Monday, July 27, 2015

The pros & cons of understanding product design

Knowledge is a double edge sword. Your life will become better or worse as you gain more knowledge, and start paying more attention to details. For example, before you talk to your neighbor and know they wake up at 5am in the morning, you might not even notice you have a neighbor. But after you get to know them, you might start to wake up at exactly at 5am every morning and start noticing the shower, the morning coffee machine, the door slam, the car engine, etc... And you count them one by one before finally it becomes quiet and you could go back to sleep again. So, I will leave it to you to decide whether you want to get to know your neighbor or NOT :)

Same logic applies to knowledge gained from your occupation. The product design knowledge I gained has gifted me a magnifier in my daily life to evaluate almost everything I encounter. This leads to great pleasure when I see some excellent design from time to time, though unfortunately more often it leads to discomfort and a desire to shout out, which directly leads to this post.

I was visiting a local public service office whose phone was never picked up, so there was a long waiting line for walked in. When the office is closed, people started to walk out, and I notice the guy before me was really confused by the door. The door has a pushed-down handle as below, so he push the handle but the door did not move. He tried harder but the door stood still. He turned around looking confused. And it turned out the the similar looking door adjacent to it was for exit, while this door was for entrance. Why does a door have a push-down handle when you could not push it? Poor design. Haha, sound familiar, right? Search for 'Norman door' on Google. And afterwards, you will start noticing doors like this everywhere.

Then I went to Fedex to print out something from my email attachment. Glad to find they have some fancy self-service machine, called print and go. The machine looks like this:

And I figured out that I should choose 'Print from mobile device' from their instruction printout.

But how could I print from my mobile device? They ask me to send an email to, but what happened after I send it out? Do I need to call the stuff there to print it out for me, or is there a printing queue within this machine that contains my file?

Then I look at the screen which list the following section. Which one should I choose? The only one with a mobile image is 'Print with retrieval code', but where can I get a retrieval code? Oh, I was thinking and thinking and confused!!

So I asked the stuff for help, and she totally understood my confusion. I bet she must be bothered multiple times each day to ask how to use it. Turned out it's very simple, once you sent out an email to, you will receive the retrieval code, which you could enter to print out your material. So simple! One sentence! Why didn't Fedex put the ONE sentence in the instruction to help reduce the confusion and save time for both consumer and Fedex stuff??

Another confusion comes out when I start to print. My document has 2 pages, and I was very happy with the preview function given by the machine. Looks perfect. So I keep on pushing 'continue', and wait for the print out. But, but, it comes out with only one side! And, it's on a very thick and smooth card board material, not a regular printing paper. What happened??? I called the poor stuff again, she again totally understand and told me this machine is 'difficult'. She finally put the paper in again to print out the other page for me on the other side of the card board. And at this moment, we probably have already spent more than 20 minutes to print this out.

It's a bit unfair to say the machine is difficult to use. It's actually very simple: just send an email, slide your credit card, enter the retrieval code, set up two side printing if needed, and you are done.  Should be smooth. Product or engineering wise, it's good. The problem is in the last mile, where they did not give sufficient instruction on this novel machine, and new users are stuck. Perfect product design needs to take the actual users seriously, and observe how your users interact with the products. If Fedex have actually ask real users outside of their product team for testing, they should have already figured out this usage gap easily and improve the product? If they haven't, they should already hear complaints from stuff working in the store about the lack of clear instructions, and have fixed it already? Well any way, I am hoping to see some fixes soon. 

Well, I have been mainly talking about the downside of knowledge gaining today. This is just to illustrate that knowledge could sometimes be a double edge sword. At the end, I still want to know my neighbors better, and gain more product design knowledge :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How to install Tokyo Cabinet

Mikio Hirabayashi lists the steps of installing Tokyo Cabinet.

Following the instruction, the installation is quite straight forward. As Tokyo Cabinet depends on zlib and bzip2, we need to install these two packages first. I am using zlib-1.2.5 and bzip2-1.0.5, however, after installing these two packages, I encountered an error during the 'make' phrase of Tokyo Cabinet installation:

/usr/bin/ld: /usr/local/lib/libbz2.a(bzlib.o): relocation R_X86_64_32S against `.text' can not be used when making a shared object; recompile with -fPIC
/usr/local/lib/libbz2.a: could not read symbols: Bad value
collect2: ld returned 1 exit status
make: *** [] Error 1

Go back to the bzip2 directory, edit the Makefile, append " -fPIC" to the CFLAGS line:
CFLAGS=-Wall -Winline -O2 -g $(BIGFILES)

Reinstall the bzip2 ('make clean' and 'make install')
And then redo the Tokyo Cabinet installation. Now it should succeed.
Good luck~

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion

I watched a movie called "Funny face" over the weekend, and loved Audrey Hepburn in it. She was so funny, energetic, smart, and so beautiful in the film! And the most exciting thing for me is that, the scenes I had seen about Hepburn in the fashion exhibition in Metropolitan Museum in New York was from this movie!! I love those scenes. And in the movie, those were the scenes when Hepburn took photos outdoor in Pairs.

It' s a pity that I did not take photos in the fashion show, but I found a video on Youtube about it. The exhibition is called "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion".

If you are interested, check this Youtube video out:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Moving from East Coast to West Coast

I just moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, under a tight schedule. Hope this article will help someone to settle down a little bit.

