June 28

How many clicks does it take to get to the reset of a GE lightbulb?

The world may never know.

It’s been making the rounds, the handy GE “UPDATED: How to: Reset C by GE Light Bulbs (864,376 views 6/28/19 7:37pm ET)” video. I heard about it in one of my tech writer Slack channels, and just had to see it for myself.

The spectacle of specificity that guides users down the Happy Path of resetting the bulb is something, indeed, to behold.

Once I saw the problem, and GE’s solution, my brain immediately traveled back in time to the early 1990s and a gadget that was as important to my life then as my smart phone is to me now. An omni-gadget that with a few adjustments could solve this bulb’s and other smart device reset issues … just like my little gadget saved my bacon back in the days of plaid flannel and military surplus boots.

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April 17

Printers May Go Offline At Random

In honor of World Haiku Day ….

Third level is where we solve all of the rest of your problems. First level asks if you turned it off and turned it back on again, Second level helps you reinstall … but Third level gets deep in the code where sometimes things have just gone funky.

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September 12

You’re reading my mind, Apple …

So we’re a mixed household. Some Apple, some Windows, and a few Androids tucked away here and there.

Our digital data is similarly patched together: Some Amazon items, Google Play titles, and a lot of Apple TV content.

A recent announcement out of Cupertino really has me wondering if Apple is reading my mind.

When we see an interesting movie, we’re faced with a dilemma: rent it or buy it? Sometimes the prices are close enough that it’s a tough choice. Will we want to watch over and over again? Will we regret buying it? Will we pay almost double to rent it and then buy it?

Take, for example, the movie Beatriz at Dinner. Currently, it’s $5.99 to rent, and $9.99 to buy.

We could rent it, love it, then buy it for a total of $15.98.

We could buy it, love it, and spend $9.99.

We could buy it, hate it, and have “rented it” for $9.99 instead of $5.99.

Yeah, I know, #firstworldproblems .

But here’s where they’re starting to read my mind. I’ve always wanted Apple to let you treat the rental price as a “try it before you buy it” option. Continue reading

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August 14

You do the hokey pokey and you find a work around

My teenagers are going to be driving soon, so I’ll need to equip the car with my parents’ “driving school” hack: an aluminum can with a few pebbles inside. We don’t remember exactly who thought it up, but we all remember using it well.

Deployment was simple,  “rulings” not subject to appeal. Just throw it in the back seat or pickup bed. If it rattles when you maneuver, you were going too fast. Simple. Objective. Argument-proof.

At home with our own brood these days, we employ similar absurd measures to prevent unwanted actions.

  • iPad too feeble to entertain OS updates? Put a passcode on it. Then you can never accidentally deploy an update.
  • Keep pocket launching an otherwise mostly useless garage door app and popping the door open? Bury the app under three layers of folders.

Defeating the Pocket Launches

Sure, I could, you know, LOCK my phone, but then life would be boring. How else would I scare the crap out of myself investigating middle-of-the-night noises if I didn’t pocket launch Audible at full sound? THIS IS AUDIBLE! (It was only the wind, skritching a tree branch on a window screen.)

But the mostly useless garage door app recently became more Lorena-and-pockets-and-toddlers-proof. You can now require a Touch ID fingerprint to open the garage door. Yay!

Of course, there many many other things they can change about the app to make me happy (I’ve been ruminating about it a while), but I’m delighted they’ve added this feature. Stay tuned for the pull apart on garage door apps.

Touch ID prompt

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August 2

I cut the cable, and I may be cutting Netflix free

netflix is cancelled screen

Back in the day, when Netflix had their blue logo and distribution houses only in California, we gave it a try. Too long a turnaround and many broken discs later, we took a break.

The new and improved red-logoed Netflix had a significant impact on our decision to “cut the cord” … as a result we’ve been cable and/or satellite free for well over a decade. We’ll stay at a hotel with cable once in a while, and use the time to remind ourselves why we have stayed severed from real-time television. Noise, commercials, lack of selection and control. Our cord-cutting apps do just fine.

Enter Autoplay Previews …

But a few days ago, the Netflix app on our Apple TV (current generation) started behaving just as badly as cable/satellite TV. It started autoplaying previews. Very annoying. Very loud. So we scrolled through the app options, scrolled through the online options, but found no way to turn it off. Continue reading

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July 10

A survivor has emerged in Jawbone V Fitbit … consumer edition.

According to the Consumerist blog, Jawbone is folding under its consumer wearables division. But Jawbone isn’t going away … they’re moving into more accurate medical-grade devices, possibly to improve data accuracy.

