Voting for Checked Exceptions

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Yet another hideous idea from the closures camp: removing checked exceptions from the language. Now they want to remove one of the features from Java that actually works to support their pet obfuscation.

According to Neal Gafter:

We did a Google search to see how many people have written in support of checked exceptions and how many people don’t like them. The discussion seems to be lopsided against checked exceptions, but on the other hand that may be due to the fact that checked exceptions are the status quo.

For his next Google search, let me just say, I like checked exceptions and I want to keep them. The people who object to checked exceptions mostly seem not to know the difference between checked and unchecked. Most importantly, they seem not to know when to use checked exceptions and when to use unchecked exceptions. A few libraries such as the Java USB API even get this exactly backwards. And I will admit, if you don’t know this crucial piece of information, then checked exceptions seem ugly and confusing.

Menu Icons Considered Ugly

Monday, May 28th, 2007

There’s a common but mistaken belief that proper user interface design requires lots of pictures and icons. In fact, it doesn’t. Many concepts and actions can be fully and best conveyed by text. While standard icons for directories and disks and the like can be helpful, custom icons for an application’s unique actions rarely are. The fact is, most icons are not self-explanatory; and if they’re not common enough to be standardized, they’re not common enough to be learned easily.

Nonetheless, many applications persist in creating pointless, incomprehensible toolbars. Icon design is hard. It is not something that just any art school graduate with mad Photoshop skills can accomplish. Icon design is about conveying an idea with pictures. not merely making a 32×32 bitmap look pretty. It’s hard enough coming up with a good icon for basic actions like cut and paste. Now try imagining one for “Analyze Module Dependencies” or “View Breakpoints”. There’s a reason Susan Kare gets the big bucks.

Lately, this trend seems to have seeped into menus, where text used to rule supreme. For instance, look at this File menu from IntelliJ IDEA 6.0:


Not only do the icons add nothing to the menu items. They actually make the menu harder to scan and read because the items are no longer left aligned.

User Interfaces Are Like Robots

Friday, May 18th, 2007

IBM’s Bill Higgins takes a very unusual way of explaining why Mac apps should look like Mac apps and Windows apps should look like Windows apps. It also explains why desktop Java failed.

I’m not sure his analogy really holds, but I’m not sure it doesn’t. His conclusions are correct, even if his reasoning and/or evidence turns out to be faulty.

He makes a good argument that SWT is the right way to design a cross-platform GUI, and Swing is the wrong way. The problem here is that empirically Swing delivers more native cross-platform apps than SWT does. When theory clashes with experience, either the theory is wrong or there are factors not accounted for in the theory. I suspect the latter here.

Comment Spam Gets Trickier

Monday, May 14th, 2007

I’ve noticed a nasty trend in comment span here lately. So far it’s only a couple of posts, but it could become a flood. Comment spammers are copying sentences out of legitimate comments and resubmitting them with a link or two changed.

If you’re not careful, this can even fool a human inspection since the spam is thereby on topic and relevant. If it comes a couple of months after an original article was posted that received a lot of comments, it’s very easy to miss.

We may need to adjust comment filters to flag comments that copy content from previous comments. I’m not sure if any of the existing filters do that or not.

Even worse, now I’ve caught at least one apparently Polish spammer copying text out of other blog entries that reference this one and submitting that as comments here. The only hint that it’s spam comes from the site linked to. I don’t know if Bayesian analysis will catch these. Possibly a quick, automated Google plagiarism search might be in order?


Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

WP_Cache seemed to work well for Mokka mit Schlag so now I’ve installed it here on The Cafes too. It dramatically speeds up performance by caching query responses while still allowing for live comments and editing and all that yummy fired goodness WordPress is famous for. We shall see. If anyone notes any problems on this site suddenly cropping up, please holler.