iTWire: Mark Shuttleworth proposes a new imagining of the traditional WIMP user interface, focusing on user intent rather than a hierarchy of menu items.
Archive for the 'User Interfaces' Category
Wow! I’m inspired, I’m sold. Google Wave is the future of the 40-year old e-mail protocol, plus wrapping up IM, wikis, blogging, collaboration and more all in one new open protocol. Here’s what it is all about.
iTWire: The much-hyped “year of the Linux desktop” may still not be with us but there’s no doubting the free open-source operating system has gained significant traction in the last year. One reason for this is, with equal certainty, the mess that is Windows Vista. Here’s how it’s actively driving new interest in Linux.
In 2002 I joined a company who had an abysmal payroll product (called “Sapphire One”.) After evaluating the payroll scene I selected and implement MicrOpay Payroll Manager in 2003. This was a text console type application which was dead fast to use and best of all, accurate in its outputs and up-to-date with legislation.
Some people didn’t like the look-and-feel but I’ve never had any problem with text-based payroll apps; all the payroll people I’ve worked with have been super fast on a keyboard and at numeric entry. Pulse Mining Systems is another like this which, again, was text-based but as a direct consequence a regular user could fly through its screens and it was also extremely light on network resources.
What I did have a problem with was the horrible, basic, payslips produced by Payroll Manager. I wrote my own Delphi app to parse a text file generated during Payroll Manager’s payroll processing and produce a much nicer formatted payslip with our own logo, better use of fonts, bezels for grouping and so on. (I also wasn’t keen on Payroll Manager’s locked proprietary database which limited ad-hoc reporting. Neither of these criticisms are, I’m sure, unexpected to MicrOpay and certainly I raised them with them at the time – but let me be clear; the good far outweighed these two issues.)
I kept thinking this may be a useful app to other MicrOpay customers. I kept planning to make the code more generic (eg instead of having a logo embedded into the code, allow the user to import their own and so on.) Consequently, on my “Software” link on the side I had an entry for “MicrOpay payslips” but without an actual download.
Fast forward to 2008. My current employer again has had a need for new payroll products. When I came in, one system in use was 2Clix. Some of you may have heard of it; this company went into liquidation last year spectacularly placing the blame on their vocal users who spread bad word of mouth about experiences with the product. Rather than fix the software, 2Clix chose instead to criticise its own users. An attempt to resort to the courts failed with monumental international bad press and 2Clix then closed their doors, re-opening under a new name with the same product and management team. But I digress …
Once again, after a review of the payroll scene I returned to MicrOpay and have implemented and gone live with its more modern Meridian package. Pleasingly, this uses Microsoft SQL Server under the hood meaning the data is far more accessible. Additionally, it still maintains its excellent outputs, accuracy and legislative compliance but in a friendlier-looking package. This includes a graphical report writing module which lets you modify the payslip format, among many other uses.
Thus, I’ve killed off the link to my MicrOpay payslips product which never even materialised in a generic form anyway.
Suprisingly, I got a call from MicrOpay about my link. While it had sat there for years, they only noticed it when I returned as a customer and were alarmed by the reference to terrible payslips. Happily, this was easily resolved when I explained I was referring to the Payroll Manager product. However, I also wanted to take this opportunity to let any others know that MicrOpay’s current flagship product is definitely not suffering the few shortcomings I felt the previous product contained.
Again, do let me stress, the good points of MicrOpay far outweighed the two items that I felt were underperforming. In fact, while performing parallel pay runs we noticed that 2Clix didn’t even balance between its own reports. It reports a different amount paid to employees than sent to the bank – due to rounding issues on one report but not the other. Thank the deity of your choice for good software.
ITWire: Torvalds has been to Linux.conf.au and Torvalds has spoken. During a wide-ranging interview the Linux founder speculated on the future of hardware and the control that open source offers vendors. The ramifications of this are remarkable. Come hear the word of Torvalds.