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Comment: Re:Unchanging UIs? Not just for old people (Score 1) 187 187

even the basic UI of a car does not change (clutch, brakes, gas, steering wheel, gear stick).

Only becase of state intervention. Before that, every new model had the pedals and handbrake in different places, sometimes to work around a competitor's patents.

I believe Ford had a patent on having all the switches on a single stalk on the steering column with the Mk1 Cortina (about 1962), so everyone else had to have two stalks, and then switch them around so you can squirt yourself in the face with the screen washer when you want the turn indicator in you partner's car, or go for the horn in an emergency.

Its not only computer UI designers that are a manace to society. The world has been subjected to this nightmare for quite some time.

The MS ribbon what what made my 80 year old mum switch to a Mac.

Comment: Re: pardon my french, but "duh" (Score 1) 187 187

I have emailed a whole bunch of TV dinner manufacturers explaing that if someone is going to eat the dinner, they first need to read the instructions, and if you print them in 75DPI resolution using 6 point type, in white on yellow, then this is unlikely to happen. Given that there is masses of space around the instructions, it would be easy to enlarge the print, and a change of colour might improve the contrast from 7/4 against.

Some of them reply politely.

Comment: Re:Missing something (Score 5, Insightful) 94 94

So if you're such a genius, what have you done recently that's as creative as this? (Sound of crickets...)

Did you bother to look at the video and see how he worked out the gear ratios? With a relatively small number of gears he managed to have a one in the denominator of the ratio equation and at the same time he made the numerator be 11,373,076. A design with those properties doesn't leap off the page the first time you try it. It's really hard.

He said it was compact for the extreme ratio. I'll bet if you tried to do something similar it would be a lot bigger, need a lot more gears, and might not even work. Care to prove me wrong? (Hint: no combination of worm gears comes even close.)

You're just another Slashdot Pundit, living in your parents basement and sneering at people who get stuff done in order to make up for the fact that you're utterly useless. Anyone with a life would never make such a stupid comment.

Comment: Fun, But Useless (Score 3, Funny) 94 94

This is a fun device that can show you what can be done with 3D printed plastic. That said, it's useless. It would be really cool if I could apply 1 pound of force to the crank, turn it a Million times, and have it apply a Million pounds of rotational force at the other end. But it's made of plastic, so it won't do that. Indeed, the fast-rotating parts would wear out before the slow-rotating part made a single turn. So it's not even good as a kind of clock.

All that said, it's a good conversation piece, and probably worth the price for that.

Comment: Everything old is new again (Score 1) 52 52

IBM 7302 Core Memory Unit circa 1957-1958 for the IBM 7030 (Stretch) computer.

The core memory in the IBM 7302 was heated/cooled to stabilize its operating characteristics. Early units immersed the core stack in heated/cooled oil, later units called the IBM 7302A, blew heated/cooled air through the core stack.

I once herd a story from a real old timer about fixing these memories. When they were new there was a problem with small metal particles left over from manufacturing floating around and shorting out the core stacks. In those days IBM field engineers always wore white shirts and a tie. When they had to fix these things, they would take off their tie, but just leave their shirts on and pull the core out with their hands, because they knew that they would get covered in oil no matter what they did.

Comment: Re:Remote Support Should be Easy, But Isn't (Score 2) 187 187

I do know there are a few less-complicated remote support products, but they are few and far between, do not seem to be popular enough to be in common use in these scenarios, and often have more security issues than the services I mention above.

Use TeamViewer. Free for personal use, easy to set up, secure and use. No web browser needed.

Um, yeah, I use it too, but it takes someone with basic computer skills to set it up, which isn't always assured at the other end. I support a medium-large user base, many elderly, and I always visit them personally the first time, set up Team Viewer, and make sure it works before I leave. Then it's always running and they don't have to do anything for me to jump on and help.

Incidentally, a big hitch in my daily operations was when Logmein went pay-only. (The logic being that it was offering a bunch of wonderful new features, mostly eye candy, that I would never use.) I had to visit each customer, uninstall Logmein, and install Team Viewer. What a hassle.

Comment: Re:Unchanging UIs? Not just for old people (Score 5, Insightful) 187 187

> When software reaches that level of maturity, it's a good thing to leave it working.

Absolutely true. I think this runs counter to the basic business model, ,which posits that the next version be New and Exciting. (We could all think of examples of this I'm sure.) The Exciting part often being "I desperately need to do something RIGHT NOW that I USED to know how to do!"

If software companies are upset that we're obstinately staying with older versions of their products, instead of paying for the latest and greatest, the answer might be simply "I know how to use this version, and I don't want to spend hours with each new revision trying to figure out where you've hidden the button this time." [1] It's ok to make things faster, more efficient, or add features, but Exciting New changes to the UI will slow adoption and may lose customers.

[1] Trivial example: Mother in law in her seventies being forced to switch from Outlook Express to Windows Live Mail. She very nearly gave up on email altogether.

Comment: Re:pardon my french, but "duh" (Score 4, Insightful) 187 187

Well that may be so. But as you get older you get less patient with people wasting your time.

Let's say you're 90 years old. You're using a webmail system which does everything you need it to do. Then some manager has a brainwave and suddenly all the functions are somewhere else. How much of the 3.99 years the actuarial tables say you've got left do you want to spend dealing with that?

It's not just 90 year-olds. Take a poll of working-age users and find out how many like the MS Office Ribbon; how many people are cool with the regular UI reshuffling that takes place in Windows just to prove you're paying your upgrade fee for software that's "new"?

Comment: Re:Therac 25 (Score 2) 187 187

I was working as a developer when the news of the Therac 25 problems broke, so I remember it well. You actually have it backwards; it wasn't bad UI design at all.

The thing is mere functional testing of the user interface would not have revealed the flaw in the system. What happened is that people who used the system very day, day in and day out, became so fast at entering the machine settings the rate of UI events exceeded the ability of the custom monitor software written for the machine to respond correctly to them.

If the UI was bad from a design standpoint the fundamental system engineering flaws of the system might never have been revealed.

Staff meeting in the conference room in %d minutes.