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Beth Stackpole
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The KISS of death
Beth Stackpole   1/9/2012 6:38:45 AM
All you have to do is read through the Made by Monkeys columns to see this theroy of overengineering and complex standards resulting in shoddy products born out. Appliances loaded up with features no one really cares about breaking after a year or two in the field. Same story with modern vehicles. With some much commodization and the public cry for feature after feature, what's the answer to this problem? How do you get back to simple, elegant designs that work the way they're supposed to??

williamlweaver
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Platinum
Re: The KISS of death
williamlweaver   1/9/2012 10:53:01 AM
Transoptimal Engineering may be a relatively new term, but it is a very old, persistent problem. Feature Creep has sunk many a successful product, converting it into an unsuccessful product over time. Standards Creep and Regulations Creep are part of a long cycle that exists within product and industry life cycles. Creep is an appropriate term that emotes visions of creeping vines which immobilize a design and slowly suffocate it from the nutrients provided by its environment. If a product or industry last long enough, it needs to reinvented itself through redesign from the ground up following the adage "start from scratch, rather than patch". If it is time in the life cycle to wind down, creep is the hallmark of the gentle goodbye. Dissatisfaction with the current product/situation provides the fertile ground necessary to sprout the next innovations.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: The KISS of death
Beth Stackpole   1/9/2012 11:00:12 AM
Love the creeping vine analogy, William. It really paints a vivid picture of the constraints engineers face with day-to-day product design and how hard it is to detach from the status quo and pursue a fresh slate when it comes to innovation.

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: The KISS of death
Alexander Wolfe   1/9/2012 8:37:32 PM
Good points, William. Resistance against feature creep was Steve Jobs's key insight and the driver of Apple's success. I've never understood when adding new features is so much a part of the engineering mindset; there's no reason for it. Elegant design requires that something does what it's designed to do well, not that it have a lot of extraneous do-dads.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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KISS: Back to Basics; Part 2 Ė You canít have everything.
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   1/9/2012 11:05:59 PM

Or, to the point of Biz Dev Mgr Herat Shah's comment that programs now require products to be both the cheapest and the best; but practically speaking, that's not possible.   I whole-heartedly concur and have long subscribed to this formula when kicking off a development effort:

LOW COST      TIME to MARKET     HIGH QUALITY    

---Pick TWO.

And if you allow other pressuring forces (usually the VP of marketing) to add late-breaking product requirements after the scope has been defined (feature creep) you can blow that equation by sacrificing all three.

jlinstrom
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Gold
Re: KISS: Back to Basics; Part 2 Ė You canít have everything.
jlinstrom   1/10/2012 12:00:36 PM
JimT: I learned this as "Good, fast and cheap: pick any two."

The more things change, ...

After the wrong heads roll and the undeserving get rewarded, water will again seek its own level <sigh>.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: KISS: Back to Basics; Part 2 Ė You canít have everything.
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   1/10/2012 2:57:21 PM
From your response, I see you've worked in the same departments as me! Happy co-miserating!  Oh, and we can add  6 phases of a project: (1) Enthusiasm; (2) Reality; (3) Panic; (4) Punishment; (5) Praise and Honor for the Non-Participants; (6) Layoff & Unemployment. (hee, hee, heeeeee,,,,,,,) Wait. Why am I laughing-?

kenish
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Re: KISS: Back to Basics; Part 2 Ė You canít have everything.
kenish   1/26/2012 2:48:07 PM
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@JimT- Your cost vs. quality vs. delivery is right on.  A technique I use:  Rate each from 1 to 5 in importance.  The total must = 10.

Kevin
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Platinum
Re: The KISS of death
Kevin   1/10/2012 12:28:39 PM
Alexander / others:  Such a wise statement!  Steve Jobs' main breakthrough was "less is more" (do less, but do it very well).  The entire world has gone crazy with "more is better" mentality, esp. marketing departments. 

