Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Idiotic design decisions

Sometimes I wonder what marketers/engineers are thinking.  I just got a USB thumb drive.  It's got a lanyard hook for attaching it to my keyring.  Very nice.  Except the bloody hook is attached to the plastic cap protecting the USB pin.  Now, if I'm gonna lost half this thing, I think I'd much rather lose the cheap plastic cap than the actual USB FLASH part.  Why not put the lanyard on the expensive end?  My bet is this was a marketing decision along the lines of "pshaw.  They lose the cap, they don't care.  They lose the FLASH, they buy another".  grrr.

Last year I bought a clock radio.  Damn thing was a nitelite.  I couldn't sleep, it was so bright. Could almost read by it.  In less than a week the puppy was in the goodwill bin up the street.  For $15 it just wasn't worth the 40 minute round trip drive to return it.

Office XP.  If one of your contacts has both a fax number and an email address, then when you send mail to that person it pops up the window "multiple entries match this person, pick one".  Um, WTF?  I have yet to figure out how to tell it I just want to email the person 20 feet away from me, not send them a fax.  XP has other marketing driven misfeatures as well, don't even get me started.  IMHO, a classic case of some good updates hobbled by marketing's "hey!  lookie what we can do!"

A few years ago I bought a CD player that starts playing a CD whenever power was applied.  Player is plugged into my receiver.  90% of the time, when I turn the receiver on I'm watching either a DVD or TV, not listening to CDs.  But I get to watch the distracting lights as it changes tracks and CDs, not to mention wear and tear on the 1 part of this that is liable to break: the mechanics.

Last year I got a DVD player that won't tell me how much time is remaining in the movie.  It tells me how far into it I am, but won't tell me how much longer I have to go.  Makes it hard to decide if you want to stay up an extra 10 minutes to finish the movie, or go to bed and see the last hour tomorrow night.

I like my window focus to follow the mouse, and used third party desktops to add this feature in windows (xdesk rox!).  Windows XP now has a focus follows mouse setting.  Except they farked it up.  The active window is always on top.  Brain dead.  Really frustrating when you have a little box with an "ok" button over a larger window, like Visual Studio.  Go to task bar, bring up dialog box.  Move mouse to dialog box, en-route it covers part of VS.  VS jumps to front.  Wash hands, repeat.  Hugely annoying, and makes the feature useless.  Even worse, now that XP has this feature, the 3rd party tools no longer support it.  I know, I looked.  I really like the combo of focus follows mouse, and active window is not on top unless I want it there.

Sigh.  </rant>.  Thanks for listening.

Snotnose
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

With respect to focus-follows-mouse - This has been present in NT since at least NT 4.0 (which is what I have on my desktop right now). It may well have been present in 3.51, for all I know.

And sadly, the 'window comming forward when it gets focus' is NOT Windows fault. It's the apps. (I believe there is also a way to get windows to autoraise, but that's an option, not a forceed thing).

As a random sampling (Note, I have 'autoraise' turned off in Tweak UI):
Visual Studio 6.x will come to front when it gets focus. (If I'm not mistaken there is actually a reason they did this. I believe it had something to do with the app behaviour when you hit a breakpoint in the debugger)
Lotus Notes will raise itself (Damnned annoying, I MUST tell you.)
Putty will not.
Mozilla Firebird will not.
Internet Explorer will not.

In other words: Get TweakUI installed and turn off autoraise. Then see which apps you have that screw up before you give up on the feature altogether.

Michael Kohne
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I have a DVD player who's remote control only has next chapter, or previous chapter - no Fast-Forward or Reverse!  There's also a feature that allows the viewer to adjust the picture up/down, but not left/right!  Now, since it's a DVD player, most movies are picturebox, so there's absolutely no reason to be able to reposition the picture up and down because there's only black strips at the top and bottom anyway!  If your company is too cheap to provide two degrees of freedom, why not make the one provided useful?!?
888

anon
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The Design of Everyday Things covers this sort of thing very well.

It's very very interesting.

