").  These individual elements form the well used language of magicians. Each element might come in many variations, but at their core are the same trick.  Most magicians go to great lengths to make their shows feel new, fresh, exciting, draw in new paying audiences, but the reality is, there is little new in magic.  The presentation has been improved, the patter upgraded, but the fundamental building blocks and end result of the tricks remain the same.  And so, too, with the cult leaders, the gurus, and their groups.  For hundreds of years (at least) the new guru has relied mostly on repackaging the old guru's teachings and presenting them in language and formats more palatable to each more enlightened generation.  The Eastern-heavy new age movements of the 1970s become the more sophisticated Western, corporate awareness training.  But what's different about them really?

Cult leaders manipulate experiences, emotional states, and outcomes using a clever combination of discrete (primarily psychological) elements. For example, they might use "breaking", wherein members or staff within the group are encouraged/led to confront and challenge another participant in the group. It is a simple trick. When you have multiple people ganging up on someone using strong and challenging words/ideas, in a context in which the individual cannot easily escape, because leaving would be socially unacceptable, painful, awkward, etc. then you can create in that individual considerable doubt, desperation, and compliance, almost regardless of the content of the challenges.  We humans are social creatures, built to respond to significant doubts leveled at us with significant doubts bubbling within us.

Imagine if this happened in your life, perhaps you are at the wedding of your brother and four close family members come up to you saying they need to talk, they all tell you that they love you and that they are worried about you, that they believe your job is not good for you. You actually like your job. You politely try to explaining that to them, but they begin ad hominem attacks saying that you are just defending your job because you are too cowardly to face the real truth that your career is going nowhere. You try to end the conversation and move away but they follow you and insist that you are leaving the conversation because you know what they are saying is really true.  They say you are being disrespectful to move away because they are doing this out of love.  You stop.  You feel trapped and listen to them some more. After some period of time the episode ends, either because you have capitulated enough or because they feel the important seeds of doubt have been planted.  If you had even the slightest doubts about your life, your job, your career, their confrontation surely magnified them. Our brains are not meant for such circumstances.  These people seem to care about you, seem to have your best interests at heart, why would they lie to you?  It seems inconceivable.   They are saying everything so strongly, surely there must be some merit to what they are saying, usually when people speak so strongly it is because they have some basis for it.  You do want to move ahead in your career, maybe you are not moving as fast as some friends of yours, maybe you have seen others get a promotion you thought you deserved. In a matter of minutes or hours you go from happy with your job, with the normal level of dissatisfaction and hopes for more successful tomorrows that practically everyone feels, to thinking that perhaps you should quit your job, change careers, something.  Everyone has insecurities, doubts, weaknesses and cults know a host of methods by which they can magnify them to motivate you to some end, their end (which they insist is really in your best interest).

Another technique they use is "love bombing", creating situations and environments in which people experience a heightened sense of connection with those around them to the point that they feel a heightened sense of love from those around them. Who wouldn't respond positively to feeling more love from those around them? Participation in the group activities creates a feeling of love, an experience that can't be easily be gotten on demand outside the group. So you are trained to keep going to meetings.  There are many, many tricks that cults and groups use to gather and control their members. Some do it for power, some do it for money, all do it for allegedly noble reasons.

The feeling of awe the magician and the cult leader can generate is muted once you know some of their tricks, and see them being worked into their acts.  The magic is still fascinating, but no longer short-circuits your rationality.  In the cult setting, when you see most of a room of a hundred people reduced to broken, sobbing masses expressing their inner most limiting beliefs you do not ascribe this to the power of the truths being revealed by the leader, you ascribe it to the power of the psychological trick being used to manipulate the group.  You know that almost any cult leader could create the same response in any similarly ready group of people with "truths" that almost any rational person would reject.  The technique matters, not the guru, and certainly not the underlying truth.  But everyone in a cult always thinks on some level that they are smarter than that.  Just ask the participants in the Milgram experiment, they believed they were immune to authority.

