Big Tech Is Testing You
> Large-scale social experiments are now ubiquitous, and conducted without public scrutiny. Has this new era of experimentation remembered the lessons of the old?
> Physics, chemistry, and medicine have had their revolution. But now, driven by experimentation, a further transformation is in the air. That’s the argument of “The Power of Experiments” (M.I.T.), by Michael Luca and Max H. Bazerman, both professors at the Harvard Business School. When it comes to driving our decisions in a world of data, they say, “the age of experiments is only beginning.”
Don't touch my clipboard
> You can (but shouldn’t) change how people copy text from your website.
Autocomplete as an interface
> I’m used to thinking of autocomplete as a convenience tool that saves you a few keystrokes, but it’s much more than that. Good autocompletion has become a driving factor in which tools I choose. If I were writing a sophisticated user interface today—say, a programming language or a complex application—autocompletion is one of the primary constraints I would design it around. It’s that important.
gter - a terminal for GUI apps
A shell may be more accurate?
Boosting the Real Time Performance of Gnome Shell 3.34 in Ubuntu 19.10
> As you may have read many times, Gnome 3.34 brings much improved desktop performance. In this article we will describe some of the improvements contributed by Canonical, how the problems were surprising, how they were approached and what other performance work is coming in future.
> The thing is in the case of Gnome Shell its biggest performance problems of late were not hot spots at all. They were better characterised as cold spots where it was idle instead of updating the screen smoothly. Such cold spots are only apparent when you look at the real time usage of a program, and in not the CPU or GPU time consumed.
Nice write-up on addressing stuttering and lag.
Towards a unified theory of reactive UI
> In trying to figure out the best reactive structure for druid, as well as how to communicate that to the world, I’ve been studying a wide range of reactive UI systems. I’ve found an incredible diversity, even though they have fairly consistent goals. This post is an attempt to find common patterns, to characterize the design space as a whole. It will be rough, at some points almost a stream of consciousness. If I had the time and energy, I think it could be expanded into an academic paper. But, for now, perhaps these rough thoughts are interesting to some people working in the space.
My name causes an issue with any booking
> Whenever I get a ticket through an agent and they put my first name as Amr, it lands as A only in the Airlines system. That happened with many airlines and different agents. That is pretty much annoying, specially during the online check-in.
> In the case of a Travel Agency connected to Amadeus, for example, this means that they are likely using ATE: the Amadeus Terminal Emulator, which as the name implies emulates the terminals of old.
> Check the Quick Reference Guide, p. 33 on how to create a PNR:
> NM1SMITH/JOHN MR
> Using a space, the parsing is unambiguous, however not all agents put a space
Evolution of the Scrollbar
And the Verge review: https://www.theverge.com/2019/11/1/20943552/scroll-bar-visual-history-30-years
> Sébastien Matos has built a fantastic interactive trip through the history of one of the most important UI elements we encounter every day: the scroll bar. He’s recreated, as faithfully as possible, 30 years of scroll bars from some of the top desktop platforms of their day, from Xerox Star to Windows 10.
> Take a minute out of your busy day to enjoy the zen of playing with old UI design. Then come back here and read The Verge’s very serious review of scroll bars through history.
Text Editing Hates You Too
> Alexis Beingessner’s Text Rendering Hates You, published exactly a month ago today, hits very close to my heart.
> Back in 2017, I was building a rich text editor in the browser. Unsatisfied with existing libraries that used ContentEditable, I thought to myself “hey, I’ll just reimplement text selection myself! How difficult could it possibly be?” I was young. Naive. I estimated it would take two weeks. In reality, attempting to solve this problem would consume several years of my life, and even landed me a full time job for a year implementing text editing for a new operating system.
> Here’s a fun, personal story about what can go wrong in an otherwise fine UI when things are redesigned.
> Why didn’t she know there were options further down the share sheet? Because she’s using an iPhone 8, which happens to be just the right height to perfectly crop the share sheet.
