Mini Mind Dump

Wednesday, 2007-10-10; 02:31:00

URL usability, Andrew Welch on the iPhone lockdown, iWork auto-correct feature, Apple Online Store credit

I despise TinyURLs. With a passion. I don't particularly care if a URL is long or not; I care about knowing to where the URL points, and I glean a lot of that information from the URL. A TinyURL masks the domain name of the target site (which indicates in general what kind of content it contains), it masks the name of the HTML document (which usually indicates specifically what's on the page), and it masks any other pertinent information provided by the URL (like archive dates). It's a usability nightmare, and it doesn't give you any benefits. What's the point of clicking on a tinier URL rather than a long one? It takes the same amount of effort and gets you to the same place. Just from a security standpoint, it makes sense (and I am) to be immediately suspicious of any TinyURL.

The only place where I can see that one would legitimately want to use a TinyURL is on Twitter, where the length of the message is limited.

(I realize that perhaps one of the issues is with line-breaks in URLs which can cause them to be non-clickable, but I've never, ever had this problem with even one person to whom I've sent a URL.)

And while we're on URL usability, here's a cool trick: if you want to find a piece of Mac software, type the URL "" into your browser, replacing "searchterm" with whatever you want to search for. MacUpdate will immediately do the search for you without even having to go to the homepage. This isn't a URL trick that's a feature of your browser. This is part of the MacUpdate website. It's so useful, I wish other websites did this. (I am also aware that this breaks 404 functionality, such that all possible permutations of URLs appear to exist on the MacUpdate server, but for a website on which the first thing you do is search, this feature outweighs this drawback.)

This is seriously the main reason why I chiefly use MacUpdate, the other being that you can click on the download size from the front page or search results page to immediately start a download, without having to go to an auxiliary page first. As far as I know, no other software tracking websites have the first feature, and few have the second.

Regarding the whole whiny nonsense about Apple locking down the iPhone both to third-party applications and to SIM unlocking and how somehow Apple should owe it to their users to do both: Ambrosia's Andrew Welch has a valid opinion on the matter.

He was interviewed about a week ago over on The Unofficial Apple Weblog regarding iToner and how the iPhone 1.1.1 update broke the functionality. He highlights an important distinction: what Apple is obligated to do, and what users want. It's perfectly fine to be frustrated that Apple doesn't allow third-party developers to do anything on the iPhone (whether it is to allow custom ringtones not from the iTunes Store or native iPhone apps). But to think that Apple somehow owes it to its customers is somehow ridiculous. If that's such a deal-breaker to you, don't buy the iPhone just to hack it and then to whine about it when your hacks get closed.

Welch also points out that this might not be the best long-term strategy for Apple. He talks in reasonable terms about what the market will sustain and what he wants in a phone. He's not whiny and he doesn't think that Apple owes him anything beyond what they've released already. This is what I call a "measured response".

The whole brouhaha is akin to the out-of-nowhere bad press that Apple got with the $200 price drop. Where did consumers get the idea that they are entitled to more features for free after they purchase a product?

(I do, however, think it was a little foolish for Welch to "guarantee" that iToner would work with future updates. "Guarantee", at least to me, does not mean "we'll give you your money back if it doesn't continue to work" which is what it seems to mean to Welch, as Ambrosia is giving refunds to customers who request them. "Guarantee" means that there is no remotely significant chance that the software will stop working, regardless of whether you issue a refund or not, and in this case I think there absolutely was a significant chance that Apple would break Ambrosia's method of installing ringtones.)

Here's an amusing pic from iWork '08 (also present in '06, though):

iWork '06/'08 Auto-Correction Preference Pane

Apple doesn't care about gamers! "teh" is spelled correctly! (This is the only default auto-correction for a word. All of the others are for symbols. Surely "adn" to "and" is as common as "teh" to "the", no?)

Last but not least, anybody need something for more than $50 from the Apple Online Store? I have $50 store credit that expires on the 14th, and it looks like Apple may not announce Leopard by then. Even so, I may not be able to apply this credit to the Apple Online Store for Education.

So if anybody's willing to PayPal me $50 (or perhaps take me out to lunch/dinner if you're in the area) in exchange for the store credit, let me know.

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