evannichols (evannichols) wrote,

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Bad Technology! No Cookie!

I generally spare you my rants about technology, but there was a cluster of encounters with Bad Tech on Friday:

I’ve never been terribly impressed with the Multnomah County Library online system. A recent “upgrade” went none too smoothly, and there were incremental recoveries of functionality for quite a while after that. Apparently there was an update on Friday, because the Patron Screen changed. When you bring it up, you see your own account info (Name, address, email, phone), and the buttons and links to change that info or your PIN. Below are two links: Hold Requests and Items Checked Out. Say you then click on “Hold Requests,” then that information is added to the bottom of the page. BUT, you’re bumped back up to the top, where you can only see your account info. You have to scroll down to see your Hold Requests. If you perform any action on that list, you’re bumped back up to the top, and have to scroll down again.

One of the basic tenets I espouse for User Interfaces is “What you do most is easiest to do.” In our example above, the easiest thing to do is to read or change my account info. Why? I already KNOW who I am and where I live, so why do I have to keep looking at it? And I have to change it maybe once a year. No, what I do most is look at what I have in the Hold Queue, and see when my checked out books are due. Which now requires an annoying click-and-scroll routine to see it. That’s just mucked up.

It reminds me of my microwave oven. The easiest thing to do (measured by the fewest number of buttons pushed) is change the clock. Why? I change the clock only twice a year. Cooking, the function I perform several times a day, requires me to explicitly tell Mr. Microwave that I do indeed want to cook, then enter the amount of time, then tell him to start. I admire those microwaves where one push of a button sets the timer to a minute and starts the microwave. What you do most is easiest to do.

The second Bad Technology Encounter was at work. Twenty minutes before closing, R called and asked if I could print some sheets of business cards. I said I would. It should have been easy, but the software doesn’t print the cards at exactly 2” x 3.5”. And it doesn’t start right at the perforations at the top, so if I just printed them, they’d be all misaligned, and essentially worthless. So I tried to figure out how to work the Page Alignment function.

The program allows the user to control the offset, both vertically and horizontally. And to also adjust the relative size of the print image. I wanted to do both of these.

First, offset. This is changed with widgets that allow selection of positive or negative whole numbers. However, no clue is given to indicate what scale of change these represent. Pixels? Points? Inches? The Help Function just says to use the widget to adjust the offset. Bastards. I eventually figure out that 4 is about what I want.

Second, relative size. Same widgets, one each for Horizontal and Vertical. Same problem. How much is 2 different from 1? Not twice as big, surely. So I fiddle with it, and can’t see much difference.

Since so much of this is guesswork, I change the settings and print an alignment page. The printer is adequate, but it’s sloooow. I suspect the application is not particularly optimized. So I have to sit and wait to see what my tweakings have done. Eventually, after several page prints, I get the image aligned with the perforations. Not very well, but at least into the “Doesn’t Suck Too Badly” category. So I print three sheets of cards. Did I mention that the printer’s slooow? It’s even worse on “Best Quality.”

The final Tech Suckage was once again having AskDrEldritch.com unavailable. I created another Trouble Ticket. Eventually the site came back, and the person who closed the Trouble Ticket wrote that their continuing work on the upgrade was causing DNS propagation issues, just like they said in their email. Well, all the emails I got this week just said that my Console would be impacted, not the site itself. I am so looking forward to dumping them.

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