Tag: UI Design

Minty Fresh

I've been giving Linux Mint a shot.

Now, OpenSUSE is still my primary distro (for now -- more on that in a minute), but I've kept my old Kubuntu drive onhand, originally because I've got OpenSUSE on a 128GB SSD and could use another drive with some extra storage, but over time I also learned how useful it is to have a second Linux distribution installed for those times OpenSUSE craps out. (More on that in a minute.)

So when I swapped in a new drive, I put Mint on it, as that's a rapidly growing distro and the one a lot of disgruntled users seem to be checking out since the releases of Unity and GNOME 3.

My first reaction is that the default installation looks pretty and clean. 'Cept maybe the menu, which is too busy.

And my next reaction is that there's a pretty good complement of programs installed...up until I open the terminal and find that vim is not included. Yes, I realize it only takes a minute to install, but I'm one of those guys who is immediately suspicious of any distro that doesn't come with vim out of the box.

My next reaction is my usual complaint about GNOME: it's just not configurable enough, and the various configuration options are spread across too many different places.

You can choose themes in five separate categories -- Cinnamon Themes, Window Themes, Cursor Themes, Icon Themes, and GTK+ themes -- and you can mix and match among those, which is good. But I don't see anything as simple as a color chooser. Your colors are determined by your themes. Want your panel to have a widget style like Nightlife but a blue highlight on the active program like in Blanka Teal? Tough; can't be done. Want to use Adwaita for the window theme but not want the active titlebar to be the same fucking color as inactive title bars? Can't do that either; if you're going to want a colored titlebar you're going to have to go with one of the more oldschool/minimalist window styles like Atlanta or Metabox. (Or hunt for themes online, a thing which I don't really ever do because I find them almost uniformly to be worse than the ones bundled with the DE.) For extra kicks, you can combine the Mint-X GTK+ theme with the Atlanta, Bright, Metabox, or Simple window themes and get a color scheme where the active window title text is white and inactive windows' title text is black.

Oh, and there's also a "keybinding theme" under themes, which is bullshit because keybindings are not fucking themes. This unfortunately seems to be a trend in Mint/Cinnamon -- cramming shit sideways into categories it doesn't really belong in because the designers apparently can't figure out where else to put it. Want to make Mint stop playing a sound at startup? It's under Login Window -> Accessibility. Yes I had to fucking look it up.

Special Bonus: Login Window is one of many settings that does not appear under either the Cinnamon Settings or System Settings panel. Why the fuck are there two different control panels that between them still don't have an exhaustive list of configuration options? Who the fuck knows. That's rhetorical, by the way; I'm sure if I asked some GNOME developer would be happy to point to the usability study that demonstrates this is an awesome fucking idea and anyone who complains about it is objectively wrong and just hates change.

Though speaking of hating change, if you want your taskbar to look exactly like Windows 98-XP's, then Mint is the distro for you. Menu in the lower left, Show Desktop button, QuickLaunch bar, list of open programs, system tray.

Prefer to move it to the top, or change it to a GNOME 2-style top-and-bottom split? Totally doable.

Want to stick it on the left- or righthand side of your screen because oh, I don't know, you bought your computer monitor sometime in the last five fucking years and it has a 16:9 or 16:10 screen ratio? Too fucking bad; you're going to have to find a third-party panel if you want some of that action.

And I think that's my biggest gripe about Cinnamon: the stated goal of the project is to make GNOME 3 behave like GNOME 2. Which is fine if you liked GNOME 2, I guess, but it's ultimately subject to the same sort of design philosophy that users shouldn't have too many choices in how their computers look, feel, and behave (and many of the choices they do have should be hidden in bizarre, inexplicable, inconsistent places).

That's why I'm still a KDE guy -- and it's also why I was still a KDE3 guy for years after the release of KDE4. (4 still hasn't caught up to 3 in some obvious and fundamental ways -- really simple shit like being able to drag a launcher from the menu to the panel. And I'll hand that much to Cinammon: it does that, which puts it ahead of KDE in at least one respect.)