(1) Rent an apartment/house to live
Renting an apartment/house without having a look at the place might not be an easy decision. So list some things that you care about, and rank them: distance to working place, neighborhood, price, living space, structure, etc... And in Mountain View, lots of apartments have pools/gyms, so if you love exercise, you could choose such a place. And don't worry if your apartment does not have this, as you might live very near a trail or a park as well.
Craigslist is a good place to look for apartments. Choose some keywords such as "Mountain View" to narrow down your choice. Another useful website is HousingMaps, which has been integrated with Google Map, so you could easily find houses in a specific place on the map. Also, you could choose the price range in this website.

What if you really want to see a place before renting? There is always a way. You could either ask friends or families for a short stay, or find some temporory sublet/room sharing on Craigslist.

(2) Buying airplane tickets
Southwest is a good place to buy airplane tickets. It allows two free baggag, and its price is usually cheaper than others. If you don't have a strict flying date, click the "Try our low fare calender" after your result for the selected date comes, and you could see the prices for the whole month. Usually the prices in different days differ a lot. Usually if you book early, Southwest is a good place to book tickets.

(3) Shipping luggages
Ask the local post office if they have "book special", uaually books are cheaper than other things. And also, if you ship your car, ask the carrier whether you are allowed to carry things in the trunk. If they allow, some light things such as clothes would be a good fit there.

(4) Shipping the car
It's my first time shipping a car, so I care more about online review while comparing their prices. I used the AmeriFright, and it's door to door shipment with a reasonble price. The good thing about it is that you could bid for several times for different prices, and you could choose one you pick. But be aware that a cheaper price may not attract carriers fast enough, so you might need a longer waiting time.

(5) Purchasing furnitures
Many people will prefer to buy furnitures after they see it. For me, I need some furnitures as soon as I moved in, such as mattress or bed. So I searched online and bought a mattress from Macy's and ask for a shipping date as my arrival date. It was during the Labor day when I purchase the mattress, so Macy's has a big discount, with around $300 for a mattress set originally pricing around $1200. If purchasing in other times, you could try some places such as Costco.

(6) High Speed Internet
During the summer, ComcastOffer has some deal, with $19.99/month for half a year, and a little more than $40 for another half a year. But this is only for new customer in their website. If you are an old customer, you could call Comcast directly, they might have the same deal for old customers. And in searching for Internet, research and negotiation would make a difference. After calling Comcast, I find out that I could get a better deal, with $25 each month for 12 months, and a higher speed. So my suggestion is, call the local office and use the online chatting tool provided by Comcast, to know more information about the choices. But one suggestion is, go with a high speed if internet is really important to you, but do a reasearch before you know about the prices.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Book shelf (CS)

&&&&Machine learning and information retrieval related&&&&
Pattern recognition and machine learning
Christopher Bishop

Machine learning for multimedia Content Analysis
Yihong Gong et al

Foundations of statistical Natural Language Processing
Christopher D. Manning et al

Mining the Web
Soumen Chakrabarti

Modern Information Retrieval
Ricardo Baeza-Yates et al.

Machine Learning
Tom M. Mitchell

Learning in Graphical Model(to have)
Michael I. Jordan

Modeling the Internet and the Web
Pierre Baldi et al

Probability, random variables, and stochastic processes
Athanasios Papoulis

Structured Probabilistic Models: Principles and Techniques
Daphne Koller et al

Artificial Intelligence : A modern Approach
Stuart J. Russell et al.

Managing Gigabytes: compressing and indexing documents and images
Ian H. Witten et al.

Pattern Classification
Richard O. Duda et al.

&&&&Algorithms, systems, and other fundamental computer science&&&&
Introduction to algorithms
Thomas H. Cormen

Flexible Pattern Matching in Strings
Gonzalo Navarro et al.

Algorithm Design and analysis(in Chinese)
Xiaodong Wang

Advanced Programming in the UNIX Environment
W. Richard Stevens

Operating Systems: Internals and Design Principles
William Stallings

C++ Primer Plus
Stephen Prata

Effective C++
Scott Meyers

Java Data structures and algorithms
Robert Lafore

Effective Java
Joshua Bloch

TCP/IP Illustrated
W. Richard Stevens

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tech trends: visualizing the Internet! (from CNN)


The full text:

Tech trends: visualizing the Internet
Posted: 03:40 PM ET

Here are a few fun/interesting tech trends of the day. Making the Internet a more visual experience — and less of a text overload — seems to be on quote a few minds:

SEARCH: Cooliris has a cool tool out that lets you scan through photos and search results on a massive, 3-D wall of images. This spawned a Fortune magazine story about the future of search engines: will they always be text-based? Perhaps not.

BLOGS: There are several stories out about new government data that says there are now more paid bloggers in the country than there are paid lawyers. Not that they make the same kind of cash, although the Wall Street Journal says a blogger with 100,000 unique visitors per month can make $75,000 per year.

MAPS: IRLConnect is trying to make a name for itself with map-based social media. Using the site, you can pull in your Facebook and Twitter accounts to get a visual representation of what your posse is up to.

GOOGLE: Finally, in case you haven’t seen it, Google’s News Timeline is worth a look. You can pull in RSS feeds to make a weekly news timeline of your own.