Confession: I’m A Touchscreen Snob

Continental Touchscreen

I’m a touchscreen snob, and I bet you are too. I bet every human being is. We get upset when things don’t react as expected and we get frustrated when things aren’t instant. Statistically this page loads on average under 2 seconds and it’s likely still too long for you. It’s not just touch screens. For example, 100 ms increase in load time of Amazon.com decreased sales by 1%. We’re an impatient species.

I took the above photo on a 757-200 equipped with touch screens on the back of every seat. I remember the days with only a handful of TV’s, or that big projector thing up front on planes, so I appreciate that a choice of entertainment is an upgrade. Lets take a look at it’s sins as it makes a great example:

Resistive Touchscreen

I’m virtually certain based on it’s poor performance it’s a resistive touchscreen. Unresponsive, and it requires a lot of pressure which the person in the seat in front of you enjoys for 8 hours. Resistive touchscreens are much more cost effective, though I wonder that difference is splitting hairs on a $65-80 million aircraft given there are only ~200 seats and the displays are relatively small.

There was a time when nobody would notice, but even a Droid v1′s touch screen is more responsive, and that phone is extensively laggy.

Poor Contrast

Part of this is likely because of the substrate used for resistive touchscreens, but the poor contrast is obviously an issue. Color reproduction is bad, but that’s not a deal killer, it’s a nitpick. Contrast is critical especially on a vehicle where lighting varies from dark to virtually unfiltered sunlight glaring on the display. Contrast controls are minimally helpful here.

Laggy

I suspect these are units are just terminals, so the performance can sometimes lag. It’s forgivable and likely will not be an issue in future generations. Thanks to the mobile revolution low powered ARM chips can be found everywhere. The need for these things to be dumb to save space and power is drawing to a close.

Sound

I’ve yet to figure out why airlines can’t manage to get rid of the noise in the lines. Sure when you use the $0.25 headsets they hand out you can’t tell the difference. But when you use your own higher quality headset you sure can. Given a cheap mp3 player can manage it, I wonder why this is so difficult. Weight?

My second gripe about sound is the volume differences. The movie is set to a comfortable level. If the crew takes over to show a video of your destination or a safety video, it’s uncomfortably loud. If the captain speaks, it’s painful. This is more than a nuisance, this is actually a safety issue.

Object-Oriented Masturbation

Doing some research for an upcoming installment of an infamous series of blog posts (to be released at an undetermined date) I’ve come to notice this annoyance. In general I like object-oriented programming. I think it allows you to take a complicated problem and produce simple, more reusable and easier to maintain code. Assuming the programmer is sane individual, and that sometimes is a leap of faith.

I’m not sure if there are programmers who feel the need to complicate things just for the sake of showing off (oh, look at me!), or if they legitimately don’t know any other way. I suspect a little of both. Perhaps the programmer thought it was possible the code would grow in complexity in the future, and just wanted to prepare in advance. I don’t know. But it annoys me.

I consider this abuse of Object-oriented programming to be Object-oriented masturbation since the only one who gets any enjoyment out of it is the developer who does it. Here’s a slightly exaggerated (though not far off) example of Object-oriented masturbation typical of what I’ve seen many times before:

Objective

Sum two numbers and print the result in the format “The answer is: X” where X is the sum of the two numbers.

Correct (sane) Answer

// This is the simple, obvious answer
function sum(x,y){
    document.write(‘The answer is: ‘ + (x+y));
}
 
// To run:
sum(1,1);

Arguably, you could do the math and store in a variable if you are squeamish to doing math in any line containing an output method. Regardless, this is dead obvious and simple. And yes, this technically still does use OOP since it uses document.write().