And while I was easily able to find a widget to switch between workspaces, it only has 2 by default, and I can't find anywhere to change it to 4. Maybe it's in there somewhere, or maybe it's not because of Cinnamon's GNOME 3 underpinnings -- I remember that GNOME 3 has an arbitrary number of workspaces, starts with one and adds more as you drag programs to them.

I did see an interface where I could drag a window to another desktop -- repeatedly and accidentally, until I turned off the hot corner. Have I mentioned yet that I fucking hate hot corners? I've got this thing about interface elements that appear by accident, when I'm trying to do something else.

I could probably set up a hotkey to bring up that screen without using a hot corner, and I expect it'd be useful -- and maybe give me some clues on how to have more than 2 desktops. I'll look into it. But binding it to a keypress is not in the same control panel as setting it to a hot corner, and I'm going to have to look up where to find it.

Oh and also the package manager is both slow and hideous.

Anyhow, well, I've been spending rather a lot of time with Mint, mostly because I broke OpenSUSE. It started with an nVidia driver update, but after I reinstalled my kernel it turned into a kernel/init/systemd problem. It's been frustrating as fuck and ate up pretty much my entire weekend. Eventually I just decided to reinstall outright -- and I'll tell that story tomorrow.

Whatever happens, I'll keep Mint around as a backup boot. But the way it is, I couldn't use it as my primary OS -- not without installing KDE on it, at least.

Stray Thoughts

Bit of a sore throat today. Second consecutive day I haven't felt quite up to biking downtown for comics. Hope I'm not coming down with anything. I'm on a new inhaler (actually, I've started taking one I haven't taken in a couple years) but it started before that.

Speaking of meds, tried to buy my prescriptions at the Costco pharmacy last night, now that my COBRA's kicked in. They said my insurance card was rejected; when I said I was on COBRA they said I needed a new card. Today I called the COBRA line. When prompted, I entered the option for "I don't know my account number". So it asked me for other information -- first my zip code, then the month I was born, as a two-digit number. I entered 10 and it told me that was an invalid selection. I tried it again; it told me it was an invalid selection. Again and again. That was it. No other information, no option for exiting the loop; it just kept telling me that 10 was not a valid entry, and then telling me to enter the month I was born as a two-digit number. I tried 6-2, for the first two letters of October; I tried saying "October", "one-zero", "ten" -- same error message, over and over. Just for the hell of it I tried 11; got an error for that too. Then I pounded 0 until it disconnected the call, called back, and chose the option for "I don't have an account number" and was promptly connected to a human being.

She told me the pharmacy had been wrong, that my current card is the right one for COBRA, but that my insurance probably won't be processed until thirty days after I paid my first bill. Which is just grand, because my insurer took two months to get my information to COBRA in the first place. Man, health insurance in this country.

Speaking of horrible, kafkaesque looping menus, I also got an E-Mail from CareerBuilder asking me to fill out a survey. I usually do when they ask; I like to think it helps them improve their site, and sometimes they offer prizes.

But the goddamn thing was a mess. It kept asking me the same handful of questions, over and over again. Sometimes it would rearrange the order of the answers I could choose. I began to wonder if this was really a survey to see how I felt about CareerBuilder, or some grad student's psych project to see if my answers would change if the multiple-choice options were rearranged.

I spent about fifteen minutes at it, getting more and more of the same questions, and more and more complex and detailed questions that took longer and longer to answer, and then showed up again thirty seconds later -- and no, you couldn't just choose not to answer. Even if the question was "If you are currently working, how do you like your job?" and the options were "A lot", "Somewhat", or "Not at all" -- if you didn't select any of them, you'd get an error telling you you had to answer the question.

As you might expect, I did not answer the text-field questions more than once; when I started getting them repeatedly, I started putting in things like "I have already answered this question. If you need to find a competent Web developer to fix your survey, I know one who is currently looking for work."

