WQTS 12

Hard to believe it’s been more than four years since the last WQTS* post. Granted, last year probably shouldn’t count. It’s not like any of us have had opportunities to encounter the results of egregiously bad testing recently. But still.

* For those of you who’ve started reading since June of 2017, or whose memories don’t extend that far back, the acronym expands to Who QAd This Shit. It’s where I mock products that were improperly tested, insufficiently tested, or–a closely related discipline–never granted a design review.

We took the car in for service yesterday–the Toyota, not The Bug. Aside from the semi-annual maintenance, it also needed a new battery. Generally, when it comes to matters automotive, we rely on experts for diagnosis, but it didn’t take much expertise for us to figure that a battery that had been in service for seven years and occasionally failed to hold enough charge overnight to start the car was about due for retirement.

Guess what happens to the radio when the battery is replaced. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you guess that it reverts to its default settings, you’re right. Partially.

For the record, the radio in question is the KD-HDR30, made by JVC. To be fair, it is, like the car, more than a decade old; nobody’s going to be buying one today. And there is a chance that JVC’s more recent units radios were designed and built following more rigorous design and testing processes.

The radio itself reverts to the defaults. The add-on modules that give it additional capabilities don’t. So the SiriusXM module remembered our station presets, but the radio switched to its built-in FM tuner.

That’s actually a reasonable default. It doesn’t make sense for the radio to assume the presence of optional hardware. What’s less sensical–and points to inadequate testing and/or design review–is that the FM station presets were gone.

Who thought it was a good idea to withhold capabilities from the base unit that were given to an optional component–the satellite radio plug-in? Clearly, somebody who didn’t think the radio could lose all power after installation.

Wait, it gets worse. The base radio component apparently has no ability to remember anything. Every single setting reverted to the defaults. So the FM tuner was at the top of the dial and the volume was at the exact middle of the range, two ticks higher than we had left it. Annoying, but one has to set the default values somewhere, and those choices have some logic behind them.

Less logical, when we switched inputs to SiriusXM, we discovered that the radio’s default display was the time remaining in the current song. Not the title (our preference) the artist, or even the channel. The time remaining. Who chose that? Realistically, nobody did. Nobody defined the default behavior, so a developer chose the first item in the list of options. Presumably, it was the same developer who put the list of options in their current order. And most likely, that order came straight out of a list of capabilities someone gave him.

If some QA person questioned the behavior, the business owner or project manager decided there wasn’t time to fix it: “If we change the order of the list, every feature that refers to the list will need to be changed; that means reworking and retesting every menu selection. And if we start setting exceptions for the defaults, instead of always choosing the first possibility, we’ll have to decide what those exceptions are, recode the initialization sequence, and retest. For something that only happens once, when the radio is installed.” Because, of course, we all know the radio is connected to a battery, so it can’t lose power.

The really egregious design issue, however–and the one that convinces me that there were no design reviews and possibly no QA–is that by default, the radio goes into a store demo mode. That means the display cycles endlessly through a list of the radio’s features. Why would anyone want to see the list after they’ve purchased the radio?

Turning the demo mode off requires the user to find a menu semi-hidden behind a long press on a button that normally does other things, locate demo mode in that menu, turn it off, and save the setting before the menu times out and returns the radio to its normal display.

Why is this the default? Granted, any unit could be used as a store display. I’ll even grant that a store display unit is more likely to lose power than one installed in an actual customer’s car. But making every unit default to store mode suggests that either the radio is the victim of poor design practices and less-than-adequate QA, or that JVC prioritizes stores’ convenience over customers’.

Double-Decker

Even though every condo in the house has at least two levels, it’s rare to see more than one cat per condo.

So it was a surprise to look upstairs a few days ago and see Lefty and Sachiko sharing the “microwave” condo.

It didn’t last long; about fifteen minutes later, Lefty wandered into the bedroom in search of snuggles. But it was nice to see them getting along in close proximity, however briefly.

A Waterfall Memory

Once upon a time, there was a restaurant in Seattle called The Windjammer.

