Lilfe in the slow (repair) lane.

I need a rant...
Is hardware becoming more complicated, users becoming more clueless, or both.
I get a panic call from a customer announcing that her HP Envy ink jet
printer refuses to print from her iPad 1 via Airprint. She's desperate to print her Groupon discount coupons (obviously a major emergency). She had followed my previous instructions to power cycle and reboot everything involved if something appears to be hung, but without any success. I rush over, expecting a hardware or configuration problem. Instead, all that was wrong was that she hadn't turned on the power on the printer, or as she put it, I had forgotten to tell her to turn on the power, making this my fault.
However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that the only different between the HP Envy printer front panel in the power off condition, and in the power on but standby condition, was one dim white LED lamp which was very easy to miss. To insure that it's never seen, the viewing angle is rather narrow. I didn't even notice this LED until shoved my face into the printer trying to clear a printer jam. The reason for the small dim LED is that many such printers end up in bedrooms and it would do to have the printer light up the whole room at night.
So, which is it? Is computah hardware becoming more complicated, or does exposure to computers cause the brain to turn into mush?
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Jeff Liebermann snipped-for-privacy@cruzio.com
150 Felker St #D http://www.LearnByDestroying.com
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"Jeff Liebermann" wrote in message

I hope you charged her your full fee, and collected it.

Ignoring the fact that people are not taught (from an early age) how to analyze and solve problems, I think it's the former. I find that as products become more complicated, I have less patience with fixing or configuring them. Most configuration problems are due to bad design, or the failure to anticipate how products will actually be used.
Such problems do not include remembering to turn on the power.
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On Thu, 28 Feb 2013 19:39:11 -0800, "William Sommerwerck"

Ladyfriend. I'll be lucky if I can get a free dinner for my efforts and then only if I confess that it was somehow my fault.

Well, that's part of the problem. In a parallel effort, a different friend and one of his accomplices are currently trying to troubleshoot a non-functional Mercedes ML320. My guess is $200 in wasted money on parts that were not defective so far. The problem is that despite my advice on approaching the troubleshooting in a logical and systematic manner, they've been floundering around for several days without any useful results. I see similar logic errors everywhere I look. I recall from skool, that there was a time when it was considered more important teaching students how to think, rather than cram them full of factoids. However, when they succeeded, and the student was able to think independently, that was deemed some kind of aberration. That was my problem in early skool.

I'm not sure which is the real culprit. Obviously, something went wrong. I have no objections to the current state of electronic complexity. What bothers me is the lack of consistency among user interfaces and operating paradigms. There are a few standards, such as up is on, and down is off, and maybe red is bad, while green is good, but even those are violated. I installed a Logitech BlueGoof iPad keyboard today and found a slide switch where red means power on, and green means power off (which incidentally was not described in the manual). Huh?

Apple: It just works (except when it doesn't).
Well, to be fair, it's an HP problem, not an Apple problem. HP correctly guessed that many such printers will end up in the bedroom, where bright lights from the printer is not acceptable. So, they made the lights so dim. Unless one was specifically looking for the pilot light, it would appear to be off. That's not a bad arrangement, but I would not expect the typical customer to understand what is happening. They probably thing, that if the iPad is "always on", why shouldn't the printer be always on?
I can't claim to be all that perfect myself. In the distant past, I designed marine radios, and wrote some of the manuals. I was rather proud of the job I did on the first manual, until someone pointed out that I forgot to explain how to turn it on and off. Oops.
In the future, I expect things to become more and more complicated. I also see devices, like printers, engaging in a dialog with the user and with other devices, to determine what the user wants to do. It then negotiates the parameters and settings automatically between devices. Put the iPad and printer next to each other, yell "connect me", and they will. Send the printer some data, and it's a fair assumption that one wants it to power on in preparation for printing. Don't do anything for a few minutes, and it's a fair assumption that the printer should power down. AI (artificial intelligence) was the big thing in the late 1970's, but where is it today?
Ok, I've had my rant.
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Jeff Liebermann snipped-for-privacy@cruzio.com
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[Jeff L.]
A YouTube'r I like to watch is mikeselectricstuff. He's a brilliant engineer and is always reviewing and taking stuff apart.
His reviews -- more often than not -- end with this conclusion: the hardware is excellent and the UI firmware/software/design is crap. He points out how potentially fabulous this bit of kit could be if the UI was halfway competent.
Here's a couple of good examples:
<
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzHZFcVofUg&list=UUcs0ZkP_as4PpHDhFcmCHyA&inde
x=2>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJv2iCieeeM

