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Newsletter Issue # 22

Real Time Automation's - Best Darn Newsletter 


IN THIS ISSUE
How To Be Unsuccessful
Automation Software is Rude, Offensive and Impolite
Fun Facts and Trivia


STEAL OF THE MONTH...
Get a free RTA robot stress reliever this month only!

Email your name and address to: jladd at rtaautomation.com by February 28th to claim your steal of the month.


SIDE BLOGS
January 2015
Grid Security
January 2015
EtherNet/IP Variations
December 2014
Windows Embedded vs. Linux
November 2014
GE and the Internet of Things


New N2 to BACnet/IP Communication Solution
We are proud to announce our new partnership with The S4 Group! We will now be offering S4’s best in class solution, the S4 Open router for connecting legacy N2 systems to BACnet/IP.

A lot of you have requested a N2 to BACnet/IP gateway, and after a great deal of research, pairing with The S4 Open group was a no brainer! S4’s experience in the N2 market and their incredible well thought out product offers all the same benefits we try to offer in the products we design.

The S4 Open: BACnet-N2 router allows customers with legacy N2 networks featuring up to 256 devices to transition to BACnet/IP based controls. The unique design allows the product to work independently along the customers’ existing N2 supervisory controller or can be used to replace their current controls with a BACnet/IP system. An included network discovery tool and a template library of all N2 devices in existence makes integration extremely straight forward.

Call 262-439-4999 or visit our website for more information.

 


 

AUTOMATION INSERT

Practical tips and information for young engineers. This issue, featuring:

- It's Not So Bad to be the Little Guy

-N2 Overivew

 





How To Be Unsuccessful


A Column of personal opinion by John Rinaldi, Founder and Owner of Real Time Automation.

I’m writing this early in January 2015, and if you’ve paid attention at all to television, the Internet or the newspaper in these first days of the year, you’ve seen dozens of articles on making 2015 your best year ever. I’ve personally seen “How to be more successful in 2015,” “How to accomplish more in 2015,” “How to get rich in 2015,” and my favorite, “How to be happier, smarter, better looking and grow more hair in 2015.” I made that last one up, but I fantasize that the action plan to accomplish all that would be to eat pizza and watch football from my couch with the twelve girls from the 2015 Hooters Calendar.

The odd thing about this annual tradition of insipidly stupid “Having Your Best Year Ever” articles is that almost nobody is going to change anything in 2015. Some of us might decide to lose weight, exercise more or work to get a promotion at work, but our will for that generally peters out long before the Super Bowl kickoff.

Unfortunately, a lot us, or even most of us, will continue to do all the same things in 2015 that we did in 2014. And a lot of those things will make us less successful, less happy and less wealthy. So as an anti-Best Year Ever service to you, my readers, here’s the list of things you should continue to do to avoid success, happiness and financial security in the coming year:

1. Eat More – Don’t just eat more, but eat more processed foods like salami, cookies, crackers, and pepperoni. Lie on the couch after dinner and have that bag of potato chips and that box of chocolates.

2. Gossip More – Spend the work day discussing what Emily in accounting is wearing and what a loser her latest boyfriend is.

3. Use Your Cell Phone to Keep in Touch – The average person checks their cell phone 150 times a day; that’s only every 6 minutes. Think of how out of touch they are. You can do better.

4. Do the Least You Can – With the pittance that you’re paid, those losers that run your company can’t expect any real effort. In fact, you’ll be too busy checking your cell phone to get much work done anyway.

5. Don’t Learn Anything – Don’t read a single book, article or webpage in 2015 that might improve your expertise, health or relationships. Avoid all that by being constantly logged in to Facebook.

6. Ignore Your Spouse – There’s no time to talk when How I Met Your Mother, Family Guy and The Simpsons are on.

7. Ramp Up the Vices – Hide in the bathroom at work and make out your NCAA bracket. Grab a stack of singles and head to the local gentlemen’s club or the track.

8. Don’t Give Anything to Anybody – It’s every man for himself. Charity is for losers. Let the old couple down the block shovel their own snow and cut their own lawn. The more you give to others, the less you’ll have.

9. Focus On What You Don’t Have – Make a list of all the things you deserve but don’t have in your life. Think about that list all day long.

And the final, most important way to avoid success, happiness and wealth in 2015:

10. Resent the Wealth, Happiness and Success of Others – Think about how unfair it is and how those people don’t deserve what they have. Work harder on hating them in 2015.

The trouble with this kind of sarcasm is that it hits home. As I look over the list, I can pick out a couple and say, “Yeah, I’m guilty of that.” Eating too much of the things that I know aren’t healthy for me tops my list, though I’m guilty on occasion of a few others. Personally, I’m not happy about those items and I am going to work to change them in 2015. How about you?

 

- John

 

 

Trivia

· One legend of St. Valentine contends that he was a priest in third century Rome who performed marriages in secret after they were banned by what Emperor?

· Cupid is whose son?

· The infamous "Valentine's Day Massacre" involving Al Capone and his gang occurred in what year?

· According to superstition, if you cut an apple in half on Valentine's Day, the number of seeds found inside will indicate what?

 

 

 

Answers located on bottom of page.

Automation Software is Rude, Offensive and Impolite

 

 

This is a manifesto. I’ve always wanted to write a manifesto. Not a political one but one that is about something I really care about. Something like improperly spaced pepperoni. Doesn’t it bug you that some slices get none while others get three or more? I hate that.