For many, including my family, it was an “occasion” restaurant. Not necessarily huge occasions like weddings and family reunions–although it did host such events–but the smaller occasions: graduations, birthdays, and hosting out-of-town guests.

The Windjammer’s signature bit–or perhaps one of them; certainly the one that made the biggest impression on me*–was the way the servers filled water glasses. The pour started with the pitcher just above the rim of the glass. As the glass filled, the server would lift the pitcher higher–leaving the glass on the table, untouched–until it reached his shoulder height. The waterfall effect was eye-catching, especially at the end, when a twist of the server’s wrist bent the stream slightly.

* At the time, I was what we now call a tween. If there were similar rituals in the presentation of alcoholic beverages, I was and am blissfully unaware of them.

If you think about it, it’s a perfect gimmick for a restaurant. It’s not as showy as lighting something on fire, granted, but there’s less risk of igniting a customer’s clothing or hair. And it doesn’t require your customers to pay attention: no chance of a flying shrimp bouncing off someone’s chin.

It’s not as easy as The Windjammer’s staff made it look, either. Believe me, I spent a lot of time trying to do it myself. The basic pour-and-lift isn’t difficult, but stopping is tough. You want the glass to be full enough that you won’t have to come back around immediately, but not so full that it overflows. Once you let the water out of the pitcher three feet above the table, you can’t put it back. Don’t forget about the wrist twist, either. It changes the flow so the last part of the pour hits the inside of the glass and flows smoothly down, instead of splatting down and spraying water on the paying customers.

By now you’re probably wondering why I even bring up this bit of little-known nostalgia.

Blame it on muscle memory.

I hadn’t thought about The Windjammer in decades until our recent hot spells came along. At one point, I raided the pitcher of water in the fridge and found myself doing a Windjammer Pour. It didn’t go well. I bobbled the wrist twist and splashed myself and the countertop with a significant amount of water. While it felt nice, it wasn’t quite the cooldown I’d been planning on.

So now I’ve got a problem.

I’d like to practice up and get my pouring skills back up to standard, but California is in drought conditions. Can I really indulge myself, knowing each practice pour will waste precious milliliters of water?

Fencing

Not a lot to say today beyond the rather evident fact that Watanuki can be very protective of his toys.

A cat looking at a turtle*

He is forgetful, however. A few minutes later, he wandered off to swipe some food from Lefty’s bowl and abandoned the catnip ball.

 

* A note for those of you who make a habit of looking at image Alt text: I usually change Word’s guess at image content to something that borders on accurate–or delete it altogether. Today’s, however, was so wildly off that I just had to leave it alone.

Getting to Bewildered

Some songs, though raise much more difficult questions.

Remember “Linda”? (Yeah, I’m sticking with the Forties here. Please place any objections in that circular filing cabinet over there. Thank you.)

The lyrics aren’t too bad. Okay, I’m stumbling a bit over why our narrator thinks telling his beloved that she puts him to sleep is a compliment. Other than that, however, it’s a fairly normal pop song.

The thing is, the song lyrics don’t tell the whole story here. See, the lyric sheet doesn’t include the spoken word segments that open and close the recording (dramatized here).

Yes, the post-WW2 period was one of great social change. I get that. And yeah, by some accounts, there was a shortage of eligible males in the latter half of the decade.

But, really!

How does Linda not notice that her stalker has completely failed to answer her perfectly reasonable question? Or does she expect to be ignored? What does that say about her upbringing?

She obviously doesn’t know–or doesn’t care about–the warning signs of an overly controlling, potentially abusive, partner. And that outro feels one set of broadcast standards away from “Forget about the coffee and talking, let’s just go to bed.”

The song–though not, I think, the framing device–was written for a young girl. Is it intended as a proper model for her behavior? An exaggeration for effect? It’s certainly not presented as a cautionary tale. And at the time the song was written, the girl in question* was less than a year old.

* Irrelevant to this discussion, the original Linda was Linda Eastman, the future wife of Paul McCartney–who wrote a few question-worthy lyrics himself. Clearly there’s a generational influence happening here.

