All posts filed under “Circumvention

Instructable: One-Touch Keypad Masher

One-Touch Keypad Masher

It’s been a long time since I last wrote an Instructable, but as I’ve resolved that 2009’s going to be a year where I start making things again (2008 involved a lot of sitting, reading and annotating, and in 2007 most of what I made was for clients, and thus confidential), I thought I’d write up a brief (10 minute) fun little bodgey project which has, very marginally, boosted everyday productivity: the One-Touch Keypad Masher.

Wasting valuable seconds typing in a code every time you need to open the door?

This little ‘device’ streamlines the process by pressing the right keys for you, and can be hidden in your palm so you simply mash your hand against the keypad and – apparently miraculously to anyone watching – unlock the door in one go.

Time to make: Less than 10 minutes
Time saved: About 30 seconds per day in my case; your mileage may vary.
Payback time: 20 days, in this case

(There’s a (weak) correlation with some of the Design with Intent topics, since it could be seen as a device which allows a user to interact with a “What you know” security measure using a “What you have” method. At some point in the near future I’ll be covering these on the blog as design patterns for influencing behaviour.

It’s also a kind of errorproofing device, a poka-yoke employing specialised affordances. If used, it prevents the user mistyping the code.)

The Instructable is also embedded below (Flash), but for whatever reason there are a few formatting oddities (including hyperlinks being ignored) so it’s easier to read in the original.

The Hacker’s Amendment


Congress shall pass no law limiting the rights of persons to manipulate, operate, or otherwise utilize as they see fit any of their possessions or effects, nor the sale or trade of tools to be used for such purposes.

From Artraze commenting on this Slashdot story about the levels of DRM in Windows 7.

I think it maybe needs some qualification about not using your things to cause harm to other people, but it’s an interesting idea. See also Mister Jalopy’s Maker’s Bill of Rights from Make magazine a couple of years ago.

How to fit a normal bulb in a BC3 fitting and save £10 per bulb

BC3 and 2-pin bayonet fitting compared
Standard 2-pin bayonet cap (left) and 3-pin bayonet cap BC3 (right) fittings compared

Summary for mystified international readers: In the UK new houses/flats must, by law, have a number of light fittings which will ‘not accept incandescent filament bulbs’ (a ‘green’ idea). This has led to the development of a proprietary, arbitrary format of compact fluorescent bulb, the BC3, which costs a lot more than standard compact fluorescents, is difficult to obtain, and about which the public generally doesn’t know much (yet). If you’re so minded, it’s not hard to modify the fitting and save money.

A lot of visitors have found this blog recently via searching for information on the MEM BC3 3-pin bayonet compact fluorescent bulbs, where to get them, and why they’re so expensive. The main posts here discussing them, with background to what it’s all about, are A bright idea? and some more thoughts – and it’s readers’ comments which are the really interesting part of both posts.

There are so many stories of frustration there, of people trying to ‘do their bit’ for the environment, trying to fit better CFLs in their homes, and finding that instead of instead of the subsidised or even free standard 2-pin bayonet CFLs available all over the place in a variety of improved designs, styles and quality, they’re locked in to having to pay 10 or 15 times as much for a BC3 bulb, and order online, simply because the manufacturer has a monopoly, and does not seem to supply the bulbs to normal DIY or hardware stores.

Frankly, the system is appalling, an example of exactly how not to design for sustainable behaviour. It’s a great ‘format lock-in’ case study for my research, but a pretty pathetic attempt to ‘design out’ the ‘risk’ of the public retro-fitting incandescent bulbs in new homes. This is the heavy-handed side of the legislation-ecodesign nexus, and it’s clearly not the way forward. Trust the UK to have pushed ahead with it without any thought of user experience.
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Finestrino Bloccato

Trenitalia window lock
Trenitalia window lock

Italian railway operator Trenitalia has a simple way of locking the windows shut in some of its older carriages with (retro-fitted?) air-conditioning. This was on a train from Florence to Pisa; the sticker probably cost more than the screw. I like that.

It also allows passengers who really need some air to unscrew them – perhaps if the air-conditioning fails, or indeed otherwise – as a couple of people had done.

User intent and emergence

Something which came out of the seminar at Brunel earlier this week (thanks to everyone who came along) was the idea that any method of selecting ways to design products that aim to shape or guide users’ behaviour really must incorporate some evaluation of users’ actual goals in using the product – users’ intent – alongside that of the designer/planner. This seems obvious, but I hadn’t explicitly thought of it before as a prerequisite for the actual selection method (instead, I’d assumed these kinds of issues could be shaken out during the design process, based on designers’ experience and judgement, and then in user testing). In retrospect it really does need to be considered much earlier in the process, while actually choosing which approaches are going to be explored. (Given how long I’ve spent reading about bad design and poor usability, you’d think I’d have twigged this earlier.)
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A lot of architectures of control / design with intent examples are trying to enforce what I’ve termed ‘access, use or occupation based on user characteristics’. Not all designs are especially successful at achieving that target behaviour: users will not always be persuaded, or will find ways to avoid being coerced.

Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

Bicycles can churn up the surface of footpaths…

Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

…You can put up signs to tell cyclists not to do it…

Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

…or you can put in gates (kissing gates as they’re known in the UK) to try to stop them (along with livestock)…

Mud, footpath, cycles and kissing gate

…but it doesn’t mean anyone will take any notice!