Writing Good Error Messages

I received this little note from my Mac today.

mac_low_battery_warning.png

This made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside despite the interruption of my work because it satisfies my general criteria for displaying error messages to users.

  1. A graphical severity indicator is given so I know whether or not to care.
  2. It provides a succinct, human-readable desciption of the issue. (No “ERROR CODE: 23DD8” crap which is meaningless to the user.)
  3. An immediate, resolvable course of action is given to the user. Providing this makes the user feel empowered and accomplished for acting. Neglecting this makes the user concerned and irritated.
  4. A description of future symptoms is given for when/if the user does not take the suggested course of action. This gives the user reason to do what you’re asking.
  5. It shut up about the issue when I clicked OK and let the failure happen like it told me it would. When I noticed my mouse wasn’t responding I immediately remembered why.

The dialog is in stark contrast to this nifty gem constantly pooping out of my Solaris kernel..08-21-07_1354.jpg

“Pin widgit 27 is EAPD capable.”

WTF??? What the heck is a “pin widgit” and why do I care if it’s “EAPD capable”? Is this even a bad thing? Do I need to do something here? What happens if I ignore this, which I most definitely will since I have clue what it’s talking about? Why does it tell me this every time I start the machine?

Criteria failure on all counts. Bad computer!

What's Better Than Windows Balloon Help?…

Twice as much balloon help!

picture-3.png

My current testing environment for JumpBox development uses two Windows XP virtual machines on OS X under Parallels coherence mode: one with IE6 (gold taskbar on the bottom), the other IE7 (blue taskbar on the right). While they perform sufficiently with 4GB physical RAM, the constant nurturing required to keep these retards up to date and complaint free is ridiculous, given I only boot them once every couple weeks. Dyslexia also arises when each instance periodically “forgets” I’m using a Dvorak layout and reverts to QWERTY, even when sitting idle.

picture-1x.png

It’s the little things that drive one nuts. Office 2004 for OS X, for example, sets the bar really low for usability, quality and elegance. Full-screen mode?

full_screen.png

..I guess not. And I won’t be inserting any cells into this table, either…

insert_cells.png

Given a choice between A and A, I think I’ll choose A.

spell_check.png

Waaaaay too much of this stupidity plagues Office. Not that Microsoft has much motivation to fix it, but it’s still sad to see such crappy software in wide-spread use.

preston.rant_mode = false

Switching To Dvorak

dvorak.png
After years of deliberation, I’m finally taking this Thanksgiving break to switch to the Dvorak keyboard layout. It’s been frustrating, yes, but I believe my wrists will be much better off with the change. Within a couple hours of switching I’m probably crawling at ~15 words per minute, which is faster than I expected. Stuff that still throws me off due to being permanently etched in muscle memory..

  • My name.
  • `cd` and my custom `ls` aliases.
  • OpenRain.
  • . (period)
  • Common commands such as cut/copy/paste, closing and opening files etc.
  • The letter ‘o’ for some reason.

Ohh, and I switched my command and caps lock keys too, so my brain is a tad bit overloaded at the moment 🙂