Archive for October, 2005

Usability of MTN site

Posted on the October 31st, 2005 under Uncategorized by

Having to send a quick SMS, I logged into the MTN site. And though it took less than two minutes, there are a few things to be shared from a usability perspective.

Firstly, be careful when using smart names for navigation and menus. The navigation terms are ‘awesome’, but not confidence inspiring. Kept thinking at the back of my mind, ‘Would this mean …’? As Steve Krug puts it, Don’t make me think!

More interesting, was the screen to send the SMS as shown below:

Notice the buttons below: ‘Clear’ is nice and big with a background colour. ‘Send’ is smaller with a dull gray background. I’m highlighting this in particular since I nearly clicked on the bigger button.

Now I know telecommunications in South Africa is damn expensive, but is this not a consciously unethical approach to discourage users from sending SMS’s – designing counter-intuitive interfaces on purpose to save some bucks.

It’s probably a misjudgement on their side, but I can swear that some people really do design interfaces to make users scream.

In any case, I’ve also taken a lesson from their use of colours in buttons. Could this be used (CSS-style) to further enhance usability of an interface, highlight the button users will/should click on next?

Why Protect Israel?

Posted on the October 28th, 2005 under Palestine by

There has been huge outcry following Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement that “Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth”. Much of this is, of course, a subjective ulterior response to the current nuclear standoff.

I ask myself “Why protect Israel?” and why no similar outcry when Israel:

  • Disregards the International Court of Justice (ICJ) particularly in its construction of the apartheid wall. (Israel does not accept ICJ jurisdiction in any case – so there is a case for hypocrisy, as Israel doesn’t play by the rules. Wonder what would happen if another country tried the same).
  • Continuously abets the destruction of a World Heritage Site – the Old City of Jerusalem. Their plans to destroy it and replace with a temple are unashamedly advertised.
  • Continuously violates the airspace of others, yet was alarmed and ran screaming when Hizbollah retaliated and did the same using an unmanned drone.
  • Stands in violation of numerous United Nations resolutions.
  • Practices religious discrimination. Access to the Masjid-ul-Aqsa is restricted. Access to the Ibrahimi Masjid was totally denied this Ramadaan. Lets not forget the Masjids that were converted into stables and night clubs.
  • Continuously assassinates Palestinian leaders.
  • Engages in gross human rights violations and numerous massacres. It has tortured legalized, and practices extra-judicial collective punishment. For this purpose, it has recently received 300 specially trained dogs from the USA.
  • Has, especially of late, interfered in Palestinian elections by arresting hundreds of undesirable candidates to setup an subservient ‘peace and negotiating partner’.

But in reality, public opinion is against Israel, despite their efforts. Since no matter how much PR exercises they engage in, there is one source of public opinion they cannot change or win. That is: moral conscience.

Itikaaf in Al-Aqsa, Palestine

Posted on the October 25th, 2005 under Uncategorized by

It is now the last ten days of Ramadaan and it is popular to find many people performing I’tikaaf in Masjids. I’tikaaf is a ‘spiritual retreat’ where for the fixed period, people live and stay in the Masjids. They spend their time in devotion and prayer.

But it seems that in Palestine there is a more urgent need for I’tikaaf to be performed – to save the Masjidul Aqsa from destruction from Jewish vandals and fanatics.

A Holy Place, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is in danger and yet they seem oblivious to it. In addition, one finds a shameless frankness of Jewish groups to this evil intention. Anyone in doubt or denial should note that their corner stone already exists.

See: http://www.palestine-info.co.uk/am/publish/article_15050.shtml

TIBET Enterprise-Class AJAX

Posted on the October 18th, 2005 under Uncategorized by

Here’s an interesting project worth watching out for. The Tibet Enterprise-Class AJAX intends offering:

  • W3C standards-based authoring to avoid vendor lock-in and increase interoperability,
  • multiple widget and server API integration to support heterogenous environments,
  • standalone operation plus synchronization to support an increasingly mobile workforce,
  • end-to-end data security capability using an acknowledged security standard,
  • localization of content to support a diverse world-wide user community,
  • standards-based support for integrating real-time data, IM, and workflow events,
  • a robust unit testing framework to ensure quality throughout the application lifecycle.
http://www.technicalpursuit.com/ajax.htm

According to the project, Brendan Eich, JavaScript’s creator and head of the Mozilla project had this reaction:

“I am your humble servant, and in awe of what you’ve done with JS.”

Now this is the type forward-thinking that will take the web forward. Push the web to the limits and see how much additional value we could extract from this.

At the moment I’m doing some research on semantic web and opportunities for immediate implementation. Will report on this…

Has Ajax ruffled Web Standards?

Posted on the October 14th, 2005 under Uncategorized by

Ajax is great, but does it conform to web standards? This is tantamount to asking – is it legal? (Islamically – is it Halaal to use?)

Manton Reece hits the nail on the head when he writes:

We’ve got to drop this “web standards” holy war and just get on with building next generation apps.

http://www.manton.org/2005/02/ajax_flash.html

The question could well be asked: “Is web standards keeping the web from its true potential?” Many feel that web standards and the W3C moves too slowly. The keep defining the common ground, not truly taking the web forward.

