Unistalled Windows Vista!

If you are thinking of installing Vista, don’t! It is easily the biggest waste of time and money ever. Their campaign should really focus on the “Wow! now that’s total crap” factor. Easily the most counter productivepiece of software I have ever used. After using it for 6 months I swear I was about to throw my laptop against the wall. I don’t usually experience frustration with software, but Windows Vista just goes too far. It’s slow, even with all the glitz turned off, and nothing works properly: could not print as the spooler service would constantly crash on start-up, explorer.exe constantly crashed, slow, slow, system freezes, more slowness, would not come back from sleep mode, argh I get angry just thinking about it!!!

I instead reverted back to WindowsXP (which we have now dubbed “the workhorse”). Out of frustration I also installed Ubuntu, hoping to free myself from Microsoft… alas, Linux still has a few years to go. The world is rosey again 🙂

Dynamically loading Google Analytics

I finally finished the Creative Industries Newswire website. The Creative Industries Newswire is a centralized place where authorized QUT staff members can author and publish news items. It is a place where users can access those news items, leave comments, and subscribe to individual news wires via RSS. It basically runs off WordPress.

Creative Industries newswire homepage.

A few interesting issues that emerged with relation to using Google analytics. The issue with this website is that it is used by both public users and users on an intranet. Intranet users at QUT may be authenticated to access resources on the intranet (such as the newswire website), but not resources on the internet. When an unauthenticated users tries to load a page with the following Google-provided code the browser attempts to load the script but eventually times out. This can take around to 60 odd seconds in Firefox (or something close to that, not sure exactly how long). The implication is that, to the user, the browser looks as if it is still loading content. And in the browser, it does not execute the
<script> tags. Below is the problematic code that Google provides:

<script src="http://www.google-analytics.com/urchin.js"  type="text/javascript">
<script type="text/javascript">
   _uacct = "UA-XXXXXX-1"; urchinTracker();

Looking at the code above, what essentially happens is:

  1. urchin.js needs to load synchronously and block the second script tag from running
  2. once loaded, the code inside the second script element must be run
  3. if the code is run without the script first loading, then the urchinTracker() method will be undefined.

So, like I already stated, in the intranet scenario, the urchinTracker() method is never called because urchin.js is never loaded. To make the whole process a bit more “behind-the-scenes” I decided to recode the Google code so that it is run only once the document has executed it “onload” function. The following simply dynamically appends the DOM with a script element AFTER the document has loaded. If the script element can reach its src, then analytics info is sent to Google, otherwise, nothing happens:

window.onload = function(){
   var scriptLoadFunction = function(){
   _uacct = "UA-XXXXX-X";
var e = loadScript("https://ssl.google-analytics.com/urchin.js", scriptLoadFunction);

function loadScript(url,aFunction){
var e = document.createElement("script");
}else{ //try to force IE to work, but alas, it does not.
e.src = url;
return e;

The code works great in Firefox 2.0 but does not work in IE6 or IE7 (as IE does not support the addEventListener() function). If anyone has a work around to this problem, I’ll like to hear about it.

Designing Visual Interfaces

Today I am reading Designing Visual Interfaces: communication oriented techniques by Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano.

Here are some gems

Visual Design attempts to solve communication problems in a way that is at once functionally effective and aesthetically pleasing. (p1)

By communication, we mean the full process by which the behaviour of one goal-seeking entity comes to be affected by that of another through the reciprocal exchange of messages or signs over some mediating physical channel.p1

The goal of communcation-oriented design is to develop a message that can be accuratley transmitted and correctly interpreted, and which will produce the desired bhavioral outcome after it have been understood by its recipient.p2

We refer frequently to a visual language, by which we mean the visual characteristics (shape, size, position, orientation, color, texture, etc.) of a particular set of design elements (point, line, plane, volume, etc.) and the away they are related to one another (balance, thythm, structure, proportion, etc) in solving a particular problem. Any language system defines both a universe of possible signs and a set of rules for using them. Every visual language thus has a formal vocabulary containing the basic design elements from which higher-level representations are assembled, and a visual syntax describing how elements may be combined within that system.

In the context of GUI toolkits, “…most toolkits impose unnecessary design restrictions as a side effect of their own implementation or internal structure.”p4

Basic principles of visual organisation developed through centuries of experience with print media have rarely been applied to the on-screen media, and communication has suffered as a result. p5