For example, our mktg dept. really thinks their job is to create the most extensive list of features they can dream up, with no assessment of the value added.  They think that we automatically must have every feature or spec that any other competitor in the world might have, all crammed into one product.  The correct approach is just the opposite IMO - find the MINIMUM set of features that makes the target customer happy. KIS thinking then leads to a virtuous cycle of lower cost, higher reliability, better usability, easier repairs, quicker development cycles (usually), streamlined customer support, etc.

I think as technology progresses, it is only natural that products will have more features...yet we (collectively) shoot ourselves in the foot by pushing the envelope too far.

 

 

Analog Bill
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Gold
Re: The KISS of death
Analog Bill   1/10/2012 1:39:59 PM
I couldn't agree more strongly with Kevin. I think the problem has been created entirely by those marketing weasels who have convinced some design engineers to be their partners in crime. We've been drowning in useless features for years ... and this is especially true of software. Just because something CAN be done (add a feature, for example) doesn't mean it SHOULD be done. As an example, I long for some software from Microsoft that even comes close to being intuitive to normal folks (who don't subscribe to their "pretzel logic"). Give me menus for programs that I can customize!  There are "features" in Outlook, for example, that I will never, ever use and would bury deep in the menu tree. Then there are other commands I use constantly but are exasperating to find, and often completely non-intuitive, in their menu structure. Engineers know that simplicity results in reliability ... but marketing folks are simply clueless, I wax nostalgic about DOS programs (some of which I still use) that ran in 500 kB of RAM, ran fast even in a 10 MHz machine, and never, ever froze or crashed. Doesn't anybody actually write machine code anymore? I'd put up with device drivers and IRQ management if I could dump all this modern bloatware!!

Then I can rant about manufacturers who mount "warm and fuzzy" public-relations ads touting how "green conscious" the company is ... as it churns out unrepairable products intentionally designed to have a short lifetime ... heaping all that energy and raw material into a landfill. Does this make any sense?  Of course not, unless you're in management and have no moral compass (ah, but I repeat myself).  It's a sad state of affairs when a new engineer finds himself in this kind of dishonest corporate culture and is expected to crank out ever more irrelevant "feature" laden but non-repairable products ... and still respect himself (or herself) as a citizen of the world. Remember when the Kitchen-Aid brand actually meant something (like simple elegant design, quality materials, and the expectation that the product would last nearly forever). The MBA "hot shots" have put an end of that!

In the end, I'm concerned about a world-wide economic model that absolutely requires an ever-increasing population ("growth") to become mindless consumers of their soon-to-be garbage. What's wrong in this picture?

Kevin
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Re: The KISS of death
Kevin   1/10/2012 5:26:23 PM
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Thanks, Analog Bill!

Here's an article I just read yesterday.  Very timely and pertinent to this article.

http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/09/10071041-why-ford-didnt-win-car-of-the-year

Kevin

Beth Stackpole
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Blogger
Re: The KISS of death
Beth Stackpole   1/11/2012 6:40:07 AM
Kevin: I'm in total agreement with your assessment of the right approach. Finding the minimum set of requirements that meet the user need is where it starts. If done properly and with elegance, those targeted set of extremely well-designed capabilities will make users famously happy and in love with their product and that is what engineering should be all about.

tcampb51
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Iron
Re: The KISS of death
tcampb51   1/12/2012 7:51:34 AM
KISS itself has already violated its mandate, adding complexity with the last "S" which stands for "stupid" which is simply an epithet and adds nothing to the conversation.  It shows how easy it is for all of us to add unnecessary complexity to anything.  EVERYONE needs to continually strive for and promote the need for simplicity - KIS!!!

burntpuppy
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Silver
Re: The KISS of death
burntpuppy   1/12/2012 3:28:03 PM
Another example of this is the runaway Toyotas, a simple established set of controls and interfaces were changed, largely due to marketroids and the messy product ended up killing people.

Standard system 1, having a throttle cable, how primative. On this there was some reasoning, the hybrid drive somethings needs to add power, or to remove it. There were better ways to do this without crash-by-wire being added.

