Archives for : May2013

What Microsoft need for IE

I have a confession most appropriately conveyed via Confession Bear: I use Internet Explorer. Let’s get this straight, I use IE 10. IE 10 is actually fast (some benchmarks say otherwise but I’m going by general usage compared with Firefox and Chrome.) Microsoft have come a long way with IE and if you hate IE and haven’t used 10, give it a shot. Microsoft is potentially one or two versions away from being a real competitor amongst geeks.

One thing it is sorely missing: extensions. It is possible to get some IE exensions, but they come as a downloadable executable and are basically programmed the same was as a plugin. Extensions and plugins are different! Not to mention that there really aren’t that many extensions.

A good start would be to support Greasemonkey scripts. Definitely not full blown extensions, but it would give a nice starting library to IE by leveraging 1000’s of existing scripts, and some of the higher end scripts rival some extensions. Given MS is so late to the game, if they were to make it as easy as possible to port scripts over from Chrome or Firefox (or both for that matter,) that would help get them back in the game.

If they added this, improved support for HTML5 and CSS in general (which they have already made heaps of improvements with) and allowed for synching settings across computers, it’d be back in the game.

Is this possible? Segregated and simultaneous browser sessions

I don’t know if such a thing already exists as an extension but I haven’t been able to find one. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist in the core of any browser that I regularly use (IE, Chrome and Firefox – mainly for when I am doing web design.)

The feature I’m looking for is having multiple sessions in a browser that are segregated from each other, mainly cookies are segregated. For example, I have session “A” and session “B” open, the cookies in session “A” aren’t accessible to session “B” and vice versa.

The scenario is for if I have to log in to the same website multiple times. This may not be an issue for most people, but I use an email address, but my University uses Microsoft Cloud services for it’s email. I can’t log into both at the same time in the same browsing session because they conflict with each other. If I had two segregated sessions with sandboxed cookies, I could just open up another session and login there.

There are currently two workarounds that I know of. Firstly, using separate browsers. However this doesn’t seem that clean. It works, but it’s not something you should have to do. The solution that I found one time when looking was to use an Incognito/Private Browsing for the second. This works fine for what I want, but only works for two. In fact, it’s almost what I mean by a separate session, except this is limited to 2. If someone wanted to simultaneously log into 3 or more accounts on the same website, they may end up having to open another web browser or something like that.

This may be a very small or minor issue, as I doubt many people have 3 or more accounts they would need to log into simultaneously. I certainly don’t at the moment but it’s always a possibility in the future. Plus it would be extremely useful in web development.

Maybe I should try and learn how to make Firefox extensions again. Last time I tried I failed, but that was 6 or 7 years ago and I tried biting off more than I could chew.

Why I struggle with Evernote

How do you resize columns in Evernote?

I love Dropbox. I have used it since 2009 and have been a paying customer for 2 years, and intent do be for many years to come. One thing that it can’t do that well is easily take notes on my phone. Sure, I could edit a .txt file, but it doesn’t allow for that much flexibility and it’s not really designed for that.

As a result, I thought I’d give Evernote a go. I really like the concept. I really like the back end implementation. What I don’t like is the editor on the desktop. Below is a list of annoyances I have found with it. Before reading them, know they are small things. But to be honest, I didn’t realise how much the small things affected my workflow, but these small things have really hindered how much I’ve been able to enjoy using Evernote.

  • No real tabs. Pressing tab will enter 5 spaces if I have no text selected. If I want to remove or change a tab I need to backspace 5 times.
  • Inconsistent tabs. If I highlight the whole line or multiple lines and press tab, it will indent the line(s) selected. This isn’t a tab (and neither is 5 spaces.)
  • Hard to remove indents. As above, tabbing whilst having multiple lines selected or a whole line selected will indent. If I want to remove an indent, I need to select the whole line again and shift-tab. I should be able to select the beginning of the line and shift-tab or backspace. Neither of these work (in fact shift tab adds a fake tab as listed in the first point.) Think how Word works – Word works well.
  • No styles. If I want a heading I need to change the font size. I like the idea of separating style and data (think CSS or LaTeX.) I want to be able to specify a heading style, and work if I ever copy the text over to Word. In word, I can turn a line I just typed to a title very easily with a shortcut (I don’t even need to select the text.)
  • Tables are a nighmare. The width of cells/columns can’t be adjusted, and they adjust automatically. This sometimes puts you in a really bad situation where one column barely has any room. It’s absolutely awful to work with. (see screenshot at the top of the post.)
  • Won’t turn asterisk to bullet point. I haven’t been able to find a way to start bullet points without using my mouse (you know, a short cut.) In Word, if you start a line with an asterisk and press enter it will start a bullet point list for you. I haven’t been able to find a shortcut for this in Evernote.
  • Hard to find shortcuts or no shortcuts. Shortcuts may exist, but I haven’t been able to easily find them. I shouldn’t have to do a web search to find what shortcuts are, but as per the previous point, I did do a search and still haven’t found it. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but the thing is, I shouldn’t have to look hard. There’s no tooltips for button functions in the toolbar or shortcuts listed in the menus (there are some, but there are plenty of functions without shortcuts.)