It was about the time I noticed that the progress bar at the top of the page was actually decreasing -- it was at 55%, I clicked continue, and it changed to 53% -- that I finally gave up. I wrote something snarky in the last text box, hit Continue, and then clicked Exit Survey. They probably never saw my responses -- I'm guessing incomplete surveys aren't submitted -- but I did click Continue that one last time, just in case.

Other'n that, kind of a slow day. Got declined for an audiobook part (no big deal, that's part of the job; I'll record some more auditions tomorrow if my throat's better), called a contact for a job lead (left a voicemail). When my fiancée got home we took a trip up to Changing Hands; I bought a used copy of Starship Titanic (one of the few remaining Douglas Adams books I haven't read), and noticed that Cory Doctorow is going to be doing a signing next week. Guess you have to buy a book to get a ticket, so I suppose I should buy one of his books in print -- otherwise I guess I'd have him sign my Nexus 7, since that's where I've been keeping my copies of his books up to this point. Debating whether to go or not, but it would be fun.


My post on Unison remains one of the most popular things on this site. (The FF7 Trilogy remain my most popular posts, the ROM Collection Browser post is far and away the most popular hit on the site this month, and a number of people seem confused, as I was, by Netflix's reorganization of Doctor Who -- but Unison's still way up there.)

Well, I rebuilt my computer a few months ago, and I've opted not to go back to Unison. The main reason is that I don't just have Windows/Linux/OSX machines in the house now -- I've got a phone and a tablet both running Android now, and I'd very much like to be able to sync to them, too.

(Yes, okay, so Android is also Linux; good observation, gold star. It is technically possible to run Unison on Android. It is also, as far as I can discern, as big a pain in the ass as you would expect.)

I've decided to take a crack at ownCloud, and set my overworked G4 Mac Mini up as a server. It was a quick, easy setup, and a lot less fiddly than Unison (though it took a little bit of fucking around on the command line to enable SSL), but it's got its tradeoffs -- oddly, near as I can tell the desktop client can only set directories to sync, not individual files, while the Android client can only set individual files to sync, not entire directories.

And speaking of syncing with the Android app, it took me a day to figure out how to get it to sync in the first damn place. The sync toggle is under the system Settings menu, not, for some reason, anywhere in the app's interface, and it turns out that in order to set a file to sync, you have to upload or download it first, and then tap it in the ownCloud browser, and then there's a "Keep file up to date" checkbox. It's not exactly what you'd call discoverable, and the closest thing I can find to documentation is a damn YouTube video. (Can we talk for a minute about tutorials that are only available as videos? For my money, that trend fucking sucks. I mean, videos are great for some things, like showing you how to take apart a piece of equipment, or shave, or otherwise do something that's easier to watch than read about -- but much of the time, step-by-step instructions with the occasional illustration is a far superior method of walking someone through how to do a thing.)

So, not quite perfect. And there are some other pitfalls -- the filebrowser in the Android app can't seem to access the directory with my World of Goo save to sync it, SNESoid save files use a different extension than desktop SNES9X...plenty of rough edges that aren't actually ownCloud's fault but the fault of developers who didn't consider that users would want to sync save files across multiple systems. (It looks like you might be able to sync a file under a different name on the Android client than on the server; I'll look into that but I'm also thinking of switching from SNESoid to SNES9X EX on my phone and EX+ on my tablet. So far it looks like it's a lot more flexible than SNESoid, and while EX+ is too burly for my phone, EX runs all right once I turn off graphics filters, set scaling to integer-only, and turn on the GPU Sync Hack. Save states aren't compatible between versions, but of course save RAM is. As for World of Goo...maybe I can whip something up with symlinks or something; I'll look into it.)

And it's a pity there's no way to set up an automated wireless sync with my PSP.

Robot Hell

Still haven't received my unemployment pay for the week I reported (accurately) that I worked and earned zero dollars. The status of the claim still says that it was unpaid due to earnings.

As I mailed the documentation on Wednesday the 9th, DES should have received it a week ago today. So I decided I needed to follow up.

The DES contact page lists a number for a Client Advocate -- "Contact the Client Advocate if you have a complaint about an Unemployment Insurance related matter or the service you received." That sounds right.

