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Bad UI

9.06.2013 1 comment

User interface is the most important feature of all devices (and software). It exposes all device functions to the user. Without user interface, all features of the device would be useless.

Apparently companies who have been around for tens or even hundreds of years are still making mistakes in user interface design. Here are two examples.

The compartment under the center armrest in a very popular car looks like this:

IMG_0964

 

The compartment has two levels. Hence there are two levers under the armrest. One of them opens the top, flat compartment, the other one opens the bottom, big compartment. Unfortunately I am not able to memorize which lever opens which compartment.

I used to keep a box of kleenex/tissue in the bottom compartment. Whenever I wanted to take one tissue out, I had to guess which lever to pull to open the right compartment. And somehow I always guessed wrong. Very annoying, esp. during driving.

Cars are known for very well-thought user interfaces, which don’t get in the way. But in this case – they blew it.

Here is another example of a bad user interface. This company making all kinds of appliances and house equipment has been around for more than 100 years. One of their stoves:

IMG_0945

 

This is a standard piece of equipment and a standard user interface solution. Well – nothing less annoying. The flaw here is almost the same as in the case of the dual compartment above. There are two knobs, one for each burner. Unfortunately the burners are aligned vertically, while the knobs are aligned horizontally, giving you no clue (without taking a closer look) which knob is for which burner.

In order to tell which knob is for which burner, I have to bend. Often I don’t want to bend, I just want to turn the burner on. When I don’t bend and look at the pictures which decipher the knob-to-burner assignment, I always choose the wrong knob and turn the wrong burner on. Like in the dual compartment case, it is not possible to memorize which knob is for which burner. Maybe because the pair of knobs on the other side for the two remaining burners is swapped. Well, at least they left a visual clue for the people who are not too lazy and actually bend or take a step back to determine which knob to turn. Please note, that when you’re close to the stove and e.g. putting a kettle on the back burner, you don’t see the icons over the knobs and you either have to bend down or back or you have to take a step back.

As innocuous as they may seem, these can be quite annoying.

How many broken UI designs can you spot around you?

 

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Categories: Other

Unenforceable law

19.05.2013 3 comments

A few years ago California introduced a law which bans texting or talking over the phone while driving. The problem is, that this law is unenforceable.

Every day I see many people clicking on their smartphones when waiting on the red light and often even when driving. Not only they risk their and other drivers’ lives, but they also show disrespect to other people. It always makes me angry when I am waiting on the red light behind somebody, the red light turns in to green and I am waiting multiple seconds before the clicker in front of me notices the green light. Often I have to honk to draw that person’s attention, the person starts driving lazily and keeps clicking.

The problem is so widespread that the police has no way of catching the clickers and enforcing the law. Maybe in 10 years we will have technology which blocks the phone when it is inside a car, maybe phones will automatically detect that they are inside the car and will lock their UI. Also self-driving cars will probably also take over when they detect that the driver is not paying attention or is drunk. Until then, the anti-texting law should probably be repealed, for it makes no sense.

What do you think? Do clickers annoy you when they are blocking your driving, do they offend you, or are you OK waiting for someone whose mind is somewhere else and not on the road?

Categories: Other

Writing

29.10.2012 Leave a comment

The wheel is often mentioned as the cornerstone invention of our civilization. I’m not arguing it’s not true, but I consider writing as one of the most important inventions.

Information management such as precise collection and transfer is crucial for any civilization to make progress. Written information can be exchanged without errors. This includes everyday communication, trade, history, law. Writing also enabled progress in engineering and science.

Humans are not a good medium of information, because their memory is unreliable. They forget things, or misinterpret them. Religion and knowledge used to be passed from shaman to shaman using spoken language, whatever they forgot, had to be rediscovered again. But after the invention of writing humans started organizing into bigger groups and started creating new, magnificent technologies.

Advanced religion, which was also an important piece of the evolution of the civilization, was also not possible without writing. Every tribe used to have their own set of stories and of course they used to clash over whose stories are right. Once religious manuscripts were created, people started uniting over religion, what helped the development of nations.

Next time you’re writing something, realize that you’re using one of the most important inventions of our civilization.

Categories: Other

What’s on TV?

10.09.2012 Leave a comment

I don’t have broadcast TV reception at home. In fact I only listen to the radio in my car and only on the way to or back from work. That’s like maybe 20 minutes a day tops, on a good day.

