Flutterby™! : Two notes on UI

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Two notes on UI

2009-02-04 14:06:04.708997+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

Two notes on UI. The first is that we went and test drove the Volkswagen Jetta TDI this evening, and I was reminded about German cars and red lit controls. Why does anyone do anything else? Red is the obvious color for things that are lit up that need to be read at night, the greenish white that my Nissan Stanza has is just silly.

The second is that you may have heard about this shooting that happened early New Years morning in a BART station. There's several videos floating around of a BART police officer pulling his pistol and shooting a restrained suspect in the back, killing him. One of the theories is that the officer mistook his pistol for a taser.

I'm actually sympathetic, it seems like the cop is the victim of systemic problems. For one thing, the Taser has always been sold to us civilians as an alternative to deadly force, after all they do kill people. That the police officer thought deadly force was the only other alternative in the videos I've seen shows that he had some really bad training.

However, the latest Sonoma ACLU newsletter has a picture of a Taser. I had always pictured them as something with roughly the same form-factor as a hair trimmer, but I was woefully misinformed. You can see some pictures at the Taser page of products for corrections and law enforcement, and who the hell thought that a holstered pistol was a good form factor for a Taser? 2AM on BART, the guy probably wasn't used to working night shifts, of course that's going to get confused eventually. This isn't just a criminal matter, this is product liability issue that needs to go all the way up the supply chain, from acquisitions to the manufacturer.

[ related topics: User Interface Photography Invention and Design Work, productivity and environment Law Enforcement Television Automobiles Boats Trains Race Public Transportation ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-04 15:52:32.270881+00 by: other_todd

Contrary evidence: Cars with red-lit instrument lights make me insane. I find that the contrast is not as high as I'd like (the numbers don't "pop" clearly out at me) and that it makes the readouts less sharp. Also, I am attuned to red as a "pay attention, something important out there" color (brake lights, stop lights, etc) and I think seeing all that red on the dashboard makes me a little jumpy, subconsciously.

I have seen red dashes and blue dashes and I still haven't seen anything that improves on that green-white color. But then, maybe that's just me; I have my shell windows and emacs set to that same green/white text on a black background because working heavily in black-on-white gives me eyestrain from all the white space after a few hours.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-04 16:53:41.935834+00 by: Mars Saxman

The range of individual variation has always impressed me on that topic, todd - you and many others find white text on black soothing, whereas I can't read even one page of white-on-black text without feeling strain afterward. I don't remember having a problem with the old green or amber monitors when I was a kid, but likely the contrast is a lot higher on modern displays.

And I love the mellow red dash lights on my recently-purchased '87 BMW 325. It needs a new stereo, though, and I'm not sure where I'm going to find a head unit that doesn't have some kind of vivid blue backlight.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-04 17:57:39.491375+00 by: Dan Lyke

I insisted on white on black until LCDs, where I find white backgrounds far less annoying than I used to. And Windows finally wore me down, you can change the foreground and background colors, but there are an amazing number of apps that seemed to respect only one of the settings (I think VisualStudio was one of them at one point), meaning you'd have to pick two colors that were complementary and would both show with the opposite being white or black.

But I'll always have a soft spot for the amber glow of a VT320. And, like Mars, I find the red instruments soothing.

'course these days those dashboards are either screen printed with EL inks or backlit in such a way that it'd seem like you should be able to swap them out quickly and easily.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-07 03:57:11.64595+00 by: Medley

Digby has been doing excellent work over the last several months documenting taser abuse. Incredibly depressing to read, though.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-02-07 15:49:29.576714+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, it's a running refrain over at Radley Balko's place too.