Author Archives: Jan Van Haver

Just asking… #3 – Scrollbars

On most websites and in lots of widely used applications (Gmail and Microsoft Excel to name just a few) the navigation elements that you use most frequently are on the left hand side of the screen: the complete menu (or the most common menu items in case of top navigation menus), the checkboxes to select emails, the info in the most important columns of a spreadsheet (to stick to my examples)… all on the left had side of the screen.

So, why is it that whenever the webpage or the file contains more content than will fit on a single screen, a scrollbar appears… on the right side of the screen? Especially when you are working with a mouse (or trackpad) on a laptop with a relatively small screen, this can be very inconvenient. You simply keep moving the mouse from the left end side of the screen to the right end side over and over again (yes, dear keyboard-shortcut fan, I do know about keybaord shortcuts, but you will have to admit: they can’t be used in all scenarios).

Is someone benefiting from all those extra cursor-miles? Just asking…


OK, this time I am impressed

In a previous story, I half mockingly claimed not be impressed by the applications of AI and machine learning in everyday life. And then I even full mockingly made fun of the idea by claiming (in a post where I was attributing AI capabilities to a thermos) it might be time to change my view. But this time, it might really be time to revise my opinion.

About everyone will Continue reading

Machine learning in everday life

As you might have read in an earlier post: until now I am not very impressed by the application of AI and machine learning in everyday life. We always hear about the wonderful and amazing things that will soon be possible thanks to machine learning, but time and again – when faced with the way this is applied today – the predominant feeling that arises is disappointment.

Until today. Continue reading

Just asking… #2 – Time bombs

There’s a pretty good chance you’ve already seen a few movies or TV shows where a time bomb will go off once the timer reaches the dreaded 00:00. Unless of course the good guy succeeds in dismantling the device – typically at 00:02 or thereabouts, and typically by cutting the red wire, after having had an nerve-wrecking argument with a sidekick character about the color of the wire that needs to be cut first.

That is of course fiction. But what you see in movies is often at least partially linked to reality, so I guess colored wires actually play a role in some real incidents that involve explosives. So: why hasn’t anyone come up with the idea of creating a tool that will cut all wires at exactly the same time, and made this part of the standard equipment of all bomb squad members? Just asking…

What is the problem with economic migration?

For a number of years now, migration has been one of the most prominent topics in the media – with local peaks in some countries, often caused by upcoming elections, as it has become quite obvious that it is a topic that has the ability to move voters, in one way or the other. In the Western (a.k.a. ‘developed’ or even ‘civilized’) countries, generally speaking a clear majority of the population agrees that, in the context of the migration which is covered so abundantly in the media, refugees fleeing for war should be allowed to migrate to those countries for humanitarian reasons.

But if it comes to migration for economic reasons, the willingness to allow access to the territory is dramatically lower – even amongst large parts of the population that would never even consider voting for extreme right and/or populist parties, traditionally the loudest anti-migration voices. I am wondering why this is the case. As I see it, large scale economic migration has existed for centuries without outbursts of Western protest, so what is causing this change of attitude? Perhaps I should attempt to figure out what is different now from the way it was happening before…

Let’s try breaking it down into separate elements, by looking at factors such as the areas that have been source and destination, the objects migrating, the consideration of who took the decision, the beneficiaries of the outcome, etc. Continue reading

Quote of the day #88

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Theodore Roosevelt