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Critique: Accessible Calculator

Photograph of the Reizen 12 Digit Jumbo Size Calculator

Accessibility expert Mike Elledge joins Tim Keirnan for an out-of-the-box critique of the Reizen 12-Digit Jumbo Talking Calculator. This calculator has many features that make it a good choice for people with low vision or coordination troubles, with its oversized buttons and display and its ability to speak values entered and calculated.

However, Mike finds opportunities for improvement, including the typeface chosen for the buttons, the very small and distant minus symbol and other symbols put across the top of the LCD, and more.

We close this episode with email from listener Costan Boiangiu.

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Critique: Ford FiestaST

Photo collage of Eric's FiestaST, Fiesta, and Ryan's FiST as well.

Eric Penn and Ryan Claffey join Timothy Keirnan for a critique of the Ford FiestaST. We don’t claim to be objective on Design Critique, as we are too honest to pretend anyone could be. We admit our biases so you know where our opinions are coming from. In this product category, our bias is small sporty cars with less mass and great handling that let you feel what’s going on. The Ford FiestaST is a hot hatchback that won our undying admiration from the first drive. Eric and Ryan bought them, and have enjoyed them for several years now.

Tim calls the FiestaST the American MINI Cooper, and he ought to know. It’s as close as you’ll ever get to driving a Labrador Retriever puppy. Tim talks in detail with Eric and Ryan about their customer experiences with the FiestaST, including

  • Encounter
  • Decision
  • Purchase
  • Initial use
  • Longitudinal use

Eric’s first drive of the 7th Generation Fiesta on Belle Isle was captured for posterity.

Ryan’s Protege Garage is also well worth checking out.

Finally, Eric shared a video of him driving his 2011 Fiesta on an indoor kart track! Yes, he had permission. Do not try this at your local cart track!

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FT86 Speed Factory Understands Delightful Packaging

Photo of Laffy Taffy candy that was included with the FT86 merchandise

Now this is how how to delight customers without hurting your profits. I ordered this inset plaque for the center console of my car–it covers up a bare space where the seat heater switches would go if my car had them–and FT86 Speed Factory not only shipped the part to me very quickly, but when I opened the package I was happy to see classic fun candy Laffy Taffy included as a surprise. It’s whimsical, it’s imaginative, it’s low cost, it’s delicious, and I appreciated the  effort. Also note that they include a very clearly written warning to inspect all parts before installing them if one has doubts (to speed the return process if needed).

Great packaging makes the unboxing experience for even a simple car part fun.


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Critique: Motorola (Lenovo) Moto G4 Android Phone

Photo of a wheel about to drive over and destroy the Moto G4. Humor intended.

Syed Ibrahim joins Tim Keirnan for a critique of the Motorola MotoG4 smart phone. While the G4 was touted as an affordable, “pure, clutter-free version of Android”, Tim’s experience was anything but pure Android. Syed’s expert Android wisdom provides a counterpoint to Tim’s confusion and disappointment as the discussion ranges from the pluses and minuses of the G4 to the shortcomings of various reviews of the phone when it came out.

Our conclusion is that, if the botched implementation of the G4’s so-called “pure” Android experience is bad, the coverage of the phone in the traditional tech media was even more sloppy. How is one to shop effectively for a good Android phone in light of inept reviews like these? Syed has suggestions.

Thanks to Tom Merritt for his report on Lenovo switching all its phones to “stock Android”. The link to that particular episode of Daily Tech News is at

and the license for distributing this excerpt, unmodified, is

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Critique: Garmin BaseCamp, Plus Email from Listener Costan

Screenshot of the UI for BaseCamp.

We return to the Garmin Nuvi 2598LMTHD to try Garmin’s companion application for it, BaseCamp. Aravindh Baskaran is back to help Tim Keirnan try to create a customized commute route in to the office and upload the route to the GPS unit. This is a very informal usability test and Tim wanted Aravindh around because the first time Tim tried to do this, he was not successful. Aravindh has used Base Camp to create car club routes on back roads with the Windows version of BaseCamp, so he is acting as informal usability test moderator.

The initial use usability problems Tim encountered were nothing compared to the design failure he found transferring the route to the Garmin GPS unit and using it. If you would like to follow along, you can download a Windows or Macintosh version of BaseCamp at Garmin’s website:

Listener Costan Boiangiu’s excellent email about the UX of GPS devices kicks off this episode, and the informal usability test critique of BaseCamp starts about 15 minutes in.

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Critique: Garmin Nuvi 2598LMTHD, Plus Email from Listener Katie

Aravindh Baskaran joins Tim Keirnan for a critique of the Garmin Nuvi 2598LMTHD.
We follow our usual critique structure that includes the following:
Out of the Box
Initial Use
Longitudinal Use

The Garmin 2598 is an interesting mixture of excellence and frustration. On the positive side, we found that
* The map screens, both day and night versions, are very well designed.
* The voice sounds terrific because it is both pleasant stylistically and cuts through the noise of the car sonically.
* The device is fairly quick in its operation, including finding satellites (unless you are indoors, but why are you driving indoors?)