So I called the number. And, surprise, it's just a damn computer switchboard.

Thank you for calling, visit our website; you can file your claim there. To talk about a claim, press 1; for other questions, press 2; to repeat, press 3.

Welcome. You can file your claim on our website. If you have a question about your card, call JP Morgan Chase. (Different voice at different volume:) To continue in English, press 1.

(Tangentially: It's a pity "I shouldn't have to press 1 for English" is the battlecry of ignorant racists, because it's actually a legitimate UI complaint. The most common option should be the default and shouldn't require user intervention. The switchboards that do it as "For English, stay on the line; para español, oprima número uno" have the right idea. Not because of any ignorant "Yer in Amurika; speak English" notions, but simple demographics -- if I were calling a business in Guadalupe, the reverse would be true and UI design would dictate that Spanish be the default option and, yes, as a member of a minority, I should have to press 1 for English.

All that said: pressing 1 for English is not that big a fucking deal, and I've already spent more time talking about it than the subject deserves.)

To file a claim, press 1, or file via our website, where you can file your claim. (Several other options, routinely switching voices and volumes.)

Lengthy legal disclaimer.

Enter your SSN.

You have entered blah-blah-blah; if this is correct, press 1.

Enter your PIN.

You must speak to a customer service representative. Please wait while your call is being transferred.

I am sorry, we are experiencing a high volume of calls. Please try your call again later. Thank you.

And then -- it hangs up.

No hold, no voicemail. Just 4 minutes of navigating fucking prompts, only to be hung up on.

This, right here? It's why people fucking hate government bureaucracies.

Just because I'm unemployed doesn't mean I don't have better shit to do than fuck around on the phone for 4 minutes to get hung up on.

(8 minutes, actually, because I tried again a little later, partly in the hopes of getting someone this time and partly to make sure I got all the details right for this post.)

So I guess I'll submit a comment on the website? I don't think this qualifies as an Appeal of a Determination of Deputy, because there's nothing under "Determinations" on my claim page. I think this is a Written Protest. And although I've already sent a letter, I'm wondering if they're going to make me send another, and hoping I won't pass a deadline and miss my window.

Hey guys, unemployment is really pretty terrible. I do not recommend it.

Guess I should submit more auditions -- which I'd have probably already started on if I weren't busy fucking around with DES.

This time I'll focus on projects that offer hourly rates and bypass this issue altogether.

And after a few hours of that, maybe I'll get a chance to go for a bike ride. We've had a couple weeks of weather that was pretty damn chilly for Phoenix metro, and now we're back up above 70 -- it's a nice day out and a shame to be cooped up indoors.


Well, for the second time in as many weeks, I find myself taking a day to reinstall Windows 7. The last one was for a cousin; this latest was for me.

As I mentioned the other day, something went wrong with my Win8 installation and it wouldn't boot. And, since I was running a Release Preview that was set to expire by the end of the week anyway, I decided it would be kinda stupid to spend any time trying to fix it, so I just backed up My Documents and reinstalled Win7.

Win8 is pretty much what everybody's said it is: a perfectly decent touchscreen interface with some discoverability issues, awkwardly grafted onto a traditional Windows interface, Frankenstein-fashion. Seeing as I don't have a touchscreen, I see no reason whatever to keep Windows 8.

Well, that's not entirely true -- some of the tweaks to the traditional Windows interface are damn fine: I like having a Task Manager that doesn't just report CPU and RAM usage but also hard drive and network activity (meaning no more "What the fuck is making the HD light blink like crazy when nothing's taking up more than 1% of the CPU?!"), and a filecopy interface that isn't a fucking 1980's holdover designed for transferring files between a 1.44MB floppy and an 80MB hard drive. I had a job once that consisted of copying databases -- single files ranging from 15-40GB -- to laptops all day. And when there was a network hiccup, it would abort the transfer and I'd have to start all over from the beginning. Almost as annoying: copying a user's entire home directory, hundreds or thousands of files, and if a single one fails, the entire transfer cancels itself.

