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Get A Rooster

Lileks sets an alarm clock:

First you push the ALARM SET button, and you should get our old friend, Mr. Blinking Twelve. But no. You press SOURCE to select iPod or FM tuner. Repeatedly pressing this button just makes the iPod option flash on the display, though, and you figure you've done something wrong. So you turn the device OFF.

And the display face lights up. This is the first indication that the device was designed by the American Union of Nonintuitive Interfaces. These guys get a lot of work nowadays. You start again. SOURCE. You get the flashing iPod option. Ah hah: here's another on/off button; let's try that. It turns everything off and powers down the unit. That's an option you've never had on an alarm clock before; if we had world enough and time, we could consider the possible scenarios in which one would want to power down the alarm clock. None come to mind.

Speaking of roosters, having spent some time in tropical climes where they run around wild, I can attest that the notion that they crow at dawn is a myth that has been foisted on city slickers like me. Or rather, that they only crow at dawn. I hear them crowing at dawn, at sunset, at lunchtime, at 2 AM. They may be good at waking you up, but not at any particularly useful time.


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Jonathan wrote:

The City of Miami Code Enforcement Dept. has a web page devoted to chicken issues.

I'm surprised that you didn't mention wild parrots, whose noise is much more noxious than is that of roosters. Also, roosters are easy to catch and eat.

Software-based menus are a great boon for manufacturing but degrade function. Knobs, buttons and switches are better. The old-fashioned alarm clock had a perfect user-interface. Why can't the design mavens replicate it instead of trying to replace it?

ken anthony wrote:

One thing Microsoft does better than most (and I consider them a criminal organization) is pay attention to user interface issues. But it seems like most product developers never learn (you'd think consumer choices in the marketplace would naturally select the bad designers out, it just doesn't happen.)

In the early 80's I used to work with a few dozen key-to-disk data entry people that could each type around 100wpm. When I wrote software for them I'd sit down with them and work right along with them. This seemed natural to me, but since then I've seen that other programmers despise such behavior. This allowed me to improve the data entry software by actually counting keystokes on a typical batch. With the improved software I was able to do twice the work at 20wpm that they could at 100wpm. That's why I always considered my job to be to leverage the productivity of others.

Another thing I've noticed is that it's very hard to get a design right the first time, but companies seem to invest so much in that first idea that they resist greatly refining or changing to something better. I wonder why the managers that stick with bad ideas don't get selected out faster either?

Josh Reiter wrote:

I got some crazy Timex, self setting alarm clock from Costco one time. It was nifty and all but the 'Indiglo' face of the alarm clock was so bright that you could read by it. I guess I could have throw a shirt over it over something that seemed to be defeating to me. So, I took it back and headed over to Walmart. Nearly all the alarm clocks had huge green LED displays that I just knew would be way to bright. Finally found a moderately sized red LED model and took it home only to discover it was blazing bright as well. It seems the somewhat inefficient LED's of 20-30 years ago would be just fine for a alarm clock. Not the current super high intensity, you can see me from 2 miles away in a snow storm LED.

Aupuni wrote:

you suck

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on February 19, 2008 6:55 AM.

Is Nanotechnology Immoral? was the previous entry in this blog.

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