Insane (masturbatory) Answer

function MathLib(){
    this.answer = null;
}
 
MathLib.prototype.sum = function (x,y){
    this.answer = x + y;
}
 
MathLib.prototype.getAnswer = function(){
    return this.answer;
}
 
function Printer(){
    this.preText = ;
}
 
Printer.prototype.setPreText = function(str){
    this.preText = str;
}
 
Printer.prototype.out = function (str){
    document.write(this.preText + str);
}
 
// To run
var math = new MathLib();
var print = new Printer();
math.sum(1,1);
print.setPreText(‘The answer is: ‘);
print.out(math.answer);

I did the exact same thing in 1 logical line of code (3 if you include the function itself) up above. What was gained from the object-oriented design? I argue nothing. Rewriting the first example would take a minute should something need changing. If there were a need to localize that string, I could pull it out and either make that a 3rd parameter, or some global string the function can use. There’s no benefit here. This is over engineering. There’s nothing truly reusable here. The closest is the Printer.out() method, and in reality it’s a wrapper for document.write().

The bonus joke is that the object-oriented implementation is significantly slower.

Run 1: 0.0266, 0.0451
Run 2: 0.0314, 0.0464
Run 3: 0.0329, 0.0462
Run 4: 0.0268, 0.0468
Run 5: 0.0274, 0.0475
Avg: 0.02902, 0.0464

The first example is also 62.5% faster in Firefox 3.0.4 since the all that overhead is gone. If you have FireBug installed you can check that out here.

object-oriented masturbation
ob-jikt | o·ri·ent-ed | mas⋅tur⋅ba⋅tion

  1. the stimulation or manipulation of one’s own ego by way of using object-oriented code in places where it has no advantage instead resulting in unnecessary complication and bloat.

If your guilty of doing this, please cut it out. It’s annoying. Thank you.

No I will not single out links to the pages that inspired this, but rest assured it litters the web.

Tracking Packages With RSS

What will it take for USPS, FedEx, DHL, and the USPS to offer RSS feeds to track packages. It seems like such a natural idea. Yet none have implemented the feature themselves. It appears the USPS is trying to modernize their image, but still no RSS tracking of packages.

There are several third party sites out there that do this, but to me that’s just asking for trouble since:

  1. What are they doing with my info? Is this really secure to use a stranger as a middle man?
  2. Screen scraping can be unreliable and break. I like reliability.

It’s not that complicated to build, it’s essentially a different template on an existing system. I’d bet they even have it since many large retailers show tracking info within their order status pages. They just don’t make it available to consumers.

Am I really the only one who wants this?

Rob Rants: Cell Phones

I’ve discussed this before, but with a recent new study it’s appropriate to rant. So I bring you another installation of “Rob Rants”.

First of all, of course many conversations are faked. We all knew that for a long time. How did we know that? Because only a handful of people are actually important. The rest are as unimportant as you or I. Did anyone really expect me to believe I’m the only one not making multi-billion dollar deals on the street? Some people act like they have more important business than the president. Yea, you didn’t fool me for a minute.

Second of all, we really need a law against using cell phones in some places. It seems way to many people want others to hear their conversations. Lets get this strait: I don’t care what you did at work, how good/bad your kids are, what you plan to do this weekend or tonight, why your upset/happy, or what your doing for dinner. Got it? I don’t care. Nor does anyone else around you.

And that goes for those who leave their annoying phones on their annoying ring tones in places where they shouldn’t be. Early in the morning on the train nobody wants to hear your phone’s stupid ring tone. It’s not cute, it’s not cool. It’s annoying. Same goes with in the middle of class, at church, at the theater, etc. Put it on vibrate and put your phone in your pocket. People who violate this social rule the most are into self gratification without regard for others anyway, so perhaps they will enjoy that.

Oh yea. Just because you put your hand to your face doesn’t make it less annoying. Your hand doesn’t insulate against sound. It just blocks your moronic face. If there’s anything more annoying than an idiot in a mindless conversation on the phone, it’s an idiot talking on the phone with their hand in front of their face thinking their hand makes a phone booth. Well guess what, it doesn’t. You just look stupid. It’s even more stupid when your hand gets tired and you switch hands.

