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Smart Devices, too Smart for Our Own Good?

Are devices getting too smart for our own good?

At work, we have printers of various make and models that refuse to print if the application is set to print a document other than the standard Letter size.  Instead, you get a message that says to change the paper.  Sounds simple enough, and it makes sense not to waste any paper if you print, say, a Legal sized page on a Letter size.  However, not everyone pays attention to the display panel or blinking LEDs.

Blinking LEDs are the worst.  They usually have symbols to tell users what the problem may be.  Also, the meaning behind a steady light and a blinking ones usually have different meanings.

I say, why don't we go back to how the old dot matrix printers behave when told to print: just print!  If the user printed something that requested a larger sheet of paper, then print anyways on the smaller sheet.  They will realize they needed larger paper or resize the job to fit just by seeing the results!

It's not just printers telling us what's good for us.  As more and more features get packed into a device, the harder it is to use them.  A lot of things get tucked away in layers of menus.  This is true of Microsoft Office (or any software for that matter), operating systems (Mac OSX isn't THAT easy to use when you are looking for something in particular), and these new fangle smartphones!

While most of the settings are logically placed, you still need several steps or clicks to get to them.  Of course, there are that just fails at something that should be simple (turning off sound captured from microphone from going to the speakers in Windows Vista).

I don't see a way to end this.  While Apple did a good job on the interface for the iPhone and iPod Touch, you still have to go through many steps just to get into simple things like turning on and off the WiFi radio, hiding inside of General, which is hidden inside of the main Settings button.

A good interface does help, but something has to give when there are billions of settings and configuration to be done, as well as billions of functions (email, phone, printer, scanner, fax, camera, toilet paper).

Then again, do consumers really want dumb devicee?  To carry around seperate single-purpose devices?  Like back in the 90s?  Remeber the cell phone on your belt, your PDA in your left pocket, watch on your wrist, and toilet paper nowhere to be found?

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