UITrends.com hits it on the nose

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Warning: This blog post is more a rant than useful design/blend related

I was reading a site that I’d stumbled upon (ok, not quite stumbled, I was directed there by someone on the IxDA  discussion boards) and decided to read more than the person had posted their discussion thread about.

A few blog posts down, I find something that hits home for me pretty hard.  Updates on software.

In my every day work, I have updates coming at me from every direction.  iPhone updates, iphone app updates, Windows updates, winamp updates, windows media player updates, Adobe (everything) updates, quicktime updates, flash… ARG!

The “remind me” button is pressed on a few occasions – and by a few, I mean a few occasions a day.  I need to move forward with my work, but everything from iphone use to computer use, there are updates all over the place. 

Heck, on occasion I actually feel “punished” for updating as suggested.  One day, my iphone’s skype works great, and my twitter application is awesome.  I update, and suddenly, I can no longer make calls on skype from my iphone and my twitter now has advertisements along the top and sometimes it overlaps different people’s tweets requiring me to exit and reload the thing just to see everyone’s tweets.  I understand the need for the application development group to make money, but don’t break the app for the sake of advertisements, for crying out loud!

There has been one occasion where the updates were so entirely intrusive, that I just absolutely stopped using the software.  That’s you, Firefox.  That’s right – I stopped using you because every other day, you wanted to update.  Again.  and again.  – if I asked for a “remind me later”, then every time you loaded up, you’d have a pop-up starting firefox wizard that I had to go through just to use your dang browser in “safe mode”.  Bloody hell!  I just want to use the dang application already! 

Shocking as it seems, I switched to IE8, which I really never thought I’d do.  I have a completely illogical reason as to why I refuse to use Google’s Chrome.  In my opinion – choose a better name and stop confusing people.  Chrome is the dang thing around a Window’s … window.  Ever try having a conversation with multiple people where each one may have a completely different thought as to what you’re talking about?  Thanks google for adding greater levels of confusion.  So I litterally will not use it because of its name.  Perhaps that’s the worst reason for not using an app, but there it is.

Ok, so you get it – I’m frustrated about these dang updates and perhaps a little less logical than I’d like to believe myself to be.  Usually I’m the type to see a problem and come up with multiple scenarios that could be used/taken to understand the issue – which often leads me to find alternative means to reach a solution for the issue or at least a less intrusive meeting ground.  I’m a solution finder – drives some people nuts when all they want to do is vent.  (That’s what blogs are for!)

Unfortunately for this particular frustrating issue, I just don’t know if there is a good solution.  Perhaps if the team at Microsoft gave permission for 3rd party vendors to have their updates checked and added to the windows update catalog, that might help.  I’m  fairly certain it’d be a very chilly day in hell before that happens, but that is the only solution I can see that may actually pull back on the intrusiveness of the showering of update application requests, and even then – it would only take care of a percentage and might put Microsoft at risk if the updates aren’t managed by the 3rd party vendor well.

So like I said, I don’t really see a good solution to the issue, but it is an issue, and its seriously irritating.

The original blog that spurred my blog post can be found at –> UITrends.com

*rant off*

Design view exceptions in Blend

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The last few days, there have been more visitors looking for answers as to how to make a design exception “go away” without having to run the project.

The solution to this is just simply to build your project (ctrl+shift+b).  If you’d prefer to do it via the menu strip, click on Project->Build Project.  You can also do a rebuild.

Now why would this occur?  You might have a custom control instantiated into another xaml file, or development which has been updated that changes the visual elements, and sometimes you’re like me, applying something, and its just not showing.  Heck, 2 days ago, I spent at least 5 hours banging my head up against a wall because I couldn’t get a custom control to actually show in the design view, there weren’t any exceptions either.  It just wasn’t there.

I got to the point where I decided that perhaps I’d forgotten a step, so I popped into MSDN and started going through “Try It” sections.

… I discovered that all I needed to do was to rebuild, everything else that I was doing was correct.  I rebuilt the project and vwalla – there it was. 

 Hopefuly I learned that lesson well enough to not encounter this particular “issue” again. 

I hope this helps others who encounter the exception issues as well!

MS Surface objects stretching

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In my hands has been this lovely package that I’ve hardly had any time to tinker with in the last month – the Microsoft Surface SDK – as in, creating something that could potentially run on the microsoft surface, seriously useful for being able to see how “Simon” looks and interacts in its MS Surface form.

Finally, this week, work has let up a bit and I’m able to spend some time playing around with the SDK and how things work in XAML and C# on a Surface app differently than with WPF and Silverlight.