My guess is that these first and second generation trackers are equivalent to the small consumer cell phones and feature phones of the late 90s and early 00s. The medical-grade devices are set to burst onto the scene like the smartphones we all now carry around. Health plans will start paying for devices, and giving discounts for use (there are some pilot programs out there that pay into limited-use accounts) as an everyday thing everyone who can afford health insurance will use.

One to sleep, one to compete.
One to sleep, one to compete.

In the meantime, I’m still wearing two wearables. Partially to participate in challenges against my friends, partially as a check against each other, and partially because I really hate the alarm on the Fitbit more than the alarm on the Jawbone UP (which does wake me up now).

Fitbit, the market is yours to take back from the Apple Watch

(If you design for Apple, stop reading. I don’t want an Apple Watch!) I will ditch the Jawbone forever if you’d just fix your alarm settings from “static” to “smart”. Jawbone UP can be set to wake you at a “good time” in your sleep cycle, rather than at a specific time. Now that they’ve exited the market, find a comparable way to replicate it … without risking a lawsuit, please ….

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June 1

Designing your mobile game to flail: A look at the UX in PokémonGO

Years and years ago, there was a really great Super Bowl ad for a job site called monster.com. The premise was kids dreaming aloud of grown up jobs, but speaking of their dreams in ridiculous terms. The one that resonated most with me at the time was a dead serious tween: “I want to file all day.” Nobody wants to file all day.

And this goes for gamers, too. The equivalent of filing in video games is organizing and maintaining your inventory. Chasing through ridiculous amounts of menus just sucks the enjoyment right out of the game. No gamer is thinking to themselves: “I want to click through menus all day.”

But that is exactly what you do in PokémonGO. Click through unnecessary menus all darn day. It hurts gameplay, and I bet it’s even suppressing recurring player counts.

I’ve been playing PokémonGO on and off since it’s public release. There have been some changes to the “capture” side of the gameplay that are fantastic. Improvements to the “battle” side of the gameplay experience are still lacking, however.

Capture Gameplay Improvements:

  • Sliding Capture Menus
  • Appraisal function on the secondary character screen
  • Buddy System  

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January 31

I’ve been losing FitBits since 1.0

I lost one in September 2010, one in November 2010, and a few more since then. The original “clip” design failed for me … it kept popping off my ample waistline, and didn’t do well clipped to my shirt or bra, either. The hardware’s inability to handle multiple wake ups overnight didn’t do me any good, either.

Fitbits were originally priced around $99, and have mostly gone up in price. And complexity (still no Smart Alarm). And when you add on a new, more comfortable band … the cost goes up even more.

Another one, an Alta this time, has wandered off. We have an idea of where it might be, but it depends on the honesty of everyone else there. More likely it’s on eBay or Craigslist.

My suggestion is this: how about a “lock out” button? You can report your cell phone stolen to your carrier, why not the same for a fitness band? Heck, it’d be a revenue stream to subscribe to a return service; you try to sync a “stolen” subscribed band and you get a reward for returning it. At the very least, a “lock out” of a stolen item will reduce the resale value of stolen goods ….

user-edited Fitbit App screen.
Click the lock to lock it out from synching to a new user profile. Brick it till you get it back.

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January 24

Unsubscribable, that’s what you are …

I now know that all of the Kia dealerships around here share a database, and badly. There are three in the area. My spouse went to one to test drive and pick out a Soul five years ago. A friend went to another to test drive a Soul five years ago, and was treated so badly she bought a Dodge across the street instead. I went to our local Kia to test drive a Soul, and was treated so badly I went back down south to the one my spouse tried a Soul at and bought it there.

Yesterday, I plugged in the address to my GPS and drove 22 miles for an oil change at the original Kia dealership. Fast, friendly service; they did what I wanted, gave a list of “what will need to be dealt with soon but you’re okay for now”. They really reminded me how awesome an experience it is when I need dealer service (otherwise we go down the block to the mechanic we’ve used since the 1990s, even though we now live 22 miles away).

And then I got an email from my local Kia dealership as if they had performed the service. Ugh. I’ve only been to the local dealership the once, because I couldn’t limp the 22 miles to my preferred dealership. Despite all this, and my many requests for them to stop mailing me and calling me, they still think that I’m theirs. Not only that, I can’t unsubscribe from their emails.

Dear Kia and Carfax … fix your marketing engines!

Images below the cut … Continue reading

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