Clicks & Notes

27 February 2005

Free Windows Software

These lists all provide links to good free software for Windows…

Tech Support Alert - The 46 Best-ever Freeware Utilities

Last updated February 21, 2005: 17 items updated, 11 additions, 6 deletions. In this latest update there are actually 61 utilities but this report will still be called now and forever “The Best-ever 46 Freeware Utilities.”

Lifehacker - Essential Windows freebies

  • software for “average” users, including more media- and communication-oriented software - 10 Open Source programs you should have

  • a more “geek"-oriented list

The Portable Freeware Collection

This site is dedicated to the collection and cataloguing of freeware that can be extracted to any directory and run independently without prior installation. These can be carried around on a memory stick / USB flash drive, or copied / migrated from PC to PC via simple copying of files. Hence the term portable freeware.

The Road Warriors Guide - What’s On My Pen Drive

If you spend any amount of time on the road in the IT industry, you’ll undoubtedly have equipped yourself with a software “toolkit” that you use on a regular basis. Those readers of a “certain age” will recall fond memories of carrying a box of floppies loaded with diagnostic and test software that would get hauled out at every site.


a guide to very small software for your PC. Virtually all of the programs listed here are free of charge and for use under Windows (Palm and OS X pages also exist)

AnandTech - Freeware replacements for commonly warez’ed programs

there are free replacements for a lot of commercial software that people commonly pirate

Update 28 February 2005: Pricelessware

The Pricelessware list is a compilation of software collected through a yearly vote by the participants of the alt.comp.freeware newsgroup. It is a list of what people have voted as “the best of the best in Freeware".

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 11:40 pm

26 February 2005

The Mac Mini and Switching from PC to Mac

If I had the extra cash lying around, I’d love to add a Mac Mini to my stable of computers… - Mac Mini – More Than Meets the Eye

  • suggests numerous ways to make use of a Mac Mini, including:
    • 1: As a Portable Depot for Digital Pictures
    • 7: As a Hardware Firewall for Laptops
    • 8: As a Physical Security System, for controlling security CCTV cameras, coordinating alarms, etc.
    • 13: As an iPod Feeding Station

Computerworld - Mac mini to the max – Part 1 and Part 2

I also have a hunch this will be a godsend to IT departments in mixed environments where Macintoshes and Windows-based PCs have to play well together. Why? Because a lot of companies likely have extra keyboards, monitors and computer mice lying around. And since the Mac mini comes with none of those peripherals, it’s perfect for IT folks eyeing Mac upgrades for older models – or thinking about trying a Mac or two in their corporate environment to see how it might work

Working Smart - I Finally Took the Plunge

  • notes on making the transition from PC to Mac
  • (via Lifehacker)

Update 28 February 2005: Personal Technology (Wall Street Journal) - While Switching to Mac Will Improve Security, It Isn’t for Everybody

In general, the best candidates for a switch to the Mac are those who use their computers overwhelmingly for common, mainstream consumer tasks.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 11:29 pm

Web Application Development Links - Fight over ‘forms’ clouds future of Net applications

  • factions within the W3C are split between supporting XForms and current standards-based HTML forms; meanwhile there are XAML, Flash MX, and XUL to consider - The Google Wake-Up Call

WebPasties - Guide to Using XMLHttpRequest (with Baby Steps)

The XMLHttpRequest object is a handy dandy JavaScript object that offers a convenient way for webpages to get information from servers without refreshing themselves.

Update: [JPSPAN] - javascript:xmlhttprequest

  • an extensive list of links to references, tutorials, examples, tools, etc.
  • (via kottke)

Computerworld - Common Web Application Vulnerabilities

  • survey of web application vulnerabilities, and ways to mitigate the risks, including those posed by:
    • authentication
    • session security and session IDs
    • SQL injection vulnerabilities
    • Buffer Overflows
    • cross-site scripting (XSS)
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 9:50 pm

The 3-6-3 Rule for Software ROI

Thinking Faster - Software ROI expectations:

  • the 3-6-3 rule provides suggested timelines/guidelines for designing, building, deploying and receiving benefit from software:

    6 months - start to finish, we want to try to limit any software release that we build to 6 months or less. If the development gets longer, we are apt to miss a technology or business window. We need substantial functionality, but not at the risk of bloatware or delayed releases.

