January 21, 2007

What’s Ikea’s deal with hex keys?

Filed under: Tools — marcstober @ 8:36 pm

I’m someone who believes you should use the right tools to do a job, and take advantage of the best tools available. Which is why, even though just about every piece of Ikea furniture I’ve bought comes with a little hex key that is arguably the right tool, I’d much rather use my cordless drill-driver than drive a couple dozen screws by hand. Now, this would be really easy if they just used ordinary Phillips screws but not so much when you need a hex key – a metric one at that.

(Actually, I have an interesting history with hex keys. The summer before my junior year in college I worked at the Holo-Krome factory in West Hartford, assembling sets of Sears Craftsman Hex Keys. 10 hours a day, but I earned enough to buy a used car by fall. When I left, the manager advised my to stay in school – as if assembling thousands of identical hex keys sets wasn’t enought to convince me to seek better opportunities.)

Anyhow, I really lucked out and found a set with metric hex bits in the bargain tool bin at National Lumber this afternoon. (It turns out that Ikea’s Trofast uses 3mm hex screws, in case anyone wants to know.) Of course, the set also includes the same Phillips bits I already have several of. So, why doesn’t Ikea just use Phillips screws in the first place? The product had Phillips screws, too, and they expected you to have your own screwdriver for this; wouldn’t it be cheaper not to include a hex key at all? We’re not assembling precision aircraft parts. Or couldn’t Ikea at least sell the bits? I suppose everyone else puts together Ikea furniture without complaining, but I think there are some design aspects that could be improved.
(As a disclaimer: use the above advice at your own risk and when in doubt, follow manufacturer’s directions over mine!)

January 18, 2007

Design, and the lack thereof

Filed under: Software Blog — marcstober @ 10:09 am

A post on Coding Horror, “There Are No Design Leaders in the PC World,” got me thinking.

The most aesthetically pleasing piece of computer technology I know is Craigslist. Form follows function. The basics of computer display are melded into something much more elegant than glossy graphics.

If only Microsoft had such restraint. I just discovered that the replacement for the NT “kill” command is “taskkill” in XP. It is so much less satisfying to “taskkill” a process than to “kill” it. 🙂 And the double “k” – ugh.

On the other hand, most building aren’t works of great architecture; and most cars, product packages, advertisements, consumer products, etc. are designed to sell, not to go into a museum. So it’s a broader social phenomenon.

One thing I’d wonder if if this plays out an different in Europe than North America.

Anyhow, back to the regular business of being a misunderstood artiste/developer…:)

January 17, 2007

We have an orange square, a dumpster, and no kitchen

Filed under: House Blog — marcstober @ 4:10 pm

Window with Orange SquareIt’s official: our house is a construction site. We have our very own “orange square” (building permit); and Steve brought in a big dumpster and demolished the kitchen. Nothing new built yet, although tools and lumber have started to appear.

Temporary KitchenThe temporary kitchen is not so bad. It’s like being on vacation. What do we need a new kitchen for anyway? The harder part is never quite knowing when things are going to change.

January 11, 2007

I Grok the Mock

Filed under: Software Blog — marcstober @ 10:02 am

Interesting article about unit testing:


This clarified two things for me:

1. What exactly are these “mock objects” I keep hearing so much about.

2. Why I like writing unit tests in certain ways, other than just intuition. (It turns out I’m a state/classical unit tester; and I now have a mental framework for deciding when to stick with that vs. when to try behavior/mockist testing instead.)

Via Ned Batchelder’s blog.