Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I hate Yahoo! Chat

I hate it. I despise it. I loathe it. To me, it is a pest. But it lets my wife keep in touch with friends and family in Việt Nam. She can type with them. She can even speak with them, and without paying Telstra or VNPT a single cent. So it stays on the family computer, as there's only the one. But I don't like it running when I use it. Most software runs in the background when minimized, and never disturbs the user except in emergencies. Yahoo! Chat is designed to distract and grab attention, even if the user has other ideas. I think it is not an accidental bug, but a deliberate feature - the same feature possessed by a lot of malware.

Last night illustrates my scorn. Yahoo! Chat was running, as my wife wanted to get a reference from one of her friends. She was speaking on the headset, so the keyboard was free for me to write. It was a nice moment of domestic bliss - husband and wife using the computer in tandem without getting in the way of each other. I'd made a few notes, but hadn't got to the point of turning them into sentences.

Then 5 of her friends tried to chat with her at once. I was in the middle of a word, and BLAM! there was Yahoo on top of my writing showing someone's message! I clicked minimise, returned to my application, got out two more characters and WHAM! another message from someone else! I tried to return to the same word (the fundamental unit of language - not the application), and before I had even typed out a character ZAAM! Yahoo was back again! Think of 5 ADHD-inflicted children crying for your attention. Letting users embed sound effects in messages makes things worse. One of them displayed this insistent woman whining "Alôôôôô". My train of concentration was derailed, and writer's block was in da house. I was angry.

The biggest problem with Yahoo! Chat is that it grabs the focus off other applications running on the same computer. As the article says:

In computing, the focus indicates the component of the graphical user interface which is currently selected to receive input.

Selected - one hopes - by the user. Not some rogue program. Which leads to a further issue - anger. I get really furious when Yahoo! steals the focus. The people trying to chat with my wife are interrupting what I am doing, even if they aren't aware of this. It makes me want to type "fuck off" back at them. I don't. It's rude, and they're the friends of my wife, and most are nice. They don't deserve to be abused by me, and my wife certainly doesn't need me using her nick to do so.

I have to live with the program - close it down when I can, and (if my wife needs it on), avoid work when it's open. Perhaps TweakUI can stop Yahoo! stealing focus. Perhaps not. And did I mention I hate Yahoo! Chat?