Standard system 2, having brake that can lock to stop the car. All of the cars had ABS, in my car at any speed I can lock the brakes while holding the gas to the floor and the car will skid to a stop. ABS causes the brakes to release and apply, each time building up heat until the brakes overheat. Having the ABS over ride the throttle would have saved lifes.

Standard interface 1, a simple keyswitch or a E-stop that doesn't require the driver to hold it in for 3 seconds. In an emergency a persons sense of time changes, 3 seconds can seem a lot longer with adrenaline running.

Standard interface 2, a neutral detent. On these cars you have to manually hold the gearshift between D and R for 3 seconds. Once again that 3 seconds would seem like an eternity if you were accellerating on a winding road.

 ABS is a good system to have but added some potential problems that have never been addressed. The other changes are just fashion statements that took a good product and made it deadly.

 KIS would have saved lives in this example.

wheely
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Re: The KISS of death
wheely   2/17/2012 12:13:20 PM
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Amen, please KISS. Years ago the software used takes more thought than what it takes to design our end item. We all know software people design the product for themselves.

Rich Merritt
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Iron
Re: The KISS of death
Rich Merritt   1/10/2012 9:32:16 AM
One problem that goes along with Transoptiimal Engineering is products are becoiming "fiscally unrepairable." The new transmission in some BMWs, for example, can't be repaired--they have to be replaced at a cost of $18,000. Too many computers for the local tranny shop, I guess. So when the value of a 7-Series or M6 drops down into the $20,000 range (as soon as it goes out of warranty) and the tranmission fails, it becomes fiscally unrepairable and is sold for its salvage value.

The solution? Lifetime warranties. We just bought a new Chrysler 300C Hemi AWD, with all its zillions of sensors and onboard computers, and one reason we bought it was it came with a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty. Let them sensors fail! We're covered.

When design engineers realize they have to make products that last forever, they may think twice about Transoptimal Engineering.

I have two older BMWs--an M3 and a 740--and thought about buying a new one--but not until they offer a lifetime warranty. My old BMWs can still be repaired.

 

benmlee2
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Gold
Re: The KISS of death
benmlee2   1/10/2012 1:59:51 PM
The irony about car technology we have is that plan jane cheap cars are ultra reliable while the expensive cars have way more problems. Buying any car over $40k is asking for trouble. Engine and transmission technology have come a long way. Engines can easily last more than 200k with practically no maintenance. That is simply amazing.

Get a fancy BMW, Benz, Cadillac or god forbid Land Rover and you are paying $1k for each dealer visit, and they are endless. Get a simple Toyota Yaris (I have), Camary or Honda, and you are set for hundreds of thousands of trouble free driving. Don't even waste money changing oil at 3k. Do it at 7k especially with synthetic. Even the coolant and sparkplug last 100k. Just be sure not to get any more option than you absolutely need.

Jerry dycus
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Gold
Re: The KISS of death
Jerry dycus   1/10/2012 11:53:35 AM
 

           This is why I became a designer, builder because I just could not get what I wanted.  Instead we get all this mostly useless stuff that takes a while to learn how top use, Or too small to use and not able to fix.

            I started doing EV's after it took me 4 hrs to change the thermostat on a Pontiac 6000. 

            While the marketing dept plays a large roll in this, many engineers add to it trying to justify their existance, paycheck.

              There is no need for one thing to do everything as you get the mess we have now.  What's even more interesting much of the time you have to pay more for something more simple or smaller, which makes little sense in most cases.  

           Take electronics in cars. They say they are for the customers when really it's to get you back in the repair shop where you pay $400 for a $20 circuit that only works on that model and fees to Onstar, etc.

             Mine will have a large blank spot where the customers can put in whatever they want.

              I believe the mark of a real good engineer or designer is making things work better, more cost effective by making them more simple, making fewer parts do multiple things more eff.   Anyone can make something complicated.  I find the opposite too, keeping things simple can make them more eff, cost effective so done right they feed on each other. 

              One last thing is I leave off the last S as too rude though some may need it.

