Fitbit Aria's Design Miss

July 31, 2012

The Fitbit Aria1 is a scale designed to automatically track your weight. The initial impression is that it's a well thought out, but there is a clear design miss. This is one of the dialog boxes from the setup process:

Before using the scale, you have to tell it how much you weigh. Since the entire premise of the product is that it tracks your weight automatically, this doesn't make sense. Ideally, entering your weight wouldn't be anywhere in the process. If the system must have it, an option of getting on the scale for the initial measurement should be presented.

A minor annoyance, to be sure, but that's true of most problems in user experience design.


  1. Fitbit Aria - The bathroom scale with Wi-Fi. It connects to the web site to track the weight and BMI for your entire family. Except for kids and folks with pacemakers. I don't have a pacemaker, but it freaks me out a little that you aren't supposed to the Aria if you have one.

A Plastic Mushroom

July 30, 2012

This is why I'm glad my gas cap is attached.

Vette Meets Radar

July 29, 2012

Unless they are driving like an ass, I don't wish anyone the hassle of a speeding ticket. Still, this was worth looping around to grab a shot.

Proof that it's not just minivans and beat up Hondas that get pulled over.

Degrading The Shopping Experience As Best They Can

July 29, 2012

Here's a run down of today's interaction with a cashier at the mall. This is why I do most of my shopping online.

To set the stage, I was buying one item: a belt. The scene opens after I've been standing in line for fifteen minutes because there wasn't another clerk to be found.

Cashier: [Picks up the belt. Sees I don't have anything else and asks] Is this all for you today?

Me: Yep. That's it and I don't need a bag. I'll just carry it.

Cashier: [Zaps belt] These are buy one, get one for half off. You sure you don't want to get another one?

Me: Nope. I don't need another belt. Just the one.

Cashier: You'd rather pay $28 bucks for this and not get another one for $15?

Me: Um, yes. I only need one. Getting another would just be more money out of my pocket for something I don't need.

Cashier: [A little dismissive] Well, okay… Are you a member of our frequent shopper club?

Me: No, and I'm…

Cashier: [Before I can finish my sentence] Would you like to join? It only takes a second and all we need is a valid email address?

Me: No, thanks. I'll pass.

Cashier: Are you sure?

Me: Yes. I'm sure.

Cashier: Would you like to save %15 today by signing up for our store credit card?

Me: No, thanks.

Cashier: [With an annoyed tone] Are you sure?

Me: Yes. I'll just pay cash.

Cashier: Okay. That'll be $29.96.

Me: Here ya go.

Cashier: [Starts highlighting receipt the 2 foot receipt] Don't forget to take our survey. Just go to this web site and put in this (twelve digit) number to fill it out. You could win gift certificate worth $4,000.

Me: Uh-huh.

Cashier: [Printing out two more receipts and finally handing me my change] And, here's two coupons for you to use on a future visit.

Me: Right.

Cashier [Starts putting belt in a bag] Here you go.

Me: Umm. I still don't need the bag.

Prior to this, I thought that a belt would be something that was a easier to buy in an actual store. Clearly, that was a mistake. If brick and mortar stores want to fight the increasing move toward online shopping they should focus on making the customer experience better. Collecting as much info as they can and pushing their credit cards like this is the wrong way to go.

Creative Types, Use A Contract

July 29, 2012

Photographers, Designers, Website Builders, Audio Engineers, and anyone else who does creative work for a living, if you don't use contracts please take 40 minutes to watch this video. The audience is designers, but the principles apply to any small business. (In case you can't tell from the title, there is "Not Safe For Work" language involved.)

There will always be problem people out there, but having a contract will help prevent stuff like this:

If your creative work is your business, treat it accordingly.

Introducing My Van

July 20, 2012

Today, I added another mark to my scorecard's eccentricity column. Instead of using the money I was saving to replace my cheap 32" with a big screen TV, I bought a cargo van.

I've been kicking around the idea for a few years. It's in my nature to try to be self-sufficient. It's also in my nature to get into projects that require me to haul big things. A van makes sense here. No more borrowing friends' vehicles when I need something moved. But those projects aren't especially frequent. It would be tough to justify a van for the hauling purposes alone. The key to the decision was my second rational: I'm going to turn the van into a Mini RV.

My future RV

Road tripping has always been one of my favorite pastimes. My car is great for trips where a house or hotel sits at the end of the day's road. While I've slept in it, that's something I only do when absolutely necessary. I avoid planning multi-day trip in just the car. With an investment of time and elbow grease, the van will become my stand-in RV. No shower or running water, but a bed, mini grill and (some day) solar panels will open up the road multi-day excursions.

I've got several ideas for trips with one big one that's officially on my bucket list:

Attend every Bama game in a single season.

That adventure is still a few years away, but the van is what's going to get me there. Who knows? Maybe I'll even do a photographic version of the only sports book I've ever read: Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer. In the mean time, I'll start saving up again for a big screen. I'm sure I'll get one some day. Whether or not that comes before or after solar panels remains to be seen.

Quick Copy For The Current Directory Path

July 13, 2012

Copying the current command line directory path is a frequent task. On a Mac, this can be sped up using pbcopy. A little command Apple included that takes whatever it's fed and copies it to the clipboard1. The basic command string to grab the current directory path with it is:

pwd | pbcopy

Unfortunately, pwd sends a newline to pbcopy which is dutifully included on the clipboard. Rarely useful. Often annoying. The tr command comes to the rescue by removing the newline:

pwd | tr -d '\n' | pbcopy

That makes a nice little command string, but too long to be useful. The last step is to add an a alias to ~/.bash_profile so it can be called with only a few keystrokes.

alias pwc="pwd | tr -d '\n' | pbcopy"

The old standard pwd prints the current directory path, as always, and the newly created pwc makes a copy of it that's ready to paste.


  1. Officially, Apple calls it the Pasteboard, but everyone I know, including myself, calls it the clipboard. So, I'm sticking with that.

Stack Exchange Sites As Of June 2012

June 17, 2012

It all started with Stack Overflow. The site that has become the go to place for answers to coding and development questions. From that initial site, The Stack Exchange Network born and grew. I'm curious to see how the network changes over time so I wrote a script to pull down some data about the network. A copy of the script can be found here.

As of June 17, 2012, the network looks as follows.

Go To Index Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 100 101 102 103 104 105 106

© Alan W. Smith
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