    3 months - how long it should take, start to finish, to deploy our enterprise and workgroup productivity and innovation tools… The faster a customer can implement and deploy a meaningful solution, the easier it will be for them to accept and embrace the solution.

    3 months - how long it should take for the software to pay for itself… We want to build software that will provide a meaningful benefit within three months of the completion of the deployment. No one wants to wait for a return on investment on software any more.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 9:20 pm

23 February 2005

Offering Language Choice to Users on Canadian Retail Sites

mezzoblue - It’s a Canadian Thing

Question: the site you’re building requires support for multiple languages. Each needs equal prominence. How do you handle this?

  • Dave Shea observes that websites for large retail stores in Canada typically rely on an opening splash page that does nothing more than ask the user to choose their language (i.e. English or French)
  • however, this page typically does not appear on sites for companies in other industries
  • Shea notes that the choice to use the splash page is politically motivated:

    If you provide an English page with a link to the French equivalent, or vice-versa, you risk alienating a potentially large percentage of your customer base. So by presenting both on equal ground and forcing the consumer to choose, you side-step the issue

  • another use for the opening choice splash page:

    Incidentally, this also used to be a popular trick for retailers to force a choice between US and Canadian currency. By only providing one method of switching between currencies at the very beginning of the visit to the site, the customer would be far less liable to switch to another currency and compare.

The article includes links to the sites for Canadian Tire, Rogers Video, Blockbuster, FutureShop, Air Canada, CIBC, Telus, and HBC. A couple things I noticed about the sites after clicking through:

  • regardless of the presence/absence of an opening “choose English or French” splash page, the sites all allowed the user to change languages from anywhere within the site via global navigation
    • most sites put the language “toggle” link in the top navigation, usually gravitating towards the top-right-hand corner of the page (the exception being Blockbuster, who puts it in the upper-left corner (in tiny type – not so good) next to their logo)
    • the sites that don’t put the link in the top navigation (Air Canada and Telus) put it in among the footer links at the bottom of the page
  • on most sites, switching languages does not interrupt user flow – that is, if you drill down somewhere from the English homepage and then click “French", you wind up on the French version of the exact same page; this, most will agree, is preferable to returning the user back to the homepage in the other language
    • Air Canada is one of those sites that returns the user to the homepage; it’s notable that one of their “toggle” choices is to switch to the U.S. site, so sending the user to U.S. homepage will serve to prevent easy comparisons between Canadian and U.S. prices, as noted above
    • the other exception is Telus – upon clicking the “French” link from anywhere within Telus‘ English site, not only do you go back to the homepage in French, but to a new URL as well
    • of course, Air Canada and Telus are also the two sites who buried their “change language” links at the bottom of the page, so they’re definitely not encouraging users to readily switch back and forth after making an intial selection
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 4:16 pm

21 February 2005

“Ajax” and the new breed of web applications

adaptive path - ajax: a new approach to web applications

  • “Ajax” (shorthand for “Asynchronous JavaScript + XML") is a way to make web applications more responsive to user interaction
  • traditional web applications rely on communication between a user and a web server via HTTP, which result in a “start-stop-start-stop” type of interaction:
    • user sends a request to the server
    • the server processes the request
    • the server returns a(nother) web page back to the user
    • repeat…
  • an Ajax “engine"– written in JavaScript, and loaded at the start of a user session – can instead act as an intermediary between the user and server:

    Any response to a user action that doesn’t require a trip back to the server — such as simple data validation, editing data in memory, and even some navigation — the engine handles on its own

    If the engine needs something from the server in order to respond — if it’s submitting data for processing, loading additional interface code, or retrieving new data — the engine makes those requests asynchronously, usually using XML, without stalling a user’s interaction with the application.