                                                            KIS

 

 

Charles Murray
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Scary
Charles Murray   1/9/2012 10:03:26 PM
Jon Titus' point is scariest of all. I would hope that mobile home monitoring equipment -- much of which uses battery power -- isn't isn't being equipped with the cheapest packs available.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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KISS: Back to Basics; Part 1 Ė Not everything needs an enhancement.
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   1/9/2012 11:04:01 PM

AMEN!  Alex; what a breath of fresh air! I hardly know where to begin with so many points I agree with!

Beginning with the quote from Rich Merritt, "transoptimal engineering" where enhanced features result in a product so non-intuitively convoluted that it's impossible to operate. 

But we, as product design engineers,  can't help ourselves and we have to improve every model, every year, with "New and Improved features".  So when the obvious enhancements have been exhausted, we invent the non-obvious ones, and marketing convinces the public that it is the latest "must-have" feature.

I concluded that so many (worthless) enhancements were often the design engineers attempt at getting their name on a patent-pending, and was once guilty of this frenzied behavior myself.  Today I recognize how we, as product developers, so easily fall into the trap.  We can't help it – we're engineers.

"I know Engineers – they LOVE to change things!" – Dr. Leonard McCoy, U.S.S. Enterprise

Jluminais
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Silver
KISS
Jluminais   1/10/2012 11:08:20 AM
Part of the problem is that engineers (more younger than older) are convinced that eventually they will be exposed for the fraud they truly are (in their own mind of course).  They compensate by constantly trying to prove to themselves and others how truly smart and competent they are.  It takes a healthy dose of self confidence to simply say to yourself "I know Im capable of making it more complicated but thats not whats called for in this case".  A restoration of the mentor/understudy relationship would help this but is not likely to occur.

As far as the comment about standards being too complex, one need only read the USB standard to see this is true.  These standards are too often bowing to presure from various private companies looking to get their own proprietary information included in the standard to gain market advantage.  The result is a hodgepodge of un-readable and obfuscating text.

Ann R. Thryft
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Counterfeit components
Ann R. Thryft   1/10/2012 12:46:35 PM

Interesting about counterfeit components. That echoes what several vendors told me earlier this year when I was covering machine vision for T&MW: that counterfeit components were becoming a huge problem and that research was being done on what types of vision detection were better or worse for detecting them.


WA4DOU
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Silver
The KISS Principle
WA4DOU   1/10/2012 1:26:35 PM
The KISS principle is time honored and deserves to be taught and stressed to engineers. I'm 64 years old and have been a communications technician (sonar tech in the Navy) for 47 years. I have seen many instances where simple is better for all the reasons some of the other posts suggest. I don't want electronics deciding when my headlights should come on; I want the headlight switch to make a direct connection between my battery and the headlight circuit. Otherwise, electronics may turn my headlights off, just when I need them the most. I want to control my own windshield wipers when I determine the need for them. I don't want electronics determining if and when my engine should stop running, etc. Get the picture? So much of modern electronics is over-engineered, failure prone and unsupported, meaning it's throw away stuff. We are not being well served by all this rush to over-engineering.

 

Roy

SparkyWatt
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Re: The KISS Principle
SparkyWatt   1/10/2012 2:17:37 PM
Forget teaching KISS to engineers.  I don't know any engineers who don't know it already.  The issue isn't what the engineers want, it is what they are asked for.  Sure, every engineer has their favorite feature that they would like to add to their products, but they are usually well thought out and if the engineer was allowed to do it their way it would be nicely done.  It may require a Bachelor's Degree to operate it (which is a problem, too), but it would be nicely done.

The real problem is that every product these days has to compete with every other product; not in quality, but in profits.  In order to compete in the profit arena, materials and labor have to be as low as possible and salability has to be as high as possible.  High salability means that your competitors can't offer anything that you don't AND you can offer something they don't.

This leads to a panic effort to reproduce every feature that the competitors have (so they can't use them against you) and add a few of your own.  Of course, you have to have them fast (so the engineers can't do their dilligence).  It is this insane rat race without due thought that is the problem.

