Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Dyson Root 6 is a bit of a marketing disaster

Filed under: — adam @ 11:21 am

So… wow.

I have a Dyson upright vacuum, and it is quite simply far far better than any other vacuum cleaner I’ve ever owned. I bought the newly released Dyson Root 6, the handheld model.

The only handheld that doesn’t lose suction… while it has charge.

It’s outstandingly good from a cleaning perspective – it does actually work very very well. But what they don’t tell you is that while the battery does charge faster than others (3.5 hours), it only lasts for 5 minutes on a charge. As a result, it’s really only good for spot cleaning, and not as a general purpose dusting vacuum, which means it misses an entire big use case of a handheld vacuum – carrying it around while cleaning the house to use for dusting shelves, surfaces, ledges, nooks, crannies, etc…. When I did this, I very quickly found that I had a completely dead battery, and I had to charge it again for 3.5 hours before being able to use it again.

What’s happened here is that, like Apple, Dyson has decided that they’re going to focus on one usage pattern (keep the vac in the charger and pull it out occasionally for spills and then put it right back in the charger) and optimize that pattern, completely ignoring any other possible uses that the customer might want to put the device to. Unfortunately, in this case, I think they’re going to be hard pressed to find many people willing to shell out $150 just for spot cleaning. Because of the real-world mechanics of lithium-ion batteries, the expected usage pattern of the vac (keep it in the charger most of the time so it’s always ready for short bursts) is at odds with the strategy for maximizing the life of the battery (drain the battery completely, then recharge fully before using again), and in a year, the effective run time will be 2.5 minutes, not 5. The value proposition would be a lot better if they included a spare battery or two that you could leave in the charger and swap out with the dead one, so you could at least rotate them and have some expectation of having a live one if you’re actually using the thing. Arguably, it has advantages over, say, a dustbuster, but at at least 3-5 times the cost for less than half of the usage pattern, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

I might have been more receptive to this idea if they’d said outright – “look, we made it work for 5 minutes, but for those 5 minutes, it’ll work much better than any other handheld vac”. But they didn’t. They completely glossed over this glaring design failure, and it’s kind of a surprise. Judging from the tone of voice of the customer service tech I called to find out if this was normal, they’ve been getting this question a lot, and it sounds like they’re a bit insulted that people would harp on something that they don’t consider to be a failure while overlooking the substantial advantages that they have produced. It’s almost a case study in misunderstanding the requirements of your audience. A 5 minute battery life is not an acceptable feature for a handheld vac, and if there’s a good reason why it should be, Dyson should have made some effort to educate people instead of just throwing it out there and letting people figure it out for themselves. I suspect that there isn’t, and this is just a design flaw that they haven’t been able to fix and one they’re trying to ignore. The users of the device, unfortunately, aren’t granted such a luxury, and the failings of it are far more evident than the successes.

That said, it’s certainly an open question about whether to return it or not, because those five minutes definitely suck as much as they should.

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Smack about the Finder

Filed under: — adam @ 10:58 am

Following on my Ramblings of a Switcher post, someone got me started on what’s wrong with the Finder. Here’s a short list just off the top of my head:

1) Why is there no option to display folders first? Descending into the file tree is a decidedly different cognitive action from looking at the files in the current directory. This is an extension of the “you shouldn’t care where your files live and I’m going to make it difficult for you if you do” problem. Sort by kind is not an option if I want the files in the directory sorted alphabetically.

2) I like the idea of the multi-column file browser, but why do I have to resize each column separately, and why is that control so obtuse? If I extend the last pane so it’s wider and I can see what’s in it, but then I descend another level, why do I need to resize again? Why does making the whole window bigger not automatically resize the last pane? Why is there no sort-by control for multi-column view?

3) Why can I not browse network shares directly from the Network tab? Why do I have to mount them first and then go back to the root and find the share I just mounted?

4) When I make an alias to a directory in the left hand quick links, why can it not have a different name from the directory itself? If I have clients/x/projects and clients/y/projects, and I drag them both to that bar, they both show up as projects, and renaming the alias renames the directories. Gah!

5) Why do I still get new windows open in icon view when I have the “Open new windows in column view” preference item checked?

Tags: , , ,

NYT on the Iraqi version of the Daily Show

This is a NYT article about an Iraqi show which seems to be called “Hurry Up, He’s Dead”.

The description is painful to read, a horrible ironic reminder of the awfulness:

“In a recent episode, the host, Saad Khalifa, reported that Iraq’s Ministry of Water and Sewage had decided to change its name to simply the Ministry of Sewage — because it had given up on the water part.”

“Mr. Sudani, the writer, said he has lost hope for his country. Iraq’s leaders are incompetent, he said. He fears that services will never be restored. The American experiment in democracy, he said, was born dead.

All anyone can do, he said, is laugh.”

Via Perry Metzger:

Tags: , , , ,


Ramblings of a Switcher

Filed under: — adam @ 12:24 pm

Having moved my music and my primary laptop over to Apple machines in the past six months, there’s a lot to like, but also a lot of hate.