Windows 8 has finally baked in filecopy tools that allow for pausing and resuming file transfers -- not just in command-line tools but in the standard Explorer UI.

Course, you only get that if you upgrade to Win8. Don't want a silly-ass tablet-style interface on your desktop? Well, then you get to stick with the old Task Manager and filecopy, too.

Meantime, I had a job interview today. And if all goes well, I'll have a lot more Windows 7 installations in my immediate future.

My Latest Barrier to Productivity

So yesterday I set up an external hard drive for my audio recording. Because as it turns out a 40GB hard drive is not a good long-term choice for audio production. (In fact I'm surprised I've gotten as far as I have using a 2005-vintage Mac Mini in the first place.)

Setting up an external hard drive turned out not to be as easy as it should have been. Pro Tools kept giving me a crypic "DAE error -9131", because apparently this is 1993 and it is still considered acceptable for a programmer to throw up an incomprehensible number for an error message instead of telling the user what the fuck is actually wrong.

An hours-long troubleshooting story short, I found the solution via Noize at Gearslutz. It involves not merely reformatting the external drive, and not merely repartitioning the external drive, but repartitioning it using the old, pre-OSX Apple Partition Map. (I also disabled journaling because another post somewhere recommended that, too. Plus that way I can hook it up to a Linux box and mount it read-write.)

After that, though, I had a good, fruitful few hours. And then I took a break and biked downtown. When I got back my voice was hoarse and I found I couldn't record any more for the day, but as it was I was already a week and a half ahead of schedule so I'm not too worried. And I came home to a note from my contact on the project about more possible work in the future.

It's early days yet but I've certainly received a lot of encouragement.

Insufferable is Awesome

I got a Nexus 7 for Christmas. As you might expect, the first thing I did was root it. The second was to get all my usual apps -- E-Mail, RSS, emulators -- set up and working. The ones I'm used to from my phone.

But the third thing? Comics.

I've been very excited about Mark Waid's digital comics endeavors for years now. He gets it. Release your books in DRM-free standard formats, and treat pirates like they're potential customers instead of treating your customers like they're potential pirates.

In a nutshell, I'd been waiting to get a tablet just for the opportunity to see what it was Waid was up to.

Well, for starters, his books up on thrillbent.com are just straight-up free downloads.

Want to download all of Thrillbent's marquee book, Insufferable, by Waid and artist Peter Krause, for free? (Hint: yes. Yes you do.) Here's a simple, handy bash script to do it:

for((i = 1; i <= 9; i++)); do wget http://www.thrillbent.com/cbz/insufferable/Insufferable_0$i\_Mark_Waid_2012.cbz; done for((i = 10; i <= 34; i++)); do wget http://www.thrillbent.com/cbz/insufferable/Insufferable_$i\_Mark_Waid_2012.cbz; done

And presumably next week #35 will be out with a "2013" in place of that "2012" in the filename and it'll go on from there.

From a nuts-and-bolts storytelling perspective, Insufferable is a perfectly compelling superhero book. It's a Batman pastiche, but I happen to like Batman pastiches. (I often say that my all-time favorite Batman comic is Astro City: Confession.) The setup here is, loosely: What if Nightwing was a total douchebag?

It follows that moment of the sidekick -- named Galahad, in this case -- striking off on his own, no longer able to work with his mentor (Nocturnus). And Galahad isn't the class act that Dick Grayson is -- he's an insecure, spoiled celebrity. Nocturnus, meanwhile, has seen better days; he's something of a has-been and is now superheroing on a budget.

That, by itself, is enough for an intriguing, human superhero yarn. Insufferable would be a thoroughly enjoyable book on the strength of good old-fashioned traditional comic book storytelling.

But instead, it innovates. Waid and Krause make a point of doing things with a digital comic that can't be done on paper. Frames appear one swipe at a time; characters' facial expressions change. In one case, Nocturnus does the classic Batman entrance -- in one panel, the room is empty; swipe your finger and suddenly he's just there. As Galahad rides off after the bad guy, he receives a tweet making fun of him. Swipe and a few retweets appear over the scene; swipe again and the screen starts to fill with them.