We might as well admit that business has painted itself into a corner.  By trying to maximize short term profits, it has sacrificed the ability to make truly competetive products.  By expanding their markets, they have reduced employment, and therefore the number of people who can buy their products.

When we learn that the real purpose of business is to make a LIVING (not make a FORTUNE) things will change.  Only then will the engineers be able to do what they want to do (and only then will we be reigned in from making features that only another engineer can use).

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: The KISS Principle
Alexander Wolfe   1/10/2012 6:00:05 PM
Well, this comment and the previous one raise the other "problem" of the real world. Namely, that bean counters and marketing people tell engineers what to do, when we all (all of us engineers, that is) "know" it should be the other way around!

SparkyWatt
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Platinum
Re: The KISS Principle
SparkyWatt   1/10/2012 6:30:42 PM
I'm not so sure it should be the other way around.  We have our different domains.  Marketers define the problems, Engineers are the creative problem solvers, and the Bean counters are responsible to make sure the company comes out ahead (so they tell us how far we can go).  If we went at this collaboratively as a team project it might actually work.

The problem is that the short sightedness of modern business has defined Marketing as the voice of God (whatever it takes to get another dollar by the end of the month) and engineering as overhead (we can't have something that pays off next year, it has to pay off tomorrow).  In their quest to make more money now, they eternally demand more with fewer resources.

The thing they don't get is that happy engineers, with clear goals and reasonable limits, create better products.  Stressed people are creative in only one way, getting out from under the stress.  A little elbow room and a few fun side projects will pay off a thousand times over the course of a career.

Tim
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Platinum
Re: The KISS Principle
Tim   1/10/2012 7:54:16 PM
Engineers usually try to keep things simple. After multiple design reviews and FMEA's, the once simple idea has double redundancy vision systems, detailed servo monitoring, and WI FI access. The customer is always right, and the customer wants bells and whistles.

WA4DOU
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Silver
KISS vrs. KIS
WA4DOU   1/15/2012 10:36:19 AM
I always heard KISS as standing for: Keep It Sweet and Simple. Others recognize it as Keep It Simple Stupid.

 

Regarding the Toyotas that are thought, by some, to have caused deaths: The last I heard reported in the news, Toyota found no evidence to support the claims. Forgive me if I'm wrong for pointing this out. I personally have always believed the claims about various manufacturers models, over the past several decades, causing this problem, were operator errors. As electronics takes over more and more systems in cars, and with the real possibility of rf energy causing bizarre and unusual malfunctions in these systems, I cannot fully discount that source of possible problem. Still, I do not wish to turn over my driving experience and my safety to a plethora of onboard devices that make all my decisions for me and will continue to seek "good basic automobiles" in the interest of cost and reliability.

Dave
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Re: KISS vrs. KIS
Dave   1/26/2012 10:31:42 AM
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Yes, Toyota was exonerated, although not before they were heavily fined, sued by relatives of those who died in the crash and sued again by owners who felt that their resale values were diminished.

Really, they (Toyota) should have been paid back every dime. The real cause of the famous crash here in the San Diego area was because a car washer person installed carpets from an RX400h instead of those for the loaner car, an ES350. That never stopped the relatives of those who died in the crash from suing the dealership because of their car cleaner's honest mistake.

But getting back to the title of this blog - I agree for the most part that many things are overy complicated or created primarily for the "wow" factor.Not too long ago  Lexus decided that having a touch screen navigation and information screen wasn't best for space utilization in many of their cars. The old fashioned mouse-like control is back and the nav screen is in a much better location. 

 

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: KISS vrs. KIS
Jack Rupert, PE   1/28/2012 2:50:17 PM
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Your right Dave in the fact that there is a real problem with the "wow" factor.  The worst part is it's the little additions or sensors that are most likely to fail...and when they do, they take down the more important systems that you can't get along without.