Relearn CSS layout
> If you find yourself wrestling with CSS layout, it’s likely you’re making decisions for browsers they should be making themselves. Through a series of simple, composable layouts, Every Layout will teach you how to better harness the built-in algorithms that power browsers and CSS.
Some free, some pay.
Remote Code Execution in Firefox beyond memory corruptions
> Browsers are complicated enough to have attack surface beyond memory safety issues. This talk will look into injection flaws in the user interface of Mozilla Firefox, which is implemented in JS, HTML, and an XML-dialect called XUL. With an Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) in the user interface attackers can execute arbitrary code in the context of the main browser application process. This allows for cross-platform exploits of high reliability. The talk discusses past vulnerabilities and will also suggest mitigations that benefit Single Page Applications and other platforms that may suffer from DOM-based XSS, like Electron.
Taskbar Latency and Kernel Calls
> I work quickly on my computer and I get frustrated when I am forced to wait on an operation that should be fast. A persistent nuisance on my over-powered home laptop is that closing windows on the taskbar is slow. I right-click on an entry, wait for the menu to appear, and then select “Close window”. The mouse movement should be the slow part of this but instead I find that the delay before the menu appears is the longest component.
> What this says is that, over the course of two right-mouse clicks, RuntimeBroker.exe, thread 10,252, issued 229,604 ReadFile calls, reading a total of 15,686,586 bytes. That is an average read of 68 bytes each time.
In Memoriam: J. C. R. Licklider
Two papers. Man-Computer Symbiosis and The Computer as a Communication Device.
The first argues for interactive systems. The computer can’t be an extension of our mind if it’s not responsive.
The second is a vision for networked communications. It sounds a lot like today, but more optimistic. Where did we go wrong?
How to Design Interruptions
> We’re alerted hundreds of times per day. Some are useful and non-invasive, like an oven burner turning orange when it’s hot. Some are needed, like a critical security update, while others are just generally helpful, like a feature suggesting something new. But when they appear at inopportune moments, even the most useful notifications often have detrimental results like anxiety, frustration, and reduced productivity. While a pop-up might be nearly invisible to one person, to another it might stop a critical task completely for hours. We must examine when our communications are helpful vs. harmful.
Basic Custom Control Requirements
> If you are working on a custom control, a complex widget, or a novel interface element to integrate into a project, library, or framework, there are some core features you need to build.
> These represent not just what works for users across the most contexts and preferences, but also what usability, accessibility, and internationalization practitioners (among many others) review to evaluate whether a solution can be used (purchased, integrated, discarded).
High-performance input handling on the web
> There is a class of UI performance problems that arise from the following situation: An input event is firing faster than the browser can paint frames.
> In a previous post, I discussed Lodash’s debounce and throttle functions, which I find very useful for these kinds of situations. Recently however, I found a pattern I like even better, so I want to discuss that here.
Follow up: https://nolanlawson.com/2019/08/14/browsers-input-events-and-frame-throttling/
One core problem with DNSSEC
> One fundamental problem of DNSSEC today is that it suffers from the false positive problem, the same one that security alerts suffer from. In practice today, for almost all people almost all of the time, a DNSSEC failure is not a genuine attack; it is a configuration mistake, and the configuration mistake is almost never on the side making the DNS query. This means that almost all of the time, DNSSEC acts by stopping you from doing something safe that you want to do and further, you can’t fix the DNSSEC problem except by turning off DNSSEC, because it’s someone else’s mistake (in configuration, in operation, or in whatever).
> Many ambulances now have electronic PCRs, which fix a lot of these problems. The report is automatically filed with the hospital. The software can enter timestamps and fill in necessary boilerplate. By spellchecking known medications it saves time at the hospital. Nobody has to guess whether you scrawled “100mg” or “160mg”.
> The ambulance I shadowed had an ePCR. Nobody used it. I talked to the EMTs about this, and they said nobody they knew used it either. Lack of training? «No, we all got trained.» Crippling bugs? No, it worked fine. Paper was good enough? No, the ePCR was much better than paper PCRs in almost every way. It just had one problem: it was too slow.