Waid discusses these techniques in a recent Robot 6 interview. He cites the master, Bernie Krigstein, as his greatest inspiration in thinking of panel composition as a tool for pacing.

Waid's got the right idea, and it almost always works. As I read Insufferable I keep thinking of how smart he and Krause are in their use of these techniques, how they're not flashy and they're not there just for the sake of Doing Something Different; they actually serve the story in a way that -- while original -- has its roots in decades of traditional comics.

For my money, there is one example where it doesn't quite work: repeating the same panel exactly. I get what they're trying to do -- hell, where would Bendis be without that technique? -- but while you can repeat a panel exactly on paper as a pacing tool, it throws me to see it in a digital comic. There's a simple UI design reason for this: when a user interacts with a program, the program is supposed to do something. If I swipe a page, I can't tell the difference between "the same panel repeats" and "nothing happens". My first thought isn't "Oh, that's a beat", it's "Did I not press hard enough?"

There's a simple solution -- just change something, anything, in the panel. Make somebody blink, or change a facial expression slightly -- anything at all to give the user some sort of feedback that yes you turned the page and now this is the next image.

But you know, the occasional false note is the price of innovation. Yes, I found something small that, in my opinion, doesn't quite work in Waid and Krause's book. But there's so damn much that does work, and works astonishingly well.

I've said before that now is the best time to be a comics fan. Insufferable is one more example of why. Go give it a read -- it won't cost you anything and I think you'll be glad you did.

I haven't gotten around to the other Thrillbent books yet, but I intend to. But first -- well, it's Wednesday. I've got some traditional, paper-and-toner-and-staples comics to go pick up.


Tonight I wanted to print something.

For some fucking reason, this required me to download a 140MB "driver file" that appears to be composed primarily of videos, one of which tells me how to use my printer and the other is just a fucking animated HP logo.

In my personal and professional opinion, shit like that is completely inexcusable. There is no fucking reason why I should have to download 138MB of crap just so I can get at the 2MB driver file.

At least there was a feedback form at the bottom of the page. I filled it out! It was a lot like this post but with less cursing. (Although I did tell them that I am offended "as a programmer, as a customer, and as a guy with SHIT TO DO.")

Increased processing power and widespread high-speed Internet has made programmers lazy. (Though in the programmers' defense, this particular little call has "marketing department" written all over it.) On the plus side, the increasing prevalence of smartphones is forcing developers to think about smaller footprints, both in system requirements and bandwidth consumption. But unfortunately that's probably not going to convince anybody to make Windows device drivers smaller.

Netflix Does Something Stupid and Annoying

So I just went to fire up some old Doctor Who, only to find that every single Doctor Who serial had been purged from my Netflix queue.

So I thought, What the hell? Has Doctor Who been removed completely from Netflix Streaming?

It turns out that no, it hasn't, they've just decided to make it way more difficult to find and navigate!

See, now instead of having the old Doctor Who serials split up by title -- Horror of Fang Rock, Caves of Androzani, and so forth -- they've combined them all under a single heading, Classic Doctor Who.

Which may sound like a good idea -- and it would be, if it were put together by someone with a basic understanding of how human beings locate things! -- but sadly, it was put together by complete goddamned morons.

See, instead of being sorted by serial titles, the series is split up into 18 "collections". Numbered. 1-18. And you have to click on the number of the collection to see what serial's actually in it.

