24 May 2018

Overdue – blog design refresh

Filed under: WordPress — Tags: , — David Wood @ 11:09 am

My training as a software engineer led me to be cautious about making changes in complex software systems. I learned from experience that “simple” changes often had unexpected effects elsewhere in a system.

For that reason, I have shied away, for too long, from a task that needed my attention – improving the readability of this blog.

The font in use on this blog was too small. That made it harder for people to read. Visitors to this blog have mentioned this point on occasion, but I repeatedly put off the task of fixing it.

But this morning, I made the plunge, and found the part of WordPress design that allowed me to change the font. It’s a lot bigger now.

Fearing side-effects, I’ve checked how various previous postings are displayed. So far, I haven’t noticed anything that’s become broken as a result…

… apart from the fact that adjacent lines of text, in multi-line paragraphs, now appear too close together. I’ve tried customising the CSS for this blog, using syntax like the following:

p {
line-height: 1.5;

but nothing I’ve typed there has had any effect. Hmm.

Anyway – I hope this change increases your enjoyment of reading this blog!

Footnote: so far as I know, there will be no change to what people see if they are reading these posts via email, or on a mobile device. The change often takes place when using a desktop browser.

30 June 2012

My reasonably smooth upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich

Filed under: Android, change, compatibility, Google, Samsung, WordPress — David Wood @ 9:42 pm

I’ve been looking forwards to the new experiences that would be unlocked by installing “Ice Cream Sandwich” (Android 4.0) in my Samsung Galaxy Note, in place of the Gingerbread (Android 2.3) it originally contained. But I’ve been delaying the upgrade.

I’m a big fan of new technology, but my experience teaches me that upgrades often bring disruption as well as progress. Upgrades of complex software systems often unintentionally break functionality, due to unexpected incompatibilities with the old platform. And even when functionality is improved, it can take some time for users to learn a new interface: old habits have to be unlearned, and new “intuitions” acquired. That’s why I’m sometimes a technology laggard, as well as a technology enthusiast.

But today is the day. The new platform is mature, and is no longer “bleeding edge”. It’s been on the market for a few months. Several of my Accenture work colleagues have already upgraded the Galaxy Notes they use, without reporting any issues. And some of the applications I now want to test (applications developed by work colleagues) rely on functionality that is present only in the newer platform – such as improved Bluetooth. So this morning I resolved: let’s do it today.

In summary: the experience was smooth, although not without glitch. So far, I am pleased with the outcome, although I’ve experienced surprises along the way.

The first surprise was that I had to go looking for the upgrade. I had expected I would automatically be notified that a new version was ready. After all, a similar system works fine, to automatically notify me of the availability of new versions of the apps I’ve installed. And – see the following screenshot – my phone had the setting “auto update: check for updates automatically” enabled.

However, my experience was that I had to explicitly press the button “Check for updates”.

That button helpfully recommended me to ensure that I was on a wifi network. Good point.

The update would happen in two stages:

  1. First, the new version of the software would be downloaded – all 349.38MB of it
  2. Second, the new software would be installed, in place of the old.

The download system estimated that it would take 16 minutes to download the new version. It told me I could keep on using the device in the meantime, with the download proceeding in background. Having kicked off the download, and watched the first 10% of it complete fine, I switched tasks and started browsing. In retrospect, that was a mistake.

As the download proceeded, I read some tweets, and followed links in tweets to Internet pages. One link took me into someone’s Google Plus page, and another link from their took me to yet another page. (By this stage, the download was about 60% complete – I was keeping an eye on it via a notification icon in the top bar of the screen.) I then tried pressing the Back button to undo the stack of links. But as sometimes happens, Back didn’t work cleanly. It took me “back” from one page to the same page, with a minor shiggle in between. This kind of thing sometimes happens when a link includes a redirection.

This is where personal habit took over. In such cases, I have fallen into the habit of hammering the Back key several times quickly in succession. And that seemed to work – I ended up back in the Twitter application. But a few minutes later, I realised that the upgrade notifier icon had disappeared. And the download was nowhere to be found. I think that one of the Back buttons must have ended up going to the download window, cancelling it. Woops.

No problem, I thought, I’ll restart the download. It will presumably continue from where it had been interrupted. But alas, no, it started at the beginning again.

