Writer’s Block: My Favorite Apps

What are your favorite web or mobile apps? Which ones do you use everyday?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

Web applications are things that can either be awesome or truly disappointing, most fall some where in between for one reason or another. In particular, there support for sane web browsing ;).

From the apps I use every day, I would have to say that my favourite is Google Web Search, if that actually counts :-P. The reason being, Google uses a nice AJAX system for suggesting search terms—which can be helpful when you’re not sure exactly what you’re gonna type next. On top of that, the search results are often excellent (in proportion to your query terms). unlike some sites hosting web search engines, Google doesn’t try to be an all in one portal — it’s just a search engine! With lovely tabs to other resources ;). Microsoft/Bing has even gone this wrote as well. For those that want a more portal like page, you can build your own with iGoogle personalised pages instead of relying on a generalised one (Ala MSN classic).

In terms of web apps, in the more modern rich user experience sense, I’m not sure if I really do have a favourite. Every day, I use Googles Mail, Groups, and Talk (XMMP) systems; several flavour of phpBB and vBulletin forum; not to mention extensive utilisation of Wikimedia and Reference.com (from ask.com) services. Perhaps, Google Mail, Docs, and Reader are the modern web apps that I favour the most. I like them, because Google takes a more minimalist yet distinctive approach to developing their apps, yet they are often fully featured. Google Reader for example, the only areas for improvement I can see, is support for themes and even more optimization for speed; nether of which are required to enjoy the experience.

Lately, I’ve been using rtm, which is arguably the best designed web app created to date! It combines all the attractiveness of a good web app, into an easy to use — self documenting package. Complete with keyboard shortcuts! The ability to integrate both GTalk and RTM into GMail with ease, is a massive perk.

To few web apps these days realise that the old school design rules still ring on home. Revised, I would say these are what most people forget:

  1. Users have more to do in their lives, then just run your stupid app
  2. It’s shouldn’t (strictly) be necessary to visit the website to use it
  3. If it looks like an app, it should act like an app not something alien
  4. It shouldn’t matter what browser is, as long as it follows the standard

Point 1 is something the folks at RealPlayer and PlayXpert should really take to heart, seriously now!

While point 2, is best exemplified by software such as RTM and GMail—both integrate quite well into other websites, and in Googles case, to most desktop software.

The third point being, if it looks like a program, it should act like one: the fact that it’s running inside a web browser that is using a desktop widget toolkit, instead of running stand alone in a desktop widget toolkit, shouldn’t matter very much—learn about the principle of least astonishment, and take it to heart!

Fourth, brings to mind a time that I stopped by a Yahoo! video page when responding through a thread in forums.pcbsd.org. The result was humorous: Yahoo told me that my Operating System (FreeBSD) and Web browser (Firefox) were upsupported, suggested that I download a supported browser like IE or Firefox, then went on to proclaim that I was missing Windows Media Player and Adobe Flash plugins, never mind the fact that my web browser is configured to use the MPlayer plugin to handle Windows Media 8=). I assume their website has changed for the better in the years following: but it shows an important lesson. Don’t blacklist usability, smartlist accessibility. If it’s unsupported, downgrade intelligently and warn the user unobtrusively that their setup is missing XYZ functionality, don’t just send them to /dev/null because they don’t meet your expectations of Joe & Jane user.

If people did that in a desktop program, like Microsoft Office, a company might go out of business or lose market share to wiser competitors ^_^. Sheesh, I wonder how many ignorant webmonkies have used user agent detection or faulty CSS files when wiser work arounds were (and are) available.

One reason that I often favour Googles web applications, they tend to work well and stay the hell out of my way. I’ve yet to see any of them do anything truly stupid or grandiosely insulting.

Writer’s Block: Good Days and Bad Days

What is your least favorite day of the week? And your favorite?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

least favorite: Thursday
Of all the days of the week, Thursdays have consistently been some of the worst days of my life. If I added up all the times at work that my brain has drawn a mental line in the proverbial sand, that if I’ve got to take anymore crap… it’s time to walk home—there would be many Thursdays in the equation.
favorite: Mondays
I often have seasons where I’m off work on a Monday, either every other week or every week ;). As such, I like it: because I can take it easy on Saturday or Sunday, and finish up things on Monday before I’ve got to go back to work lol.

