Pentaho problems

I am finding myself using a lot of Pentaho Data Integration at the moment.

It’s a good, powerful, tool, but my god does it have some annoyances.

It’s a drag and drop tool that allows you to process massive amounts of data in parallel, without needing to be an almighty data analyst already. This means that you can bring up the configuration windows for each data processing step you’re working with at the same time, so you can check you’ve named all your variables correctly, and so on.

It has a help system built in, which pops up a window containing the wiki page for the step you’re working with. Except that the help window is modal. The only modal window in the whole application is the one which gives you a guide on what to type into which box or which contains example and values that you might want to copy/paste into your step. Except you can’t. Because modal.

As you run your data process, Pentaho marks each step as in progress, or successful. Except that if you have your process divided up into multiple data transformations then you can only check the status correctly if you close all but the first transformation in the process, run it, and then re-open the sub-transformations from there. Baffling.

When your transformations are running you get a nice real-time log of what’s happening at the bottom of your screen, which you can scroll through. Except that as new lines are added to the log it scrolls it to the bottom. Good luck finding the log message you were looking at before!

More complaining into the void next time! Hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am!

Accesskeys that aren’t

My work webmail is provided by IMP.

This bit is wildly wrong but is what I saw for a variety of Greasemonkey-related reasons.

Like Gmail it provides keyboard shortcuts for just about everything you might want to do with an email. Unfortunately, like Gmail, instead of just adding real accesskeys it uses JavaScript to interrupt key events and see if they match any of the IMP pre-set ones.

Compounding this is that the keystrokes IMP recognises as shortcuts are all ALT+, which is not only exactly the same as most default accesskey implementations (but without the accessibility benefits), but one of the ones it recognises is ALT+D, which in Internet Explorer and Firefox has been a shortcut for “address bar” for at least a decade.

In IMP it deletes the mail you’re reading.

Thanks, IMP!

Wiki or facebook? Decision decisions.

Loads of people in my office have a Wii. Being British, this is a terribly amusing state of affairs.

I was considering setting up a space on our work wiki where we could jot down our friend codes, games we’ve got, would recommend, release schedules, etc. (or just link to external resources – the world always needs another clearing-house, right?) when it struck me that Facebook might be an alternative – it would be easier to open to other people (although harder to regulate the scummy masses) and easier to post information.

The problem is that I just don’t like using Facebook. There’s something terribly clumsy about its interface which really turns me off. I can never quite find where I’m supposed to be going at a particular time, and the way groups are formatted is just a bit, well, shit. There’s the Wall for conversations, but also the discussion boards, and it’s just a mess, especially with no way of checking what’s going on without putting some dedicated effort into visiting all the time. I thought we left that behind the best part of a decade ago.

So I’d like to use a wiki and integrate our forums, but our forums are, uh, well, “not available” is pretty accurate. I guess I’ll plough through the Confluence plugins and see what I can do.

Firefox location bar doesn’t work under Ubuntu

Some of the shortcut keys for Firefox on Ubuntu are different to those on Windows. The most pertinent one for me is that the <backspace> key as a shortcut for clicking the “Back” button has been disabled. This is easily fixed in about:config by changing the value of browser.backspace_action to 0.

The most annoying however is the one which appears to have no fix, and for which I haven’t yet found a Bugzilla or Launchpad entry. In fact I’m not even sure which one it belongs to.

CTRL+SHIFT+arrow doesn’t select chunks of text in the Firefox location bar. It just selects all of it. I’m very used to chopping and changing URLs by hitting ALT+D followed by some keyboard selection goodness. No more apparently. Want to take off the “/blog” from a URL? That’s ALT+D and backspace five times. Hope you can count really quickly because sometimes my fingers move much faster than the location bar updates.

The Odeon are still incompetent

From Odeon: when will they learn?:

Let’s make this clear: whoever is in charge of the Odeon website is an utter incompetent. Because of their atrocious booking system this will be my first visit in years. With the thought that I might have to use their website again, it will also be my last for years. If I’d worked on that website I would be absolutely ashamed of myself.

IE7, an impartial review

My wife is a computer pragmatist. She’s tech-literate, and thinks that Linux and Firefox can fuck off because they’ll stop her from using the applications and websites she wants to.

So it was a wry grin that greeted her the day she came home and told me that her workplace has installed IE7 on their PCs. The following is her heart-rending tale of woe.

Internet Explorer 7 is the most laughable ‘upgrade’ since the TES website called dedicating a third of the page to adverts an improvement.

The stupid small blue buttons suck. The address bar is too high, my mouse keeps going to the wrong place to type in a URL and the refresh button is in the wrong place. Most annoying is the ‘we haven’t nicked this from Firefox honest’ crappy tab system. If my Internet viewer is suddenly going to open new windows in tabs, how about actually bringing the new window to the front instead of surreptitiously adding tab after tab silently and stealthily to the top of the page while I frantically click and try to work out why the new page isn’t visible? Even once you figure out what’s going on with the tabs, there isn’t enough room for more than about 3, so you have to scroll to find them. If there is an easy tab stacking system so that you can navigate the tabs easily as there is when pages stack up on the taskbar, I have yet to find it after a week of surfing so it’s not intuitive (update: now found how to do this, but it’s yet another new button to find). New tabs are not added to the end of the row, rather next to the tab you’ve opened them from, which means several times this week I’ve tried to find my email tab which was handily at the front, only to discover it’s disappeared behind five million rubbish tabs which I’ve idly opened. I’ve tried my best to disable the tabs and go back to sensible browsing, but my system administrator has disabled any control over my own destiny.