The question I would ask of any cult or group is, what percentage of your members 10 years after first being introduced to the group believe the experience was positive and worth the time and money they invested in it? I would suspect that for almost all groups which use cult-ish methods the percentage of people indicating they were satisfied with the experience 10 years on is less than 10%.  I believe this anecdotally based on the people I have met who have been in cults, the experiences I've read about, and my belief that those entering these groups did not do so with sober minds, most of them were duped on some level, had their wills bent into participation. They did not make free, sober, rational decisions to participate. And this low satisfaction score (if it exists) would prove to me that the groups are fraudulent. The groups will blame the former members and say they chose to give up too soon, that they weren't the right sort of people, that they didn't keep learning what the group had to offer, that others have benefited so the people who didn't are solely responsible for their lack of benefit. But, to me it's a hollow kind of defense. People routinely make succeed and make millions selling bogus diet pills.  They achieve success because most people won't ask for a refund (most people will be as fat or fatter but will be too embarrassed or afraid of confrontation to complain), b) they always recommend combining exercise with the pills (and exercise does positively correlate to weight loss), c) the placebo effect will guarantee some percentage of users will find some new will to modify their behavior because of powers they ascribe to the pill. Just because 10% of the people buying a fat loss pill are satisfied doesn't mean the product contains any ingredients which actually work.

There is always a new cult, a new group selling a new method to solve a very human problem, an existential dissatisfaction, a sense that life can and should be more than it is.  It surprises me that cult-entering people can't see the pattern.  Can't see the endless stream of cults formed and reformed, regurgitating the same (but now repackaged) esoteric "truths".  But, alas they will not...  Cults will never run out of followers.

It reminds me of a line from the Sherlock Holmes story A Case of Identity by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  In it Holmes decides not to reveal to his client that her missing lover was actually her step-father trying to wound her into life long maidenhood so he could have her money.  Holmes explains to Watson his decision to keep quiet about it, "If I tell her she will not believe me. You may remember the old Persian saying, "'There is danger for him who taketh the tiger cub, and danger also for whoso snatches a delusion from a woman.'"  (I try to ignore the contextual misogyny, and see it as a truth which applies to deluded men and women alike.)

And I may be wrong of course...  but I do feel I at least have the carcasses of many abandoned cults and many disaffected followers adding weight to my side of the argument.

^ Q

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23Jul/140

No News is Good News – My Boycot of the Unfiltered News

newspaper-glassesBeing well informed about the world around has always been important to me but I think I've reached a point where I realize the bad of being informed outweighs the good.  I can no longer keep tabs on the world and feel joy.  How can one stay positive, optimistic when the news delights in relating the world's most miserable stories?  The news media seems fixated on the doom and gloom, on the miserable problems we collectively can't seem to fix.

I'm old enough now that it feels like I've seen all the headlines before, so many, many times.  A new war, a new plane crash, a new earthquake, a new kidnapped child, a new miracle diet; there is no end to the outrages, brutalities, and scandals, they are all different, yet all the same.  The world is like some terribly unfunny situational comedy, the next week or month or year the show begins again with everyone and everything back as it was, as though we learned nothing from the previous episode.

This week the new stories which did it for me included the renewed struggles of Israelis and Palestinians (and everyone's pointless pontifications about how the problems can be solved, but somehow won't be), horrific stories of dogs being sadistically abused by one person and eaten by others, the grizzly horrors of the recent Malaysian shoot-down over the Ukraine, and yet another announcement heralding some new possible test for Alzheimer's that will let you know what's coming decades before you unavoidably succumb to it (as yet they offer no cures or meaningful treatments).  The news delights in disproportionately reporting the horrors of the world, making us all feel unsafe, uneasy, unwell.  I've had enough.

And so I think I will stop reading the general, unfiltered news.  I'll customize my news feeds to show me only technology stories, stories related to my career, stories matching keywords of importance to me.  I will let the rest of the news and the world worry about itself for a while.  For all my decades of scrutiny and attention, my knowledge of world affairs has not been helping it, and its only been hurting me.

^ Q

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17Jul/140

US Bans Import of Drozd Blackbird BB Guns from Russia over Ukraine Situation

I just learned the Drozd Blackbird BB gun is soon to be banned from import to the US because it is produced by the IMZ Corp. which also makes the Russian AK47.  This is the result of the July 16th executive order forbidding Americans from doing business with IMZ Corp which manufacturers not only the Drozd Blackbird but also the Russian AK47 assault rifle.  Here's hoping the Russian sanctions do something...  can't imagine they will, though.