On the negative side, we found that
* The vaunted voice interface doesn’t work well at all. Very frustrating.
* The un-changeable and incessant alarm for school zones within a half mile of the car is extremely frustrating and can make us ignore alarms in general.
* The unit occasionally freezes and no amount of pressing or tapping the screen will bring it back, forcing the user to unplug power from the unit and restart it.
* Inexplicable routing can ignore oft-traveled commutes and actually send us the long way around. And sometimes Tim got a different route home if his address was in the Home saved location rather than his address being in the Recent list.
* The settings don’t encourage quickly finding what you want to adjust.

Finally, email from listener Katie was a wonderful compliment to starting a new year of episodes. Thank you for listening, Katie.

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Critique: 2003 Subaru WRX Longitudinal Review

Photo collage of TIm's 2003 WRX exterior and interior.

The Subaru WRX is a legend, and life is too short not to drive legends. The “bug eye” version of this all wheel drive sporty car from 2002 and 2003 was a success worldwide but especially in the North American market where it was the first time we got this car. Later generations of the car delighted owners as well, yet the bugeye models delighted customers in a unique way that the newer cars do not duplicate for all their recent advantages.

What made the bugeye WRX so attractive then and to this day? There is an analog, mechanical honesty and tautness to the 2002-2003 models, and modern versions are not as “organic” feeling. Ken Mayer and Eric Penn join Tim Keirnan for a longitudinal review of Tim’s 2003 Subaru WRX. If it sounds like we recorded this episode sitting in the car, well, we did!

This episode covers the following items in the following order:
* The evolution of the all wheel drive niche in vehicle design and rally race history
* The nature of forced induction, its pros and its cons
* The superb steering wheel by Momo , the clean and usable instrument panel, the clean and usable controls, the amazingly good seats.
* The factory boost gauge and short shifter options.
* The design choices of 2003, with a value on providing the most feedback to the driver, versus modern car designs with their isolated and numb feeling for the driver. Ken’s dad’s 2015 WRX provides contrast to what Subaru did in 2003. How has the model evolved?
* The heavy weight and mechanical complexity of an all wheel drive and turbocharged vehicle.
* Tim’s few and limited modifications to an otherwise stock bugeye WRX.
* We almost forgot to talk about the qualities of a boxer engine and the excellent sound of the stock exhaust with unequal length headers.
* The oil and transmission fluid dipsticks were poorly designed and those fluids are kind of, you know, just maybe, important.

Skip ahead to 31 minutes if you want to bypass our discussion of the history of all wheel drive cars and comparisons to front wheel drive and rear wheel drive, and the principles of forced induction.

Eric promises us a longitudinal review of his FiestaST in 2017! Stay tuned. . .


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Critique: Apple iOS10 Upgrade UI Trickery

Screenshots of the iOS 10 update dialog and Remind Me Later screen.

2016 has been a bad year of manufacturers trying to force customers into upgrading their devices by user interface trickery. First Microsoft and their Windows 10 deceptions, and now Apple with iOS10 reminders that cannot be refused. In this episode, Tim describes Apple’s failure to provide a “No” response in the iPhone’s UI and the “nag screen” that repeatedly makes an offer the customer can’t refuse.

It’s not quite as bad as the Windows 10 manipulation scheme was, but the increasing lack of respect for device owners is concerning. Tim’s proposed Upgrade Bill of Rights says the following:
1. Respect the owner of the product in all ways. All update dialogs must contain a No response. The owner decides what and when to upgrade, not the manufacturer.
2. Enable the owner to control notifications of updates. Enable turning off reminders messages for specific upgrades.
3. Enable the owner to schedule reminders and updates on their own schedule.

Between family support, new house projects, and other life details, the new responsive website for the show is still not up. Thanks for your patience.

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Critique: Kobo eReaders

Photo collage of TIm's and Alvaro's Kobo eReaders.

Alvaro Vargas joins Tim Keirnan for a thorough discussion of the customer experience of eReaders, in particular the offerings from Kobo. Tim is the newbie, having recently bought a Kobo Glo HD as his first eReader, and Alvaro provides the longitudinal review of Kobo eReaders, having bought four of them over time. His current model is a Kobo Glo.

As usual, the discussion follows Tim’s list of Customer Experience Phases:
Out of the Box
Early Use
Longitudinal Use

In addition to critiquing the Kobo software and hardware, the guys discuss the nature of physical books versus eBooks, the reasons for a single purpose device like eReaders over tablets, and the challenge of getting accurately created eBooks from source material. Among other things. It’s 90 minutes of commercial free analysis and discussion! The shownotes photo for this episode features shots of the two eReaders.

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Mailbag: Listener Email from Brian Shunamon

Icon of an envelope

Brian Shunamon from the USA sent us a message so on point that I asked him if I could record it and publish it. As an Information Technology professional with corporate clients, as well as a guy looked to for tech advice by friends and family, Brian addresses the concerns of our last several episodes on Microsoft’s customer experience mistakes with its Windows 10 upgrade policy and behaviors. He reminds us that enduring patterns of mistreatment is a bad precedent not only in our personal relationships, but also in our relationships as customers of products and services. You don’t have to take it! Nor should we.

Brian’s longer written article, “NIXING Windows“, about why Microsoft’s behavior is a threat to your personal and professional computing life, and how you might consider an personal computer operating system such as Linux, is on his LinkedIn profile at

Thank-you, Brian!


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