IMO, user interface is designed by people who probably wouldn't use the product.
When I worked at Apple (tech writer, decades ago) we would do a draft of a manual and then get a prospective customer -- "target audience" -- (someone from HR or such in this example) and put them in a room with a new product, in box, and let them go to it, videotaping the experience. The feedback is what made Apple's documents receive awards on top of awards.
If companies (ANY manufacturer) would do this for their UI, most issues would be resolved before the product hit the shelf. But being "a race to the bottom", I don't hold much hope.
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... snip

My favorite 'how not to' example is a dustpan, made with strengthening ridges on the bottom sides of the pan, in such a way that its impossible to put the front edge of the pan flat on the floor to pick up the sweepings - they go underneath the raised edge on the front lip created by the ridges. Obviously the designer ( and any subsequent reviewers ) never used a pan.
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Adrian Jansen adrianjansen at internode dot on dot net
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wrote:

The best measure of the quality of a product is employee theft. It's not worth stealing something that they know doesn't work or will break.

You may wish to browse the "Made by Monkeys" column found in Design News magazine: <http://www.designnews.com/archives.asp?section_id 67> Every month, they feature one or two poorly designed or poorly built products. I don't recall reading about your dust pan problem, but there are some that are similar.
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Jeff Liebermann snipped-for-privacy@cruzio.com
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*MY* favorite (actually, most hated...) "how not to" is the spare tire carrier on domestic (Ford, GMC, etc.) full-size trucks. My folks had a car repair and tire place. I've cursed out loud in front of my mother while trying to remove/replace a tire under a truck. A (slightly) better design is the chain hoist system used on some smaller imports. I hope there's a special place in hell for the Mercedes-driving engineer that designed this thing (you know HE never changed a flat in his life!).
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On Tue, 26 Mar 2013 01:08:28 -0700 (PDT), " snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com"

My former 1983 Dodge D50 pickup had a chain hoist spare tire under the bed. Great idea until I blew a rear tire and high centered the rear axle while driving on a dirt road on the way to a mountain top radio site. In order to lower the tire, a long hand crank was provided. The problem was that I was backed up against a hillside, and could not get the long crank into the hole. I had to dig out part of the hillside for it to fit. In order to remove the spare tire, I had to jack up the pickup bed about 3 ft off the ground, and crawl under the raised bed to release the toggle link holding the tire to the chain. Of course, with the tire lowered, the toggle link is UNDER the tire on the ground. I raised it with a bottle jack and a rather unstable pile of rocks. While replacing the blown tire, the pile of rocks and jack did partially collapse. Perhaps in your parents tire store, it might work, but on a dirt road, it's not easy.
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Jeff Liebermann wrote:

I carried some scarp pieces of 2x12 in my '79 Dodge pickup. If I had a flat, I would stack them against the flat tire and pull the truck up on top of them to be able to get the factory jack under the tire. Without the extra height, you couldn't get the jack to the jacking points on the frame.
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On 27/3/2013 2:12 AM, Jeff Liebermann wrote:

Yes, my Toyota has the chain lift spare system too. But its marginally better than having to unload the whole back of the tray to get to the spare, like some other pickups.
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On Wed, 27 Mar 2013 09:19:33 +1000, Adrian Jansen wrote:

My Jeep has the crank hole for the spare tire cable winch right under the center of the load space...
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"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence
over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."
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On Tue, 26 Mar 2013 09:12:35 -0700, Jeff Liebermann wrote:

"The barrel of bricks was heavier than I was..."
--
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence
over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."
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On Sun, 31 Mar 2013 11:25:29 -0700, Fred Abse

That's NOT what happened. All the rocks in the area were sandstone. When I lowered the jack after replacing the tire, because my pickup was at a slight angle, the crumbly rocks didn't like the side load and crumbled. That caused the jack to fall over, and the car to slide sideways (fortunately away from me). Not fun.
The idea of a spare tire should have gone the way of the buggy whip socket. The spare is an indication that the other 4 tires are not to be trusted. Perhaps it might make sense to improve the tire design so that it can be trusted?
There are plenty of good (and bad) ideas on how to build a flat proof tire. <https://www.google.com/search?tbm=pts&q=flat+proof+tire In it's simplest form, molding multiple cellular air chambers into the tire, should work. If one section to loses pressure, the other air chambers will provide adequate suspension. There are also inserts of various types: <http://www.airserts.com <http://www.designarmor.com/Run_Flat_Tire_Inserts.html <http://rodgard.com/runflats.htm Also, self-sealing tires: <http://www.rhinotire.com and wheels with built in suspension: <https://www.google.com/search?q=tweel&tbm=isch Any of these would be safer than the current pneumatic tire, which tends to fail catastrophically after a blowout, usually causing a loss of control.
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On Sun, 31 Mar 2013 13:23:57 -0700, Jeff Liebermann wrote:

I guess you don't recognize the reference. It was an attempt at humor.

