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Strong opinions, weakly held

What users do

As you know, I frequently mine the long term road test blog at Edmunds Inside Line for interesting tidbits that relate to design and user experience. Today I ran into a problem at work where people could no longer log into FogBugz because the computer running Windows XP on which it runs had decided that too many people were connected and I was violating the arbitrary rules Microsoft imposes to force you to purchase Windows Server 2003. Here’s the thing — nobody was actually using FogBugz at the time and the problem went away when I rebooted the server.

Then today I read about a complaint that the Edmunds staff have with Subaru’s navigation systems. Subaru disables the controls for navigation systems when the car is moving:

I find it extremely frustrating that some navigation systems, like the one found in our Subaru, will lock out 90% of the menu functions once the vehicle is in motion. Want to program in a new destination? Pull over and stop. Want to change the route from “quickest” to something more scenic? Pull over and stop. What if you’re mired in traffic, late, on a highway with no shoulder, or simply want to keep going? Tough.

And this remains the case whether you have a perfectly capable passenger riding shotgun next to you to press the buttons or not. A passenger can read regular maps while underway, and AAA gives them away to members for free. Tell me why I should pay one or two grand for one of these, again?

So what do users do when confronted with these arbitrary, user-hostile restrictions? They hack around them:

But our 2008 Subaru WRX STI has a hand-operated parking brake handle, a type that is much easier to control. While doing a hand-brake turn while horsing-around on the safe confines of a dry lake, I inadvertently found that pulling up on it doesn’t simply illuminate the brake lamp. Doing so also energizes all of the navigation system menus.

In the end, he winds up jamming his iPod under the parking brake handle so that he can use the navigation system whenever he likes. In the case of our FogBugz server, I’m going to uninstall Windows XP and replace it with some Linux variant as soon as I get a chance.

1 Comment

  1. The linux version of FogBugz uses PHP, which is more hackable IMO.

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