Archive for April, 2007

Meet My Friend… Pain!

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

An Open Letter to the Thunderbird Team

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Dear Thunderbird,

Congratulations on the launch of Thunderbird 2!

As a die-hard Thunderbird user, steadfast in my refusal to use the steaming pile of dung that is Outlook, I’m happy to see the steady progress.

The new features look pretty neat. I’m not sure how much I’ll use the Message History History, but tags certainly look interesting.

I’m also happy to see you changed the keyboard shortcut for creating a new message.

I definitely agree that Cmd-N is much more intuitive than Shift-Cmd-M. I’d gotten used to the old way long ago, but new users will definitely appreciate it.

Do you mind if I ask a favor for us old users? The one’s who’ve stood by you for a long time?

I hate to bring it up, but that keyboard shortcut thing, the Shift-Cmd-M thing? Well, my fingers got really used to it. When I just think of creating a message, my fingers automatically hit that combination.

Now, sure, with just a little bit of time it’ll change.

But, there’s going to be a transition period. One where I first do it the old way (Cmd-Shift-M), realize that’s wrong, then do the new (Cmd-N).

So, given that, it’d be nice, really fucking nice, if in the new app, Cmd-Shift-M did something other than DELETE MY FUCKING MESSAGE.

Seriously, what sadist bastard came up with this idea?

Personally, I’m betting it was the same guy who came up with commas.

Crazy idea: Shift-Cmd-M does nothing for the next version or two while we all make the mental switch?

It’s times like this I really miss mutt.

Internationalization & Pluralization

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Building an international application, you run into some interesting linguist quirks.

Like pluralization.

That is, your software has to know how to say “1 widget” as opposed to “2 widgets.”

Putting aside the use of Arabic numbers, for each language you support, you have to know how to translate ‘widget’ into ‘cosa’ and ‘widgets’ into ‘cosas’.

Okay, so we use ‘widget’ if there’s one, otherwise we’ll use ‘widgets’, right? Pretty simple, that’s why there’s singular & plural right?

Wrong.

In English, we use plural for the empty case. Think about it — do you say “zero widget” or “zero widgets”?

Okay, so small tweak, we use singular for 1 and plural for everything else?

Well, that will work for most North America, but not Canada.

Why not?

Well, Canada bilingual laws are going to require you to translate into French. And in French, zero, the nullar case uses singular form, not plural.

And if you happen to speak Hebrew, you already know what’s coming next. If you have exactly two of something, some words can have dual form.

What about Chinese?

Actually, that’s easy: They lack any grammatical number. 0 件事, 1 件事, 2 件事, 3 件事, or 10 件事. They’re all 件事.

How bad can things get?

Well, some languages have trial form, for when there’s exactly three of something and paucal when there’s a few of something.

Turns out the Austronesian language Sursurunga takes the cake with singular, dual, paucal, greater paucal, and plural.

If you’re working on an international application, these Wikipedia pages are definitely worth the read:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plural

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_number

Why You Thought Yahoo! Search Sucked (and Why You Might Now Notice it Doesn’t)

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

I worked at Yahoo for five years.

And for five years I used Google.

Giving a presentation about our contextual advertising to a group that included our SVP, he mad a remark about my Firefox still being set to Google. I played it off, saying I didn’t use it and quickly showed how I had a ‘y’ keyword mapped to search on Yahoo.

A half-truth. True, I didn’t use the searchbox in the browser. But also true that I also had ‘g’ mapped to google (and used that 98% of the time).

Judging by my peers, fellow Yahoo engineers, I was far from alone.

When Yahoo Search Marketing was re-organized so that it fell closer to Yahoo! Search, I started to hear more about Search. How based on some studies we did well. Really well, in fact.

Knowing the individuals and the context, there wasn’t a heck of lot of motivation for lying. So I started using Yahoo Search for a bit and I found these two seeming contradicting statements:

1) The algorithm for Yahoo Search is really good.
2) It’s hard finding what you want with Yahoo Search.

What do I mean? Well, the search engine works, just you don’t see the results.

For instance, take a look at this page, an example from the Yahoo Search Marketing site showing advertisers where their ads appear:

So, imagine for a second that your search worked. The results you wanted for ‘Quigibo’ are right there. What do you see?

NOT QUIGBO.

Here’s the stuff I care about:

It’s that teeny little bit down in the corner.

Your results are buried in the page. You see one, maybe one and half results.

So when you do a search, does it work? Yes.

Do you see it? No.

Which is why it was exciting to see Yahoo’s new alpha:

Simple, clean, elegant.

I even like that I can collapse sponsored results.

It’s not that I have anything against, in fact, for commericial queries, they can be darn useful, it’s just I want control. If I’m searching for Perl’s tie operator, odds are ads are just a waste of space.

It’s still a bit early, but it looks like Yahoo might be getting it’s mojo back.

Now Straight Porn, That Would Have Been Different…

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007

So apparently the prior tenant of my apartment was gay.

Not that, I actually care.

And in West Hollywood, hardly surprising. Heck, I’m fine with gay marriage.

The only downside is apparently the prior tenant must have subscribed to a lot of gay magazines.

A lot of gay hardcore pornographic magazines. Or something like that that has him on a lot, and I mean a a lot, of gay, pornographic mailing lists.

And apparently his mail forwarding just ended.

So now opening my mailbox has become a game of russian roulette.

Seriously, getting just bills & junk mail has never been such a relief.

Good Day: “B of A… T-Mobile… Bed Bath & Beyond… Cable… *wheh*”

Bad Day: “B of A… T-Mobile… Bed Bath & Beyond… Cable… What th–AHHHH!”

The only upside, as pointed out by friends, is this didn’t happen a few ago back when mom was visiting.

‘Cuz then there would have been some explain’ to do.

Reading Fewer Blogs

Monday, April 2nd, 2007

For a long time, when coming across an interesting blog post, my standard practice has been to to add them to my blogroll. Not every single time, but if they seemed like they might write something interesting again, I’d subscribe.

That, of course, has created a huge list of blog.

256 in fact. The computer science geeks in the crowd will instantly recongize that’s 2^8, or 100000000 in binary.

100000000. That’s a lot of blogs to read.

I had a minor ephiphany the other day: I don’t need to add blogs simply because they might write something interesting again & I don’t want to miss it. If they do write something interesting again, more than likely it’ll show up again wherever I discovered them in the first place (e.g., Digg, Delicious’ Most Popular, and so on).

So with that, I’m off to do some merciless pruning.