And, of course, some questions can’t be answered. “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” springs to mind*.

* First published in 1922, but the most popular version is arguably Jimmy Witherspoon’s 1947 release.

When the singer talks about jumping into the ocean, she’s not talking about a little dip. The ocean gives and the ocean takes away; is suicide really nobody’s business but the principal? Morality aside, if the water gives back a body, someone has to deal with it.

Maybe it isn’t anyone’s business but those involved if a woman gives all her money to “a friend”, her man, or her father (or is that still “my man”? The language is ambiguous)–or the other way around, for that matter–but wouldn’t most people agree that an intervention is the correct response, especially if there’s physical abuse involved?

How did this song become such a huge hit?

Bewildered, Bothered, Not Bewitched

I can’t be the only person who finds popular music befuddling.

Not in a “how could anyone like that garbage” sense. Every group has been using that line against the music of anyone they don’t like for the last ten thousand years or more.

But we all have moments where a lyric just stops us dead in our tracks while we try to figure out what the heck someone is singing about.

Case in point: “On the Atchison, Topeka, and The Santa Fe“. The Johnny Mercer song–though I don’t doubt the Judy Garland song has a few headscratchers of its own.

But really: If the schedule is so regular that people use the train as a clock, why does the narrator need to tell Jim to get the rig? Doesn’t Jim know it’s that time already? And how big is that rig–it’s got to hold all the passengers from that “pretty big” list and their luggage. I suppose Jim could make multiple trips, but if everyone is going to Brown’s hotel, is that really the most efficient use of Jim’s time and effort?

Come to think of it, why Brown’s hotel? Is the town big enough to support multiple hotels? If not, why does the narrator specifically say “Brown’s”? Wouldn’t “the” be sufficient? Or if there are multiple hotels in town, why is Brown’s getting all the railroad business–does the singer get a kickback from the hotel for sending Jim’s passengers there instead of spreading the business around? Or does he just dislike the owners of the others?

Maybe these aren’t questions of great cosmic importance, but they’re the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.

Don’t think this sort of confusion is rare. Consider “A-Tisket, A-Tasket“.

How does the singer know a little girl found the dropped basket, much less that she put it in her pocket? She isn’t reviewing security camera footage; not in the 1940s, certainly. Eyewitnesses? But if she’s found enough of those to confirm the kid grabbed the basket, shoved it in a pocket, and strolled off with it, wouldn’t one of them be able to identify the girl, or at a minimum, tell the singer which direction she went?

Come to that, if the basket was so important, how did she not notice she’d dropped it? Is this some kind of sting operation?

Did girl’s clothes in the 1940s have bigger pockets than girl’s clothes do today? Apparently so. Even if the basket was little, how the heck did the little girl get it in a pocket? And not just get it in, but have it be comfortable enough that she didn’t immediately pull it back out and carry it. It couldn’t have been all that tiny, after all, as the singer implies it was large enough to hold a letter.

This story isn’t adding up. At the beginning of the song, the basket is “green and yellow”, yet just a few verses later, it’s very definitively yellow. In fact, it’s specifically, not green (or red or blue) but yellow. And little.

Wait a second. A letter to her mommy? Where is Mommy that the singer couldn’t just give it to her instead of mailing it? And why is she more concerned about the basket than the letter? Was it a gift from Mommy?

Is it just my imagination, or is this getting awfully deep–and confusing–for a song based on a nursery poem?

And don’t be fooled by the fact that both of these songs are pushing 70. Confusing popular songs are a universal. I’d be willing to bet you can think of an example from your favorite decade with no effort at all.

A Worthy Successor

Rufus was, and probably will always be, the champion blepper of the household.

Fortunately for those of us who love a good blep, Rhubarb is highly accomplished in the field.

(Thanks to Maggie for the photo.)

A master class talent, wouldn’t you say?

And the 3/4 inverted head adds more than a trifling measure of charm.

It is, however, the freckled nose that really sells the blep.

Turning It Up To…

Hey, did you hear about Windows 11?