Well I’m designing away on this cute little idea of an application and I decided to give it a whirl after adding a few objects and I’m discovering something that is not anticipated.  Some of my objects are stretching!  What the heck! 

Of course I was doing the usual, overthinking the issue – I start looking for some sort of “constrain proportions” or “stretch to screen” or something to that effect.

After scratching my head for at least 2 hours (and in the process, discovering a whole lot of other things I might tinker with in the future), I finally discovered the problem.

Height and width were set to something similar to the below:

 width: Auto (96.0230004)
height: Auto (96.024)

This is easy to resolve. Clicking where the dimensions are, the numbers in parenthesis display. Once the numbers are there, I scale them down to a less specific number (i.e. turning 96.0230004 to 96.023) and hitting enter.

Running the application shows my objects no longer stretching. Hurah!

Someone linked me to a description of me…

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What the heck. 

So uhm – if you don’t get who I am in the design world – read this:


Way too freakin weird.  Seriously.  Yes – that’s about how it is.  A graphics designer who tinkers w/ more than just the graphics to make it “work” and interact and buddies up with the developers while still doing the same with the designers (though I think I’d have to speak for myself and other designers, we’re sometimes a judgemental bunch of skeptics when someone else says that they’re a graphics designer).

Anyway, I thought that others should also read the article who find themselves in the same boat.  I think the real heart of it is that we like to get to the heart of everything – every part of the “thing” and know the innerds from the techonology side, the development side, apply the pretty shiny, and to understand and see (sometimes foresee) how a user will interact and be able to personally feel the frustrations of the end user when there are malfunctions in a given application to the point of personally – temporarily – being frustrated at the state of the UI and want to take control to fix it ourselves.  And then when things are done very well, transitions are incredible and the intuitiveness of a “thing” is so well done that its almost invisible, we have internal ovations over how well its done.


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I don’t know if its the lack of sleep, the non-stop pouring over this book, or the fact that I need coffee, but I just got to one of the last projects for chapter 10 (there are 3 or 4 of them) and I’m seeing the direction to name a Media Element the name of “ME”.

I saw that and started internally jumping up and down.


Because I’m crazy!! … and because I’ve seen that this was a major discrepancy that entirely breaks part of the application a few pages from now. The author, Victor Gaudioso (are you as used to reading the name as I am to typing it?), has in a page dedicated to book updates, the bold letters regarding this flaw.

Not sure why – but I feel as though I just “Dinged” in levels by reaching this point (for those of you who are not gamers, that’s a common phrase used among MMOers who increase in level of skill. Quite often, the game will let off a “DING!” coupled with particle effects and text in some form or another which tells you that you’ve increased in skill/level/whatever.).

Update: Now I’m a complete retard.  I was mistaking this naming for the other.  The other was a section which I had to skip to come back to as I couldn’t get it to behave in the way specified and instead of sitting there going back and forth like a mad person comparing over and over and over again until my eyescrossed, I decided to move on and hope that my abilities and proficiency has improved enough to be able to notice the error.

Convoluted explanation.  You could have just stopped at the sentence, “Now I’m a complete retard.” and you would have been good.

Hello brick wall!

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Brick walls are nice.  Sturdy and thick.  The big bad wolf cannot blow them down.

I’m looking straight at one.  ZAM3D by Electric Rain is not available for download on a trial basis.  You have to fork over $200.00 for it.  Its neat that they make the tool available for download, but to continue within the scope of this book, I need to be able to export to XAML.

So I’d found a highly approved alternative – Blender3D with the codeplex plugin.  The export tool is great, but Blender3D requires Python, and not just any version of python.  It requires 2.5.2 or earlier.

Their download page for that isn’t linked to on their main page, so you have to find it by way of google.  So I find it, and the downloads which are available are for 64bit versions of windows installed, x86, or an entirely different operating system.  There is someone on source forge which has made available something related to a 32bit binary for us still running in 32bit and I’ve downloaded this, but it tells me that I am required to have an even earlier version of python – that earlier version doesn’t have the download for my lowly 32bit windows xp.

UGH!  So now I’m stuck.  Victor Gaudioso, author of the book that I’m going through on Blend 2 has examples available for download, so in light of my beautiful brick wall, I’ll just download his project, snatch up the XAML that his 3d object has, and work with that.

public Window1()

mainWindow.Ariel += new Ariel(mainWindow_Ariel);


void mainWindow_Ariel (object sender, MouseButtonEventArgs e)
MessageBox.Show(“Ariel is Frustrated”);