Meditation XVII

Posted in Life at 2:08 am by

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

—Excerpt of Meditation XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (John Donne, 1623)

(via Wikisource)


Escaping a “stuck” iOS Numbers iCloud sync

Posted in Software at 4:30 pm by

Periodically1 Numbers will get “stuck” trying to sync to iCloud changes I’ve just made on my iPhone. Numbers will claim that the spreadsheet is updating, or needs to be updated, but no changes will ever reach iCloud and the “needs update” UI will never go away. This used to be a frequent issue,2 and over time I tried all sorts of things to resolve the problem: quitting Numbers, making another local change, making a change on iCloud, waiting a while, toggling Airplane mode on and off to “kill” networking, turning iCloud off in the Numbers settings, deleting the spreadsheet (both on the phone and also on iCloud), and other things I can no longer remember. Some combination of tinkering always seemed to fix things, but it was never anything easy—always a tangled combination of things—and The Internet™ didn’t seem to have any relevant information when I searched.

Eventually I discovered a reliable, repeatable, simple solution: turn the iPhone off and back on again,3 and the next time I open Numbers, it will happily finish syncing my changes from the iPhone to iCloud.

Hopefully the All-Seeing Internet Search Engines™ will index this post and offer it up to others who might also be searching for a solution.

Has anyone out there already filed a Radar on the “stuck” iCloud sync process? I’ll eventually :-( get around to filing it myself.


1 It’s difficult to tell what might be triggering the “stuck” sync, but my best guess based on when and where it happens to me is a marginal network connection or network transition. ↩︎

2 For a while I thought iOS 8.4 might have fixed the problem, but I’ve recently experienced it again. ↩︎

3 I’ve always quit Numbers before powering off, and the “stuck” sync no longer occurs often enough that I can remember to test rebooting without quitting Numbers first. ↩︎

Quoting John Gruber

Posted in Rants, Software at 2:30 am by

John Gruber:

Their old logo was goofy. This new one is simply garbage.

The redeeming quality of the previous Google logos was the whimsy, while the serifs kept them from looking too childlike or immature.

The new logo, however, is simply puerile. Someone needs to take away the Play-Doh.


The Old Web: Follow-up

Posted in History, Links, Software at 11:59 pm by

Today’s comments on Tim Bray’s post that I linked to yesterday have been very interesting, both as to the scale of link rot and efforts underway to ameliorate it (you should read those comments if you have not done so).

One commenter on ongoing also linked to two recent posts by Bret Victor; the second one is a incisive examination of the web’s permanence/impermanence problem that I briefly wrestled with before closing yesterday’s post with congratulations to Zeldman. (You should really read Victor’s post.)

Tuesday update: In Tuesday morning’s comments on Bray’s post, Andy Jackson of the British Library links to their study of URLs in their archive, where one of the conclusions is “50% of the content is lost after just one year, with more being lost each subsequent year” (emphasis mine).


The Old Web

Posted in History, Life, Links at 11:59 pm by

Two somewhat-related items:

  1. Zeldman’s website turned 20 today. (Next year it’ll legally be able to drink!)
  2. Tim Bray looks at hyperlink decay among the outgoing links on his own website, ongoing.

After reading link 1 and before opening link 2 this evening, by coincidence I took a quick pass through my own website (a mere eight and a half months younger than Zeldman’s—which came as quite a shock to me!—and which at one time was published using some of the same tools as Zeldman’s, namely PageSpinner and Fetch) and noticed, particularly on the What’s New and About this Site pages, a large number of broken links. Most links were either to “Classic” Mac OS applications or to long-shuttered websites and Internet services. (I also noted the “What’s New” and “About this Site” pages were rather out-of-date :P More repairs needed on this old house!)

As a historian in the digital age and yet a private person, I’m not sure how I feel about the apparently-increasing pace of link rot—on the one hand, loss of potential sources is nothing new, and on the other hand, the presence of impermanence in an era where many claim “once it’s on the Internet, it can never be deleted” is something of wonder. Instead of digging into the struggle between those two ideals, I think I’ll end with a universally happy thought:

Congratulations to Zeldman on 20 continuous years of online publishing!


