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Ask HN: What're the best-designed things you've ever used?
597 points by whitepoplar on Feb 19, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 1064 comments
I'll go first. I think this kettle is exceptional: https://www.amazon.com/Sori-Yanagi-Stainless-Steel-Kettle/dp...

The ancient microwave in my first apartment. It had two knobs: one for time, one for power. It's immediately obvious how to cook something for how long, how to add more time, etc.

All other microwaves that I've used I had to have someone explain to me what buttons to press in what order to do even the simplest things. And I've never seen anyone use all of those fancy buttons.

I have another sad story to share.

My wife and I used to have this small grill oven with two knobs: one for time and one for temperature. She was into baking cookies and I was into her works. I was also into toasting bread for breakfast.

One day she appeared to be ready for the next level and demanded that we replace it with a shiny electronic grill oven with larger capacity. Replace we did but the next thing I found out was the previous 1 second toasting experience where I turn the time knob to 5 minutes has turned into a 27 button press procedure: first press to select mode; 25 presses to tune the time from the default 30 minutes down to 5 minutes; and one final press to start it.

The worst part of this is, she's probably only used it for once or twice before moving along with other interests than baking cookies, but I had to endure the 27 button presses every morning.

I really like the Breville Smart Oven series. I've owned several, but I currently have the Smart Oven Pro and use it more than our actual oven. It heats up quickly, cooks very evenly, and the UI is straightforward. My only problem with it is that the UI frequently suffers from button bounce. Often, when I press the start button to turn the oven on, the bounce causes it to turn right back off again. And it can be occasionally difficult to dial in precise times due to similar issues with the knobs. Breville needs to learn how to properly debounce their hardware buttons--many of their products suffer from this. Overall, I'm really happy with it though.

You've owned several smart ovens? Sounds like they aren't very durable.

Completely agree! The funny thing is the first thing I thought of was an old microwave I owned with a similar setup mainly because the microwave I own, today, is so awful[0].

I have a GE combination convection oven/microwave and it was clearly designed by someone who had their first experience with LSD that day. Every function requires a different, magic, set of key combinations to make it work. Want to set a timer? That's easy, press timer, turn the dial to the right time (which inexplicably increases/decreases the time in 30 second increments). OK, you've done that, now you want to start it. Press "Timer" ... nope. Press "Start" ... nope. Oh, I have to push in the dial... I didn't even know that, too, was a button. Oh, and not once, not twice, but three times is the magic number of times required to start said timer.

Starting the microwave with a specific time in mind requires hitting no less than 6 buttons, but there's one button that will start the microwave on high for 30 seconds, so everyone just uses that button and hits it as many times as is required to get close to the desired cooking length. I can hear my wife counting out loud ten beeps for a 5 minute cook time.

It's got piles of advanced, useless, features, my favorite of which is a hybrid "microwave/oven cook" mode that manages to bring in the worst of both methods, giving you soggy food, unevenly cooked that takes an eternity to cook.

Even the clock is stupid. You punch in the hours/minutes, and thinking you're done, you move on to something else. Later you go to cook something and for some bizarre reason, "AM or PM" pops up on the screen at which point nothing in your previous experience in operating a microwave prepares you to figure out why heating something up requires knowledge of whether it's morning or afternoon. Of course, nothing this microwave does requires knowledge of AM/PM, nor does it display AM or PM anywhere on the screen, but for some reason it just must know.

[0] This isn't the exact model but it looks close: https://www.amazon.com/GE-PVM9179SFSS-Profile-Stainless-Micr...

Obviously whoever designed it didn't get the 'good' acid.

Had he gotten the real shit, it would have been a musical instrument... with wheels, which also microwaves... inside and outside... Because that's how you get to the aliens.

Who wouldn't want his oven to roll around the house improvising some trippy music while the meal is being heated ? While at it, why not also vacuum clean the house ? Just hit the knob a magical 4 times ..

You've got the wonder machine right there. I mean hello? Whatever happened to creativity these days ?

Experience tells me I have to disclaim this: yes, of course it's a joke.

If you happen to run across some really good acid, of even if you're feeling sober and playful, try putting a York Peppermint Patty in the microwave until the alien hatches.

OK, you got me there -- just sent milk from my cereal out my nose.

For real! It would also be the only microwave on the market that no matter what's cooking, it will make your kitchen smell like the color blue.

Should I take acid to be able to write like you? Its so hilarious

The Sharp designers of my microwave [0] couldn't even design the clock to keep accurate time. The built-in clock is fast. It will gain about 3 minutes per week.