Today I’m choosing to avoid this serious issue to talk about software. Computer software in general, and automation software in particular. At the risk of offending many of my programmer friends in the automation industry, I have to tell you that I find much of the general purpose software and automation software you write to be rude, offensive, impolite and insensitive. I spend a lot of my day fighting with it, having to learn about it, memorizing its peculiarities, and hoping and praying that I can cajole it into accomplishing the tasks I need its help to do.

I recently bought a camera. A very impressive Canon that can do both stills and video, which was all I really wanted it to do. But – of course – it has nine thousand other features. It can add music to my videos. It can color and decorate my snapshots. An ocean of features that only a photography fanatic could appreciate.

I opened the box, charged it up and guess what? I couldn’t figure out how to take a picture. Once I figured that out I couldn’t figure out how to preview it. When I figured out how to preview it I couldn’t figure out how to send it to my computer. Everything I wanted to do was an obvious and sequential next step for me but not to the camera’s programmers.

Unfortunately, that’s not unusual. Windows and Windows applications are loaded with this kind of insanity. Cursors that randomly disappear (are they on break?), icons that won’t stay where I put them, taskbars loaded with things I not only won’t use, but can’t even identify.

A few weeks ago I tried to use a new survey tool. The preview looked great, so I sent it out. Little did I know that the “preview” they showed me is not what it looks like to the recipients. That preview was beyond misleading, more than deceitful - it was an outright lie. It was a sales pitch disguised as a preview.

Software in the automation industry is probably even worse. We expect our users to understand all sorts of arcane terms, force them to configure things they don’t understand or really care about, and give them as little information as possible. A while back I had two Modbus temperature sensors on our test panel. I thought it would be cool to display those temperatures on a small display. I naively thought that, since I speak Modbus more fluently than English, this would be a fifteen-minute project. If only. I bought a little device from a well-known automation company and after two weeks, five calls to technical support and detailed study of their 125-page manual, I surrendered. Displaying two Modbus registers on the screen was just too difficult.

But it shouldn’t be that way. What’s going on? All of us that build products are part of a professional community that refers to our customers as “dumb users.” That’s just wrong on all sorts of levels.

The fact is that all of us software developers, and I’m including the folks that work for me, are building Automation software that’s overly complicated, difficult to use, hard to understand and that treats the user as a servant. We expect compliance. We expect effort. We expect a lot of our users. And, in one word, that’s impolite.

So what would polite software look like? I’ve read a number of books on this and I’ll distill their essence here in my own words. Polite software can be characterized as follows:

It Remembers Me – It knows that I like to see small icons when I’m looking at a directory of pictures and file descriptions when I’m looking at a directory of Word files. Polite software remembers me and how I like to work. Polite software should get to know me and make what I normally do simpler and faster to do.

It Trusts Me – When I say I want to delete a file, start a process or load a recipe, it should just do it. It’s insulting to confirm everything with me twice. I’m not three years old. Unless the consequences of my actions are irreversible, it should just trust that I know what I’m doing. One of our problems is that programmers distrust their users and customers.

It Won’t Lie to Me or Leave Me Wondering – Software should honestly say that a task you asked it to do is complete or not complete. And more importantly, it shouldn’t lie to me and pretend that it did what I asked it to do.

It Should Give Me Control – When I turn on my iPhone, it’s to make a call or send a text. It would be polite to let me do that. Every day my phone tries to force me to login to the iCloud before I can place a call.

It Should Simplify and Diminish My Work Load – The best example of this is the University of Georgia Class Scheduling System. The student class schedules are printed with building numbers, not names. Every new student carries a cross-reference list to cross reference the building numbers with the names on the buildings. Forcing customers to perform a tedious or error-prone action that a computer can do quickly and correctly is not polite.

So why do we have such impolite software? My apologies to my programmer friends, but it’s because we’re letting programmers build these user interfaces. Programmers care about one thing – the code: what language, how it’s structured, what rules they’ll use to code it…etc. They think code structure first and then build a UI to match the code. It’s why, when I take a picture with my new camera, I have to change modes to view the picture I just took. To the programmer, those are two different tasks. To me, the user, it’s part of the picture taking process. Most programmers can’t see it that way.

I am arguing here that we all need to reorganize our development efforts. At Real Time Automation I’ve changed the process. I’ve taken control of the UI away from the programmers. They’ll implement it but they aren’t designing it anymore. We’re going to work hard in 2015 to make our software respect you and be polite. And with any luck, others will follow suit.

You’ll get to judge how well we accomplish that as we release products in 2015. I think you’ll like working with polite software.

Now if I could only get that pepperoni distributed correctly on my pizza…

 

 

 

 

Fun Facts

·There are more stars in space than there are grains of sand on every beach on Earth.

·There’s enough water in Lake Superior to cover all of North and South America in one foot of water.

·Every two minutes, we take more pictures than all of humanity in the 19th century.

·The probability of you drinking a glass of water that contains a molecule of water that also passed through a dinosaur is almost 100%.

·There are more living organisms in a teaspoonful of soil than there are people alive on Earth.

 

  Trivia Answers: Claudius II; Venus - the Goddess of Love and Beauty; 1929; The number of children you will have
   

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