V-E Day + 70 years

Posted in History, Life at 6:07 pm by

Atlantic Arch
Atlantic Arch, National World War II Memorial, August 2013

For those brave men and women who are still with us today, there may not be very many more of these days. We who are here today because of you salute you and thank you.


Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942

Posted in History, Life at 9:39 am by

Easter Sunrise Services, Seattle, Washington, April 5, 1942
Program for Easter Sunrise Services
Seattle, Washington
April 5, 1942

Ed and Dolores Ardisson, April 5, 1942
Ed and Dolores Ardisson Wedding Portrait
April 5, 1942

Ed and Dolores Ardisson outside University Methodist Temple
Mr and Mrs Edward S Ardisson
Outside University Methodist Temple, Seattle, Washington
Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942

Certificate of Marriage
Certificate of Marriage

Bridal Party
The Bridal Party

Congratulations of Guests

Ed, Dolores, and Eugene Ardisson, Seattle, Washington, April 1942
Ed, Dolores, and Eugene Ardisson
Seattle, Washington
April 1942

Easter Rites Unite Couple
Easter Rites Unite Couple

Pittsburgh Couple Marry in District
Pittsburgh Couple Marry in District

On my grandparents’ 69th and last anniversary, I asked my grandfather what his secrets were for a long and happy marriage; the first was “get married on Easter Sunday.”


What year is it again?

Posted in Rants, Software at 5:25 pm by

The other day, my brother asked me to log in to his account on his employer’s1HR system” in order to make him some backup copies of information presented there (his existing copies of which he had needed to provide to his supervisor). On the login screen, I was still slightly shocked2 to see the following message:

For an optimal experience, we recommend using these browsers:

Unexpected results may occur when using other browsers.

(If you view the source, you can see that each of the <a>s has an id="ielink_001" attribute—not only incorrect, but perhaps a holdover from the days this particular website “supported” only IE?)

Seriously? It’s 2015 and your website is not only not compatible with any version of Safari, but it is only compatible with versions of Chrome and Firefox that are four3 versions out-of-date!? (Kudos for supporting versions of IE dating back six years, though!)

I forged ahead, because if the site claimed to work properly in a six-year-old version of Internet Explorer, it surely would work in a current two-year-old version of Safari (the just-released version 6.2.4 on 10.8/Mountain Lion). Nothing I had to look at seemed to look or function incorrectly—until it came time to look for his timesheets. When I clicked on the tab entitled “Timesheets”, a page loaded with no “content” below the row of tabs, except for a link to help me return to the site I was already on. Indeed, unexpected results may occur when using a browser other than the last four versions of IE or versions of Chrome and Firefox four versions out-of-date! Eventually, I realized that the problem was that loading the page was triggering a pop-up window(!?) with the website for the company’s scheduling system, and Safari was (silently) blocking said pop-up.4

Allowing pop-ups and forging ahead again, I looked at the scheduling system’s website, and it reminded me of a poor knockoff of the web as rendered by Firebird 0.6 or 0.7 more than a decade ago (eerie, that poorly-rendered, overly-fat Helvetica—perhaps it’s Verdana or Tahoma?—and <table>s, lots of <table>s!) Also, there was a menu that seemed to have no useful functions. Finally relenting, I launched Firefox 36, discovered the functional part of the menu was indeed missing (according to the Web Inspector in Safari, that part of the menu was being rendered off-screen and I think zero-height; given that Blink and WebKit supposedly haven’t diverged that much, I wonder if this critical piece of the menu would have appeared in Chrome, either, supported version or otherwise?), found the link I needed, and returned to Safari to print out pages of multi-page <table>s.

These are websites/systems that are created and installed to be used by every employee of this company, from the convenience of each employee’s personal computing device, not systems that are to be used solely by the HR department on company computers where IT can mandate a certain browser and software combination. This is software whose purpose is to be used by everyone; why is it not designed to be used by everyone—compatible with current versions of the major rendering engines, avoiding unfriendly and abused technologies like pop-ups, and so on?

