Resign the Design

Perhaps I'm just getting more and more curmudgeonly, but who the hell designs our products these days?

I remember a court case was active a few months back claiming monkeys (chimps?, some sort of simians) deserved some sort of rights.  I guess the plaintiffs won although at the time the chimps had refused to testify.

It seems like many, perhaps most, of the products I buy these days have one or more very obvious and stupid interface designs.  By interface designs, I mean the aspect of the product that you interact with.

I'm not claiming to be any user interface genius.  On the contrary I'm just a user who hopefully has a little commn sense.   In most instances of stupid design there are other products out there that don't have these flaws.  And in most instances it doesn't appear that the stupid design has saved any money.  At least not in manufacturing although I'll admit the companies must be saving money on design and user interface testing salaries.

Products I've recently bought with stupid design issues:

1 - 2015 Subaru Outback

Let me start with I do like the car.  Okay so that's done with.

The key lock.

For the last couple decades I've bought both Toyotas and Nissans.  To the best of my recollection they have all locked and unlocked with a key in the same manner.  You turn the key one way and all the doors lock.  You turn it the other way and the driver's door unlocks.  You turn it that second way twice (twist, let it return and twist again) and all the doors unlock.

Not for the 2015 Outback.  First unlock and the driver's door unlocks.  So far so good.  But then nothing.  Can't unlock all the doors with the key.  So your passenger has to wait for you (perhaps in the rain) to open the door and hit the door button.  How hard or costly would it have been to implement if driver door unlocked unlock all otherwise unlock driver door?

Even stupider (go ahead criticize me on that one).  When you lock the driver's door, it only locks the driver's door.   Now who in their right mind Ok'ed that one?  Be nice if Subaru could explain that one.  Yep most people want to have a locked driver's door while leaving the other three doors unlocked.

The power windows
Most autos (perhaps all in my experience) allow you to shut off the car and still operate the power windows for a short period of time.  At least some will shut that down if you open a door, but it's convenient.  So until I get this pounded in to my brain, when I get gas, I'll turn the car off, try to open the window, turn the car back on, open the window, and turn the car off again to talk to the attendant (yep we're here in one of the two states that still don't allow you to pump your own gas).  Given there are a number of things like lights that are timed to turn off a bit after turning off the car, how hard would it have been to hook in to those?

There are other small annoying things like they give you the ability to alter when the headlights automatically come on.  Except the range is pretty limited so even at the most sensitive setting they don't come on when it's dark and rainy.  Given that having the headlights on when the wipers are on is the law in many states now, why not just do that?  

Subaru designers.  Do you actually drive the cars you design?
2 - Bosch Dishwasher

The racks are a terrible design.  The Germans must use smaller dishes.  We use those inexpensive Corelle dishes (which are breakable by the way).  So they ought to be pretty common.  They don't fit anywhere without rubbing against the sides of the lower rack.  I can barely fit a sandwich plate and coffee cup saucer side by side.  Why?  Well the direction of the tines means from left to right, plate, plate, utensil basket.  Why not like my old dish washer rotate them so you have the entire front to back width for your plates?  Or put the utensil rack in the back for the same advantage?

Only one set of tines on each of the top and bottom racks fold down.  All the tines are slanted and packed so close together than a standard pie plate doesn't fit.  My old thin steel FarberWare pots won't go between these slanted tines.

There is no off button.  If you forgot something and you want to restart, you can do it.  just go find your manual to figure out which of several buttons need to be simultaneously pressed and held to do this.  So Bosch, having an off button would have broken the bank?

There are other little annoyances like it is hard to pour in the Jet Dry, it is hard to open the door without water splashing all over the place.  And it never, ever actually gets the dishes dry.  Even though it runs about an hour longer than my previous dishwasher (which I should have gotten fixed instead of listening to that consumer mag telling me this was a good model and my old one was old enough that it was time).

3 - Oster Toaster Oven

What can I say?  The marvel of modern electronics.  Instead of that nice little mechanical dial that for decades graced the control panel of toaster ovens I now get to push buttons to set it digitally.  Except for two things.  The button is hard enough (not that it is very hard) that you push the unit around (it being light enough) whenever you push a button.  And the settings don't allow the fine tuning like that simple little dial did.  I have two choices.  Under toast my english muffin so it is still slightly doughy.  Or set it up by one so that at least part of it is now black.

The rack is easy to slide out so you can pick up that muffin without touching a hot oven surface.  You just need to be careful to not slide it out very far at all.  Or be prepared as the rack tips up and stuff is falling all over your counter.

So manufacturers.  I'll pay another couple bucks if you will start making this stuff usable.  Really I will.  LG.  Your washing machine estimated time is useless.  It is usually takes a good 25% more time.  Although to its credit it sometimes takes less time.  And it would be nice to be able to actually hear the done signal one floor up when the wash is actually done.  And Samsung.  Stop annoying me with crap I don't want to be notified about on that stupid phone and let me remove the 75-80% of the stupid apps I have never used. 

And before you think I'm just impossible to please, I really like my Uniball 207 pens.  For years now.  I replace the chains, brakes, and occasionally a set of gears on my 13 year old Co-Motion bicycle and it just continues to work and work well. 

