The Rude List – LightBox-style Popup Messages

As far as I know, it began with showing a picture or slideshow. Darkening the rest of the screen has the effect of turning down the lights in the room. Thus, in itself, the lightbox-style is an effective means to concentrate the users attention on a popup message. However there can be a number of issues.

The first of which is that the “close” button is often tiny or hard to find. I do not want to waste my time trying to figure out how to get rid of the popup.

Some have had popups on each page. This probably goes back to cookies and security settings that don’t store or keep them between sessions. I’m in the latter group because I don’t want a zillion little cookie crumb files littering my computer. (That is subject of another Rude List item in the future.)

Staples popupAnother problem is if the window is too small because of a small or lower-resolution display. Think about tablet users, mobile phone users using the desktop version of your site. I have seen sites where the popup ran off the screen and it was literally IMPOSSIBLE to continue. Sorry, in that case, my business went elsewhere just because I couldn’t reach the site.

Thankfully in my Staples example here, I could click outside the popup and still proceed but it is still annoying.


First, make sure the close buttons is clear and easy to activate, even on touch screen devices. Furthermore, process clicks outside the popup and use that as an indication the user wants to close the popup.

Next, I would also make the popup close itself after a few seconds and never come back, cookie restrictions permitting.

Finally, really consider if such an intrusive popup is really necessary. Is the message THAT important? Does the message even apply to the viewer ? For example, in the case of Staples above, I already have their Rewards card, and yet I continue to see the messages. That happens a lot !

The Rude List

Today marks the beginning of a series I am calling The Rude List, a compilation of rude software and web site behaviors.

This is not a “top 10” type list as entries will be in no particular order, even though some raise my  blood pressure more than others.

To software and web site developers, if your product has these any of these characteristics, my only request is that you give these comments some consideration and know that your customers may have strong feelings about them.

Rude #1 – Lightbox-style Popup Messages



Time And Relative Capacity in Space

Back in 1977 or 1978, I remember my dad and I riding down to a nearby major city to pick up one box of ten 8″ diskettes. I remember they were SS/DD (single-sided, double-density) Nashua Five Disks vs Playbookbrand with a formatted capacity of about 230k under CP/M. The trip was justified because they were a great deal at $50 for the box.

That was $50 for a total 2.3 MB of storage.

For a simple comparison, my BlackBerry Playbook, a full computing device with input and output, is thinner than 5 discs and certainly smaller and has 64 GB of built-in storage. It would have taken over 291,000 SS/DD 8″ disks to reach 64 GB. Of course, one could upgrade to DS/DD 8″ disks and cut that around 146,000 disks.

(And don’t forget, we now have 64 GB MicroSDXC cards that are (roughly)

Looking at it from the dollars perspective, using, that works out to about $175 in 2013 money, about the cost of a tablet today. For 2.3 Megs! To reach 64 GB back then, it would have cost over 1.4 million dollars.

Just thought it was an interesting observation.

Keep Hard Drives from Powering Down in Windows

Okay, how about a useful post, this time.

I recently purchased a Windows 8 computer on which I use a number of external USB hard drives, the spinning kind. The problem is that Windows 8 seems to want to make these drives shut off and spin down, presumably to save power.

It has been getting very frustrating and every couple of minutes, I would have to wait an extra 10 seconds for the drive to be available again. In the meantime, programs would be unresponsive and show ‘Program is not responding.’ I just want to keep those drives to stay awake, powered up and spinning.

I tried one utility but it always crashed .NET so that didn’t wasn’t going to do so I started to write one myself but I frankly don’t have the spare time, so I decided to whip one out using a batch file. I found another but it only operated on one drive — I needed to keep two or three drives spinning.

Continue reading “Keep Hard Drives from Powering Down in Windows”