On the positive side, its seems that web standards have been forced to relook the issue of Ajax. The Web Standards Project has set up a taskforce to look at DOM Scripting. In its own way, the W3C held a discussion on it. http://www.w3.org/2005/07/05-tagmem-minutes.html

The bottom line would be an individual answer to: What do you want the web to be you? If you want the web to be accessible, go web standards. If you want the web to be interactive, go Ajax. Many developers are asking: Can we have the web accessible and interactive

Getting Innodb on Xampp for Windows

Posted on the October 12th, 2005 under Uncategorized by

I thought switching to Xampp would allow me to be exposed to other languages such as Python and Perl, but alas it seems not to have been so yet.

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying to get innodb tables to work on Xampp, without much luck until today. I went from forum to forum, tried everything and was on the verge of giving up and doing a normal separate installation. Worst of all, it came down to one character!

On this forum for example, it says:

Go to your mysql/bin folder and edit the “my” file and uncomment the innodb lines —

skip-innodb
# Uncomment the following if you are using InnoDB tables
innodb_data_home_dir = e:/apachefriends/xampp/mysql/
innodb_data_file_path = ibdata1:10M:autoextend
innodb_log_group_home_dir = e:/apachefriends/xampp/mysql/
innodb_log_arch_dir = e:/apachefriends/xampp/mysql/

The last step in all of this should be comment skip-innodb, so the final listing will look like this:

#skip-innodb
# Uncomment the following if you are using InnoDB tables
innodb_data_home_dir = e:/apachefriends/xampp/mysql/
innodb_data_file_path = ibdata1:10M:autoextend
innodb_log_group_home_dir = e:/apachefriends/xampp/mysql/
innodb_log_arch_dir = e:/apachefriends/xampp/mysql/

Thank God I managed to get this to work, as well as Python now. The steps for that is much much more clearer.

Linux is its Own Greatest Enemy

Posted on the October 12th, 2005 under Uncategorized by

And a greater enemy than that could be said to be its users/advocates!

Nope, this isn’t some pro-Microsoft, anti Linux gibberish. It’s time Linux users rethink their strategy or lose the battle before its even begun.

Yesterday, I had to sit in a workshop and observe the agony of trying to get PHP, Apache and MySQL installed on PCs with Mandrake Linux. First it’s the mount the dvdrom, setup media drives, select path, select relative path – and the list continues…

But worst than this is the attitude of Linux users to beginners! No, the above is not straightforward, no, it is not easy, and no, it is complicated!

What could be a learning experience, a potentially enlightening experience becomes one of arrogance and snobbishness. Linux might be a better product, but they have the worst salespeople. And this, in the end, will affect the open source movement.

Lets admit, people chose software for productivity, not philosophy. If you are comfortable at command line, do not expect others to have the same feelings. Unless Linux and the open source movement can offer a better alternative to Windows in more spheres than just price, don’t expect a victory soon.

Worst of all, don’t let Linux be a source of belittling of people. If it does, its ‘social benefits’ is nothing more than first class rubbish!

Agile Software Development Process

Posted on the October 9th, 2005 under Uncategorized by

The Contact Trust project has finally been completed. In the last few weeks, there was rapid progress owing subconsciously to the Agile Software Development Process.

I’ve had to reflect on why this latter stage was so productive, the project seemingly dragging and embarrassing. The Agile Software Development Process, as I’ve hopefully read correctly, proposes being in continuous (read weekly) touch with the client, even showing them incomplete work.

This way the client is constantly aware of what is going on, gets a glimpse of the development challenges, earlier review and prototype opportunities, recommends changes in the initial stages, etc. – in essence, grow with the project.

The opposite of this is the system of doing work for a few weeks, and then showing some of the completed work to the client. This pitfalls of this approach is that development is done first and the client reviews. When expectations are not met, it often means a re-development, back stepping, side stepping, no stepping, etc.

I’m yet to go thoroughly through the Agile Development Process, but it seems worth, if not necessary. When adopted in the latter stages with practically daily communication, productivity and progress was imminent. But sadly, its only in a mess that process and project management is appreciated.

Ramadaan Mubarak to All

Posted on the October 9th, 2005 under Uncategorized by

Its been a while now since my last blog, and whilst having some thoughts to share, my workload didn’t allow to me blog them down.

Some reflections on Ramadaan based on the Jumu’ah talk at UWC on Friday:

– We should never see Zakaat or Fitrah (or Sadaqah for that matter) in terms of the financial implications paying these will have on our budget. Anything that we give for the sake of Allah will not go unnoticed by Him, and reciprocated in a better fashion, Insha Allah.

– Now in the month of fasting, there are those who ‘continue fasting’ in light of the rewards (or punishment for not fasting) we will receive. Why do not we not see our ability to walk, talk, see, interact, etc. as our rewards? Why do we not fast for the purpose that we have already been rewarded.

Our Ibadah (acts of devotion) should not for rewards we will receive but blessings we have already received!

PS. Makes me appreciate the story Rabia al-Basri more and why she was such a marvelous woman.