Get yours from Ray at DrozdMax before they are all gone!

^ Q

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1Jul/140

My Confusion about the U.S. Civil War

civilwarFew things in American history confuse me like the U.S. Civil War.  I have spent time surrounded by its monuments, memorials, and museums, living for a few years outside Gettysburg, PA.  What I can't quite work out is why...?  Why would Northern brother, cousin, uncle be so willing to fight to their death against their Southern brother, cousin, uncle just to keep the United States of America as one nation?  So many questions...

Why is the right to secede not a right core to a democracy?  If a state feels so at odds and unrepresented by their parent nation why should they not be able to withdraw from it?  Is this freedom not one that should be most sacredly preserved when a nation is formed from many states?

In the Civil War the Northerners were certainly not primarily fighting for the freedom of African Americans.  That I could have understood as a reason to go to war, to liberate an oppressed people.  Giving your life for that sort of a cause makes sense to this modern, arguably enlightened man.  But while the North was somewhat more enlightened than the South on this issue, they certainly did not see African Americans as equals and it would be a rare Northerner willing to die for that particular cause.

Why could the North not just let the South go?  I vaguely understand the Northern industrial and free farming folks were in an economic battle with the almost wholly agrarian South and its plantation and cheaper slave labor.  But that's enough for a war, and not just a civilized parting of the union with peacefully signed free trade agreements?

What would it take for me now to be willing to take up arms against my cousin, uncle, or brother?  I can imagine nothing, certainly not a mere secession.  But 750,000 dead soldiers can't be wrong, they must have deeply felt their reasons were the right ones.  I just wish I understood them.

^ Q

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25Apr/140

IT Innovation’s End Game: Eliminating God

In less than a century information technology has moved from crude practice, into systematized theory tested through crude prototypes, into early maturity, becoming a force critical to and ultimately driving every modern scientific endeavor. Every branch of science now relies on IT for such things as research, data collection, modeling, simulation, analysis, and results dissemination; IT can be just as much a part of protein folding simulations as aerodynamic flow simulations as Higgs Boson discovery as exoplanet data study and can help globally distributed teams work as one.

But one cannot help but wonder where it is all going, what is IT innovation’s ultimate end game? Will the forces that have always conspired to drive IT innovation ever be satiated and fade away?

I strongly suspect that the ultimate end game of IT innovation is to unseat God from His heavenly throne, to render Him a kitschy relic of less enlightened days. Belief in Him may linger as a curiosity, a nostalgic comfort from which systems of meaning, value, and ethics can be traced. But His role will be otherwise entirely supplanted. But what has He got to do with IT?

Let us first try and consider the history and forces which have driven information technology to this point. IT has its origin thousands and thousands of years ago in our earliest oral traditions and writings. We were engaged then, as we are now, in the storage, retrieval, and analysis of data. Where once a bard’s tale might have been the medium for passing along valuable life lessons, now it is more likely found on a wiki page. Where once a notch made in stone recorded the position in the sky of an unfamiliar comet for later analysis, now a row in a database is preferred. The means have changed, but the ends which information technology have served have remained the same.

We have used IT to help us understand the world in which we live, used IT to help us improve our situation within the world, and used IT to pass along the progress we have made to contemporaries as well as subsequent generations. Modern IT has not changed our nature, merely granted us the benefits of increased storage capacity, increased analytical power (manifest as computational power and an ever-deepening (and broadening) understanding of related fields such as data analysis, artificial intelligence, and math), and increasing ability to disseminate information.

When we look at our relationship with God (and religions generally) we see that for most of recorded time He has been the source of our understanding of the world in which we live, He has been our ultimate hedge against our inability to improve our situation within it (He gives reason and meaning to death and suffering), and His recorded and disseminated teachings have developed to included not only religious teachings, but also those of a more practical, ethical/moral, socially beneficial nature, that get shared and passed down for others’ benefit.