There are certain pieces of software that are Mac-only that I really prefer to anything available on Windows. TextMate stands out for development – while it’s not perfect, I can’t imagine doing rails coding without it anymore. Delicious Library has proven to be immensely useful for keeping track of what storage boxes I put things in when they’re rotated out to the storage space, a function I didn’t even really realize was missing until I had it. Dashboard works FAR better than anything equivalent on Windows.

On the interface side, while there are some improvements, many things are different for no apparent reason, without actually being better. This doesn’t really bother me, but it did take a little getting used to.

But what really gets me is that there are a bunch of things that are just wrong, for no apparent reason. They’d be easy to fix, but someone made an active decision that the platform was going to behave this way, and yes, I think they’re outright wrong. Some of these are problems with Apple software, some of them just problems with the general paradigm encouraged by Apple, and some problems with the specific pieces of software I’ve chosen (but which seem to be very popular in the Mac community).

  1. There are number of general interface oddities that make no sense. Why must windows only be resized from the bottom right corner? Why can’t I universally maximize windows? There’s that little green button on the interface. Who knows what it will do? Sometimes, it will maximize the current window to be full screen-ish, but just as often it does something completely useless. A particular failure of this function for which I blame Apple directly is what happens when you press this button when viewing PDF files in Preview. When reading a PDF file, I almost always want to, you know, be able to read the text on the page. The only way to do that is often to have the file fill the whole width of the screen, so the letters are large enough to be legible. There’s manual zoom in Preview, but no way to make the page fill the width of the screen. This makes reading documents in Preview unnecessarily frustrating. Hearing Apple apologists try to rationalize this away is amusing. “Oh, the Mac OS is based around the concept of having multiple windows open at once, so there’s no reason to maximize a window.” Uh, sure. Oh, I forgot, if Apple decides that it wasn’t important, I’m missing the point if I want it.
  2. There’s far too much clicking and insufficient use of keyboard shortcuts. Just about every piece of Mac software I’ve used suffers from this, but some are worse than others. For example, Omnigraffle – generally not a bad interface (although I have a list of other things that are specifically wrong with it), but there’s no way to edit the text of an item without double clicking on it. To add insult to injury, this function is even listed under the Keyboard Shortcuts section of the help.
  3. Don’t even get me started on the Finder.
  4. There’s plenty wrong with iTunes. Why is there no “currently playing” playlist? When you select an album and play it, then go look at another album, then jump to the next track, iTunes stops instead of playing the next song in the album you were listening to. There does not appear to be any way to play an entire album in the background without first making a playlist out of it. Which brings me to….
  5. iTunes management of external music folders is completely broken. There’s no way to synchronize the iTunes library with an external music source folder. If the folder is on a network drive and the network goes away for some reason, iTunes “loses” all of those tracks – they’re still listed, but they can’t be found until they’re individually played, one by one. Adding the external folder again causes all of these “missing” tracks to be doubled, and they only way to clear that out is to dump the entire library and re-add it, which also throws away all of the static playlists. iTunes, inexplicably, gives me the option to display duplicate tracks, but mysteriously no way to remove them automatically. That really helps when you’re dealing with thousands of tracks. Yes, I tried the Remove Duplicates Applescript. No, it didn’t work.

I complain, because I’d really like it to be better, and I’m surprised that it’s not. Don’t get me wrong – using the Mac is generally pretty pleasant. But these glaring flaws stick out like a sore thumb, and cast an avoidable and visceral pall over an otherwise happy experience.

Tags: , , , ,


Privacy is about access, not secrecy

There’s a very important point to be made here.

Privacy in the digital age is not necessarily about secrecy, it’s about access. The question is no longer whether someone can know a piece of information, but also how easy it is to find.

If you take a bunch of available information and aggregate it to make it easily accessible, that’s arguably a worse privacy violation than taking a secret piece of information and making it “public” but putting it where no one can find it (or where they have to go looking for it).

This is a very important disctinction when you’re looking at corporate log gathering and data harvesting. Sure – your IP address or your phone number may be “public information”, but it’s still a privacy violation when it’s put in a big database with a bunch of other information about you and given to someone.

Tags: , , ,


Google has your logs (and all it took was a fart lighting video)

The non-obvious side of Google’s purchase of YouTube: Google now has access to the hit logs of every page that a YouTube video appears on, including LOTS of pages that were probably previously inaccessible to them. MySpace pages were probably going to get Google ads anyway, because of the big deal that happened there, but many others weren’t.

Add this to AdSense, the Google Web Accelerator, Google Web Analytics, and Google Maps, and that’s a lot of data being collected about browsing habits, and the number of sites you can browse without sending some data to Google has just dropped significantly.


Tags: , , ,


Songbird media player looks pretty cool

Filed under: — adam @ 12:03 pm

This looks VERY promsing.

Open source, cross-platform, extensible media player based on Mozilla to browse, collect, and play web and local media files. Sure.

Tags: , , , , ,


400D support is out with ACR Camera RAW 3.6

Filed under: — adam @ 11:17 am

It’s a beautiful thing. I downloaded the ACR 3.6 update (still beta, but seems stable), and the output on the 400D shots is very very good.

As predicted, with a decent RAW converter, the evident noise is strongly diminished, and the noise that remains is very very fine and can be easily removed with Noise Ninja.

Here’s a shot I took at ISO 800 with no flash:

Get the update here:

Tags: , , , , , ,

Powered by WordPress