I'm honestly not sure how they managed to screw that up. 32.768kHz crystal was too expensive? Or just too incompetent to keep track of time correctly?

[0] https://www.amazon.de/Sharp-Mikrowelle-Grill-Kompakt-Mikrowe...

Oh, good point - you made me remember the mystery we solved at my old office.

We were convinced that the microwave was a low wattage unit because it would require you to cook things about 25% more than whatever the package said. It turned out that the digital timer was fast. We started the thing for a minute against a stopwatch app and it was off by more than 10 seconds.

This thing didn't even have a clock -- it was basically designed to do two things: (1) Bombard food with microwaves and (2) stop bombarding said thing after a specified period of time. It did one of those things about as poorly as it could be done.

The worst part is you don't even need a crystal for that. Anything that's connected to line power has a built-in 60 Hz oscillator that is adjusted so that it will never gain or lose more than a few seconds...


My car's clock is also awful about this - it loses something like 3 minutes per month. But at least there you can blame it on the unknown and varying voltage that the battery and alternator provide...

Do you drive a Ford Fusion with the Sync radio, by chance? The stereo in my Fusion does this -- about 2-3 minutes/month slow, so after a few months I start thinking I'm on time for things when I'm actually a few minutes late.

The older Ford Fusion Sync radios (Microsoft variety) are a perfect example of how not to do a UI. I wanted it because my previous car had Bluetooth pairing and I got used to using my phone for music/entertainment and wanted my new car to have the same experience. Of course, being the MS variety of Sync, it has the buggy Bluetooth implementation, so one out of three times I get in the car, my stereo fails to connect. Thank GOD it's got voice commands because I have no idea what combination of buttons is required to actually switch to the Bluetooth input (which is required to be done every time you start the car again regardless of whether or not you were previously on that input). As long as everyone is silent when I hit that magic button to issue my command, and as long as I tilt my head upward toward the mic and speak very clearly, about half the time it switches the input correctly.

Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to make a car stereo so complicated that it pretty much guarantees you're going to take your eyes off the road for long periods of time trying to figure out how to change the station when One Direction comes on (I feel the same way about newer cars that just have the "iPad Screen" style interface -- no tactile anything).

Holy christ. Horrifying. I can't understand how microwaves are all so bad. Where are the good ones? Isn't it less work to make a simpler (better) interface than the baroque ones we end up with?

Trad two knob microwaves are still available and usually the cheapest eg http://www.argos.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Browse?s=Pr...

so I blame consumers for buying the ones with the silly buttons.

I used to buy the cheap 2-knob ones but they are the cheapest for a reason. After light use, the knobs would inevitably disconnect from the internals. The shop replaced it for free but my time is more valuable than a microwave, so replacements are not really satisfactory.

It's when people buy for features rather than use. If given the choice most people are likely to buy the one with the longest spec sheet - don't want to miss out on that meat vs vegetable defrost difference! And it's the same price. And it has a few more buttons but I'm not stupid...

On the other side, there's probably a demand on the "designers"to keep inventing and adding new features while keeping it as cheap as possible to produce. And each version is just slightly different from the previous one, so best not to redesign the wiring/programming, just add the new feature in the technically easiest/cheapest way!

You're completely right. In my case, I bought this model because my wife likes to cook and we only had one conventional oven (a gas oven, as well, which cooks differently[0] than an electric one). We decided on it because it would give us a "sort of" second oven for the various times when that's needed. In retrospect, we almost never use the other capability -- not because of a combination of two things - (1) we're too lazy to get the manual out to see what particular incantation needs to be performed to make the "oven" feature work and (2) it takes almost twice as long to pre-heat than any other oven we've ever owned so if you don't plan in advance and start pre-heating it before you actually decide what you're going to cook, the main oven is often free by the time the thing pre-heats.

It goes to show, though, when you jam in a bunch of features into a device that isn't really meant for those features, the added features are often not implemented well enough to make them very useful.

The one redeeming factor this microwave has is that the entire interior is stainless steel. Everyone who uses our microwave does a double-take when they open it seeing all that metal. It's super easy to clean, but that's about it.

[0] Natural gas ovens are less dry than electric ovens, so baking in them results in very moist results but also often requires cooking things longer. I bought it, though, because they're really simple devices that will basically last forever, having only really the $20 ignition element fail about once every decade.

Yeah, the industrial designers can't really crank up the watts on the magnetron or otherwise mess with the specifications, most of what's left is fiddling with the UI to enable ever more elaborate combinations of timing and power (most of which aren't very useful).

