Category Archives: Software in General

Our thoughts on software and usability

Turn Any Computer into Your Personal Computer

I just found out about this amazing new product called MojoPac that lets you shrink your personal computer so it fits in your pocket! If this sounds like a line from a really bad infomercial, trust me, it’s not; and if it doesn’t sound entirely believable, well, it is. Okay, MojoPac won’t literally shrink your computer, but it does let you install any of your programs, files, and personal settings on devices like iPods or USB drives, so you can access them safely from anywhere. Now, to switch back to infomercial mode: But wait, there’s more!

If you have eWallet on your Windows PC, you can install it on your MojoPac device and carry it with you, along with any of your other personal Windows PC programs and settings you want to add to MojoPac. When you combine the already strong security of eWallet with the safety of a MojoPac PC, you never have to worry that your personal information can be seen by anyone but you. When you disconnect your MojoPac device from another computer, all your data stays with you. You can look at your eWallet files just as if you were on your home computer, and it all stays safely on MojoPac.

Visit the MojoPac website to learn more about how MojoPac works, and what devices you can carry it on – including iPods, USB flash drives, and even some cell phone models.

You can also check out our Windows PC eWallet information to find out more about the program, and how it works alone or with MojoPac to protect your information and make it easy for you to access when you need it.

Unintentional Success Story

Every once and a while, Ilium Software tech support gets a heads-up about an interesting and unexpected use of one of our products. We aren’t the only ones; Patrick at MicroISV on a Shoestring had the same experience and his story prompted me to think.

Sometimes the use case isn’t much of a stretch; ListPro is a program to make lists, so it’s hard to find a use for ListPro that isn’t obvious by definition. Prayer lists, scavenger hunts, web bookmarks, flight checklists… they’re all still just lists. NewsBreak is the same way; RSS and ATOM are usually used for simple ‘newspaper headlines’, but all sorts of information such as your NetFlix queue, Gmail account, eBay search results and weather reports are available via RSS. These uses are just part of what NewsBreak is designed to do.

eWallet, on the other hand, is really designed to be a program to hold your sensitive personal information like passwords, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, frequent flier mile cards. That’s it; you put personal information in, eWallet encrypts it under one password. That doesn’t stop people from coming up with their own uses.

Just yesterday, we had a user mention that she used eWallet to keep track of things she wanted to buy on the web. She would create cards with the backgrounds set to a picture of a particular item, with the weblink to the item and a description in the notes. That way, she could see at a glance exactly what something was, instead of having to go visit the website to figure out why it was in the list.

This is not something eWallet was intended to do, but it works and made the user happy. The ‘pictures of stuff to buy’ list works because eWallet supports both card background graphics and Picture Cards (useful for pictures of your dog / cat / gerbil with fruitless dreams of freedom / kid / favorite flower pot / car / boat / that really big fish you caught that was thiiiiiiiis big, really! / etc.) You know, stuff you would keep in a real wallet.

It also brings up the great can-of-worms question, “Should we pursue this with eWallet?” I definitely don’t have the answer. Questions like these are great, because they open up all those weird little opportunities you – the developer, or tester, or anyone else in software development – wouldn’t necessarily think of on your own.

Who needs Exit?

Drawing2.gifA big challenge developers face are requirements given to them by OEMs (the people that make your hardware) and demands from folks like Microsoft and Palmsource. There are times when these requirements conflict with what we want to do or with what customers tell us they are looking for. Microsoft just put up a great blog post about one of these requirements (the missing Exit feature in Windows Mobile discussed at the Windows Mobile Blog).

Having read that, I figured I would share a developer perspective on this often frustrating topic…

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The Danger of Cleaning House

PANICI had to share something that came up in a support call yesterday. It’s either really horrible or incredibly funny depending on your point of view.

We received a panicked call from someone trying desperately to access an eWallet file that they didn’t know the password for. This isn’t all that unusual. We all know that it’s easy to forget the “really good” password you came up with (one of the things that makes eWallet so handy!) The problem of course is that eWallet, being a secure information manager, really IS secure. If you forget your password there is NO backdoor, NO way to reset the password, and NO reasonable way to hack the wallet*.

In this case though, the problem was that Company A bought out Company B and laid off all the IT staff from Company B. Unfortunately for “A”, the IT staff at “B” stored all the vital IT info in eWallet and no one bothered to ask them for the password when they laid everybody off.

Needless to say, panic ensued. As a person who knows how bad it would be if we lost access to all our passwords, I can feel their pain…but on the other hand, as a guy who has seen his friends dumped out on the street during a merger, I can’t help but snicker.

* There are numerous articles about hacking 256-bit encryption. Estimates to do so typically involve a few hundred thousand computers linked together and working continuously for tens of thousands of years. Yeah…pick a good password and you’re all set.

MySpace and Blogs: The more things change…

OK…time to get a little philosophical. 

So here is what we have: a whole bunch of personal homepages where people would put a bunch of info about themselves, their favorite music, movies they liked, and other bits of personal chit chat and then sprinkle it with some favorite photos and links to their friends.

Sound like MySpace or maybe your favorite blog? Sure does. But actually that isn’t what I’m describing! Continue reading

Form & Function: A Developer’s Perspective

How important is appearance? Is it a vital part of any application design? Or just a nice thing to add if you have time for it?

There have been a couple of great posts about this subject today. One of them is at Just Another Mobile Monday and another at Treonauts. Both of these address the subject from the point of view of a user. I thought I’d take a second to discuss it from the developer end.

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Common sense is neither common nor sensical. Discuss!

One of my little Google Homepage widgets is for a blog by one James Bach, who knows more about testing than me. A lot more. He recently blogged about his dislike for the words ‘intuition’ and ‘common sense’ being used as explanations in arguments.

Bach has a very good point when it comes to using those two concepts as ways to explain away a problem.

The article also made me think about how often I run into issues of common sense or intuition while providing tech support. Keep reading for some examples, and a little discussion on how I think the common sense and intuition pitfalls can be avoided.

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What is RSS? Here’s a short answer.

One thing I’ve noticed in terms of support is that people usually come to us wanting to make lists (ListPro), keep track of passwords and such (eWallet), keep track of financial transactions (Keep Track), but when it comes to NewsBreak, it’s a bit up in the air. It lets you… read news! Specifically, it’s an RSS feed aggregator, and if you know what RSS is, you understand the concept immediately.

If you don’t know what RSS is, wrapping your head around just what NewsBreak is good for, can do, can’t do, etc. can be a little tricky. If you don’t know what RSS is, this article will probably help: A non-technical explanation of RSS.