The reality is that it's damn hard to design, create, manufacture, market, sell and support  a product.

Very few companies do ALL of these well.

The advantage of doing them all well is that customers will pay a pretty penny for it:  e.g., Apple Macintosh, BMW, etc.

The real Entrepreneur
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Classic rant.

Waited until it all built up then let it out.

I have nothing more to add other then to say that made for an excellent read, thanks.

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Oh and I agree with you on the 'idiotic design decisions' frustration, I am always shaking my head at the designs people come up with, I wonder "did someone pay for that advice?"...

Aussie Chick
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Doesn't matter much anymore because XP never hangs for me, but I have an old computer that I used to use with Windows 98.  Trouble was, it wouldn't let me power down unless windows closed successfully.  Since there was no reset button, I was forced to pull out the plug every time Windows 98 froze.  D'oh!

BTW, Aussie Chick.  You rock!  I never disagree with anything you say.  You're the only regular on this sight who agrees with me on everything!  You're obviously highly intelligent!!! 

anon
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Ok I've got one-

Plastic wrap- just bought a new box.  It has a new feature which replaces the saw-like metal strip.  It's a little piece of plastic that you slide along the edge of the box which in turn cuts a piece of plastic wrap you have stretched over it.  And, in fact, it works great- if you have three hands!  Otherwise, you have to put the box down before cutting, otherwise the piece of plastic wrap will fall to the floor.  Then, since you're not holding the plastic, it gets all crinkly.  This just amazed me!  Did anyone actually use the thing before they put it on the market?

Ken
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

personally, I think the lanyard is on the right end:

a. Try to plug the stick into the back of your computer while a mass of keys is dangling from it

b. Have stick in computer doing something but need keys to access something else (server room, etc), oops

It makes perfect sense to me that the lanyard is attached to the cover, not the stick itself. I'll take the improved useability over the somewhat increased potential of losing it.

Gerald
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

My DVD player's remote control has fast-forward buttons marked on it.

But they only work as fast-forward/rewind when it's playing CDs.

When it's playing DVDs, they act as chapter changers. There are also some arrow buttons, but they don't do fast forward either. They act as chapter changers.

There are some other buttons with arrows on them, and they do act as fast forward/rewind buttons. Amusingly, at that point the "play" button stops being a "play" button and becomes a "start this chapter again" button.

"Sony. Let's Make it Better!!!"

Katie Lucas
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Hmmm, you probably have a point there.  Be a pain to dork with the keys with the dongle plugged into the laptop.

But, but, but... All my other points were valid! :)

And if you missed the quickie note in the original post, check out xdesk.  They have a free trial period.  Multiple desktops is great.  Mouseknocking, once you get used to doing it, rocks.  I've used it for years now and love it.  Makes Windows almost as easy to program on as Linux (or SunOS 15 years ago).

Snotnose
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Playstation 2. The little slots in the front for inserting memory cards, control pads and what not.

The slots are black. With black cover flaps. That match exactly the surrounding case.  With black interiors. With black things to plug into the slot.

Now most people probably place their PS2 under the TV, i.e. near floor level.  And most people probably do not shine a bright light directly onto their TV screen area.

P.S.
Why don't PCs put a USB slot or two on the front of the tower. It would be handy for plugging and unplugging memory sticks, etc.

S. Tanna
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Actually, just about every PC sold for the lat two years DO put USB connectors on the front. I have two PC's at home. One's got two USB's and a serial port on the front, the other's got two USB's and a firewire port on the front.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

We must be buying PCs from the wrong places. None of the ones we got, even recently, has this.

S. Tanna
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I have a USB drive with the keychain attachement on the end that you would like. Doesn't do much good as it's cheap plastic and broke in a week.

pdq
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

>> Lotus Notes will raise itself (Damnned annoying, I MUST tell you.)

Lotus Notes was purely put on this earth by Satan as a mechanism of annoyance. And boy does it work.

gwyn
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

My TV remote has no "next/previous channel" buttons.

Channel surfing is an intellectual effort.

1...9 are straightforward.