  • Ajax is not a new technology in and of itself; it incorporates existing web technologies:
    • standards-based presentation using XHTML and CSS;
    • dynamic display and interaction using the Document Object Model;
    • data interchange and manipulation using XML and XSLT;
    • asynchronous data retrieval using XMLHttpRequest;
    • and JavaScript binding everything together.
  • current online applications using Ajax include the various Google products, Flickr and
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 11:53 pm

Ten ways to improve ecommerce site usability

WebCredible - Ten ways to improve the usability of your ecommerce site

  1. Identify users with their e-mail address rather than a username
  2. Break up the ordering process into bite size chunks
  3. Show users where they are in the ordering process, and how many more steps there are to complete
  4. Don’t make the ordering process harder than it needs to be
  5. Address common user queries that arise during the ordering process, either onscreen (preferable, I think) or via a hyperlink
  6. Highlight required form fields
  7. Make the ordering process flexible – for example, a forced postal code lookup can cause problems for users with unusual or new addresses
  8. Put users’ minds at ease – many users are still concerned about the security of shopping online
  9. Have users confirm their order before buying, then provide confirmation after they buy
    • before they click “OK” or “Cancel", users should be able to see:
      • a summary of their order
      • how much it will cost
      • where it will be delivered to
    • once the user clicks “OK” and the order is succesfully placed, show them:
      • the expected delivery date
      • the order number
      • how to track the order online (if this is possible)
  10. Send a confirmation e-mail after an order has been place

(via InformIT)

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:12 pm

17 February 2005

Managing Email

Some links that I’ve come across in the last while…

43 Folders - Five fast email productivity tips

  • simple and to the point:
    • Shut off auto-check
    • Pick off easy ones – if you can respond right away in one or two lines, do it now
    • Write less – keep it short, quick, and to the point
    • Cheat – use templates and boilerplate responses for common inquiries
    • Be honest – if you know you’re not going to deal with an email, just get rid of it

John Porcaro: mktg@msft - Microsoft’s Email Culture

  • Porcaro talks about the high volumes of email that staff at Microsoft contend with, shares a few of his own email management tricks, including:
    • your inbox is not your to-do list
    • block out time to “process” email
    • don’t use email as your filing system
    • don’t use email as a CMS – put content that needs to be shared in a place accessible to all

NPR - Overcoming E-Mail Overload at Work

  • includes an audio interview with Marilyn Paul, author of It’s Hard To Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys, who offers several tips for dealing with email effectively at work, including:
    • Meet as a team to review e-mail use. Identify what works, what doesn’t, and why.
    • Don’t deliver bad news in an e-mail message.
    • After two rounds of problem-solving on e-mail, pick up the phone.
    • If you can’t answer a request immediately, let the other party know when you can respond, or if you can’t.
  • there’s also an excerpt of Paul’s book available here (PDF, 122 kb)

Good Experience - Managing Incoming E-mail: What Every User Needs to Know (PDF, 317 kb)

Here is how to manage incoming e-mail: Keep the inbox empty.

  • the report (which is 38 pages long) goes on to include:
    • a walkthrough on how to empty your current inbox
    • tips on how to spot spam in your inbox quickly, so that you can delete it right away
    • suggestions for setting up mail filters
    • instructions on setting up filters in Microsoft Outlook

Conversations with Dina - Spam killing Email - why can’t they learn from IM ?

  • Dina talks about using whitelist applications and has a wishlist for a permission-based contact management protocol/structure for email

BBC News - E-mail is the new database

  • obviously a lot of people could use the tips noted in the preceding articles – as the BBC reports:

    Web-based e-mail services like Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail and AOL Mail on the Web are becoming databases by default as a growing number of people use them, to store data and photos so they can retrieve them from anywhere.

Update 18 February 2005: Here’s one more… - How the big names tame e-mail

  • Email secrets of the rich and famous include:
    • don’t read it
    • get an assistant
    • use multiple email addresses
    • use a wireless solution, like a Blackberry, to handle email anytime, anywhere
  • (via Brain Food Blog)

Update #2, 18 February 2005: This just in…

43 Folders - Quick tips on processing your email inbox

  • Merlin Mann follows up on his five email productivity tips (see above) with these notes:

    Processing determines as quickly as possible what, if anything, to do with each piece (in ascending order of urgency and importance):

    • delete it
    • archive it
    • defer it for later response
    • generate an action from it
    • respond to it immediately (if it—literally—will take less than 2 minutes or is so Earth-shattering that it just can’t wait)
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 11:35 pm

16 February 2005

Web Authoring and Design Links

WebCredible - Ten CSS tricks you may not know

  • includes tips on centre-aligning a box element, vertical alignment, and positioning within a container
  • (via

A List Apart - Bulleted Lists: Multi-Layered Fudge

  • using CSS to create two columns of bulleted lists in the flow of the text - JavaScript and Accessibility, Pt. 1.