And I’d like to address one more thing. People who like to talk dirty or semi-dirty on the phone. You perverts who think it will impress the people around you to talk dirty. Well get a life, it doesn’t work. It’s doing the complete opposite. We don’t care what you plan to do after your date, and we don’t care about what you did with your significant other last night. It’s gross, repulsive and just obnoxious. And of course we all know there’s a 95% chance that there’s nobody on the other end. So your literally talking to your hand. Which is rather appropriate as your hand is likely the partner your talking about. Got that Casanova?

So put your cell phone away and shut up. We don’t care. Your not important, your not special, your not interesting. Unless your in the tabloids every week, odds are absolutely nobody cares about your personal life or sex life. So don’t bother sharing it. We don’t care. So shut up, and get a life.

Rob Rants: Christmas Commercials

And now to start one of the new categories here, a “Rob Rants”. We’ll start with Christmas Commercials.

Best Of

OfficeMaxRubber Band Man (OfficeMax) – This is a great example of how cool an advertisement can be. Retro, classy, catchy, fun. I can’t get enough of this one. It’s fun. And I don’t even like OfficeMax. I’ll miss this ad after the holidays. It’s one of the few tunes that doesn’t get on my nerves. Not to mention the animation is pretty cool. It’s also not overplayed. I see it maybe a few times a week, not bad. I can live with this one.

Chrismahanukwanzakah (Virgin Mobile) – This commercial isn’t bad. I don’t mind watching it, it’s catchy (it even sticks in your head), it’s not overdone, it’s funny. I’ve yet to find anyone who didn’t get a good laugh from it. This ad really did make this Chrismahanukwanzakah season the best one ever! Also not overplayed. I think this is one I’ll remember years from now, since it’s was creative. Hopefully they will bring it back next year. Kind of wish they did more with props though. I love how they combined all the holidays into 1 lump, but they didn’t really combine decorations and props. Would be interesting to see a MenorahTree :-D, I’m sure there are many other wacky things people can come up with… perhaps a Fark photoshop contest?

Worst Of

Old NavyOld Navy Caroler’s (Old Navy) – I’ll admit they all make great models I’m sure, and perhaps they even have vocal talent (who knows if there voices are real in the commercial or done Ashley Simpson style)… but this ad is by far the most annoying ad of the year, and just when one ends, they put on yet another one. They apparently decided doing it on TV wasn’t enough, so they decided to pollute Time Square with this one. Not to mention this article takes commercializing Christmas to a whole new low. Sorry, but this ad gets the award for most annoying commercial of Holiday Season 2004. Please Old Navy, if you love America, you’ll dump this campaign in the sea.

So what are your favorites/least favorites?

Disagree? Agree? Want more ads with Monkey’s in Santa costumes? Leave a comment.

Are you stupid? I ask the television.

If your not in the mood for a rant on society… Skip this post.

[rant]
This wasn’t the article I was looking for (looking for one I saw on TV the other day), but it will suffice for this rant. Why are people so stupid? I don’t know who is dumber. This article is about several groups of stupid people butting heads. All very thick skulls. It’s like throwing two rocks in the air, and having them impact in midair. It’s a waste of time that accomplishes nothing. Of course that’s exactly what this post will do. But it gets some frustration off my chest.

  1. Why must people drink in giant parties? If your going to do something stupid.. At least keep it small scale. You just have to wonder how bright someone is when they get caught. It takes a real lack of intelligence to get caught. Homes aren’t monitored. If they create enough of a disturbance to summon police… You must have done something really dumb. If your still there when the cops get there, not intelligent enough to leave. You deserve it. If you caused it, you deserved it.
  2. Why care so much? It’s going to happen anyway.
  3. Are parents retarded? Seriously. Are they? Read the article. The math formula reads something like:
    $parent = $stupid +1;

Just can’t help but question everyone. I can’t tell who is stupider.

That brings me back to the ultimate question: Why put tags on blow dryers that say to keep it away from water? The people who have been saved by these tags go on to be the people I discuss up above.

If your going to drink. Do it responsibly. Or just don’t do it. It’s pretty freaking dumb if the police are aware of something going on. Nobody goes around sniffing drinks in private homes.

[/rant]