The second time, I resisted the temptation to multi-task, and let the download complete in splendid isolation. Around 20 minutes later, the download was complete. I thought to myself, Now for the more interesting part…

Before completing the installation, I ensured the mains power lead was plugged in, to avoid any complications of a battery failure half-way through rewriting the operating system part of the phone. At all costs, I did not want to end up with a “bricked” device (a device that cannot restart, and has as much life as a brick).

The upgrade proceeded. The screen changed several times during the process. At one stage, a progress indicator seemed to become stuck at around 80% complete for ages – so that I wondered if the system had crashed – before finally slowly inching forwards again.

Once the phone restarted, it run through yet more steps of the upgrade. It told me it was “Optimising application 1 of 82” … “Optimising application 82 of 82”. Then it said it was “Upgrading Contacts database” and “Upgrading Agenda database”. Clearly a lot was happening behind the scenes.

Finally it showed the familiar SIM unlock screen. Except that it wasn’t exactly the same SIM unlock screen as before – there were small but noticeable changes in the layout. Likewise with the device unlock: the ‘OK’ button is now in a different position from before. My fingers will need to learn a slightly different physical sequence, to unlock the device.

A bigger surprise was that all my customisations to the seven different home screens were lost – they had all been reset to defaults. It’s no big deal – I can gradually change the screens back to what I personally find convenient. And a good clean out is probably not a bad idea.

There are lots of pleasant surprises too. For example, there’s a handy new “Restart” addition to the dialog that is shown when the power switch is held down:

Here’s another example of an unexpected change: I found by trial and error that screenshots are now stored in a different directory on the phone – \phone\pictures\screenshots rather than \phone\screencapture – and are (it seems) stored in a different way: they’re not written to disk until some indeterminate time after the screen capture has finished.

That change caught me out twice over: first, because I could not find the screenshots (as copied into this blogpost) in the place I was accustomed to finding them, and second, because the files I tried to upload into WordPress were zero bytes in size. (WordPress helpfully advised me to “upload something more substantial”.)

In case this sounds like a litany of complaints, let me hasten to clarify that I find the entire process highly impressive. A huge quantity of software has been transferred wirelessly onto my phone, including countless changes from before. It’s a technology miracle.

What’s more, I didn’t pay anything for this upgrade. It’s a free technology miracle.

But I am glad I waited until the weekend before embarking on this upgrade, rather than trying to squeeze it into the middle of a busy work schedule. Significant change deserves significant time.

16 August 2009

A quick WordPress question

Filed under: Uncategorized, WordPress — David Wood @ 8:39 pm

The comment box that is presented at the end of postings in this blog is only 36 characters wide.

That doesn’t make for easy entry of meaty comments.  I’d like to make the box wider.

I’ve had a quick look at the WordPress settings, but I don’t see anything that controls this.  Am I missing something?

I’ll be grateful for any suggestions from people who have travelled further than me down the road of learning about WordPress.

By the way, my selection process for the theme to use for this blog – “Silver is the New Black” – was conducted fairly quickly.  I liked its “flexible width” attribute, and my initial experiments with it were encouraging.  But I’m by no means wedded to it, and I’ll happily switch to another one that turns out to be more user-friendly.

PS Since I’m far from being an expert in CSS, I’d prefer (for the moment) to fix this issue without needing to overwrite the CSS from the theme designer.

10 August 2009

Starting over

Filed under: Blogger, WordPress — David Wood @ 9:33 pm

I’ve got a few pieces of blog-related news to share:

1.) I kept my personal blog on Blogger for more than a year, but in the meantime, I’ve grown to appreciate the power of WordPress – and I’ve decided to switch.  The old content has imported fairly smoothly – though there’s some tidying up I still need to do (for example, updating internal links).

2.) I’m also switching the URL for my personal blog.  It used to be dw2-0.com.  Now it’s dw2blog.com.  To cut a long story short, I was slow off the mark to renew my ownership of dw2-0, and a cybersquatter has moved in.  (It didn’t help that my old symbian.com email stopped working shortly beforehand, and all the emails Blogger and GoDaddy sent to that email address failed to reach me.)

3.) As for what I’ll be writing about here – I’ll keep work-related thoughtpieces out of here.  Instead, I’ll address a host of other futurist topics – in line with the description in the box at the top-right of the blog page:

  • Eclectic thoughts on technologies, markets, innovation, openness, collaboration, disruption, risks, and solutions

Anyone who used to bookmark dw2-0.com is now welcome to bookmark dw2blog.com instead.

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