Keyboard Usage

I thought I’d analyze the keys I use on my keyboard using WhatPulse‘s "Key Frequencies" feature and this little tool which will create a nice graph of which buttons are used and how much. The following graphs were generated today during different activities:

Blogging and MSN Messenger 

Blogging and MSN Messenger 

The space bar is the most used button; there is also quite a lot of uses of shift, enter and backspace. The control button on the right hand side of my keyboard is never used, or the shift button on the left hand side. The numbers along the top are used occasionally but it’s mainly the letters A, S, N, I, L, etc. The only two directional buttons used are up and right.

Coding

Coding 

As we can see, keyboard usage during coding is quite a lot different. There is a lot more use of the shift and enter buttons here. It’s a bit surprising to me that the tab button is still not used that much but as text editors automatically indent for you, I guess this makes sense. The F5 button is used a lot during coding; I do a lot of PHP coding and my workflow involves returning to Firefox and refreshing the page a lot.

The arrow keys used during coding are left and right which makes sense. The letters used tend to be pretty similar to blogging which is a bit surprising. 

Enemy Territory (Gaming)

Gaming 

W, A, S, D, Space, Shift – enough said. 123456 switch between weapons. The other buttons on the keyboard were probably used only to send messages.

Mouse Usage

I’ve previously mentioned OdoPlus which allows you to track your mouse usage – the number of metres your mouse moves, which parts of the screen you click, etc. 

Here’s my clicking distribution for Firefox

Nofollow fails

Dylan Tweney says nofollow is Google’s embarrasing mistake

Since its enthusiastic adoption a year and a half ago, by Google, Six Apart, WordPress, and of course the eminent Dave Winer, I think we can all agree that nofollow has done … nothing. Comment spam? Thicker than ever. It’s had absolutely no effect on the volume of spam. That’s probably because comment spammers don’t give a crap, because the marginal cost of spamming is so low. Also, nofollow-tagged links are still links, which means that humans can still click on them–and if humans can click, there’s a chance somebody might visit the linked sites after all. Heck, if we really wanted to eliminate comment spam, why don’t we just get rid of hyperlinks altogether?

Jeremy Zawodny says:

Look. Linking is part of what makes the web work. If you’re actually concerned about every link you make being counted in some global database of site endorsements, you’re probably over-thinking just a bit. Life’s too short for that, ya know? Link and be linked to. Let the search engines sort it out.

I’ve never been a fan of nofollow and there seem to be more effective ways of stopping spam by stopping spam in the first place rather than preventing spam from getting Google-juice.

If you use WordPress, Dofollow will remove nofollow from your links encouraging your visitors to leave comments and stop Google from penalizing blogs (blogs tend to link to each another using nofollow so blogs get less pagerank than they deserve)

Via Jeremy Zawodny.

  • In September, Google used nofollow to stop Katrina Charities from getting PageRank from the Google Homepage.

SUSE better than Vista?

A writer at Desktop Linux (biased, obviously) compares Vista and SUSE Linux and concludes that SUSE is the better operating system. He cites issues getting wireless networking working on Vista and the ease of getting it working on SUSE (although it does sound quite technical).

The reviewer also says Aero Glass (apparently Aero stands for Authentic, Energetic, Reflective and Open) runs quite badly and has issues such as bluriness and artifacts. Now I’ve not used Vista so I’m not going to comment on any specifics but simply what I’ve read through the blogosphere and on sites such as Win SuperSite.

The UI

Vista’s glass might look nice but it doesn’t help the user achieve the end task – whether that might be to find information on the internet or finish that essay. The UI may even slow down the user as they can’t see which window is selected as easily as would be possible on Windows XP. From screenshots, the title bar text can also be a lot harder to read on Vista with glass turned on.

Vista’s "Aero Glass" is said to use quite a lot of system resources – you can turn it off to increase readability and possibly make your system run a bit better but I much prefer the look of Luna Element.

Ubuntu and SuSE don’t have such nice looking interfaces but they’re practical and usable which is the main thing.

