Have It Your Way

…As Burger King allegedly say.  Pondering customizability.

The inscrutable Raymond Chen has an blog called The Old New Thing, in which he (as a Microsoft person) posts on many detailed and interesting topics related to the internals of Windows.  Even if you’re a Unixite so fervent that your car has a command line, it’s worth reading to see why certain things in Windows are they way that they are.  He has a recent entry on Why can’t the default drag/drop behavior be changed? (in Explorer) which highlights something I was thinking about recently; the twin and somewhat opposed worldviews regarding interfaces.

When, in the past, I’ve run Linux desktops[0], I’ve spent happy hours playing with the myriad subtle and singular configuration options that let me set it up just how I like it, with all my favourite key and mouse combinations spread across all the applications that I need to use.  Windows, naturalmente, doesn’t let me do that.  It works how it works.  The rationale for this, according to Raymond is:

[customization] removes some of the predictability from the user interface. One of the benefits of a common user interface is that once you learn it, you can apply the rules generally. But if each user could customize how drag/drop works, then the knowledge you developed with drag/drop wouldn’t transfer to other people’s machines.

Further:

Infinite customizability also means that you can’t just sit down in front of somebody’s machine and start using it. You first have to learn how they customized their menus, button clicks, default drag effects, and keyboard macros.

I’m not sure where I’d stand on this point.  I like things the way I like them, but I also hate sitting down at an unfamiliar system and not having things ready-to-hand.  Perhaps it’s a question of ownership of the machine in question…

[0] No axe to grind here, it’s just that all my Linux systems are servers these days.

Misidentification cards

Things spread via links.  Thus, at the risk of annoying the places where this blog is syndicated, may I offer for any other UK citizens who have concerns about ID cards, this link to a pledge to refuse to register for them.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled programmes of useful Python/Java-related information.

Those Sodding Puzzles

The perceptive Tom Hume posts about getting puzzles onto mobile phones.  Our own mobile project(s) are beginning to ramp up heavily (we’re even recruiting, so if you know a ZPT-literate web designer who might want a job, let me know), but not in the direction of puzzles.  I think it’ll be interesting to see how someone approaches the problem of making a phone interface do anything as nice as a piece of paper with a puzzle on.

Like many other Brits, I’ve been caught up to some extent in the frenzy of Sudoku.  And being, at the very core of my head, a programmer, I’ve been pondering algorithms for solving them.  I’m not about to post any Python or Java to help here (not yet, at any rate), but what might be useful to others is this worksheet.  The idea’s very simple; the bottom sheet has all the possible numbers for every square shown.  Cross them out with a pen/pencil as they become evidently impossible.  As Sherlock Holmes said, when you eliminate the impossible, whatever’s left must be true.  Although he was a sociopathic junkie, really.  And didn’t do sudoku.