Printer Error

August 02, 2012

For anyone who's ever wondered what a printer error looks like, here you go:

I didn't pay attention to the memo, but I'm pretty sure this isn't what the new TPS reports cover is supposed to look like.

Of course, no internet post about printer errors would be complete with out the Office Space scenes.

I never figured out how to get the printer that created the gobbledigook working. Luckily, there is one other in the office that works for me. If that one dies, I'm going paperless whether I like it or not.

Fifteen Years Later

August 01, 2012

Fifteen years ago today, my father passed away after a mercifully brief bout with cancer. He was only diagnosed the month before. That gave him enough time to set his affairs in order without having to endure protracted suffering. I thought then – and still believe now – that having a month's warning is about the best one can hope for when your time inevitably comes.

I was fortunate to be with my dad – holding his hand – when he shuffled off this mortal coil. At his request, his body was donated to science. Two years later, when his remains were returned, we laid him to rest in the columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. This June I made my first visit since his memorial. Today seems like a great day to post this photo I took on that trip.

Life is short. Sometimes much shorter than you would have guessed. Remember this and get off your tail. Go make or do something your kin will be proud of after you're gone.

Twitter Is Making Me A Better Writer

July 31, 2012

Much of the writing advice I've heard centers around using fewer words. Twitter's 140 character limit exercises the editing-to-reduce-size muscles nicely. For example, here is the scratchpad I just used to write a tweet.

Whittling down a tweet.

Seeing it like this, I realized that editing is to writing what taking multiple shots of a scene is to photography. It gives you lots of versions from which to choose the best one.

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.

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© Alan W. Smith
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