Applications

The main thing that has been preventing me from switching to Linux in the past has been the lack of support for Windows applications. There are about 8 programs I use every day:

  • Mozilla Firefox – This is available on Linux.
  • Microsoft Office – Open Office is *OK* but I much prefer Microsoft Office
  • mIRC – Xchat is satisfactory or mIRC can be run through WINE
  • MSN Messenger – I have yet to find a good MSN Messenger client for Linux
  • Media Player – amaroK is better than Windows Media Player
  • Crimson Editor – There is no shortage of fantastic text editors on Linux
  • Paint Shop Pro – I have yet to find a good image editor for Linux
  • Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory – This is available on Linux

The main issues are the lack of Microsoft Office, image editor and IM client for Linux. Many more applications these days are cross-platform which is fantastic and open source applications get better by the day. Some of them still lack on the usability front (GIMP) but I think Linux applications are coming close to their Windows counterparts.

Anyways, WINE is pretty good these days and many Windows applications will run without any issues. 

Other Reasons

Based on security and speed, Linux beats Windows outright. On Linux you can pretty much live without anti-spyware programs and anti-virus which can slow your computer to a crawl on Windows.

My current PC is over 2 years old and it’s still got quite a bit of life in it. I’m not planning on upgrading the PC but I’d like to change the operating system as Windows XP has way too many security issues and has ran quite slowly when AVG is scanning the system. At the moment, Linux looks a lot more attractive to me than XP, or Vista.

Armadillo Run

Sunny Boy pointed me towards Armadillo Run which is an ultra addictive "physics-based puzzle game". The "physics-based puzzle game" did put me off downloading it initially but it is definitely a cool game and addictive. The beauty of the game lies in it’s simplicity.

"You have to build structures with the purpose of getting an armadillo to a certain point in space. There is a selection of building materials, each with different properties, which can be combined to form almost anything. The realistic physics simulation gives you the freedom to solve each level in many different ways."

The game starts with a 10 part tutorial which guides you through how to play the game – how to add materials, tension, timers, etc. Unfortunately there are only 6 levels in the demo but they should give you a pretty good taster what the puzzles are like and should last an hour or so.

It’s a 1MB download

Firefox 2.0 Session Restore

Firefox 2.0 contains a "Session Restore" feature which is really nice. If your browser crashes or you need to install an extension/theme the next time Firefox opens up it’ll be as it was last time. That means you don’t have to interrupt what your doing and you shouldn’t lose any work the next time Java or Quicktime freezes your browser.

It used to be one of my favourite features in Opera although half the time it annoyed me as I didn’t want my session restored from last time. 

Restoring all the time… 

There is no interface or UI for having Firefox restore your session the next time you restart – I suppose this fits the Firefox methodology with Session Restore every time being a feature which normal users won’t want or need. It does seem a bit strange that they’ve implemented a fantastic feature and not included one preference for what could be the major use of the feature.

Luckily there is a quick preference change you can make. Open up about:config. Right click, New > Boolean.

Preference Name: browser.sessionstore.resume_session
Preference Value: true

The next time you close Firefox 2.0 and open it up again all your tabs, scrolling, the contents of forms, histories and cookies will still be there as it was last time. It even works with TinyMCE which is pretty impressive!

I do see a problem in this feature in that cookies which only last for one session will never be deleted as the session is restored every time the browser gets restarted. It’s probably issues such as this which stop Session Saving being included as an option in the Options window.

Extensions & Uses

The Mozilla Wiki says that the session data can be accessed through APIs by extensions. An extension could upload the session data to a remote website and when you log on to a copy of Firefox from another location (e.g. work, school) you can continue from where you left off at home.

If you use Portable Firefox (running Firefox from a USB drive), you could save the session data to your USB disk and take your copy of Firefox and your current state of affairs to every computer you use.

Firefox 1.5 Extensions

It’s worth mentioning you can already get this functionality using extensions in Firefox 1.5 – Tab Mix Plus is a pretty nice one. There’s Crash Recovery which behaves like Firefox 2.0 and Session Manager which allows you to manage your sessions. There is a pretty comprehensive list at the Mozilla Wiki.

Via CyberNet.

Pie Menus

I was browsing through Wikipedia today and came across Pie menus which seem quite interesting. It’s an alternative to the current type of menu where everything is displayed in a list.