It goes like this: I’m stopped at the red light and getting bored or I’m coming back from work and my head is almost exploding from thoughts banging around inside. To ease my mind I turn on the radio. These are the things I hear:

The most common are commercials. When I hear a commercial I just switch to another station. The next station often also has a commercial, so I keep going until I find one which doesn’t, or I turn the radio off.

The next common thing is music I hate. Typically these are the so-called “hits”, i.e. music which someone in a record label decided to promote. I have no idea how people can listen to most of this kind of stuff, it’s usually loud BOOM, BOOM and a woman screaming out her lungs or some tune which is so annoying that I switch the station before I hear the chorus.

There are specialty stations which only play one kind of music. They are a nice change on the first few listens, they usually play more music than commercials and they don’t play the usual kind of trash than most stations do. However these stations get annoying after a few weeks, because they are playing the same things over and over again. How many times in a row can you listen to the same old song? Even though I listen to any kind of station at most 20 minutes a day, so that’s even much less per station, I can tell that they are repeating their stuff, so their selection of music must be really low! Take the music collection on your favorite pocket device, how often will you hear songs repeat if you listen only to 5 songs a day?

Sometimes its fun to listen to foreign language stations, for example it’s easy to tune to some Mexican station in the US. The Mexican songs are fun from time to time but they are also all written to the same kind of melody and they are also all about a broken corazon – I challenge you to find a song in Spanish which does not have the word corazon in it.

Back to TV. I do watch broadcast TV a few hours a year, for example when I’m in a hotel. Every time I watch TV it reminds me why I don’t have it at home – there is nothing on it. You can have hundreds of channels, and none of them has anything interesting. Sure you can laugh at some sitcom once in a while, but that’s it. OK, maybe you can find some interesting series from time to time – but then it’s interrupted every 5 minutes with very long commercials. So out of a 40 minute show they can easily make a one hour show. If you really like some show, then you need to remember to be at home ready at exactly the time they have it, otherwise you will not be able to watch the whole thing. If you have extra money to throw away, you can get a DVR, but the commercials remain.

The Internet to the rescue! Fortunately there are streaming services now, so you can watch whatever you want, whenever you want/can and without commercials. And it’s inexpensive. I don’t know why people still watch broadcast TV at home.

Internet radio is nice, but it’s not available in my car, plus it’s also been crippled with commercials in the recent years. There are paid options, but I don’t spend enough time in my car to want to pay for that.

How long before broadcast TV and radio share the fate of dinosaurs?

Categories: Other

How to buy a gaming rig

22.04.2012 Leave a comment

I used the Diablo III Open Beta to see how my 7 year old computer will be able to handle it. Well, it is not really 7 years old. 5 years ago I upgraded the CPU from a single core 2GHz to a dual core 1.8GHz. This year I upgraded the graphics card to GF 460GT and added a second gig of RAM. But you could say that except the graphics card, everything else is quite old in that “rig”. The motherboard supports only PCI Express 1.0, which is twice as slow as the 2.0 standard supported by this graphics card.

I tried the beta on a MacBook Pro with Intel Core 2 Duo, 2.66GHz (above the recommended spec for this game) and GF 9600M GT (the bottom of the minimum spec). It plays horribly with the minimum resolution (800×600) and all settings set to low. Barely playable.

Then I tried the beta on the dual-core Opteron 1.8GHz (much below the minimum spec, which is 2.2GHz) and GF 460GT (above the recommended spec, but PCI Express 1.0 only). It plays smoothly at 1920×1080 with all settings set to high. The beta is supposedly not optimized, the final game will probably play even smoother.

The bottom line: if you’re buying or beefing up a gaming rig, buy as cheap a CPU as you can find, then spend the saved money on a graphics card.

Categories: Other

Diablo III Open Beta

20.04.2012 Leave a comment

This weekend, you can play Diablo III Beta without a special key! It’s time to check if the hardware will be able to handle the game. 🙂

Link to Battle.net

Categories: Other

How to hire great programmers?

20.04.2012 Leave a comment

Noticed on Herb Sutter’s blog: quotes from Steve Jobs.

The interesting quote is: “In most businesses, the difference between average and good [employee] is at best 2 to 1. […] But in software, it’s at least 25 to 1. […] The secret of my success is that we have gone to exceptional lengths to hire the best people in the world.”

I guess the difference between people in the middle of that range (12) and the people closer to the end (1) can easily be spotted per my previous post. But how do you tell the difference between the best ones (25) and the middle ones (12)? Especially this: how do you tell whether a person has the potential to become a “25”? How did Steve do that?

Categories: Computing, Other