Writer’s Block: Unlikely Benefactor

Congratulations! You won a million dollars but you have to give it all away. How will you distribute the money?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

Hmm, if I had to give away a million dollars… the first thing that comes to my mind is the charity promoted by vim: ICCF Holland – helping children in Uganda. Vi Improved has changed the way I work and live for the better, like no other piece of software has… and as such, I’ve always felt that donating a large sum to said charity would be a good “Thank you”, if I ever struck it rich. The second thought that comes to mind is papering the SAS 22nd Elite Virtual Regiment with enough cash to last a decade of server hosting. For all the time I have spent around [SAS}, I have never donated money; if I had the steady income to spare, I truly would. As such, they have to make due with my occasionally work-until-need-to-be-stopped-or-pass-out-cold nature… lol.

Beyond that, around 10-20% of it would likely be donated to various churches (of several denominations). Whatever’s left after that, would likely be spent for “Good deeds” so to speak: helping people that I know could use some serious assistance (and won’t piss it away).

Then again, these are things I would want to do anyway, if I ever became a multi-millionaire; but if I was filthy stinking rich, I would also make sure to become properly invested and a couple of other things for myself along the way lol.

Writer’s Block: Dream Vacations

What vacations would you most like to take in the next five years?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

0. A tropical island, toes in the sand, and not a care in the world….

1. Visit Tennessee, see them beautiful mountains again and go campin’ out in nature for a bit, then meet up with a few friends out on the lake 🙂

2. Hit the U.K. and go exploring, get lost and get a lit’ bit wild and crazy ;). Then meet up with a few e-friends made in [SAS], I’ve always had this strange picture of us in my head, of us staggering home from a pub, and singing loudly ^_^.

3. Visit Germany, maybe see if their are any English friendly tours of Berlin that show off the cities varied architecture; then visit some of the museums in/around Berlin and München. I think I would need to be 500% more fluent in the language to pull that one off though :-/.

4. Canada, women, whiskey, and fishing…. could you ask for more? Plus an old friend is from Newfoundland, and would warrant a visit!

Writer’s Block: Dog Day Afternoon

The Dog Days of summer, the hottest days of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, start today. What’s your favorite thing to do in hot weather?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

Laugh at people who moan that it is tooo hot out xD.

I grew up in south Florida with like a normal temp of 90F and being soaked to the bone by the time you cross the parking lot. When Georgians cry about the heat, is when I especially ROFL, because it doesn’t have that intensity to the sun, like back’ home.

Writer’s Block: Childhood Firsts

What was your first word?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

My first word ironically was “No!”.

I reckon all parents go through the usual “Say daddy” or “Say mommy” kind of thing when their kids are young, mine did, and I told them NO! hahaha!!! I guess I was just born stubborn as a mule xD

Writer’s Block: I Can Relate

What fictional character do you most identify with?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

One fictional character that I can strongly identify with, is the Jack aka Big Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3.

Obvious spoilers warning

Tom: There’s one more person I want to introduce you to, Snake.

Snake: ?

Tom: Speaking of snakes, you remember The Boss, don’t you? A legendary soldier and your mentor. Actually, it was The Boss that got the DCI’s authorization in the first place. She’s going to be serving as FOX’s mission advisor.

Snake: The Boss is?

Tom: She also helped me plan this mission. She and I were at SAS together.

Boss: Jack, is that you? How many years has it been?

Snake: Boss??

Boss: That’s right, it’s me.

Snake: …

Boss: Talk to me. Let me hear your voice.

Snake: It’s been 5 years, 72 days, and 18 hours.

Boss: You’ve lost weight.

Snake: You can tell just by the sound of my voice?

Boss: Of course I can. I know all about you.

Snake: Really. Well, I don’t know anything about you.

Boss: What’s that supposed to mean?

Snake: …Why’d you disappear on me all of a sudden?

Boss: I was on a top-secret mission.

Snake: …

Boss: You didn’t need me anymore.

Snake: But there were still so many things I wanted you to teach me.

Boss: No. I taught you everything you needed to know about fighting techniques. I taught you all I could. The rest you needed to learn on your own.

Snake: Techniques, sure. But what about how to think like a soldier?