  • practical and standards-compliant use of JavaScript; first in a three-part series
  • (via

456 Berea Street - Developing With Web Standards: Recommendations and Best Practices

  • good overview of what standards exist, why to use them, and basic authoring tips, with plenty of links to more information
  • (via InfoDesign) - Optimize PDF Files

  • tips on shrinking PDFs for web use
  • (via InformIT)

Accessible Information Solutions - Colour Contrast Analyser

  • “a tool for checking foreground & background colour combinations to determine if they provide good colour visibility”
  • (via Column Two)
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:43 pm

14 February 2005

Creating Personas

User Interface Engineering - Perfecting Your Personas

  • “A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design.”
  • personas are based on ethnographic interviews with real people
  • when creating a persona (usually captured as a 1-2 page document), describe the following:
    • behaviour patterns
    • goals
    • skills
    • attitudes
    • environment
  • adding a few fictional details makes the persona more lifelike
  • things to keep in mind when designing your personas:
    • personas represent behavior patterns, not job descriptions
    • don’t create too many of them – just enough to illustrate key goals and behaviour patterns
    • your marketing and sales targets may not be your design targets
    • each persona should have three or four important goals that help focus the design
    • tasks are not goals; tasks are a means to accomplish goals
    • personas must be specific to the design problem

See also:

And, taking more of a marketing POV:

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 7:04 pm

Usability Testing Notes

SitePoint - Not The Usual Suspects: How To Recruit Usability Test Participants

  • consider the following when deciding who to recruit:
    • Who was the project designed for?
    • Is there any special equipment, knowledge, or background necessary to appreciate it?
    • How do you want the user to benefit from your site or application?
  • be sure to include people who fit both the current and desired profile of typical site users
  • sampling techniques for finding users:
    • random – entails defining a targeted population of users
    • quota – recruit ‘X’ number of users who meet certain criteria
    • opportunity – “simply position yourself somewhere you are likely to find users who fit your desired criteria, and take your sample from people who are available at the time”
    • snowball – find one or two key people who fit the profile you want and ask them to recommend more
  • (via Column Two)

Good Experience - Four Words to Improve User Research

  • the four words are: “Don’t define tasks beforehand.
  • instead, start by interviewing the user – get an idea of how they relate to and use a product or website; ask them to cite a example of something they’ve done or plan to do
  • then get them to perform the task they just described to you
  • doing it this way means that you won’t be guessing – perhaps incorrectly – how your customers really use the site or product; your tests won’t be skewed toward some hypothetical condition that doesn’t exist in the real world
  • (via GUUUI)

User Interface Engineering - Honing Your Usability Testing Skills: An Interview with Ginny Redish

Some aspects that I find design teams often need help with are:

  • Thinking about the issues – what you want to learn from the usability test
  • Writing good scenarios – that test the web site or product without giving
    away too much
  • Facilitating comfortably – knowing when to talk and when not to, how to
    ask neutral questions, how to keep participants thinking aloud
  • Taking good notes without missing anything critical
  • How to report results so that the right people act on them

My experience over many, many years of that type of usability testing is that you’ll find the major problems with relatively few users (I usually say six to 12 ).

You can use a heuristic evaluation (having one or more experts review the product) to catch major and obvious flaws in a product – if there are any… However, a heuristic evaluation is not an alternative to usability testing. A heuristic evaluation is just a prediction of what users will do. Until you see the real users, you don’t know whether those predictions are right.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 6:19 pm

10 February 2005

Basics of Search Engine Optimisation

456 Berea Street - Basics of search engine optimisation

Good checklist, reiterating much of the usual advice, i.e. use valid semantic markup (including header tags), no frames, text instead of graphics or Flash elements, readable URLs…

Standout bits:

  • on writing descriptive page titles:

    When it comes to the order of the text in the title element, I’ve found that the following works well:

    Document title | Section name | Site or company name

  • resources about generating search engine friendly, human readable URLs:
  • browser detection scripts may inadvertently block search engine spiders and prevent your site from getting indexed
  • most meta tags aren’t of much value, however:

    Some search engines use the contents of the meta description element to describe your site in their search result listings, so if possible, make its contents unique and descriptive for every document.