As IT furthers the progress of all areas of science it seems only natural that He will have increasingly little place left in it. We need only look at a few areas of science to see this. Medicine has as its goal the eradication of disease and improvement of everyone’s quality of life. As gene therapies, stem cell research, cloning, nanotechnology, and the like mature, lifespans will surely be extended further and further until death has been eliminated as a requirement. Furthering this end, it seems inevitable that minds will ultimately become further and further separated from physical bodies. What might begin as nanotechnological repairs of synapses or enhancements to lost memory will likely grow to carry more and more of the load of conscious thought until minds become entirely separable from biological brains. At that point we may choose to linger in the wetware of biological forms or may choose to exist only within virtual worlds built of information matrices. Either way, the question of what happens when we die, a question He has always had a ready answer for, will lose its urgency, lose its criticality, and perhaps lose all meaning. Similarly, quantum mechanics and astronomy may ultimately find its grand unified theory and be able to explain our origins to almost everyone’s satisfaction, rendering His answers effectively irrelevant. And philosophy, often seeming partnered in a dance with religion, will likely find itself emboldened, breaking into a solo, to a tune that now is not bounded by a series of lifespans but by a more comfortable, less angsty, quasi-infinite pondering. And even its most fundamental questions of “What is right?” and “What is wrong?” may not need be answered so much as peoples’ preference would need to be known, so those with compatible beliefs systems could be properly collocated, either in physical or virtual spaces. The domain of God will have yielded to the domain of science. If He retains any value it may be in continuing to supply people with some greater sense of meaning, but it will be a nostalgic group that pines for His comfort, there will be substitutes aplenty without the complexity belief in Him brings.

Through innovation, IT will bring all this, directly and indirectly. God will lose His place. It is time others see this as the natural consequence of IT innovation, either to embrace it or to rebel against it.

^ Quinxy

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2Mar/145

Evernote is the Worst, It’s like Hipster Software

evernote-logo-designThere are few things I hate more than when something barely worthy of note being over-hyped.  Evernote enjoys a popularity and success it has never deserved.  What it does it does only barely, arguably tolerably.  I have been a premium user for 3 years, falling for and into that only because a free premium account came with my LiveScribe pen.  Since that initial period I have stupidly, accidentally been auto-renewed (forgetting  to cancel in time); though to be fair I do not know what alternative I would use.

What has driven me nuts about Evernote is that from its debut until now it has been little more than a painfully buggy and seriously crippled MS WordPad-like app which could sync between your devices and had a web interface.  And it's just never evolved much beyond that.

Evernote is still extremely and horrifically buggy as an editor.  The worst bugs I experience almost daily are:

  • Lossy copying/cutting/pasting
  • Broken undo
  • Unpredictable and lousy content editing.

When I go to edit a note I will routinely cut some content from one place to paste in another location and find that the paste only remembered a small fraction of what I'd cut.  I cut 10 lines and it pastes only 3 of them.  This happens 10-30% of the time (primarily with lines which involve checkboxes).  This bugginess is pretty unforgivable.  You surely do not expect your text editing software to take literary license and make decisions about what content deserves to stay in your documents.

Worse, though, is that in these moments undo doesn't.  Perhaps related to the bug which loses the content the undo feature simply refuses to go back and restore the missing content back to its original location.  The content is just wholly and completely gone, for good.  I've had to resort to resurrecting past saves of the document to find the missing content.  And I now have to try and remember to alter my edit workflow and always copy, never cut, then go back and delete only when I'm sure the content has been faithfully copied.  And, of course this requires me to try and remember exactly what I'm moving within Evernote to be sure it didn't fiddle with it.  Ugh.  If I was not heavily invested in having my content in their stupid system I would surely flee to any competitor at this point.

And as if their system could get worse, editing a note is highly unpredictable.  You might be on a mobile device and find that rather than just let you edit normally it for some reason will not let you edit chunks of your note, or will only let you edit it in chunks.  I use no fancy features, I rarely paste in any photos, it's just text and checkboxes and maybe a URL or two.  And somehow this confuses it.  Formatting can change for no apparent reason, regions refuse to be modified, etc.  And these issues occur if you stick with the same platform or jump between them.

