Friday, November 15, 2019

when technology controls us

On his excellent Lost in Mobile site, Shaun posted Industrial Designer Critiques The Apple Watch and this video:

I cued it up to the section Shaun urged special attention, the designer kind of protesting about folks having to be told what to do to manage their health via a watch. On Lost in Mobile's related WhatsApp group, Bob said:
So I listened to the last 5 minutes. For those who didn't listen, and Shaun please correct me if I'm wrong, my main take away is that many of today's products tell you what to do and therefore absolve you of your responsibility to do things on your own. He likened it to being governed and controlled as in Orwell's 1984 combined with HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In a way he's correct, but I could argue the same thing about almost any technological advance. A car absolves you from having to get about by horse and buggy which in turn absolves you from having to walk a long distance. Are we better or worse off. As often is the case, some of both.
My response was:
Fun topic! I too only caught the last 5 minutes. First tangent: he bookends his main complaint with a smaller one of how he'd prefer a watch to just be a watch - none of this extra functionality with its implication of obsolescence as new functions show up. But that reminds me of that old comment about smartphones - that we had essentially reinvented the pocket watch! So the mere act of telling you what the time is is not as crucial as it was...
I remember in college (in the 90s) sort of consciously deciding NOT to wear a watch, in part because I wanted to avoid the regimentation IDGuy talks about.  Most classrooms had clocks, or I could ask someone, and just have a more human and organic sense of time (which is why I still think about making clock faces that put the time into fuzzy words not precise numbers)...
I think that my avoidance of watches mirrors his avoidance of smartwatches, that watches are kind of more proactive -- to use some jargon it's more of a "push" technology that proactively alerts or commands the user than a "polling" technology that has the user decide to check the device. And that issues of healthy moving and eating are better left to people making their own habits.
I'm not sure how many people take the step counting and the diet advice (is that what they do?) and "stand up now" THAT seriously? Like is it mostly aspirational for most people, like a usually short lived regimentation that hopefully modifies their internalized habits?
Also the whole thing reminds me a bit of anti-GPS arguments, that we're all more dependent on devices and less capable with maps. And it will not be good if kids grow up helpless without GPSes, just the way it's kind of sad many kids don't read time off of traditional clockface... but on the other hand, I was terrible at navigating w/ my car for the decade of driving before I got my early GPS... I didn't magically gain capabilities, I just puttered along, and was often stressed.
But like with teaching math to kids, the sweet spot is getting people to use technologies that augment rather than replace cognition - never skimp on the steps of teaching estimation, even as you still let them use calculator more often
Interesting stuff! Let me know if you want in on this gem of a WhatsApp group and I'll see what I can do :-D

quickly disable javascript in chrome devtools

Something I've had to lookup:
In chrome, if you're already using devtools a lot, the quickest way to disable to Javascript is hit cmd-shift-p (or ctrl- on Windows I guess) to bring up the tools Palette and then start typing "Javascript", the command shows up in the menu and you can then easily select it. This only applies to that current devtools window I think.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

ui gripe list: ikea

I just want to say, IKEA has a very odd sense of taxonomy. I really don't think most of these things should be showing up for a search for "bookcases", do you?

Sadly, none of the filters under "More filters" are something like "actually show me the damn book cases, thanks."

I know IKEA is kind of apathetic about selling online - event the print catalogs are more of an aspiration-provoking encouragement to get you into their so-well-furnished ratmazes, and maybe get some tasty meatballs to boot. Still - this is ridiculous. I just want to look for a bookcase!

UPDATE: maybe because my first search was for "bookshelves", I got stuck in this place? Doing a search from here for "bookcase" got me much more sensible results - but the UI really made it look like I had drilled down to bookcases already...

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

easily finding the big ol' files on a mac

Since Sierra in 2016, MacOS has a pretty easy way to find the big files on your computer- Apple menu, About This Mac, Storage (tab), Manage... (button) - Large Files is just a flat list of the big ol' files, and "File Browser" can tell you just how much you're using for that Dropbox folder or whatever... anyway I found this more straight forward than some other disk usage tools I've tried before - getting rid of old iOS app backups and moving website snapshots to an external disk freed up like 100Gb on my 500Gb Macbook Air!