P.S. @Alex - Thanks for using the proper definition of KISS, rather than the politically correct one that keeps coming up lately.

slopulse
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Iron
Re: KISS vrs. KIS
slopulse   1/26/2012 11:09:32 AM
@WA4DOU (and in other threads, Mr Wolfe), as a Prius owner who experienced sudden acceleration not once but twice, operator error may be involved, but it was a very real phenomenon for me.  Both experiences were prior to the recall service, so that may have been a solution, but I am not convinced that the offered solution is a complete explanation.  I am still driving the car, by the way, and if it should happen again, I do not plan on panicking that time, either.

I know, this is off topic for this thread.  But I have seen several comments on this issue in the context of " it looks like it was all driver error".

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: KISS vrs. KIS
Alexander Wolfe   1/29/2012 1:34:02 PM
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Slopulse, I certainly do not discount your experience with your Prius. Off topic though it may be, it certainly speaks to one of the huge design differences between today and earlier times. Namely, even when one is trying to adhere to principles of simple design, there is no way to 100% verify software. There are academic and developmental models which can in a meta way get you close to that, at least on paper. But even if those are rigidly followed, you never get 100%. Add to that the fact that we all know they AREN'T followed. (The only places that come close are aerospace and NASA.)

My personal take on the Prius, and this is speculative, is that there was/is a real problem but it was blown out of proportion because there were indeed many driver error incidents. Unfortunately, those driver error cases obscured the real problem and offered an easy route for the existence of a real issue -- intermittent and hard to duplicate though it may be -- to be denied. I wonder whether Toyota has been able to identify and fix the intrinsic problem. I don't think we know the answer to that.  Has your Prius been recalled for a software update and what was your experience with that?

Larry M
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Re: KISS vrs. KIS
Larry M   2/17/2012 1:00:41 PM
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@WA4DOU (and in other threads, Mr Wolfe), as a Prius owner who experienced sudden acceleration not once but twice, operator error may be involved, but it was a very real phenomenon for me.  Both experiences were prior to the recall service, so that may have been a solution, but I am not convinced that the offered solution is a complete explanation.  I am still driving the car, by the way, and if it should happen again, I do not plan on panicking that time, either.


Umm, some of the Toyota throttle-by-wire failures have been definitively shown to be due to tin whiskers to the nightmare of RoHS visited upon us by our European friends. (With friends like these....).  See, for example:

http://www.autosafety.org/sites/default/files/imce_staff_uploads/Tin_whisker.pdf

for some nightmares.

atemp
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Silver
Re: KISS vrs. KIS
atemp   2/17/2012 3:32:34 PM
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@Larry M: hear, hear. Dump RoHS as the bad actor it always was. That's what comes of bureaucratic tyrants making technological decisions instead of engineers.

EU fascism is swirling down the drain -- let RoHS go with it! Put the lead back in!

K.I.S.S.
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Silver
KISS
K.I.S.S.   1/15/2012 2:28:10 PM
Well, given my user name, it would certainly be remiss of me to not comment on the topic...

Having browsed the string of comments, I get the feeling that the subject has been shifted slightly away from the original premise that engineers are being unfocused from their task - which is to make things work without undesired extramural duties...

SparkyWatt makes a reasonable comment in stating that the principle is well known to all engineers, but I contend that the extra S is still applicable - if it weren't, then maybe we should all either become beancounters or owners of the company. Maybe we are collectively stupid - in the way that a certain type of intelligence can subsume an overriding natural order of things within our minds. Can we all add up? Certainly.

So, that's the beancounter side of things taken care of then....

If we all learn how to make our opinions known forcefully enough, and get a bit more backbone then maybe, just maybe, the top of the greasy pole is within our grasp...

And when it is, we can all, once again, sign our name to something that we're actually proud of - I make a point of keeping my Father's 110 year old leather clad spool tape measure in front of me on my desk - It constantly reminds me of the fact that the man who made it went home to his family that night knowing that he'd just made yet another of the best tape measure in the world... It still works perfectly, with an intricate Brass handmade re-winding mechanism. I'd like to sleep as well as I imagime he did.