So designers.  If you need close to 1000 pages of instructions (the Outback combining main manual with the others like the info display etc), you need to reconsider your interface.  If people can mostly use the product without that 1000 pages, you probably have a decent design.  If you have not lived with your product for awhile before it goes to general production, you should. 


Erase? Of Course!

commenting on the Malaysian pilot's computer files:

"If the the computer has been intentionally wiped, then you know there is something that the owner of the computer wants to conceal from someone"

- Christopher Voss
former FBI Special Agent
one of the lead agents in the TWA 800 crash investigation 

You bet.  I use the open-source program Eraser to erase every file I intentionally erase.  You mean you don't?

I even erase innocuous files.  If I only erased files with private data, then someone hacking in would have an easier time figuring out what to try to unerase.  By erasing everything, I hope to add to a hacker's confusion.

And yes, I guess I'd have to confess that I erase my files because I own the computer and I want to conceal the files from pretty much everyone.  If I could figure out how to do it while still accessing the files for myself, I'd erase my current files.   Frankly it's none of their (whoever they are) business.

I also shred pretty much every piece of paper with my name on it or any information about me on it.



Lockbox Deceit

Was watching the tube this evening and heard for the 18 billionth time how the problem with Social Security is that we're all living too damn long and it was never meant to pay we old dotards, etc.  So why don't we all just die before getting it like the plan originally intended?

Well, sorry, but that's just Bullshit.

That's just a bunch of crap to make you feel lucky.  I'm sick of this lie they keep telling us.  The reality is that if the government didn't mismanage the ole lockbox, you would probably get a much larger Social Security monthly check.  I know I would.

How do I figure this? 

Well I spent some time on research and number crunching. 

Based on the United Nations life expectancy tables & World Health Organization life expectancy tables, I'm going to kick when I am 76.  A little unsettling, but I guess that's that.

If I start collecting Social Security at the full retirement age I'll have 10 years of checks at a monthly rate of $2,395.  Or a total payout of $287,400.

So far it looks like they are right.  After all, if I add up the amounts deducted from my paychecks over the years, it's only $113,841.55.

But wait a minute.  My employer (in some years that's me, myself, and I) contributes to the fund.  There have been some variations, but it is roughly the same amount.  So let's double that to $227,683.10.

Hmmm.  A lot closer to the payout, but it still looks like I'm getting a great deal at the expense of future taxpayers.

But as Ron Popeil says, "but wait there's more!"

No one in their right mind (which probably excludes the government) would stash away money for 35 to 40 years and not expect a return.  Actually the government even expects it.  Try paying your taxes late and see if they want some interest.  So no.  We still don't have numbers to compare.

What can we use?  Well I decided to work the numbers based on three different rates of return.

The first uses the inflation or CPI rate.  That provides a flat "no return" number.  It merely accounts for inflation.  So how does that compare?  My contributions using CPI rates totals $192,975.96.  Still far short of my payout.  But my contributions plus my employer's totals $385,951.91.  WOW!  Just accounting for inflation shows that the government has shortchanged me by almost a $100,000!  $385,951.91 - $287,400.00 = $98,551.91.

Then I took a look at what I would get if I actually got some return on my investment.  So I used a really conservative 5% annual return.  The combined contributions would be worth $588,104.96.  Now I see the government will cheat me out of $300,704.96.

But is 5% the right return?  After thinking about it awhile longer, I decided to rework the numbers one last time.  This time I used the S&P returns for each year I contributed.  Simple enough for you to do if you had that money.  Use it to buy an S&P index ETF.   What would I have then instead of the government 'securing my future' all these years?  Hold on to your seats kiddies.  The combined contribution would have been worth $1,683,343.17!  

So enough of this crap that I'm going to suck more money out than I put in.  YOU are cheating me out of $1,395,943.17.  I should be getting $11,632.86 per month instead of that measly $2,395 per month.

Lastly, I purposely ignored any cost of listing adjustments I might get in my Social Security payout.  For one thing, I didn't know how to figure that out.  And secondly I thought it was safe to assume that I should be able to cover that with the returns on my declining investment.  After all, if I just make 2% on my 1.6 million, I'd cover my my $2,395 per month payment and actually increase the principal, not slowly whittle it away.



This Time You've Gone Too Far

I'm not sure how far off the coast we are.  Someone with more resources than I have right now can probably make a decent guess from the TV map below.

I zoomed the camera phone at its highest.  If you look carefully on the right side of ocean image, you can see a small sailboat.  You wouldn't catch me this far out in that thing.

Wondering about that zigzag in our course?  We had a medical helicopter emergency rescue last night around 8:30.


Off to Bermuda

We made it to the cruise terminal in about an hour.  I can see the car from our room.  So yea, parking was easy.  I'm a little buzzed already.  Mr sub got this drink in the hallway and the guy poured in some extra shots.  So of course I had to go back there & and get one too.  I got a couple extra shots too.  But Mr peaches was there so I bought him one and the Guy poured a couple more in mine.  Then peachy came up and I bought her one.  And the guy hit me again.  Well the boat's pulling away so I gsuess time to post before I lose 3G.