Monday, November 4, 2019

okta enters my ui gripe list

Both my manager's manager and myself were confused by authentication program Okta's dialog, after we had entered our Okta password (which incidentally, was a little underbranded, I didn't realize I had to enter my new Okta password and not one of the other company affiliated ones.)

That kind of looks like a code has arrived at the device, then you would enter it and hit "Send code" (as in back to the server) but no - you hit "Send code" first, it goes to your device, and then you enter it under "Enter Code", and then hit verify. It's just weird for it not to go in left to right reading order....

Friday, November 1, 2019

halloween 8-ball

This year my sweetie Melissa wanted to be a Magic 8-Ball:

I wrote a little webpage we stuck on an old iPhone so she could have a working answer window...

You can see (or even use) the webpage here: 
You can tap or click and it will random select one of the 20 authentic 8-ball responses

My first thought was to have her wear an iPad, and have me make up a triangular version of the answers, but she was concerned about the comfort, and I'm into being time efficient, so we decided to go with a simple square display on an iPhone (we wrapped the phone in electrical tape and attached a ribbon to it.)

I thought about using P5 but realized CSS could do the trick, using an animation fade in from black, and then just poking at the CSS (including using vw font-size units) and javascript until I was happy with the result. Then we added it to the homepage of the iPhone, which gets ride of much of the browser cruft (there's still a small battery indicator, or maybe we covered that part with the electrical tape?) 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

jump start for voiceover (macos + ios) and the rotor

Doing a lot of a11y work at work, and so I made this page to help people over the hurdle of using a voicereader...

Getting started with VoiceOver can be daunting at first - for people used to traditional screen/keyboard/pointer device/touchscreen, the amount of audio information coming in can be overwhelming, and even the most basic of touchscreen operations - for example, entering the passcode on the lock screen - will require extra steps.


Go to Settings | General | Accessibility and set VoiceOver to On.

Doing so fundamentally changes the UI. A "What Widget Has The Focus" is added. Previously, tapping an onscreen button clicks it. Now, doing so highlights the button and the voice reads the caption. To click the currently highlighted button, you double tap the screen.

On the VoiceOver screen,. you can select "VoiceOver Practice" this screen will let you get a feel for how flicks - left and right to select previous and next and double tap for activate are the most important, but two and three finger flicks have various meanings as well for where the voiceover will start reading.

You may be tempted to just use the touchscreen as more or less normal, just switching tap to highlight, double tap to activate, but it is probably better to get practice using the flick navigation as well.


Go to System Preferences | Accessibility - VoiceOver is in the sidebar, so click Enable VoiceOver in its panel. You might try VoiceOver Training here as well.

PROTIP: the default "enable VoiceOver" keybinding is cmd-f5. However, MacPros with the touchbar might find this fiddly - you might consider going to System Preferences|Keyboard|Accessibility and setting "Turn VoiceOver on or off" to cmd-5.

Back to the main VoiceOver dialog - open "Open VoiceOver Utility". Here you can select the "VoiceOver modifier". Personally I prefer Caps Lock to the shift/command/option bundles, but it's a personal preference - but one you need to be comfortable with for activating the rotor. From here on in we will follow the convention of calling this key VO-

The Rotor is started with VO-U

The Rotor is the primary method of navigation for a certain part of the CarGurus audience. For the current webpage, It collates all the page parts of certain category into a flat list - for example all the links on the page, or all the form elements. (Under VoiceOver Utility | Web | Web Rotor you can see the categories you can have the rotor serve up) Firing it up on a webpage, you primarily navigate with arrow-keys: left and right to switch cartgory, up and down to select items. Hit enter to jump the focus to that item, and then VO-a to start reading there.

Apple has a page on VoiceOver Basics - I also found Deque University's VoiceOver Keyboard Shortcuts very handy.

After using the Rotor for a while, you may start to understand the purpose of many of the WCAG guidelines - providing structure that these tools can leverage, even apart from the visual display of the webpage.