June 2009

Instant Messaging Efficiency

Dan Benjamin at Hivelogic wrote a nice article about effectively using your “Away” message when instant messaging.

Here’s two other things that I think is necessary for efficient IM communications

Ask Your Question, Don’t Ask to Ask

Don’t say hello and wait for someone to respond; just ask your question. Don’t ever say “Hey, are you there?” or “Hey, can I ask you a question?” — just ask it.

Situation 1:

Bob: Hey Adam?
[time lapse of 2 hours]
Adam: Sorry, what did you want?
[Bob is now AFK, time lapse of another hour.]
Bob: Hey, I was wondering how big the Gear chapter was?
Adam: It’s 62 pages. [Total time lapse of 3 hours]

Situation 2:

Bob: Hey Adam, I need to know how big the gear chapter is.
[time lapse of 2 hours]
Adam: It’s 62 pages. [No matter how long the time lapse is here before Bob reads my IM, I’ve fulfilled my commitment.]

Situation 2 is far preferable. If you know that the person isn’t available, you may be better off sending an email or posting to whatever project management software you use — but simply saying “hello” does not get work finished, no matter what communications tool you’re using.

Use Auto-Away Sparingly

Some IM clients will set you as “automatically away” if you are idle for more than a certain period of user-definable time. In practice, I think this feature doesn’t work, especially when the time is set low, as the defaults often are. I notice that a lot of people, even when they’re working or otherwise busy, will notice that their IM client has set them to auto-away and instantly fiddle with their IM client to reset their status to Available — resulting in the user “bouncing” around their friend’s buddy lists.

If you want to use auto-away, I suggest setting it to a high value: at least an hour. That way it will work for you when you’ve been caught up in a long phone call or you fell asleep or got kidnapped by friends [or aliens!], but it won’t get triggered when you’re simply busy working.

Turn Your IM Client Off

I should probably do this more, at least with my business-related accounts: if you’re going to be unavailable on IM for a period of time that is extreme [such as an entire daytime period during your co-worker’s workday] — turn your IM client right off. Seeing things like “(1d) Away” in my buddy list just frustrates me, like those people are wasting my screen real estate. I sort these people into a custom group, “Idlers,” and minimize that group so I never see them unless I’m specifically looking for them.

Adding Multi-Touch to older Mac Laptops

This little hack outlined on TUAW allows slightly older Mac laptops to use multi-touch gestures, including the beautiful four-finger swipe:

  • MacBook Air (all models)
  • Early 2008 MacBook Pro
  • Late 2008 17″ MacBook Pro
  • Unibody MacBook (all models)
  • Unibody MacBook Pro (all models)

I have an early 2008 MacBook Pro — a refurbished 2.5ghz — and this procedure worked without a hitch. I am now slightly less jealous of the awesome trackpad on the new MBPs… but only slightly.

Twitter: Search Malfunctioning, Users Missing

I use Twitter [I’m adamjury there, surprise surprise] for a lot of things; keeping in touch with friends, following news, helping random people with graphic design and technology issues, watching people talk about stuff I work on, and promoting my work and myself in general. So I was kind of bummed to realize, last night, that none of my tweets were being indexed in Twitter’s internal search engine. This means that anyone searching for keywords might not see tweets where I discuss them.

When I found out, I did the usual account check — I wasn’t suspended, I hadn’t put myself into Protected mode accidentally, I could search for other usernames that I use, no issues there. Checked Twitter’s various help resources and their blog and status pages with no luck. So, on a lark, I set my stream to be protected, and then unprotected again, thinking that it might cause Twitter to re-index me. No dice there.

I sent off a polite help request and went to bed. In the morning, it was answered, and it pointed me to this support thread. At this time, 59 pages of people who aren’t properly listed in the search [and those are only people that know about it, care about it enough to report it, and found the right place to report it!] and over half of the users reporting this issue have reported it in the last week, although it was first reported on May 29th.

What’s up, Twitter?

To figure out if you’re not being indexed, visit the following Twitter search link, but fill in your own name!

Edit: There’s a hashtag for this … #searchfail. But since the people being hit by this bug aren’t indexed in the search, the hashtag is gaining little traction.

Edit, June 22: Still not fixed yet, still no acknowledgement from Twitter on their status page or anywhere else.

MacBook vs. MacBook Pro

With a bunch of new Apple stuff announced today, people are scrambling to figure out what’s the best purchasing decision. I just answered a question over on the Figure Four Online message boards [yup, there are wrestling fans that can afford Apple computers!] where I compared the hardware features of the sole remaining MacBook to the 13″ MacBook Pro. Here’s the rundown:

MacBook is $999, MacBook Pro is $1,199. US Dollars.

Not counting the body design, the MacBook Pro has, in rough order of importance to me:

  • The totally awesome giant glass trackpad that uses 4 finger gestures.
  • LED backlit screen [supposedly lasts longer, uses less power, better for environment]
  • 8GB maximum DDR3 RAM [4GB of DDR2 is the max on the MacBook]
  • Supposed 2 hours better battery capacity [7 as opposed to 5]
  • A SD Card slot! [Because if you need to use a SD Card, you obviously don’t already have a $15 USB widget that can be gang-banged by a half-dozen different cards at once]
  • Illuminated keyboard
  • Mini DisplayPort output instead of Mini-DVI output
  • .5 less pounds
  • .13 inches thinner
  • 1 firewire 800 port

I love the glass multi-touch trackpad. Along with that, the important factors are the monitor [the LED ones are very nice] and the better battery capacity [might be better by 30 minutes in real working conditions, but that’s just a guess.]

Features that the MacBook has that the MBP doesn’t:

  • Removable battery
  • 1 firewire 400 port

Personally, I think the choice is clear. For $200 more, take the Pro. AppleCare for either machine is $249.

January 13th Edit: Since I was very flip about battery life above, here’s the AnandTech review that discusses battery life and tells me that I’m totally wrong.