Boss: How to think like a soldier? I can’t teach you that. A soldier needs to be strong in spirit, body, and technique – and the only thing you can learn from someone else is technique. In fact, technique doesn’t even matter. What’s most important is spirit. Spirit and body are like two sides of a single coin. They’re the same thing. I can’t teach you how to think. You’ll just have to figure it out for yourself. Listen to me, Jack. Just because soldiers are on the same side right now doesn’t mean they always will be. Having personal feelings about your comrades is one the worst sins you can commit. Politics determine who you face on the battlefield. And politics are a living thing. They change along with the times. Yesterday’s good might be tomorrow’s evil.

Snake: Is that why you abandoned me?

Boss: No. It had nothing to do with you. I already told you, Jack. I was on a top-secret mission. A soldier has to follow whatever orders he’s given. It’s not his place to question why. But you’re looking for a reason to fight. You’re a natural born fighter, but you’re not quite a soldier. A solider is a political tool, nothing more. That’s doubly true if he’s a career soldier. Right and wrong have no place in his mission. He has no enemies and no friends. Only the mission. You follow the orders you’re given. That’s what being a soldier is all about.

Snake: I do whatever I have to do to get the job done. I don’t think about politics.

Boss: That’s not the same thing. Sooner or later, your conscience is going to bother you. In the end, you have to choose whether you’re going to live as a soldier, or just another man with a gun. There’s a saying in the Orient; “Loyalty to the end.” Do you know what it means?

Snake: Being… Patriotic?

Boss: It means devoting yourself to your country.

Snake: I follow the President and the top brass. I’m ready to die for them if necessary.

Boss: The President and the top brass won’t be there forever. Once their terms are up, others will take their place.

Snake: I follow the will of the leader, no matter who’s in charge.

Boss: People aren’t the ones who dictate the missions.

Snake: Then who does?

Boss: The times. People’s values change over time. And so do the leaders of a country. So there’s no such thing as an enemy in absolute terms. The enemies we fight are only in relative terms, constantly changing with the times.

Snake: …

Boss: As long as we have “loyalty to the end,” there’s no point in believing in anything… even in those we love.

Snake: And that’s the way a soldier is supposed to think?

Boss: The only thing we can believe in with absolute certainty is the mission, Jack.

Snake: All right. But do me a favor.

Boss: What is it?

Snake: Call me Snake.

Boss: Snake? Oh, right, your codename is Snake. It suits you well.

Tom: That’s right. The legendary unit that The Boss put together during World War II was a snake. The Cobra Unit… a group of heroes that brought the war to an end and saved the world. As long as you’ve got a legendary hero backing you up, you’ll be fine. Isn’t that right, Snake?

Snake: Yeah, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather have with me. Oh, and one more thing, Boss…

Boss: Yes?

Snake: It’s good to hear your voice again.

The young Big Boss very much symbolizes to me, someone who has yet to find their own path through the jungle. In Metal Gear Solid 3, we see Jacks entry into the Virtuous Mission: the hunt for Sokolov. The Boss warns him of the very true nature of their world: todays enemies can be tomorrows friends, todays friends can be tomorrows enemies. The game continually questions what Jack is fighting for: country, mission, and so on. With the Bosses ‘defection’ at the end of the virtuous mission leaving Jack wounded and disillusioned, Operation Snake Eater again sends him into the wilderness, yet this time with the explicit goal of neutralizing the Boss. During Snake Eater, Jack is taken prisoner by the Soviets. After beating him into a bloody pulp, Col. Volgin demands that the Boss prove her loyalty: “Cut out his eyes! I don’t like those blue eyes of his. There is nothing more important to a soldier than his eyes. You made him a soldier and now you will unmake him!”. When Eve under cover as Tatyana objects, Ocelot commences his juggling act. It ends with Jack trading his right eye to protect Eva.

I think playing through MGS3 is the only real definition of what Big Boss goes through; my best description would be a torture of life.

Surviving Snake Eater with the Bosses blood on his hands, as Eva’s betrayal reveals: the Boss had been endlessly shit on by her country (to put it lightly), yet remained loyal to the end. The boss lived in shadow and died in shadow, giving every ounce of life along the way: until even that was demanded of her service. in the end, Operation Snake Eater was all about cold hard cash, nothing else. And for that, ones such as the Boss and Big Boss were subjected to such misery! By the time Metal Gear Solid 3 ends, Jack has been awarded the title of “Big Boss”, for he has bested even the Boss. Jack lost his innocence a long the way to becoming Big Boss.

