Category Archives: UI

At the beep, enter your language

If you live in a country or area that is at all non-monolingual, you will encounter telephone trees where the first prompt requests you specify your language. For example, in the United States, it is usually Spanish.

Unfortunately this does not scale well. If you have to deal with even, say, the UN languages, that’s 6 possibilities. Further, they are rarely standardized, so for one firm, you key in “6” to get Spanish. For another it’s “2”, etc.

I propose this:

  1. A universally understood tone or sequence of tones that means “specify your language” (SYL). These would be tones that a computer could recognize, like SITs. In this way, a person could specify to their phone/phone company what their language was and have them automatically reply.
  2. A universally standardized mapping of languages and dialects to numbers. For example, en-US = 1033 (Microsoft LCID).

This would result in the following pass:

  1. Caller dials some number with a phone tree.
  2. Called party PBX picks up.
  3. Called party PBX plays SYL SIT.
  4. Caller (or caller’s phone/phone company) recognizes the SIT.
  5. Caller (or caller’s phone/phone company) responds with language code
    1. This would include a termination character, like # or *.
  6. Called party PBX connects the caller to the phone tree or operator of that language.

Of course, even the UN isn’t going to maintain an operator for every possible language, so in those cases, a fail-gracefully routing tree would be set up so that the nearest neighbor language would be selected instead. As an example, if en-GB (2057) wasn’t supported, but en-US was (1033), the call would be routed there. Alternately, a message could be prerecorded in that language, telling the called party that their language wasn’t supported.

What do you think?


Too many Firefoxes

Many of us remember the famous Windows XP Service Pack 2, which really marked when Microsoft started to get serious about their client systems’ security. Prior to that there was little to guide the end user that I remember. XPSP2 brought the first version of the Security Center, which made it easy to set up the Windows Firewall and actually told them they they needed an antivirus to be safe. This was still prior to Microsoft’s providing one.

Anyway, Windows Firewall is still around and rarely seen after maybe the first week of an installation of Windows, since it is on by default and by then, all the other programs will have been installed and configured to go through the firewall.

Sometimes, however, things glitch:


Three entries for Firefox in Windows Firewall.

I have no idea what the cause of this is. Is it a problem?

How to tell a British company when you see one

I was applying for a position (in the United States) at the firm GSK (alias GlaxoSmithKline) and was presented with this option to select my “prefix”:


I have filled out more of these forms than I can tell you, probably a easy hundred, but I have never otherwise seen options for “Lady” and “Lord”. Why did they feel the need to include these? Do they regularly recruit tituled nobility? If so, do they really have to go through the same HR software/ATS that commoners like me do?

If so, HAH!

Bruker “the minispec” software was terrible

Another software rant this time, since my KENPAVE review got so many views.

I worked at a laboratory that had a Bruker “minispec” NMR analyzer. The thing itself was a neat little self-contained non-destructive testing device with HUGE magnets (kindof required) that you would put a test tube into, run a method, and get a result from.

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Minor change in v. 1511

I just noticed this little things, but I think it’s a nice example of the “devil in the details” that Microsoft noticed and fixed.

In the current latest version of Windows 10 (version 1511), the “Safely Remove Hardware and Eject Media” icon is no longer the realistic icon that was carried over from Windows 7:


Now it is a very simple line drawing icon that fits in along with its fellow line drawings:


Windows 10’s inexplicably harder download access

For no valid reason I can find out, in Windows 10 you have to jump through another hoop to get to files downloaded via browser.

In Windows 7, you could configure the Start menu to make the Downloads directory (where most browsers automatically saved files you downloaded) to be a menu itself:


In Windows 10, that option appears to be removed for no reason. You can only add Downloads as a link that opens a new window:


This doesn’t even get into how hard it is to find the option to add the Downloads link to the “new” Start menu to begin with.

A question to Microsoft: Not being snarky here, is/was there a reason to make this change? How did it happen that this option was removed?

Different for a bad reason

I recently found out about StartupHire, which is a job search and posting board that lets you apply for jobs at so-called startups. I’m not sure how they determine what’s a startup and what isn’t.

Anyway, if you fill out a user profile there, they request you tell them what kind of field you are interested in using this form:


Why do they use center align for this? It adds nothing to readability or usability as far as I can tell. I would have used the common left align. This looks like different for different’s sake.

Warning to users who upgraded from Windows 7 or 8 to 10: Backups

If you upgraded from a previous setup of Windows to Windows 10 and had been making scheduled backups, you should know that Windows 10 will back things up twice: Once using Backup and once using File History.

Nowhere is there any UI element warning or alerting you to this behavior. In other words, if you set up File History, nothing asks “Do you still want to use Windows Backup?” or vice versa. During Windows Setup there should be something to migrate from Windows Backup to File History.

I am calling this a bug since it degrades performance without any benefit as it will cause your backup space to deplete much quicker for no benefit.

I recommend either ignoring File History and keeping the old Backup running on schedule OR disabling the Backup schedule and just using File History. I’m using File History, but that’s up to you.