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Issue 5.1


Wait For It

The Art and Science of Waiting

Issue: 5.1 (September/October 2006)
Author: Toby Rush
Author Bio: Toby Rush is a music instructor, consultant, freelance programmer, web designer, husband and Dad in Greeley, Colorado.
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 10,626
Starting Page Number: 46
Article Number: 5120
Related Link(s): None

Excerpt of article text...

On every one of my computers, I have the seconds displayed in my menubar clock. It's not anything involving an obsession with perfectly synchronized clocks (well, okay, maybe there's a little bit of that); it's because having the seconds visible makes it very easy to tell if my computer has frozen up or not. If the computer seems unresponsive, I just look up at the menubar; if I can see the seconds ticking, I know that my computer is still ticking, at least at some level.

And this brings us to an interesting topic: computer users need to know, even if it's just on a subconscious level, that their computer is responsive. Even with the faster and faster computers that are available to us, there are many things that take a while for a computer to do: copying a huge file from one computer to another, opening an enormous iPhoto library, even doing a Spotlight search on a large hard disk. When the computer undertakes a process that takes longer than even a few seconds, the user needs to know that the machine hasn't come to a grinding halt.

Hey, this is important enough that we could blow it up into a Bill of Rights: we'll call them Waiter's Rights, though by "waiters," we're talking about "people who are waiting for their computers to do something important," not "people who bring you food and beverages in a restaurant." If Waiter's Right #1 is the right to know whether or not the computer is responsive, then Waiter's Right #2 is the right to know approximately how long a process will take; that way, if a user initiates a process that ends up taking a lot longer than they had planned, they can abort it. And that leads us to Waiter's Right #3: the right to have complete control of one's computer at all times, which includes the capability to cancel a lengthy process if the user wishes to.

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