2009-04-27

Windows Start Menu doesn't pay attention to me

On my work PC, the Windows Starts Menu didn't pay attention to me. I told it that I don't need it to list an email client. I ran plenty of applications, and they appeared in the most recently used list. Every time I logged out, though, it ignored me, showing Outlook Express as the email client, and the default list of programs instead of my recent ones. Gosh, it really ground my gears.

How did this chaos happen? When I installed Windows XP, I created a local user for myself, richard. I logged in a local user richard, and Windows initialized some state for my user. Then I logged out, joined my company's Windows domain, and logged in as my domain user, richard. My domain user suffered the problems.

The only way I could fix it is by reinstalling Windows. I was careful not to log in as a local user named richard before logging in as my domain user named richard. All is well, and I sure do sleep better at night.

2009-04-20

Stink test

Is the milk in your refrigerator safe to drink, or is it rotten? Open the bottle and take a sniff. If it stinks, it's probably rotten. You don't have to taste it. You don't have to drink a pint of it and see whether you get sick. You know immediately that it's no good. Throw it away and get a new jar of milk.

Stink test is a metaphor for an easy way to determine whether something is right or wrong. If it smells rotten, it probably is. Throw it away and start over. Stink test is a very simple heuristic for determining the validity of a statement or concept. The idea is to trust your intuition; you're probably right.

For example, say your team estimated that it would take one hour to complete a user story. You know that the story is very complex and probably can't be done in less than three days. The one hour estimate smells rotten. It can't be right--it doesn't pass the stink test. Throw it away and start over.

Synonyms include sniff test and scent test. Similar tests are the rice test and the spaghetti test. The spaghetti test metaphor is that you can tell whether your spaghetti is done by throwing it against your kitchen wall; if it sticks, it's done and ready to eat. Do you have a good idea? Are you sure? Lob it out there--does it stick? If it doesn't stick, it's either wrong or it's not ready yet.

Here are some examples:

2009-04-13

i.word.com: the best iPhone dictionary

Merriam-Webster recently launched an excellent iPhone adaptation of their web site. Type m-w.com or i.word.com into Safari, look up a word, read the definition, and hear the pronunciation. Add a link to your home screen, and you won't notice that it's not a download app. This is by far the best English language dictionary for iPhone.



2009-04-06

Skype for iPhone

Skype for iPhone was released on March 31. I had been waiting for this since I got my iPhone a year ago. I am an active, satisfied Skype user, using it every day to talk with people on my team around the world. I rely on Skype, and I was excited to try it out on my jailbreaked first generation iPhone running firmware 2.2.1.

It didn't go smoothly. After the happy splash screen, I tried to log in to my account. The result was an error message displaying this text:
No Network Connection
Please check your network settings
and try again.



Wristlock reported that he got past that error message by rebooting his iPhone. I rebooted, tried again, and my log in succeeded.



The proof of the pudding is in the voice call, so I called the lovely Skype Test Call woman. She let me down: she echoed a little, and her voice dropped out a bit. I told her a secret, and my voice came back with dropouts. Overall, the call quality was poor. Worse, Skype crashed during my test calls and immediately after my voice echoed back.



But wait! iPhone Hacks reports that the instability only occurs on jailbreaked iPhones, and Saurik already has a fix. I ran Cydia and updated Mobile Substrate. I rebooted the iPhone and tried Skype again. Audio was still a bit jittery during the short test call, but on a longer call to a coworker in Europe, the audio was good enough. Better yet, the Skype app didn't crash during our 10 minute conversation.

The bottom line: Skype for iPhone works fine. Use it as your mobile Skype client or as a backup when your PC crashes.

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