Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in May, 2003

Recently, graphics guru Edward Tufte put out a small pamphlet on The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint. Although I haven’t seen it myself, comments have been quite positive; it seems everybody agrees about the generally dismal state of PowerPoint presentations.

Halley points at another anti-PowerPoint book, which also looks interesting. And she also links to the Gettysburg Address PowerPoint presentation, which is both funny and interesting. (As an aside, the full text of Lincoln’s speech is given at the end, and I was surprised to notice that I’d never read it before; only the first and last paragraphs seem to be usually cited.)

Let’s face it, hearing someone read off bulleted lines in the usual droning tone is nearly as boring as seeing other people’s baby pictures. I remember fondly Edwin Estrada, who used to be Apple’s developer contact for Latin America, always skipping forward dozens of slides in the official Apple presentations while muttering “marketing – blah blah – marketing – fluff – marketing – you don’t need to read this”. Few people can pull this off with such aplomb; unfortunately, Edwin seems to have left Apple a few years ago.

Hi Buzz, thanks for dropping by…

Buzz Andersen wrote:

There are definitely some problems with disk images, but you’re probably right that people who don’t “get” them are in the minority (and they’re probably the type of people who, honestly, would have problems regardless of how the software was distributed icon_smile.gif ). I know I’ve encountered more than two users who have run into this problem myself (probably more on the order of 6 or 7), but that’s still not *that* many.

Right, there’s a point of diminishing returns for idiot-proofing, otherwise “normal” users will start to complain that the application or the installation process is too patronizing; just look at the average Windows “wizard”…icon_wink.gif

Buzz Andersen wrote:

Now I’m starting to think the solution to my problem might simply be to put a very prominent graphic with the words “Drag this to the Applications folder” and an arrow pointing toward the application into the background of the disk image.

Exactly my point. I’ve thought of adding “…and eject this disk image”, but that may already be too condescending.

I’ve also read a suggestion (can’t recall where right now, sorry) of providing a symbolic link to the Application folder on the disk image, and saying “Please drop the application here”. Supposedly some BeOS installers worked that way – it sounds interesting.

Posted by Buzz Andersen:
Rainer,

Some good points. Upon further reflection, I think I’ve started to soften my stance a bit (I think the vehemence of my post may have been somewhat influenced by the rather irate support email that I received). There are definitely some problems with disk images, but you’re probably right that people who don’t “get” them are in the minority (and they’re probably the type of people who, honestly, would have problems regardless of how the software was distributed icon_smile.gif ). I know I’ve encountered more than two users who have run into this problem myself (probably more on the order of 6 or 7), but that’s still not *that* many.

You also brought up some good points about Internet-enabled disk images. Now I’m starting to think the solution to my problem might simply be to put a very prominent graphic with the words “Drag this to the Applications folder” and an arrow pointing toward the application into the background of the disk image.

Buzz Andersen of PodWorks fame has an interesting series of “Apple Complaints” going. In Apple Complaint #8 he writes about using .dmg files (disk images) to distribute software:

…The problem, as I see it, is that most people, when they download software from the Internet, are accustomed to receiving some sort of archive (Zip, StuffIt, Tar or what have you) which decompresses into a folder on their desktop. They then drag the this folder into their Applications folder, where it lives happily.

Unfortunately, as I have discovered, many people try to use this same procedure with disk images, which is a sure recipe for frustration. Earlier today, I received a rather irate email from a customer who was complaining that PodWorks was giving him an error dialog instructing him to “insert the volume” (the understandably brusque subject of his message: “YOU insert the damn volume”).

He also links to an earlier discussion on the subject.

From what I see, quite a lot of software for Mac OS X uses .dmg files for distribution. The advantages are quite clear for me:

    The software is downloaded as a single file, easily backed up.
    Double-clicking the file checks the file’s integrity, displays a license agreement (or installation instructions), and opens a Finder window containing the application and any ancillary files – or at least it should do so, perhaps with a background image.
    The user can then drag&drop the application to the Applications folder or wherever; no need to keep the other files around.

Here are the supposed disadvantages:

    Users freshly migrated from Mac OS 9 may not know about disk images.
    Users who are new to computers in general may not know about drag & drop or the application folder.
    .dmg files will not work on Mac OS 9 or older.

For my own applications, I found that my users are usually well-informed about .dmg files, drag & drop, double-clicking and so on; and they’re Mac OS X-only anyway.

Looking through my support e-mails, I found only two users who tried to drag & drop the .dmg file itself into the application folder, and they were easily instructed on the proper procedure. For experienced users, having no installer was favorably commented-upon.