As the author summarizes:

The ultra-short guide to SEO: add quality content regularly and make sure your site is well-built.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:51 pm

Advantages to Building with Web Standards

Digital Web Magazine - The Dollars and Sense of Building to Standards

  • unless a significant portion of your user base (i.e., both numerically and “commercially” significant) is still browsing with Netscape 4.7 and/or IE 4, you should be coding in XHTML and not HTML4.01
  • dropping support for Netscape 4.7 and IE 4 and 5 results in a time reduction of anywhere from 15-35% in the HTML development phase of Web development
  • using CSS can reduce the cost of updating a design significantly, even for older browsers
  • standardized code is also easier to maintain; this again translates into a cost savings
  • using standardized semantic markup and removing presentation elements from a page also enables search engines to read the content more easily, thus boosting search engine rankings

See also: Search Engine Watch - Web Standards vs. Search Friendly Sites: Can You Have Both?

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:22 pm

Web Authoring Links

IT and communication - Allowed nesting of elements in HTML 4 (and XHTML 1.0)

XHTML 1.0 is, as its subtitle says, “A Reformulation of HTML 4 in XML 1.0″, so the nesting rules are the same as in HTML 4.01. However, there are… differences that affect the nesting rules

Moreover, some of the restrictions on nesting are expressed differently; due to metalanguage differences

Phono Phunk - Managing CSS Hacks

  • separating browser hacks into individual style sheets ensures that the main style sheet will validate; you can also try grouping hacks into separate files for separate browsers
  • (via - Annotating images with CSS

  • various techniques using only CSS and HTML; text in unordered lists appears when you mouse over an image; some nice effects
  • (via - Unobtrusive Javascript

  • techniques for using JavaScript while maintaining accessibility
  • (via paranoidfish)
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 9:45 pm

Managing Defects by Severity and Frequency

Managing Product Development - Managing Defects by Severity and Frequency

I’m familiar with managing defects by severity (how bad the problem is for the user if the user encounters the problem), and by priority (what’s the business value of fixing this problem), but I had lunch yesterday with some folks who use frequency of occurrence to also manage defects.

Here are their definitions:

1 - High: Encountered by many users, including downstream teams, in their normal course of work (> 10% of the user community or > 100 individual users)

2 - Medium: Encountered by some users, including downstream teams, in their normal course of work

3 - Low: Encountered by few users, including downstream teams, in their normal course of work (< 1% of the user community and < 10 individual users)

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 9:01 pm

07 February 2005

When Not to Organize for “Efficiency”

Managing Product Development - Organizing for “Efficiency”:

…assembly line organization isn’t the most efficient for brand new or not-repeatable-work work. In software, every project is unique…

If you’re developing a unique product, don’t bother trying to optimize around when you do which piece. (Don’t bother organizing all the GUI work together as an example.) The lesson is that implementing by slice, implementing one complete feature at a time is more efficient than grouping all like work together.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:20 pm

Sanity checks for feature lists

Cutting Through - Sanity checks for feature lists:

Here’s a simple technique that we use on a regular basis as a ’sanity check’ for the technical requirements of a development project.

  1. If it’s not already been done, write out the functional specifications as a numbered list of requirements.
  2. Do the same for the business requirements that were identified in the earlier stages of the project.
  3. Take each functional requirement in turn and cross-reference it against one or more business requirement. At each iteration, ask yourself “what business benefit does this feature deliver?”
  4. If there are any functional requirements that can’t be linked to a business requirement, ask yourself if it’s needed - and be very sceptical of the answer if it’s “yes".
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 10:11 pm

Creativity and Brainstorming Links

Some notes on good ways to generate ideas…

UIWEB.COM - How to run a brainstorming meeting:

  • Have a specific purpose
  • Know what you want, and what you plan to do with it
  • Know how to facilitate
  • Put the focus on the list
  • Comfort is key
  • Establish the ground rules
  • Postpone criticism

(via Ed Taekema - Road Warrior Collaboration)

Innovation Weblog - Springboard thinking:

“springboarding is turbocharged brainstorming.”

