Tuesday, April 29, 2008

ACM Author Profile pages

ACM recently announced the creation of Author Profile pages in their digital library. This is a nice addition to the DL since it shows bibliometric data for the author, including the number of times his/her papers have been downloaded. Authors also have the ability to add their photograph, a link to their website, and email address. My author page is on the left.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

GUI Blooper: Windows Calculator

It just occurred to me this afternoon that Window's standard calculator application has a "GUI blooper". Can you spot it? Hint: It has something to do with multiplication.

The blooper is the use of the asterisk (*) symbol for multiplication instead of the traditional x symbol. Look at any calculator, physical or virtual, and you'll always see the x symbol used. My guess is very few non-technical people know * stands for multiplication, and the only way they figure it out is by process of elimination.

So why does Windows use *? Practically every programming language out there uses * for multiplying, thanks to the yahoos who forgot (chose not) to include a multiplication symbol in ASCII. So to the programmers who wrote the Windows calculator, using * seemed only natural. I just wonder how this got past their usability experts.

Update on 4/28/08:

Dustin makes a good point in the comments below that Microsoft was likely just mapping the symbols from the number pad. Consistency is a key to good UI design. But, I think the carrying the limitation of the keyboard into the GUI isn't the best decision. It would be like only allowing the OS to have 12 major functions because there are only 12 function (F) keys on the keyboard.

Friday, April 25, 2008


My 5 items of interest for the week:
  1. This is very cool: Google News now shows quotes taken from news sources. What has John McCain been saying recently?

  2. Udi Manber, VP of search quality at Google, answers 20 questions about web search. (I made my search engine class read this.)

  3. Researchers at University of California, Santa Cruz are working on long-term archiving using disks rather than tape. Their system, Pergamum, "is a distributed network of intelligent, disk-based, storage appliances that stores data reliably and energy-efficiently."

  4. Video games are becoming a big business ($9.5 billion last year in the US), and universities are listening, creating degree programs for game developers.

  5. Microsoft worked so hard to get their Office Open XML (OOXML) standardize accepted by ISO. And now the bad news: Office 2007 doesn't produce documents that adheres to their standard. My guess is the next service pack changes the file format so it does conform.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"Move Over" law is being enforced in Arkansas

While driving through Pocahontas, Arkansas, on Hwy 64, Becky and I encountered a police officer on the side of the road giving someone a ticket. We were in the right lane close to the two cars, so I snugged the left side of the lane to give them plenty of room. I could have moved over a lane, but there wasn't any need since they had plenty of space.

A few minutes later the same police car was tailing us with his lights on. After being pulled over, we were told that we had vilolated the law because we did not move over a lane when driving past him. I couldn't believe it. This was a law?

Now you would think the officer would have checked his records and seen that I had never received a ticket in my life. "Hmm... this is a law abiding citizen... maybe I should just give him a warning since he's the kind of person who will follow the law now that he knows about it." Instead, he gave me a whopping ticket.

I could say more about the ridiculousness of getting ticketed for this offense, but instead I just want everyone to know: you must pull into the other lane whenever you pass a police car, ambulance, etc. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dad's Retirement

Becky, Ethan, and I drove up to St. Louis yesterday to surprise my father. He was retiring today and was being honored with a surprise luncheon. 35 years in city administration... wow.

When we first arrived at the lunch, we hid out in the kitchen. The Mayor was standing with my dad in front of the group of city employees. When given the signal, Becky and I emerged from the kitchen (I was carrying Ethan) along with Mom, and we walked up to where Dad was standing. He almost lost it.

We presented him with a map of the world where he can place pins showing where he has been. He was also presented with a Cowboys golf bag and a number of other gifts.

We ate a nice lunch while Dad showed off his grandson, and a number of people told me how Dad was seriously the best city administrator they had ever worked for. It was really neat seeing how great a job Dad has done in Wentzville. I hope the same can be said about me when I retire some 30 years from now.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Today I'm stuck at home trying to recover from the latest disease Ethan has brought home. Here's my 5 items of interest for the week:
  1. Google recently announced their newest attempt at crawling the Deep Web. When their crawler sees a form on a "high-quality site", it enters words and selects various checkboxes and radio buttons. The form is then submitted, and the resulting page is crawled. Very cool. Google also announced the Google App Engine. It's a service that allows you to run your web applications on Google's infrastructure so it can grow to accommodate a large amount of traffic. It's a free service until it exceeds a set disk space and bandwidth quota. Unfortunately, there's a limit of 10,000 developers, and I wasn't quick enough to sign up, so I'll have to wait until they increase the limit.

  2. Joel De Young, one of our Harding CS graduates, was recently interviewed about his company's newest game: Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-slick Precipice of Darkness. Sounds like Joel's HotheadGames is making some buzz.

  3. A study by Univ of Minnesota researchers shows there are two indicators that determine how good of an answer you will receive when posting to question-and-answer sites like Yahoo! Answers: how much you pay, and how many responses you receive.

  4. Jansen, Booth, and Spink have developed a system which can automatically classify a search query as navigational, transactional, and informational. They used their classifier on a large dataset of search engine queries and were accurate 74% of the time. Based on their results, approximately 80% of all search engine queries are informational, 10% transactional, and 10% informational.

  5. Congratulations to the Harding Programming Team on their first place finish at CCSC-MS. We showed them Razorbacks how to program... wink

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My brother is a married man

Congratulations to John and Mindy on their marriage last Saturday in Dallas. They had a really nice wedding in the backyard of a friend, and the whole family was able to attend. It's hard to believe my brother is finally married... now my sister is the only single sibling left!

Friday, April 04, 2008


I'm headed to Dallas today for my brother's wedding! Before I leave, my pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Despite the controversy, it looks like Microsoft's Office Open XML will be ratified as an ISO standard.

  2. Adobe has interesting news about Photoshop CS4: it will run on 64-bit Windows but not 64-bit Mac. This is a good article to read about the concerns of developing cross-platform software. (Thanks, Allan)

  3. Have you been rickrolled yet?

  4. Is Google in a slide?

  5. Three days ago was of course April Fool's (and my father's birthday- any relationship? wink). I pulled a joke on a fellow colleague, but nothing that would make this list. The best joke I saw was on Wikipedia. Anyone else have a favorite?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools

I guess it's time I came clean. Michael, you're on Facebook! And you're one popular guy... already 26 friends!

Please don't turn me into the Facebook police. wink

Update on 4/3/2008:

Michael said he thought this was a pretty funny joke, and he promised to login once a year on April 1 to see if anything has changed. So if any of you want to be his friend, send in a request. I'll check his Facebook account about once a month and answer any outstanding friend requests. Let's see if we can push his friends count at least to 100 by April 1, 2009!