Throughout the game, Jack focuses on his missionm‐and is constantly reminded that he must kill the Boss in order to succeed. I feel that in the end, he must ask himself, “What am I fighting for?”, and search to see if this is really the path he will chart in life.

Because my feelings for my family and of my times with www.sasclan.org I have come to sympathize with Big Bosses fate. MGS3 is my favorite of the solid trilogy because it tells his story, of his coming of age. Having seen the whole thing through, I don’t think anyone who has played MGS3 could fail to understand the actions Big Boss would later take in life, be they as they appeared or much deaper; MGS4 (the only reason I would like a PS3 haha!) further explores the reasons behind the snake. In a similiar light, I ask of my self:

Are you loyal to the end?

Writer’s Block: Rabbit Rabbit!

It’s the first day of the month. If you could have one wish come true this month, what would it be?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

If wishing for more wishes wasn’t a valid wish, haha!

I would wish for the gaping hole I feel, to finally be filled…

Writer’s Block: Word for Word

How many (if any) songs do you know by heart? What are they?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

I don’t think I know any single song by heart, since I generally avoid singing outside of church lol. With how much silence life requires at home these days, I do sing ‘inside my head’ so to speak, since that is really the only place outside the internet where I have a free voice of any sort :@.

Generally it’s the songs that I either feel a connection with, or end up hearing the most that start to stick. Most of Folsum Prison Blues, which is also arguably one song I would want to pick up: if I ever learned how to play the guitar lol. I believe it might also be the first or second tune I’ve ever heard from Johnny Cash. A number of Trace Adkins, Taylor Swift, and several Alan Jackson tunes also rattle around my brains every now and them. One song that I know fairly well, is the Cocaine Blues, because I’ve heard it played toooo many times! And like wise with major portions of Picture, it’s mostly the sequencing that I need remembering.

I came here to live is probably the song I know by heart, if any song at all. Often at work, I sing it softly to myself I’m going up or down the stairs.

I grew up in a town where tough was a cigarette, and a souped up car on the county road. Nothing much to do back then so we’d make bets, on how much a drink a guy could hold, and I held my own. I learn’d to hold my own. Daddy worked some dead end job at the concrete plant, momma taught the Sunday bible class. For eighteen years I remember thinkin’ there was more to life then that, so I ran the streets to beat the devil: goin’ just as fast as I could fly. ‘Cause I came here to live, I didn’t come here to die… Momma used to wait for me with the porch light on, worry about her little boy ’til I got home. Daddy, he’d say “Listen son”, but back then there wasn’t much, that I didn’t already know. I reckon I was doing close to eighty, when I felt the tiers slip out from underneath. And I never set out looking for Jesus, so I guess Jesus came looking for me, and found me upside down in a ditch. Smoke and gas in my eyes, HE said son, you came here to live: you didn’t come here to die. Sunday morning I got up, and I went to church. That summer I got a job and I went t’ work. I met a girl in town, put some money down… on a little place with a yard.. Our little boy was due in September, but he came early in July. For eighteen days all I remember, was sitting there at his side, saying son open up your eyes. Just open up your eyes, ’cause you came here to live. You didn’t come here to die, son you came here to live.

Writer’s Block: How’d You Get Here?

There are many roads to LiveJournal—how did you first hear about LJ?

Live Journals Writer’s Block

Although I am sure the page has changed a lot since August/September 2006, my first knowledge of Live Journal likely came through Wikipedia’s “Blog” page. I spent at least a month or so researching blogging, in order to see how it might be useful for replacing my hodge-podge of log files and scripts. Wikipedia and a bit of Googling The Fine Web allowed researching various blogging sites.

I rarely stick my neck out into something without first doing reconnaissance in depth. I guess when it comes to things I perceive as a big deal: I have inherited more of my parents collective meticulousness then dads spontaneity.

After completing recon and general thinkin’ and plannin’ operations, Live Journal appeared to be the most favorable site at the time; never have regretted the choice either. Much to my joy, Live Journal has managed to kill off the incalculable log files on various hard drives.

Memory: Day one, followed by the inevitable first task ten minutes later. Him, that was around the time I was struggling to apply C in my after-hours time. Wasn’t very smart at the time, just persistent lol.