Some of these may be because I’m spoilt by Word, but to be honest, Microsoft has done a very good job with Word and has set the bar for WYSIWYG formatting. I feel most things in Word is intuitive – this could be bias because I’m so used to word, but even after really trying to re-learn how to use Evernote, I could never work as efficiently. I can’t afford to be distracted having to use the mouse in a lecture. I’m also not against a learning curve – I’ve had to learn how to use LaTeX this year. That said, LaTeX isn’t WYSIWYG, so I wasn’t ever trying to use it the way I use Word (in fact, as a programmer, I feel LaTeX gives me full control and does what I want – most of the time.) Evernote I do try and use like Word. Maybe I shouldn’t be trying that, but I just can’t live without my shortcuts.

Overall, I do like Evernote. I like the concept and I like the mobile app. The things I’ve listed may only apply to me. There may actually be solutions for them, but those solutions aren’t obvious (and a good design should make them obvious for anyone with a basic understanding of computers – at least tool tips for shortcuts!) I really hope these improve as I do want to use Evernote as I like the idea of editing notes easily on my phone, but these issues I’ve come across really affect the usability (for me at least) and slow me down immensely.

Social justice should start in the womb, but it certainly doesn’t end there

This article was cross-posted from Students Protecting Life.

We’ve heard the classic pro-choice sound bite about pro-lifers: “Those who are pro-life don’t care about the mother or baby once it’s born!” I wholeheartedly disagree. Whilst there may be a small minority of individual pro-lifers who do have extreme views like that (and there are also a small minority of pro-choicers with opposite extreme views,) that most certainly isn’t what pro-life is about. In fact, I firmly believe that even when abortion is abolished, pro-life will continue. This is because being pro-life doesn’t end once a baby is born. It involves supporting and caring for mothers who need it the most. There’s a reason it’s pro-life, not pro-foetus! That said we still do care about the unborn. Social justice should start in the womb, but it certainly doesn’t end there!

The pro-life movement isn’t going anywhere no matter what happens. If abortion around the world more or less ceases, the pro-life movement will still exist. This is because being pro-life is much more than just about opposing abortion; it’s about supporting and caring for women and children. If the abortion rate significantly drops or abortion ceases, then the pro-life movement will continue for the reason of supporting mothers in times of need.

That’s also why it’s not easy been pro-life. There is a lot more work involved. Let’s have a look at the flip side: being pro-choice is easy because if a mother chooses to keep a child, it’s her choice, and her responsibility to look after and care for it. The view is that if she’s poor or in difficult circumstances, the best option for her is an abortion. Now, I don’t want to imply that every single person who is pro-choice is like this, however I feel there is some logic to this view, especially given some of the arguments used to support abortion (e.g. “what about poor women who can’t afford a child?”) There is no responsibility: can’t afford your child? Simple case of abortion will solve that. Choose to keep your child? Good on you, it’s all your responsibility. We need to change the attitude of society to look after and care for mothers; they are the people who hold society together, they are the people who look after children and care for them.

Ultimately, no matter what happens, I don’t think the need for pro-lifers will ever cease. It’s much more about activism for change, or protesting, or campaigning. It’s about loving and caring for those in need, mainly mothers, and to help them work through the difficult situation they are in.

Having abortion readily available (which are what most pro-choice advocates want,) isn’t going to help mothers. What motivation is there for people, welfare organisations and the government to setup support structures for pregnant women and mothers who need the support? It’s much cheaper to encourage abortion where the mother is in a difficult situation. Pro-Lifers don’t want to say no mother is in a difficult situation, but to say there are much better ways to help and support them than pitting them against their children.

What is the goal of welfare? I honestly believe we should be providing it to those in need, but what is the end goal? Is it meeting their day to day needs, or is it something bigger? I think it is at first meeting the day to day needs, but should always be about trying to set everyone up so they can support themselves and don’t need to rely on external organisations. I’m all for organisations that provide support, such as the wonderful crisis pregnancy centres around that support pregnant women, and these organisations will always try to meet the needs of those in genuine need. Part of the approach of such organisations, I believe, is to help people (in this case mothers) get back up on their feet, and live a wonderful life with their child. It may take some time (or may not even happen,) but it should always be the goal, and until the goal is reached, support is always there (and will always be available if ever needed again!) I feel the following quote from Ronald Reagan sums it up quite nicely:

We should measure welfare’s success by how many people leave welfare, not by how many are added.

We need to make our society more pro-life. Support and care for mothers when they need it, help them work through difficult situations by helping remove the difficulty! Whilst abortion is around though, there’s no motivation for society and governments to setup these support structures extensively.

However, the core of the abortion debate is that the unborn child is a human being. It’s important to know that even if these support structures didn’t exist, abortion still isn’t justified. That said, having great support structures in place will assist in reducing the abortion rate, and should always be an essential part of being pro-life. We won’t abolish abortion without these structures in place, even though abortion is morally and ethically wrong.

In conclusion, pro-life is most definitely about saving the innocent unborn child, but it is also about supporting mothers who need support. Do everything they can to help them through their life, and get back on their feet out of difficult situations. Pro-lifers don’t have tunnel vision on unborn children; pro-lifers have a holistic view of both mother and children. Pro-lifers are needed more than ever, as abortion becomes increasingly rare in society.