tire.
The most tire related problems I ever had were when I had a BMW 540, with run-flat tires.
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About a decade ago, we did this, but it was a dismal failure.
I worked with the installation group of a fairly popular circuit simulation program, and someone had the bright idea to have the CEO test out the installation...
A few hours later... ;-)
Charlie
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Most of my frustrations were unloaded in the original thread: <http://groups.google.com/group/sci.electronics.repair/browse_thread/thread/a1ebf6c32667db31/ >IMO, user interface is designed by people who probably wouldn't use the

In a past life, I helped design several marine radios. The user interface was designed by a genuine industrial designer, with input from literally everyone that could possibly render an opinion. That included the janitor and random visitors. Part of my responsibility was to document all these great ideas for the industrial designer so that he could concentrate on the aesthetics and ergonomics. As a result, usability took third place behind feature bloat and artistic packaging. By the time the front panel was presented to engineering, it was obvious that we were in trouble. There weren't a sufficient number of buttons to handle all the features. So, each button had multiple functions, depending on whether it was tapped, held for 1 second, or held for more than 3 seconds. Considerable effort and wine went into crafting said interface, but the inevitable result was a miserable compromise. Marketing insisted that the radio with the most features would sell best, so there was no way to remove features or add buttons. We built a mockup and tried my usability test on various non-technical employees including the marketing manager. Nobody could operate it. There was even some difficulty in turning it on and off. Someone suggested that we have 3 modes (crude, basic and advanced) where some of the obscure functions were simply disabled. Everyone could operate it in crude mode, but the others required both RTFM and practice. We shipped a data logger with several radios, and found that 99% of the wiz-bang functions were never used.
Lesson learned: Features, functions and complexity sell products, but drive the users nuts.

Any product that is worthwhile should be intuitive and not require a manual. These daze, manuals are shipped on CD's and never read until something goes wrong. If the product needs a manual to use, there's something wrong. Besides, today's manuals are mostly legal disclaimers, court ordered warnings, and patent notices.
Lesson learned: Assume that users are NOT going to RTFM.

You're optimizing whale oil and sealing wax. Manuals and static user interfaces are dead, or at least should be dead. A proper user interface adjusts itself to what the user is doing, offering only those choices which are involved in whatever the user is trying to accomplish. A banking machine is a good example. You are presented with a minimum number of selections, all of which are appropriate to the current operation or mode. This results in more menus, but fewer choices.
I had the displeasure of proving the point when my father, the original permanent computer beginner, was trying to learn how to use his shiny new 1981(?) Altos AOS business computer system. I translated the menus from English to Polish, which was a big help, but he was still lost when presented with 20 menu choices per page. When I reduced it down to 5 choices, he was elated.
You can demonstrate how it works by asking someone to add a column of numbers, first with a 4 function calculator, and then with a scientific calculator. The 4 function is easy, but the scientific will usually cause a beginner to panic. Yet, they have the same numeric keypad and arithmetic buttons, usually in similar locations. The difference is the scientific calculator has far too much static clutter in the form of unused buttons, which add confusion.
Lesson learned: The purpose of a user interface is to REDUCE the number of choices, not bury the user in irrelevant over choice and complexity.
About 10 years ago, I designed a user interface for a radio. It was sufficiently unique that the company engineers and marketing people were afraid that users would not intuitively understand how to operate the radio. A few tests confirmed their suspicions. So, I now have to wait until some clueless competitor produces something similar, so my client company doesn't need to take any risks being innovative. If you're wondering why you're seeing the same broken user interfaces repeated ad infinitum, this is why.
Lesson learned: Innovative user interfaces are risky.
OK. End of yet another rant...
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Jeff Liebermann snipped-for-privacy@cruzio.com
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Speaking of radios and user interfaces...I had a Kenwood receiver in one of my cars. Great radio, great sound. The one problem was that they used the volume "knob" as a joystick to get multiple functions out of it. When you pressed it in, it switched to the sub-woofer menu. There was no easy way to exit the menu. If you were sitting still, this would seldom be a problem, but in a moving, bouncing, vibrating car, it's quite likely that you will push the knob in while trying to adjust the volume. Then you have to try to manipulate your way through the menus without taking your eyes off of the road for more than a split second. I finally started popping the faceplate off and back on, whenever I got into the menu system accidentally. This turned the receiver off, and let me resume normal operation. Kenwood stopped using this interface with this model.
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If

Rant noted and seconded. I've seen aftermarket auto radios that required you to hold-two-buttons to turn the power off. Now what the hell were they thinking? And this wasn't some cheap unknown brand, it was made by Pioneer. Don't the designers know that complexity in a vehicle environment can lead to dangerously distracted driving? Or do they give a damn? Tom
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Tom Hoehler wrote:

How many people pull their after market radio after a wreck? If you live, you'll just by another radio.
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