Richard Hittinger
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Iron
Re: KISS
Richard Hittinger   2/17/2012 1:19:57 PM
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Online Engineering Corp. manufactures products for the Water & Wastewater Industry and many of the products have been around for many years but the key is they work well.  We manufacture using stainless steel and the products have a proven track record of working well with little maintainence.  As designers we love to come up with new products, but we need to service our customers first.  I find that a simple but proven product is many times the right thing to provide to your customer. 

Dave
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Gold
a good example
Dave   1/28/2012 3:47:53 PM
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 ...exactly, Jack, although Lexus does a great job of adding sensors that are very reliable.

 But here's a good example of why glitzy newness is not the best solution....electronic assembly procedures. Many folks immediately suggest using a tablet on the production floor. This may well be a costly mistake, since a $150 digital picture frame doesn't require the operator to touch the screen (wouldn't work anyway if the operated were wearing gloves) and in doing so, have to reach over the work space. The picture frame can be wireless, has lots of memory/can accept memory cards and comes with a remote. In addition, the relatively simple digital picture frame can display 8.5 x 11" documents in full size (15" size) with the ability to zoom and show videos. People often try to make of things that are just not cost-effective/rational for the task at hand.

 How many people  do you hear giving voice instructions to their cell phones? This feature has been around for years but how practical is it, day-to-day in a work environment?

William K.
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Platinum
Keep it simple, Sir: a top concern for engineers.
William K.   2/17/2012 10:35:04 AM
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The runaway proliferation of features, and in convolution of standards, is indeed a reason to be concerned. A standard subject to a realm of interpretations is of marginal value, and more likely a source of grief. 

Unfortunately there are a whole lot of folks who promote the opposite approach, claiming that products, at least, should "do everything imagined, and much more", which leads to difficulty of use and reduced reliability. For standards, it means that a difinitive standard would be revised a few times, leading to a proliferation of products claiming to meet the standard but not to work with eachother. The video entertainment toys interconnects are an example of that.

So we have two areas where complexity is bound to cause problems of various degrees. Who is pushing for this complexity, and why? Can anybody respond ??

Justajo
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Gold
Ockham's razor, anyone?
Justajo   2/18/2012 3:16:50 PM
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A few words:

"Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify." Henry David Thoreau

OLD_CURMUDGEON
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Platinum
re: KISS!
OLD_CURMUDGEON   2/20/2012 10:27:35 AM
NO RATINGS
I believe many products today are the result of overzealous Marketing Depts. which collectively see an obscure article about a technological breakthrough certainly NOT ready for prime time, yet they convince upper mgmt about its merits, and the next thing you know, it's in the R&D lab w/ engineers furiously at work building a prototype.  And, once the prototype is functional the Sales Dept is accepting orders for said item.  It's NOT "putting the cart BEFORE the horse" syndrome, it's putting "the cart before the horse is conceived" syndrome.

This morning's (NPR) news included a short article about researchers who have created a SINGLE-ATOM transistor on a silicon substrate, using a phosphorous atom.  Of course, this was done at -400º or so, BUT in complete fairness, the reporter did acknowledge that the consuming public shouldn't start looking for devices w/ this new transistor on the store shelves anytime soon. 

And, finally, in a sister UBM newsletter there is this entry:

Bluetooth-enabled toothbrush tracks your dental habits
Is this an example of engineering for the sake of engineering, OR an example of BIG BROTHER watching over us?


apresher
User Rank
Blogger
Transoptimal Engineering
apresher   2/20/2012 1:35:13 PM
NO RATINGS
Rich Merritt's definition of "transoptimal engineering" is a classic.  "Things that are so advanced and have so many features, that they don't work anymore."  But maybe we should just let the term speak for itself and really not offer a definition, just to see the reaction.

Stephen
User Rank
Gold
Re: Transoptimal Engineering
Stephen   4/6/2012 9:40:35 AM
NO RATINGS
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

     Antoine de Saint-Exupery



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