Buzz also comments on Apple’s new-fangled Internet-enabled disk images. Frankly, I think they’re useful only in restricted cases: when the disk image contains a single file, and when you don’t want to keep a backup of the image. I found it very strange to download one file, only to have it disappear, and a differently-named file to appear in the same folder; indeed, the first time I mistakenly assumed the download had gone wrong, and downloaded it again a few times. Also, this will tempt users to leave the application on the desktop or in a download folder, instead of moving it to the Applications folder.

Posted by blogalization (c. brayton:
I was too lazy to look up Legrain’s background. Thanks! That was at least an even-handed attempt to sort out the facts from the rhetoric, as was this article from Foreign Trade, 1999-2000. That was pre-Bush, though, and I find the new article kind of Clintonian as well. He has a new book out, “Open World: The Truth About Globalization,” and a review of “Globalisation and Its Discontents” by Joseph Stiglitz, the former World Bank chief economist,.

A mix-up in my site mirroring routines caused the blogroll at left to be seriously out of date. I think it’s fixed now… my apologies.

Europe Trip

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We’ve just booked our trip to Europe (June 4th), and preparations are already taking some of our time. Expect spotty updates until we get back on July 3th. I’ll try to visit cybercafés whenever possible. There seem to be some cybercafé search engines available – here’s one – and I’m going to print out a list of addresses along our itinerary.

We’ll fly into Frankfurt and my cousin who works at the Frankfurt Airport will pick us up; another cousin lives nearby. After visits, we’ll probably rent a car and drive north along the Rhine up to Düsseldorf, where I’ve got a bunch of friends and relatives to visit. Along the way, we’ll probably do the boatride between Rüdesheim and Koblenz – I did that in 1972 and it’s very enjoyable.

From Düsseldorf we’ll drive to Berlin with a stopover just before Hannover (more relatives). We’ve never been to Berlin, so a couple of days there may be worthwhile. From there, we’ll drive into Eastern Europe. Not sure if we’ll be able to visit Poland, as Warszaw is a little out of the way. Prague, Vienna and Budapest are easier to visit, although I’m not sure in which order. In Austria there’re lots of interesting places to visit on the way back – Linz and Salzburg come to mind. Then we’ll drive back to Frankfurt over Munich, with a possible stopover at Konstanz where we also have friends.

Philippe Legrain, chief economist of Britain in Europe (the campaign for Britain to adopt the euro), has a large article over at The Chronicle, argumenting that Cultural Globalization Is Not Americanization. Here are some interesting tidbits from the article:

…The beauty of globalization is that it can free people from the tyranny of geography. Just because someone was born in France does not mean they can only aspire to speak French, eat French food, read French books, visit museums in France, and so on. A Frenchman – or an American, for that matter – can take holidays in Spain or Florida, eat sushi or spaghetti for dinner, drink Coke or Chilean wine, watch a Hollywood blockbuster or an Almodóvar, listen to bhangra or rap, practice yoga or kickboxing, read Elle or The Economist, and have friends from around the world. That we are increasingly free to choose our cultural experiences enriches our lives immeasurably. We could not always enjoy the best the world has to offer.

…It is a myth that globalization involves the imposition of Americanized uniformity, rather than an explosion of cultural exchange. For a start, many archetypal “American” products are not as all-American as they seem. Levi Strauss, a German immigrant, invented jeans by combining denim cloth (or “serge de Nîmes,” because it was traditionally woven in the French town) with Genes, a style of trousers worn by Genoese sailors. So Levi’s jeans are in fact an American twist on a European hybrid.

…In some ways, America is an outlier, not a global leader. Most of the world has adopted the metric system born from the French Revolution; America persists with antiquated measurements inherited from its British-colonial past. Most developed countries have become intensely secular, but many Americans burn with fundamentalist fervor – like Muslims in the Middle East. Where else in the developed world could there be a serious debate about teaching kids Bible-inspired “creationism” instead of Darwinist evolution?

…The really profound cultural changes have little to do with Coca-Cola. Western ideas about liberalism and science are taking root almost everywhere, while Europe and North America are becoming multicultural societies through immigration, mainly from developing countries. Technology is reshaping culture: Just think of the Internet. Individual choice is fragmenting the imposed uniformity of national cultures. New hybrid cultures are emerging, and regional ones re-emerging. National identity is not disappearing, but the bonds of nationality are loosening.

…But if people now wear the bonds of nationality more loosely, is that such a bad thing? People may lament the passing of old ways. Indeed, many of the worries about globalization echo age-old fears about decline, a lost golden age, and so on. But by and large, people choose the new ways because they are more relevant to their current needs and offer new opportunities that the old ones did not…

Thanks to the Blogalization Conspiracy for the heads-up. Click on the preceding link to read more excerpts and commentary. For myself, as a German citizen living in Brazil, working over the Internet in a “Virtual Silicon Valley“, if I may call it that, globalization is a very welcome feature of the modern world. On the other hand, I have to accept that I’m ahead of my time here…

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