Remember when Microsoft said Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows?

To be fair, times have changed since then. That statement was made back when Apple was still cheerfully turning out version after version of OS X with no hint they’d ever turn up macOS to 11. So now Microsoft has to keep pace, lest they be seen as behind the times. That means updating the user interface to match current fashion trends and, yes, updating the version number.

Still, I wish one company or the other would have invoked Spinal Tap in their product announcement, instead of leaving it up to the tech press.

Anyway, it looks like Windows 11 is going to be more of an evolution than a radical departure. Microsoft has clearly learned from the Windows 8 debacle, and isn’t going to give us something so wildly different that we’ll have to totally readjust our muscle memory just to carry out basic tasks. Like launching programs. From what I’ve seen so far, we’ll all be able to manage the learning curve.

For appropriate values of “all”, anyway. Because it’s important to realize that not everyone is going to get Windows 11 on Day One*. And hurray for that.

* Which won’t be until “holiday season”. Which, given that it’s a marketing term with no agreed-upon meaning, could be anything from September–when the stores start pushing Christmas and Christmas gifting–to January or February. Wouldn’t you like your loved one to give you an upgrade to Windows 11 for Valentines Day? Don’t sneer: it may be a free download, but I’m sure not going to install the upgrade without first backing up my systems, and you should too. Let a competent loved one (or paid professional) spend the time and effort, while you eat the chocolate you were going to give them. You do give chocolate to your computer repair person, right? Much safer for your equipment than alcohol.

Even once it’s released, not everyone is going to get Windows 11.

Microsoft is still fine-tuning the limits, but right now it appears that Windows 11 won’t even try to install on systems that are more than about five years old.

Unlike most of the rest of the tech industry, I’m okay with that. One doesn’t run Windows 10 on machines that were originally sold with Windows 7 (or, Goddess help us, Vista). At best, one walks it; more often, one crawls it.

And Microsoft will continue to support and update Windows 10 for at least five years. That means that, by the time Windows 10 is fully retired*, all those computers that can’t run Windows 11 will be at least a decade old. That’s about 90 in human years. Let them retire gracefully. Please.

* In the same sense that Windows 7 is now fully retired, of course. Which means there are still millions of people using it.

Another bit of good news: Apparently Microsoft has finally admitted that Cortana is massively annoying. She’ll still be in Windows 11, but somewhat harder to find. And computer technicians around the world are still celebrating the news that she’s being removed from the setup workflow. I know people who have to set up multiple machines every day; they hear that awful “Hi, there!” in their sleep. Good riddance.

And, just to close out my rambling, a bit of bad news; the only thing we’ve been told about Windows 11 that makes my head hurt: Windows 11 Home (the version pre-installed on over 90% of the Windows computers sold in stores) will require a Microsoft account to get through the initial setup. There are a lot of open questions around this little nugget of information. In theory, Windows 10 has a similar requirement, but you can get around it by not connecting the computer to the Internet until after the setup workflow is finished. Maybe 11 will work the same way. Maybe not–but if not, how will Microsoft handle it if there legitimately isn’t an available Internet connection?

Because, let’s be blunt here: not everyone wants to give Microsoft that much control over their computer. (Want to see a techie froth at the mouth? Ask them to help you with a Bitlocker recovery.) Even Apple, that vociferous proponent of the “walled garden”, doesn’t force you to enter your Apple ID when you set up a Mac. They’ll nag you if you don’t, but they won’t stop you. And their setup workflow always creates a local user account. You create the account and then, several steps later, they ask you to enter the Apple ID–and most recent versions of macOS have a prominent “Ask me later” or “No thanks” option.

I’d be willing to bet that Microsoft will back down from their current “must” stance. But it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if they do it quietly and in a highly non-obvious way.

About ten minutes after the formal release of Windows 11, some repair technician or security analyst will discover that the requirement can by bypassed by entering “microsoft.accounts@sucks.rocks” as the Microsoft account name. Word will spread, and eventually Microsoft will blame it on a rogue programmer–but not remove the capability.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping.