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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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 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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November 30

Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO is one of a new generation of mobile games, tied to the real word using GPS and user-mapped locations for gameplay. Users walk around to find fixed play points, such as Pokestops and Gyms, as well as to find wild Pokemon at random spawn points. Each of these actions are tied to action trees for capturing game resources or reagents as needed.

There are several interlayered game play actions required to play the game, but my main annoyance is this: I can view the Pokemon I’ve “captured” in the game, but I can’t heal or repair them within that screen. I have to chase all the way back out to the main view screen, switch to the Items menu, and then guess how to heal or revive a Pokemon.

If I want to “upgrade” or “evolve”, I have to drop back to the main view screen, select the Pokemon to work with, and then upgrade or evolve the Pokemon.

While I understand that the reagents used in these game play actions are gathered in different ways (repair items are picked up at Pokestops, candy and stardust from capturing wild Pokemon), it doesn’t make sense to me that they have to be accessed in different game play action trees.

Accessing healing and revival through the Items menu allows players to wholesale heal and revive their Pokemon. Tap a Pokemon, heal them up. But players who want to min max their resources are stuck. They can’t see how many hit points a damaged Pokemon has – should they use two twenty point potions, or one fifty point potion?

Allowing a player to access potions from the Pokemon primary character screen would make it easier to manage resources. See a Pokemon’s hit points, select a healing potion, and apply with ease. You don’t have to take away the ability to mass-heal groups of Pokemon for players who choose to play that way; just allow for more precise gameplay for us min-maxers.

More detailed gameplay is under the cut, if you want to know more about how the game works.

Continue reading

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September 27

Easter Eggs of a bygone era

I’ve been thinking of Easter Eggs I miss lately. Versions of software I’ve worked on where my name pops up on the second or third screen of contributors. A set of doors that would pop open when you closed them in a certain sequence at one place I worked (yes, like the West Wing episode).

But my favorite was in one of the original versions of the Apple Remote for the iPhone. If you hit the key sequence on the remote just right, (okay, fine, if you hit replay) you could put on a movie to play over and over and over again.

I loved it because I could put on a movie to fall asleep to. If I woke up, it’d still be on and I could drift back off. Handy to have before I got a white noise setup.

I kept hoping it’d be expanded, and you could use it to set up a playlist of shows or movies to just run.

Sadly, it’s now gone. I think the fourth or fifth update, someone nuked it. I can sort of understand why, and with the newer AppleTVs running iOS now, it might not have been long for this world, but it’s still something that might be useful. Set up a couple of episodes of this or that, let it run and repeat, especially for home movies. Truly an edge case scenario, but one that was pretty useful on nights when sleep was helped by a soothing replay of an old favorite movie.

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September 23

Break Fast. Learn Things.

Maybe it’s my love of logic puzzles, the fun of breaking things, the fun of learning things, or all three that keep me interested in technology. Whether it’s answering all security questions with the answer “zerbert” (What is your father’s middle name? ZERBERT What is the name of your first childhood pet? ZERBERT) or seeing how my “unusual” name breaks a naming schema, I’ve found that trying to break things is a great way to test and learn things.

A smidge of mischeviousness also has me adding false data into “the system” when it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a dozen birthdays, a zillion ways to spell my name, and ad networks are always trying to sell me diapers, lizard food, and reverse mortgages (lately).

My brother recently shared the news that his neighborhood was serving as a testing ground for self-driving cars. First thought that sprang to mind? Cosplaying as stop signs. Didn’t hurt that I had one handy …

But given the recent needed changes to Tesla’s auto-pilot (ought-to-pilot?) … mayyyyyyyyybe this is one realm where I shouldn’t plant false data? Or maybe it’s even more important to teach these toddlers what fools us mortals be.

image of a woman pretending to be a stopsign
When you trick or treat in a neighborhood populated with self-driving cars …

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July 8

I love a (dragon) parade …

Dear Backflip: Nice code update! I can run Dragonvale on an older iPhone without a lot of crashing.

However … you need a clear button for the dragon parade. I’d like to be able to kick them all when I’ve maxxed my ring count for the day.

Dragonvale Parade screen shot from the iOS app
I … love a parade.

 

Edit: They did! Thanks for “righting” this!

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