Friday I talked about upgrading monitors and I realized I had a couple of other minor points to make. Setting up the new unit was a lot easier than the first time with the first unit -- for one thing, it wasn't beastly hot in the 90degF range. But given the commonality in design, I was also able to hook it up with so much less grief.
See, ViewSonic did a genius thing. They give you a little sheet vaguely showing you four steps to hook it up, and then explain that the instructions are on the provided CD-ROM. Now how can I say this politely? If I am installing a monitor on a PC, exactly how am I going to read said CD-ROM, if there is no monitor on the PC?
At Clarion, I had to drag out my laptop, dig through some big plastic tubs of gear to find the external CD drive, hook it up and then read the CD.
But the real stumbling block was the illustration showed for all the world like you had to slide this panel UP to expose the various connectors. In fact, after a whole lot of trying, swearing, sweating, and getting ignored on off-peak telephone support, I finally accidentally discovered that the cover pops OFF -- as in you pull it OUT. I had tried that earlier, but when it didn't come off easily I didn't want to force it and break the darn thing. However, I had released one of the two locking tabs when I tried to pry it off with my trusty Swiss Army Knife and at some point it just came off.
The new ViewSonic VG510b has a similar illustration -- the arrow still doesn't look like it is popping OUT.
Never Keep Anything The Same When You Can Change It.
When the first LCD monitor arrived at the Physics Dept. office last year, there was no hiding what it was -- it just had a shipping label on the original box. Our secretary decided to put it behind her desk, so it wouldn't wander away, and joked that she had thought about keeping it for her own PC. Funny. This year was similar, except this time the box had a double foldover top piece with a plastic carrying handle. Makes it real convenient -- and I suppose it might be easier for someone unauthorized to make off with it, too, but I had warned our secretary that it was coming (and told her she couldn't have this one either)(I wasn't being mean, just that her computer is bought with department funds, my computer is mine and I'm just not in the habit of funding other people's computers), so she "hid" that one, too.
Also, the styrofoam inserts weren't locked in nearly so tightly, so removing the monitor was easily done without risk of dropping the thing.
Sometimes design changes can be good and in this case, the packaging went from Good to Excellent.
Best Box Ever
Way too much packaging today is inconvenient. I order some small part and it is just as likely as to come in a big box as pack it in a padded envelope. And stuff you buy in the store? They're packaged under the assumption that everyone is a criminal and legitimate shoppers have to risk life and limb to break or cut open the plastic cage around the real packaging...
But the best packaging I ever ran into takes me back to my college days at Northwestern in the late 70s when I worked as a photographer on the yearbook. We got in a new Leica Focomat 35mm enlarger, and it was "pricey" as I recall. Maybe it was $1300. Beautiful machine, though, with an autofocus cam built into the swing arm, so as you raised/lowered the head and changed the magnification, the lens stayed in perfect focus. If it hadn't come from Ernst Leitz, I might not have believed it would work so well, but no way it would earn a red circular Leica logo without being wonderfully engineered. (A site in case you want to know what a Leica Focomat is.)
To this day I remember the packaging and its directions. You opened the box, removed a large sheet with pictures showing you how to get the Focomat out. (1) Remove the baseboard from the depression in the foam liner. (2) Turn the box over and lift the box off the foam liner. (I think there were depressions to put your hands on the liner, so it wouldn't fall out of the box as you turned it over.) (3) Attach the baseboard to the bottom of the Focomat. (4) Tilt the box liner over so the enlarger stands on its baseboard. (5) Rotate head 90 degrees so it is centered over the baseboard. (6) Remove liner. (7) Plug it in and you're ready to go.
What still impresses me is how some people engineered that box not only to cushion the components during shipping, but to let the packaging actually work with and make easier the task of final assembly of the unit by the customer. And the illustrated instructions were large, clear -- and contained no words. Perfect for the international market. (We weren't calling it the global market yet back then.)
Oh Woe To The Customers For Bad Packaging
I noted the other day we had the first test flight of the Airbus A380. A double-decker bad boy of a super jumbo jet which can be configured to carry like 850 passengers. I am not looking forward to the introduction of A380's into the world. Even if the seats are wide enough for someone who does not fit in a One Size Fits All world, the packaging of passengers into this two-layer sardine can is frustrated by the choke points of getting them in or out of the plane.
A few months ago it was pointed out that not only is the A380 too wide for many existing major airport runways (there are only a couple of places in the U.S. where they can operate from right now), that one should be expected to budget an extra hour on each side of the flight for embarking and disembarking. Two of the quotes I heard this week referred to the plane as an "ocean liner" in the air, while another commentator wondered about 850 people in line for customs, security and baggage claim all at once. Well, the good news is that they can't get out of the plane all at once (grin), but that means the luggage won't be in order on the carousels either.
Then there's the question of enough bathrooms in the receiving terminal before customs. At what point do the infrastructure and staffing costs outweigh the savings of having one A380 replace two to four "more ordinary" jumbo jets?
And given the way airlines work in the real world, even if they come up with an extra large security/customs/baggage detail to handle one A380, the schedules will likely have multiple A380's going to/coming from different destinations at about the same time. Watch the parade of DC-10's, 767's and 747's leaving some terminals now.
So, as with every new major leap in aviation, the doomsayers will have their way and then things will settle down. But so much of the romance of flying in general and international travel in particular has been sucked out by the public's insatiable demand for frequent cheap fares, it's sad to think of 850 people sitting in their cheap A380 seats -- and watching all their connecting flights take off without them.
You think airline passengers are a crabby lot now? (double-grin)