The issue is appropriate technology. Sometimes that means very little technology at all. If these companies had a brain, they would provide something simple at the same price as now and sell their complicated unit at an additional price. They would limit support issues and make more money.
Engineers are not immune to the "See How Clever I Am" syndrome.
I work for a large healtchcare system and one of our ongoing challenges is helping nurse users struggle through multiple layers of menus to set up medical equipment. The equipment is designed by people that love technology for people that don't really care about how 'cool' it is; they just want to take care of patients. Simply put, nurses are people focussed, we tend to be equipment focussed.
Perhaps we can all learn a lesson in user interfaces from this.
Charles Murray, you're absolutely right about that.
I own a 2008 Saturn Astra, and I'm completely unable to set the clock without referring to the owner's manual. I can never remember the steps required to get to the clock controls via the car's "Board Computer" and display, because it's not something I need to do very often.
I also own a 2011 Kia Sedona, and it's very simple to set the clock: push the "Hour" button to increment the hours, and push the "Minute" button to increment the minutes. That's the *right* way to design the controls for a car's clock.
Well, Chuck, the UI can be better. I have the same brand of sprinkler system. I find it interesting that the controller box in the picture looks fancier more colorful, but is EXACTLY the same as the one I have. I guess that in a business like this, the core competency is not the controller, but the system parts. There are lots of controller electronics and displays that would make this easy and do what Jon wants. On the other hand, Jon's solution is a good one. We have exactly the same problem.
Good luck finding a car without confounding electronics, Jon. Some of those electronics, though, can be pretty handy. Some are annoying, though. My Taurus locks the backdoors when I turn off the ignition. If I have passangers or packages in the backseat, I have to remember to unlock the doors before exiting the car.
I did almost the same many years ago by placing a single switch in the common lead to the sprinkler valves. Where I live, we frequently have a few consecutive days of morning showers. During those days I open the switch thus disabling the valves. During the drier days, I close the switch and watering resumes as programmed. I located the switch indoors to make it convenient. More recently, I replaced the switch with a relay. The relay is connected to a low-power embedded web server. I can now control it from my iPad.
True. In a few years we'll probably look for a new car. I hope to find one without all sorts of confounding electronics. I like gadgets as much as anyone, but they shouldn't stand in the way of getting things done as easily as possible.
Jon: The dilemma you cite -- putting all the bells and whistles in software -- is one that has confounded the auto industry, too. Doing such things in software, you end up with a series of nested menus and a manual in your lap.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.