Then I have to press the button marked "10+" and the button "1". Then "10+" and "2".

ALL buttons (volume, mute, power) are arranged in a perfect grid, and all are same size. Impossible to find by touch.

Alex.ro
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Also Outlook rules editing.... Cannot use the mouse to copy an email address to a rule - when you right click to popup menu to paste, it comes some 'helpful' help info instead. You have to use CTRL-V. Really annoying...

yeah yeah
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

"Why don't PCs put a USB slot or two on the front of the tower."

Macs don't have a usb slot on the front of the tower. But they do have two USB slots on the keyboard and two USB slots on the monitor.

-
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I have a clock radio that's about as bright as a 100w bulb.It's one of the few alarm clocks I've found that can wake me - and the neighbourhood - so I place it face down at night to kill the light.

Jeep Wranglers ( at least the 2001 models ) have the steering column locking arm made to move vertically - locking in the up position. When driving on a corrogated dirt road at any speed you either hold the arm up with one hand or be prepared to catch the steering wheel as it drops out of position and onto your knees.

Jack.

Jack of all
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

saw some recent Dell towers.
they have USB slots on the front.
behind the bezel.
i suppose you could cut a hole in the bezel, or get a different one.

mb
Wednesday, February 25, 2004

I have that new plastic wrap box, and I like it a lot. The cutter even works if you want to cut the first strip into smaller pieces, you lay it over the cutter and cut some more. Of course, I always put it on the counter, that's how it works. I guess that this is opposite to the old kind that you had to hold to rip it. I never thought about it, it just made sense.

  --Josh

JWA
Thursday, February 26, 2004

It's nice to hit a nerve now and then :)  I built my PC from parts in Sep 2000, it's got 2 usb ports on the front panel.  Big reason I been wanting a USB FLASH, I'm set up to steal ^H^H^H^Hsearch for songs on the desktop, and wanted an easy way to get them to my working machine (laptop, less than 6 months old).

And AussieChick, I got the USB FLASH over the weekend.  I been making a list since monday of things I've bought recently that pissed me off.  Wish I could say I let it build up, but I really let the pressure off and was still pissed enough to post.  Too bad it turns out the lanyard on this damn thing is actually on the right end :(

Snotnose
Thursday, February 26, 2004

My father's Sony DVD/VCR combo: the remote has a numeric keypad.  OK, no surprise there.

Now try to program the VCR side to tape a show.  Set the channel.  Tap in the channel number.  Doesn't work!

That's right!  You need to press the channel up/down buttons to set the channel on the programming menu!  When the last show was taped on channel 2, and the current show is on channel 62, this is a royal pain.

It's a Sony!

David Jones
Thursday, February 26, 2004

My DVD player is always starts up a DVD with English subtitiles.  The majority of movies I watch are in English so the subtitles are unecessary.  I have to switch them off by means of the remote but this button doesn't work until the movie starts playing, i.e. it cannot be used during the opening menu.

I cannot find a way to change it anywhere in the very extensive configuration menu and the user manual is know help.

I think what we are seeing in this and at least one other thread is that DVD players have tremendous potential but tend to suck in one way or another.

name withheld out of cowardice
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Snotnose,

I lost a USB flash drive myself because of the lanyard being on the cap.

I couldn't find a replacement, with the lanyard on the "correct" end, so I bought the one with the tightest snap-on cap *that I could try* (most of them were in no-touch packaging).

Nate Silva
Thursday, February 26, 2004

I have an LG USB pen dirive, so you would expect a company that size would have somebody looking into usability.

Well,yes and no.

They have a little hole at the bottom of the lanyard you can pass the supplied thread through which you then clip shut and hang around your neck. OK for a real geek, but seems overkill to me.

What they don't have is a clip on the cap, so I can't clip the pen drive in my shirt pocket, as I can do with any ten cent biro. And the cap will not clip to the end of the drive like the cap of my ten cent biro  does.

Jeez, they have the metaphor ready made for them and they still can't get it right.

Stephen Jones
Friday, February 27, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home