Springboards can include:

  • Redefinitions of the task headline
  • Wishes
  • Starting ideas
  • Challenges to constraints on the problem
  • Random thoughts
  • Feelings or gut level reactions
  • Apparently conflicting points of view

(via Fast Company Now)

mezzoblue - Getting Unstuck: Four tips for getting yourself out of a design jam:

  • Don’t look at another designer’s work if at all possible.
  • Throw a whole bunch of ideas on a canvas and see what sticks.
  • Plan, or improvise. Either way, do your DD (’DD’ is due diligence – things that must happen before a design begins, such as gathering materials like existing branding, project objectives, content, and anything else available)
  • If it’s not working, throw it out.

And where there’s a right way, there’s a wrong way…

Fast Company Now - Ways to Murder an Idea, including:

  • See it coming and quickly change the subject.
  • Ignore it.
  • Feign interest but do nothing about it.
  • Laugh it off.
  • Praise it to death. By the time you have expounded its merits for five minutes everyone else will hate it.
  • Say, “Oh, we’ve tried that before"–even if it’s not true.
  • Come up with a competitive idea.
  • Stall it with any of the following: “We’re not ready for it yet, but in the fullness of time…” – “I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time, but right now…” – “Let’s wait until the new organization has settled down…”

InnovationTools - Six great ways to ruin a brainstorming session

  • Having no clear objectives
  • Too homogenous of a group
  • Letting the boss act as facilitator
  • Allowing early criticism
  • Settling for a few ideas
  • No closure or follow through

Lastly, Dave Pollard has two very lengthy posts on the Creative Problem-Solving Process and where people get their ideas from.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 7:22 pm

04 February 2005

Implementing Online Forms in Corporate Intranets

Step Two Designs - Step-by-step: implementing online forms

Online forms should be a key component of all corporate intranets, as they deliver clear productivity benefits and cost savings. Few organisations, however, have taken the next steps beyond simply publishing forms in PDF format.

  • instead of merely serving as a static repository, an intranet can be used to enable business processes within an organization
  • online forms can speed up both the initial information capture and back-office processing; however, it is more common for people to print out PDFs to be completed and processed by hand
  • companies can use an incremental approach to implementing online forms:
    1. use simple HTML forms to capture information and generate an email
    2. pre-populate some form fields, ideally using information based on a user’s intranent login ID
    3. set up a simple workflow – still email based – with a limited number of steps ; additional code can be added to the initial capture form to provide some “form logic”
    4. implement full workflow and integration, which could be done by:
      • additional custom development of the existing forms
      • using workflow functionality of a CMS or EDM system
      • integration with an “enterprise workflow solution”
  • using the workflow functionality of a CMS is recommended as an effective way of short-cutting the steps noted above
  • addtional suggestions:
    • ensure ’single sign-on’ across all intranet systems
    • forms should be linked with the supporting information/policies
    • forms should appear in search results near the top of the list
⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 3:41 am

Approaches to Laying Out Form Elements on a Web Page

LukeW - Web Application Form Design

  • different schemas can be applied to the layout of form elements on a web page; these schemas lend themselves to supporting different user behaviours/scenarios:
    • vertical alignment of labels and input fields works best in situations where forms should be completed quickly and users are familiar with the content/data to be input into the form
    • horizontal alignment with left-justified input field labels allows users to scan a form quickly to see what information is required; however, this can create gaps between labels and their corresponding form fields, which slows the user down while they ensure that the right information goes in the right field
    • horizontal alignment with right-justified input field labels makes it easy for users to match the form label with the correct form field, but scannability of the labels suffers
  • visual elements such as background colours or rules can be used to group related content in a form, but should be used sparingly
  • elements that represent a primary action associated with a form, such as “Save” or “Submit” button, should have more visual weight that other form elements
  • if a form also has multiple or secondary actions associated with it, these elements should differentiated as well

