Category Archives: General

by Dave Morris

Horn Ok Please

The first time I was in India, I travelled to Bombay, Agra, Delhi, Jaipur, and Udaipur mostly by van. It was impossible not to notice the multicolored painted vans. They are covered in painted flowers, designs, and the ubiquitous “Horn OK Please.”

And why does it say this? Driving etiquette in India requires that drivers honk before passing, “to let them know you are there.” Driving with a friend and his dad, I was most amused when his dad scolded him for not honking enough. You can’t even imagine how much honking there is on a four lane highway, with each car honking every time they overtake another. It brings new meaning to the word cacophony!

A few years ago I went to Goa, India. While there, I had the chance to drive both a scooter and a car. It was so much fun. Like a video game. It was the 5th or 6th time I’d travelled in India, and I’d consistently been impressed with how traffic works, often without signals, in some kind of natural organic flow. Different types of vehicles blending together to share space.

Though Goa is far tamer than other parts of India, I still found driving very inspiring. It was fun like the best kind of driving video games — which got me thinking…

Wouldn’t it make a great video game? Imagine that you drive different kinds of vehicles. Maybe you start out with a push cart that you push yourself, move up through ox drawn carts, rickshaws, scooters and motorcycles (with at least 5 passengers), cars, and, of course, horn-ok-please trucks. You have to negotiate traffic, avoid hitting cows sleeping on the median strip, and achieve goals (like delivering the vegetables on the push cart, or picking up and dropping off customers in the rickshaw). Meanwhile, trying to incarnate up levels to better vehicles. And if you do hit that cow? Definitely incarnating downward…


It’s amazing how the traffic flows… somebody build this please? Otherwise I’ll have to go back to India for the real thing. :)

Photo Credit: Horn OK Please by Dave Morris

by Carlos Rios

The magical command line

I have recently become more comfortable with the command line, but for a long time felt like that blinking cursor was telling me “you. remember. nothing. you. remember. nothing.”

I have a visual memory. I can picture a drawing of the water cycle from my fifth grade text book, and I remember that the drawing was on the left side of the page. The command line makes poor use of a visual memory (though setting up the bash shell with some colors can help), and I thought perhaps we could do better.

Ages ago, 2010ish in fact, I imagined a solution, which I called the magical command line. I pictured a series of in-context drop-downs that could guide someone who was less comfortable with this mode of interacting with the computer. For example, when a user typed gi the drop down might suggest git, gitk, git-duet, or any number of other commands beginning with the letters gi.

gi

I also wanted a command line that would auto suggest things that could be found in help documentation (without me needing to type –help again and again). As the user finished typing git and then added a trailing space, the suggestions would auto-update to match the new set of constraints, and only subcommands of git would be suggested.

git_space

So, when I type git m, the magical command line would in a context sensitive way, realize that I’m typing a subcommand of git and auto-populate the drop-down with subcommands that begin with the letter m. Notice how the icons and colors change to let the user know they are dealing with a primary or subcommand.

git_m

As I select the second option git mv the magical command line now populates the drop-down with two file-picker triggers for both the source and destination file. Different iconography distinguishes the file picker from the regular command/subcommand suggestions.

git_mv_dropdown

When I choose source, it opens an OS specific file picker.

file_select_GUI

Is this still a good idea four years later? I don’t know. I think it would still help beginners and those with visual memories like mine get comfortable with the command line faster. Maybe in the intervening years something like this has already been created? If so, I’d love to hear about it. What do you think? How does your memory work best? Would this tool help you?

Note: Obviously the interaction is heavily inspired by my use of adobe products. I even proposed this to Adobe years ago because I thought it would be a great bridge-tool for designers on the nerdier end of the spectrum, but the PM just smiled and nodded. Maybe it’s actually a dumb idea? I thought I’d put it out there before I nuke this buggy laptop and possibly lose the designs forever.

Photo Credit: Carlos Rios