Porcupyn's Blog

September 20, 2009

When the GUI interferes with the user graphically … and other pet peeves

Filed under: Uncategorized — Porcupyn @ 8:35 pm

[Long, meandering post alert]

Recently, my not-so-computer-savvy* mother tried to compose an e-mail to my sibling and was unable to find the Compose E-mail link/button in its customary position (next to the Check E-mail link/button when you log into Yahoo! E-mail). Defeated, she pottered around for a few minutes and then, to her credit, remembered that she could open one of the e-mails my sibling had written her, and respond to it.

After learning about her experience, I paid special attention to where the Compose button used to be and noticed that it has now been replaced by a demure looking New button which defaults to Compose E-mail. For whatever reason, I had seamlessly managed to transition to the new interface without even realizing that this change had been implemented.

On the other hand, I endured a lot of grief because Yahoo! switched the position of the Logout link and the Yahoo! (main page) link within Yahoo! E-mail. For those who might have transitioned into that change seamlessly, I need to explain that previously, the Logout used to be on the top right side of the screen and the Yahoo! (main page) link used to be on the top left side, and I had gotten used to moving between my e-mail and the main page using that link. I am still trying to unlearn that habit.

Which brings me to the burning question or pet peeve: Why the changes? And why the changes without a good explanation in an e-mail at least. Ah! I get it – maybe the e-mail from Yahoo! to me, my mother and other users went to the corresponding Junk/Bulk E-mail folder (which is where sometimes the e-mails that I cc: to myself end up too). That sure explains it.

Next on my hit list – Yahoo! (again) and Google Chrome. Because of frequent issues with Internet Explorer and recommendation from friends, I switched to Firefox a year or so ago. Everything was hunky dory until a recent upgrade (I assume) of either Firefox or Yahoo! E-mail – or a combination of both – that resulted in the browser (and all its tabs) freezing when a Yahoo! E-mail was opened. In keeping with my promise to stick with Firefox until hell froze over, I had to escape from Firefox. The only other reasonable option was Chrome (if you read more of this post, you will probably realize that I might have to start using Safari soon!).

So, here I am, merrily typing an e-mail in Yahoo!, when I suddenly get the urge to add a second recipient. Alt-tab thrice (again, by habit) typically takes me back from the e-mail body to the “To” field. Oh no! Chrome does not like that – not only was I still in the e-mail body, but I was three tabs down from the last word I typed. How difficult is it for Google/Chrome to provide a consistent user experience (especially when you are the almighty Google)??!!

Last but not the least, just one more – iPod. As my friends know, I am not a big fan of the latest Tech toy/fad (with the exception of the Wii, which I fell in love with the first time I laid hands on it). By happenstance, I acquired an iPod touch a couple of months ago. After worshiping it for a week, I opened it and spent a couple of days loading a few photos onto it. Traumatized by the experience, I returned it to its sanctum sanctorum and got busy with life.

A few days ago, I decided that I really need to master the iPod and checked out the iPod For Dummies book from the local library. Armed with it, I thought it should be a piece of cake. No sirree baab! It took me a whole day and help from a few friends to finally figure out what I had done wrong (not today but when I had first taken it out) – I had not done a clean install of iTunes. How did I finally realize that that was the issue?

Well, as advised by friends, when I started re-installing iTunes on a different PC, I remembered something! During the previous install of iTunes, I had purposely denied internet access to some of the quirky named services because their names had made no sense to me and I was unsure of how or why or whether they were really connected to the iTunes install.

Somebody tell me – what would an executable file called Bonjour.exe, for instance, have to do with iTunes?? I would have assumed that Steve Jobs and his friendly Mac dudes could figure out that files related to iTunes should be named somewhat similarly. I wouldn’t have minded bach.exe or mozart.exe but bonjour.exe? Pardon my French (or lack thereof!), but I would really need to google it to even know the exact dictionary meaning!

And what is with this “Sync”ing feeling that I get each time I connect my iPod to my PC? If I have a few photos on one PC and a few different ones on a different PC, why can I not “inherit” both onto my iPod? Why should it be only one or the other? And why can I not copy the photos back from the iPod onto the PC? I get it – the answer is probably OOPs! πŸ˜‰

PS: Like one of my friends pointed out, this might just be a iPod-PC interface issue; everything probably would’ve worked fine if I had been using a Mac instead of a PC.

* = this is not really a reflection on her, rather on the poor infrastructure – frequent power cuts and lack of uninterrupted internet access – which, coupled with the use-it-or-lose-it paradigm, handicap her.



  1. I’ve been going through way too many interface changes ever since switching from XP to Ubuntu. Not only is the office suite different, the good old Outlook was first replaced with Evolution (to help me sync my calendar/contacts with Palm) but after going through problems with that email client of various kind, I moved to Thunderbird – which is different but behaving itself. File manager on it is different too! Like you, I’m also a new possessor of an iPod Touch and if it wasn’t for my techie husband’s vision and tweaking, I’d just be swiping the screen to view its inbuilt wallpapers. In 2 weeks of owning it, I’m able to collect email on it (using wifi) from my 3 email accounts, listen to 2 GB of Hindi and Western music, read ebooks (in Stanza that has a nice real page-turn interface), check my twitter updates and of course play snakes n ladders, tick-tack-toe and several other games (free downloads from itune store) on it πŸ™‚

    Comment by Jyoti — October 6, 2009 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

  2. Jyoti:

    For what it is worth, I am yet to experiment with anything outside of good old Microsoft. So I have not experienced the differences you describe.

    We have not used WiFi at home yet, so did not use the iPodTouch in that manner; however, I did get to use it at the local airport, where I loved it. But at least Mrs. Porcupyn has discovered the art of uploading videos to the device, so she is happy. Baab and Katya are playing Jezzball; Baab will likely move up to Chess, Sudoku, Minesweeper etc shortly. I highly recommend Jezzball, though because the free version has only three levels, you will likely be bored very soon. You should get the “advanced/original version” for the computer – also free – online. Mrs. P and I were majorly addicted with this game in the late 1990s and then got sidetracked.

    Here is a site that tracks/tracked what the record scores were!

    Comment by porcupyn — November 4, 2009 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

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