It is all just absolutely awful.  And when I try and find solutions, bug fixes, etc., I find nothing.  And I've always used the latest versions.  It just seems to me that if you can't produce a good, reliable editor then you have no business being in the document management business, and that's why I am forever amazed that Evernote has had any success, let alone the rabid success they've had.  Perhaps everyone else feels as stuck with them as I do.

evernote_crapAnother thing that bugs me, they are always promoting the "Trunk" area of their site, as if it was some sort of app store, or Chrome extension gallery, but for the most part it is just a collection of tangential merchandise, much of it not even that related (e.g., offering pens for sale).  Just a couple hours after writing this rant I received yet another email from Evernote trying to sell me something that arguably has nothing to do with document management. A back pack, seriously? Fix your damn bugs! Improve your OCR! Focus on doing your core business well, not peddling other crap.

And so that's why I feel like Evernote is like a Hipster.  It presents this veneer of cool utility while really, truly being utterly devoid of any real marked specialness or competence.

^ Q

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2014 Quinxy von Besiex
Tagged as: 5 Comments
30Jan/140

Remapping your 101 Key Keyboards (e.g., IBM Model M) to Restore the Windows Key, Menu Key, Media / App Keys on Windows

Thought I'd share this for others using an older 101 key keyboard (like the venerable 1980s/1990s IBM Model M) on Windows.

Using this registry entry I get back my Windows and Menu key:

  • <Shift Lock> is now the <Windows> key
  • <Right Alt> is now the <Menu> key

Just save this code as .reg and double click the file to merge it into the registry, then reboot (or download the file from the link below).

Windows Registry File:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,03,00,00,00,5c,e0,3a,00,5d,e0,38,e0,00,00,00,00

You can add your own remapping by reading this Microsoft document which describes the format of this registry key and using these scan codes.

I also wrote a little Autohotkey script to make my entirely ignored number pad useful again, with media, volume, and app launching keys.

Here are some basics:

  • <Number Pad 5> is Volume Mute
  • <Number Pad 8> is Volume Up
  • <Number Pad 2> is Volume Down
  • <Number Pad 6> is Next Tab (<Ctrl> + <Tab>)
  • <Number Pad 4> is Previous Tab (<Ctrl> + <Shift> + <Tab>)
  • <Number Pad 1> is Previous Media Track (works in Spotify, Winamp, WMP, etc.)
  • <Number Pad 3> is Next Media Track (works in Spotify, Winamp, WMP, etc.)
  • <Number Pad 0> is Play/Pause Media Track (works in Spotify, WMP, etc.)
  • <Number Pad *> launches Task Manager
  • <Number Pad /> launches default browser with http://google.com

AutoHotkey Script:

SetNumLockState, AlwaysOn
Numpad8::Send {Volume_Up 5} ; increase sound level
Numpad2::Send {Volume_Down 5} ; decrease sound level
Numpad5::Send {Volume_Mute} ; Mute sound
Numpad6::Send {LCtrl down}{Tab}{LCtrl up} ; Next tab (ctrl+tab)
Numpad4::Send {Shift down}{LCtrl down}{Tab}{LCtrl up}{Shift up} ; Previous tab (ctrl+tab)
NumpadMult::Send {Shift down}{LCtrl down}{Esc}{LCtrl up}{Shift up} ; Task manager
NumpadDiv::Run, http://google.com ; Browser to Google
Numpad0::Send {Media_Play_Pause} ; Pause/play media track
Numpad1::Send {Media_Prev} ; Previous media track
Numpad3::Send {Media_Next} ; Next media track

You can just paste that into Autohotkey, compile it into an EXE, or download my compiled exe below.

Download remap_keyboard.zip (374 kb).

Instructions for Download:

Download the file, unzip it, double click the registry file to add the registry entry (reboot to activate the change), and then run the common_remaps.exe to start the number pad remapping.  I added it to my Startup folder in the Windows menu.

(The AutoHotkey script forces Num Lock on so that the hotkeys will work, you can remove that line in the script if you don't need this.)

Users on Deskthority alerted me to the tools Key Tweak and Sharp Keys, tools which lets you do much of the above automagically, through a nice GUI!  That said, the advantage of the AutoHotkey script is that you can script complex and even context-dependent interactions, which only matters if you need or want to do it.)