If the software is intended to be used by everyone (or, generally, people beyond those whose computer configuration you can dictate by supplying said computer) and it’s web-based software (or has a web front-end), then the company (or the company’s software vendor) needs to continually test the software/web front-end with new versions of major rendering engines, making changes (or reporting bugs in the rendering engine) in the unlikely event something breaks, so that they aren’t requiring employees to use six-month-old versions of browsers in order for the corporate software to work properly.

As for the integration between the main HR system and the scheduling system, if the two can’t talk to each other directly behind the scenes, then why not embed the scheduling system into the “Timesheets” tab with an <iframe> (<iframe>s are already present in some of the other tabs). If an <iframe> won’t work for some technical or security reasons, why not include a button on the “Timesheets” tab that the user can click to trigger the pop-up window with the scheduling system, thus escaping the pop-up blocker? It’s not as elegant in some ways as automatically launching, but pop-ups are already not as elegant as showing the data inline (and pop-ups are arguably not elegant at all), and manually-triggered pop-ups are more friendly since the human involved knows he or she is triggering some action and isn’t annoyed by blocked pop-up notifications. You also then get Safari compatibility “for free” without requiring users to change settings (and without having to tell them how to do so). If there are still legitimate reasons not to use a button or link or similar element, at the very least some explanatory text in the “content” section of the “Timesheets” tab is far more useful to anyone than a link to return to the very site you’re already viewing.

When I encounter software like this, I often wonder how it was built. Was there a user experience or human interface designer as part of the team? Was there any testing? Any quality assurance team involved? Or did some product manager just throw a spec sheet from marketing at the software engineers and tell them, “Not only do you have to write the code to make it do these things, but you have to determine how it’s going to do these things, too.” Or did management decide to ship as-is, perhaps over the objections of team members, in order to meet some deadline?

Design is how things work. Not everyone is a good designer, just like not everyone is a good programmer or tester (they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, but many times excelling in one field means not learning as much about another), but every good piece of software needs all three skillsets, working in concert, whether in one body or more. Too often, “corporate software” like this seems to be missing one or more of the three, and that’s a shame, because with a little more effort, every interaction with the software could be improved. Then the vendor sells better software, the employees who use the software have a faster, easier experience and can get back to doing what they love and are good at, and the company installing the software can have happier employees. Everyone wins.


1 An unnamed major American restaurant group.
2 I know, I know, I really shouldn’t be. :P
3 In fairness, Firefox 31 is at least still in the ESR support window until May.
4 Question 1: Why, in 2015, does Safari still not support a per-site control for pop-ups (and, at least as of version 6, still not provide any sort of notification of blocked pop-ups; granted the UI balance there is hard—and a subject for another post—but still!)?
Question 2: The better question is, why, in 2015, are sites still using non-user-triggered pop-up windows for critical functions, or any functions at all?


November 11th

Posted in History, Life at 11:11 am by

As this year is the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, it seemed fitting to mark this Veterans Day with a pair of our World War I veterans.

John Ardison returns from WWI
John Ardison returns from WWI, 1919

Postcards from World War I
Postcards sent by George Arthur Benner (Corporal, US Army) from France to his family in Newark, OH during World War I

Uncle George, G'ma, "Jeff"
George Arthur Benner with his mother and dog

George Arthur Benner, 1894-1966
George Arthur Benner, 1894-1966

In Britain, the Tower of London was the site of an art installation titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the war. Each ceramic poppy represents a British or Commonwealth soldier who lost his life during the war, providing a beautiful memorial to those fallen yet also a somber reminder of the scale of the human cost of the conflict. (For more coverage of this art installation, see the aforementioned link, and click on the photo below from Getty Images and choose “More Like This” to find other views of the installation, which fills the entire Tower moat.)



Posted in Camino, Links at 11:00 pm by

Some years ago now, long after nearly all web standards people had adopted Firefox or Safari, the great CSS guru Eric Meyer was (still) a Camino user. In that capacity, I interacted with him a few times in my role as a member of the Camino team.

Today I join with the global community of those who knew or were influenced by the Meyers in presenting a #663399Becca border on افكار و احلام (and background on the main ardisson.org landing page) as a mark of remembrance for their young daughter who tragically passed away last Saturday.

I have no more words.

(Via Jon Hicks)