May 31, 2016

Tech friction points

I feel increasing tension in my life from the technology tools that I use. This ranges from the Windows boxes at work to some of the Apple products that I use personally/professionally. I have a fair amount of stress/tension in my life related to my job and I don’t need to have friction in the tools that I use.

There’s not much to say about Windows. I’ve found it frustrating for years. Click, click, click, click the mouse, click the mouse 1000 more times. Restart, use it, restart, use it, restart. Reinstall the operating system, use it, reinstall the operating system, use it, reinstall the operating system. Windows patterns are well known. I avoid Windows as much as possible.

The Mac has been a winner for years. In general, OSX is more stable and easier to use than other operating systems. I have accomplished much using my Macs.

A challenge right now is related to the level at which I try to use the Mac. Using Text Expander, Keybord Maestro, Hazel, AppleScript, other scripts, etc., I automate much. I have found, however, that I have pushed these apps often to the point where they become somewhat unreliable. I’m close to declaring automation bankruptcy, eliminating everything, and restarting from scratch. I think, sometimes this is needed.

One usability aspect of my Macbook Air (as well as all laptops) is that the form factor is not well accepted in certain venues. It is often impolite to pull out a laptop and type during a meeting. Paper or a tablet is more appropriate and accepted.

The laptop form factor gave me back and neck pain and I had to obtain a Roost stand to raise it higher.

iOS is maturing but still has many friction points. On my iPad Pro, Split View is poorly supported as is Slide Over. Sharing between apps is still hit and miss. iOS is more frequently asking for passwords. The tablet form factor is ergonomically problematic for anything other than holding it like a paper lifted up closer to the field of vision. Placing a keyboard on a tablet leads to poor ergonomics similar to a laptop.

Siri came with much promise but now is a point of much friction. If I dictate three sentences with Siri I need to correct 10-15 words. It doesn’t understand my requests probably 60% of the time, maybe more. This is well documented on blogs elsewhere so I will not belabor the point.

Apple Watch was 95% unusable on arrival. Mine has been sitting in a drawer for nearly 2 months. I’m less aggravated with it there.

I feel like app design is degrading. Many iOS apps have gained in complexity. Task management apps require too many taps to enter meta-data. Apps that move away from core iOS design principles and create their own interface almost always end up with increased clutter and complexity.

Another fiction point is apps that decide they want to do their own syncing. One prominent indie developer recently announced their own sync without fully implemented security and have had several sync outages. I seriously doubt that a small developer team can provide the level of security that Apple or Dropbox can.

There’s friction in the recent trend toward subscription models. It is fairly often said that for the price of a Starbucks coffee you could have_____. But the small monthly fees add up and it is getting to the point that a person would need to be drinking 300 cups of coffee a month to equal all the fees.

The final friction point is that there is not one device that works in all settings. As I mentioned, laptops are not appropriate in certain meetings. Tablets are less powerful and flexible than laptops. Smart phones are more mobile. I often think that I would like an iPhone which is actually bigger than the 6 Plus or 6S Plus. Maybe that could take over much iPad use and I could consolidate away from an iPad Pro.

In general, I think that friction with technology is rising. This is especially disappointing in the Apple spectrum of offerings. Perhaps it is the case that Steve Jobs, the ultimate super-user is no longer around to cull and curate products like in the past.

What are your friction points?

  • commentary
  • Mac
  • iOS
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • productivity

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