(via GUUUI)

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 3:04 am

Using Microsoft Excel for Form Prototyping

ID Connections - Simplifying Forms In A Not So Simple World

  • describes the approach taken in translating a very complicated paper-based form into something that was relatively simple to complete online:
    “We started with a complex interface that required very simple technology (a pencil or a keyboard) to fill out and turned it into a very simple interface with a much more complex back end supporting it.”
  • prototyping was done using Microsoft Excel; advantages to doing this were:

    starting in Excel allowed us to make a workable prototype using tools we could handle ourselves. If we hired a programmer to make a web application, we still would have had to go through the same design process to develop the pieces of the product…

    By focusing on a doable prototype, we were able to get tangible results quickly.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 3:03 am

Identity Theft, Online Scams, and Password Failure

Computerworld - FTC: Identity theft, online scams rose in ‘04

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said it received 635,000 consumer complaints in 2004, as criminals sold nonexistent products through online auction sites or went shopping with stolen credit cards. Identity theft – the practice of running up bills or committing crimes in someone else’s name – topped the list with 247,000 complaints, up 15% from 2003.

Technology Review - The Password Is Fayleyure

Today’s password authentication schemes are little more than security placebos. They perversely inspire abuse, misuse, and criminal mischief by deliberately making users the weakest link in the security chain. Greater teleprocessing power has made stealing or cracking password sequences ever faster, better, and cheaper.

(via Tomalak’s Realm)

Update: Here are some tips for making up passwords that are relatively easy to remember, but difficult to guess…

Cutting Through - Secure passwords with nursery rhymes

Take a phrase or saying, or perhaps a line from a song that you can remember readily, then type the first letter of each word as you say it to yourself… You can make it even more secure by throwing in a few number / character substitutions - zeros for the letter ‘o’, for example.

Eric’s Archived Thoughts - Password Production

The general idea is to pick a two-word combination you can easily remember (and) interleave the words… In cases where your two words have different lengths, you can always tack on numbers.

(via Cutting Through)

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 1:58 am

03 February 2005

Tips for Writing CSS

Position Is Everything - How To write Efficient CSS

One of the touted benefits of CSS is that it reduces total page weight, and thus download time, both at first page load, and even more on subsequent loads due to style sheet caching. This is true, but often a sizable fraction of the first load savings is lost because of highly redundant CSS code.

(via xBlog)

mezzoblue - Redundancy vs. Dependency

CSS forces you to make a choice in your coding techniques, a choice that becomes more obvious the larger a site grows. As the amount of variance between different templates increases, you can go in one of two directions: you can either code for redundancy, or code for dependency.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 8:25 pm

02 February 2005

Spam Notes

The Register - Interview with a link spammer

For even a semi-competent programmer, writing programs that will link-spam vulnerable websites and blogs is pretty easy. All you need is a list of blogs - which again, even a semi-competent programmer will be able to pull together (by searching for sites with keywords such as “Wordpress", “Movable Type” and “Blogger") a huge list of blogs to hit.

(via Jeremy Zawodny’s Linkblog)

Datamation - Can Antispammers Win the War?

Although many antispam experts have criticized the U.S. CAN SPAM Act as too weak, Prince notes that the act includes an absolute prohibition against two techniques spammers depend upon to acquire addresses in the first place. These are harvesting attacks (where spammers use harvesting software to collect addresses from pages at random), and dictionary attacks, in which spammers send messages to random addresses to learn which ones are active.

Fast Company - The Dirty Little Secret About Spam

What the good guys want and what the bad guys want are more or less the same thing. J.P. Morgan Chase and Kraft U.S.A. promote credit cards and coffee in ways that aren’t so different from the tactics employed by anonymous peddlers of porn and gambling. “Legitimate” marketers would rather the spammers disappear – but not if that means quashing the opportunity that both groups enjoy.

⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 12:57 am

01 February 2005

Object Orientation and UML Introduction

Two series of introductory articles from

Object Orientation:


⇒ Filed under:  by jen @ 9:51 pm

© Jennifer Vetterli, 2005