Pie Menus

Wikipedia:

A pie menu (sometimes called radial menu), is a circular popup menu where selection depends on direction. A pie menu is made of several "pie slices" around an inactive center and works best with stylus input, and well with a mouse. Pie menus work well with keyboard acceleration, particularly four and eight item menus, on the cursor keys and the number pad.

A slice can lead to another pie menu; selecting this may center the mouse cursor in the new menu.

Pie menus are often context-sensitive, showing different options depending on what the mouse cursor was pointing at when the menu was requested.

Pie menus are said to be faster and more accurate to use as users can use muscle memory and can select an option without looking at the screen. With pie menus, the option depends on the direction of the mouse movement rather than the direction and distance (as in linear menus).

Sims Pie Menus 

The Sims probably has one of the most famous uses of pie menus which I really like. There are also Firefox extensions which change your context menu to pie menus.

Some people are also speculating that Windows Vienna might use pie menus. 

HTML DOM Visualizer

HTML DOM Visualizer allows you to visualize the DOM of your website as a set of linked coloured nodes (example for cow.neondragon.net).

HTML Dom for cow.neondragon.net

The black node is the root <html> node. Usually you’ll have two nodes branching off from it (head and body). Each element is represented by a different colour:

blue: for links (the A tag)
red: for tables (TABLE, TR and TD tags)
green: for the DIV tag
violet: for images (the IMG tag)
yellow: for forms (FORM, INPUT, TEXTAREA, SELECT and OPTION tags)
orange: for linebreaks and blockquotes (BR, P, and BLOCKQUOTE tags)
black: the HTML tag, the root node
gray: all other tags 

I don’t think this has any practical use but it’s pretty cool. You can get the Java Source Code from here

Elephants Dream

Elephants Dream is a cool computer-generated 10 minute film created using open source software – mainly Blender. It’s licensed under the Creative Commons. I’m not sure exactly what it’s about and what the storyline is (beyond me) but the graphics are pretty impressive and look fantastic.

 

It reminds me a bit of Blue: A Short Film which is a 23 minute CC-licensed CG short film. Blue is "a sci-fi adventure about a small robot who wakes up all alone on a space station and gets into more trouble than he can handle". You can get it at LegalTorrents.com.

Bon Echo Alpha 3

Mozilla Developer Centre reports that Bon Echo (Firefox 2.0) Alpha 3 has been released.

This alpha contains Safe Browsing phishing protection from Google, Google Suggest and Yahoo Suggest integration and Web Applications 1.0 Client Side Storage

Suggest 

I really dislike the phishing protection in it’s current state and the suggest integration as it interferes with the old autocomplete mechanism which was a lot more useful (see footnote). Try it out and if you agree, let’s try and get this fixed for 2.0.

Testing without messing up Firefox 1.5

If you don’t want to screw up your existing Firefox 1.5 installation, download Portable Bon Echo. Portable Bon Echo comes with Alpha 1 and you’ll want Alpha 3 so download the latest Bon Echo build as a zip file and replace the contents of the firefox/ directory so it contains the files for Alpha 3.

What’s new?

Check out my review of Firefox 2.0 Alpha 2 for details on some of the new features and improvements. Microsummaries are pretty amazing and at the moment is one of my favourite new features. Grab XPath Generator to create some microsummaries. 

The Burning Edge has a pretty comprehensive list of what’s new in Firefox 2.0. 

Edit at 15:00 – It seems like Alpha 3 has an improved Suggest box which combines autocomplete and suggestions from Google/Yahoo. I’m a bit more pisitive about the new functionality although I still wonder how much value Suggest adds. 

Time for Web 2.1?

Google Blogoscoped reports that O’Reilly say they invented the term "Web 2.0" and have sent a cease and desist letter to a conference for using the term "Web 2.0".

O’Reilly say they have prevent "Web 2.0" from being used by other conferences and have registered "Web 2.0" as a servicemark.

A lot of people are wondering whether this is a good time to get rid of "Web 2.0" (never really liked that term anyway). Web 2.1 and Web 3.0 have been suggested.

What about Web 108.0