Which might make some sort of sense if they had the complete series split up into seasons. Or had at least one serial from every season. Or, I don't know, even put them in the right damn order. But they don't. Here's the order (Edit 2013-01-01: The order has been changed since this original posting; go to the end of the post for the current order):

  1. The Carnival of Monsters [sic] (1973)
  2. Horror of Fang Rock (1977)
  3. Pyramids of Mars (1975)
  4. Spearhead from Space (1970)
  5. The Androids of Tara (1978)
  6. The Ark in Space (1975)
  7. The Aztecs (1964)
  8. The Caves of Androzani (1984)
  9. The City of Death [sic] (1979)
  10. The Curse of Fenric (1989)
  11. The Green Death (1973)
  12. The Leisure Hive (1980)
  13. The Mind Robber (1968)
  14. The Pirate Planet (1978)
  15. The Power of Kroll (1978)
  16. The Ribos Operation (1978)
  17. The Three Doctors (1972)
  18. The Visitation (1982)

And it took me actually listing them all out where I can see them all at once, but now at least I understand how they're sorted: they're alphabetical, sort of. Except nobody bothered to add the convention of dropping articles from the sort, so serials beginning with "The" (which is nearly all of them) appear under "T".

(Except The Carnival of Monsters -- probably because that is not actually the title of the episode; it's just called Carnival of Monsters, which does fit the sort. Which indicates that maybe the database has both a display title and an indexing title for each episode -- but who the hell even knows. Especially since City of Death isn't actually called The City of Death, either.)

So, want to see if Netflix has a given Doctor Who serial, out of the 128 extant serials that make up the original series? All you have to do is poke around half-blindly through 18 not-quite-alphabetically-sorted collections and see if it's there! That is, if you know they're sort-of-alphabetical -- which you probably won't even notice, looking at them one-by-one. (Actually, I'm going to go add a review to the page right now that explains that, with the full order -- hopefully it'll help somebody.) If you don't notice, well, just click on all 18!

Amazon, meanwhile? If you type in "Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani", the first match is Doctor Who (Classic) Season 21, which does in fact have a streaming video of The Caves of Androzani. They don't have as many episodes available for streaming as Netflix does, and some of them cost money to watch even if you have a Prime account. But they're sure the hell organized way better.

Of course, the easiest way to find any of these episodes, without worrying about availability, nonsensical navigation, or the possibility that you'll just find them all removed from your queue one day without notice, is just to torrent the damn things.

Kinda makes you feel like a chump for paying good money for Netflix and Amazon Prime, don't it?

Edit 2013-01-01: The order has been changed; they're now in chronological episode order:

  1. The Aztecs (1964)
  2. The Mind Robber (1968)
  3. Spearhead from Space (1970)
  4. The Three Doctors (1972)
  5. The Carnival of Monsters [sic] (1973)
  6. The Green Death (1973)
  7. The Ark in Space (1975)
  8. Pyramids of Mars (1975)
  9. Horror of Fang Rock (1977)
  10. The Ribos Operation (1978)
  11. The Pirate Planet (1978)
  12. The Androids of Tara (1978)
  13. The Power of Kroll (1978)
  14. The City of Death [sic] (1979)
  15. The Leisure Hive (1980)
  16. The Visitation (1982)
  17. The Caves of Androzani (1984)
  18. The Curse of Fenric (1989)

So at least, if you were to for some reason want to watch a small selection of 25 years' worth of Doctor Who in chronological order, you could do that now. But it's still a legitimate hassle to find episodes by title, like a normal person.

Dragon Quest 1&2 SFC

I've occasionally been poking through the Super Famicom remake of the original Dragon Quest on my cell phone -- you know, when I've had downtime and haven't had my PSP or DS or suchlike with me.

First of all: man, onscreen D-pads suck, even for games that require as little precision as DQ. I have to savestate-spam just to get around the outside wall of Rimuldar without accidentally walking out.

Second: there's so much that's wonky about the interface of this remake. The stupid little half-steps you take instead of moving a full tile at a time, the bizarre decision to stick the action button on X and leave the menu on A (something they stuck with on up through 7 on the PS1!)...frankly I'm almost inclined to tip the Game Boy remake as the superior version of the game despite its inferior graphics and sound, just on its smoother interface.

(Also I recall the GB version having a more charming translation. I probably snorted out loud in class when I took the Princess to an inn and the keeper remarked the next morning that we'd sure been up late last night.)

(Yeah, I played Dragon Quest in class for most of CSE122. If you'd ever tried to sit through a lecture with that instructor, you'd understand.)