My favorite peeve is that cheap MW ovens often don't let you add time while the oven is running when the affordance is already right there (just push the +1m button you used to set the time again). You only get that feature if you buy a more expensive and complex model.

Honestly the cheaper ones are just fine. As you add more features, you add more complexity. Mine was like $50 and the interface is great. If you want to set the power, mash that key a few times until it gets to the desired level. Then press Start to go for 30 seconds, keep pressing Start to add 30 seconds to the running timer. If you need a specific time, you can type that in with the number keys, but I almost never do that. That's it. It's a microwave. Fifty bucks. Bought it at Macy's. Cool.

I had one that the first 6 numbers would cook for that many minutes, and the "start" button usually acted as an "add 30 seconds" button. You could also program a time, but like you, I almost never did that (mostly just if I was using the timer mode, which didn't have the same quick shortcuts).

The sharp r-9xx series still have dial knobs for power and time, as well as all the fancy features. Easy stuff is simple, complex is possible. They cook evenly and last for ages.

Like many products, microwaves are designed to sell, not to be used.

The consumer in the store thinks that better product has more buttons and features, not thinking how they would be used.

The buyer is usually not the end user.

For example, a landlord is biased towards purchasing appliances that looks complex so they can show off all the extra "features" to clients.

You mean real estate agent. Landlords generally get the cheapest shit because otherwise it cuts into the bottom line.

Depends on what you're renting. Also they usually splurge on things that look fancy like microwaves, and cheap out on hidden things like recessed lighting that is "secured" with aluminum screws.

$500 for a microwave??? What does it do, fly?

I have an old microwave with two buttons and it works great. Kids can use it too.

You reminded me, mine has an anti-kids "feature", which is that it can't be turned on unless you set it up, press the start button, then open the door, close the door and press the start button again.

I don't have kids and I haven't found a way to disable it, it looks silly opening and closing the door twice every time I want to use it, but I've automated the habit.

Unfortunately, it does a whole bunch of things other than microwave (it's got a full, electric, convection oven and a hybrid convection oven/microwave capability). It does all three of it's major functions very nearly as poorly as they could be done.

This was also purchased in 2005 or so, and was a relatively new idea at the time that, thankfully, didn't take off terribly well.

I would not stand that in my housing unit, sell it on craiglist or similar, buy a used older model.

My dad worked as a the head of an engineering department at Miele in Germany, and therefore my family would always get new appliances before they hit the market, to actually test them out. My mum hated it, of course, to always have to relearn new interfaces etc. And yes, one day our perfectly good microwave with just these two dieals was replaced by an abomination: tons of soft-touch buttons, digital clock, what have you. None of us could fathom why anyone would want such a UI/UX for this simple device... and we lobbied hard to get the old one back. Which we did.

Well, I have one of those Miele soft touch things, and I'm ambivalent about them. I think about this several times per day, since the last 2.5 years, every time I use it; so this is not something I just came up with.

First, the current implementation isn't rigorously thought out. For example, for most operations, you put in the food, then select time to cook, press 'start'; but for thawing, you select the food type, then it asks you 'put in food', and won't continue until you open and close the door. This annoys me to the point that I've contacted Miele several times, but nobody seems to even understand the problem. At one point they send a service technician over (I guess they were exasperated by my repeated calls) who didn't understand the problem either, which led to a Monty Python-esque scene of me saying variations of 'it should work differently!' and him saying 'it works as it should!'. So if your father still have contacts, please let him/they contact me - I'm sure that if only I could get through to the right person, they'd agree with me that it's a bug.

Anyway, apart from these implementation issues, I think overall the concept of having a touch screen that guides the user with many tasks is an improvement over the two-dial system. It tells me exactly how long to heat and at what temperature, and the results are (much) better than I ever get from microwaves/ovens that make me decide that for myself. The downside are increased time-to-task for most common operations, and increased complexity in the UI. I think it's inevitable though; I don't see how you can still have the same UI guidance from the machine yet make it easier to learn. It's like my circular saw - the more expensive one I have now, has more buttons and levers than the $49.95 I has before. I have to think how to use it; the cheap one had an on/off button, that was it. But I do get consistently better results with the expensive one. There, too, I don't see how it can be made simpler - those additional controls just make for a better result.

(if I wanted to start a flame war, I'd compare it here to Notepad vs Vim. Why use something complex like Vim when you can also program just as well with Notepad? And yet, I've been using Vim for well over 15 years.)

Well in the notepad vs. vim analogy it is because you can program just as well with Notepad until you can't and you don't know for sure when that can't state will be reached.

Is it like that with the Miele?

Yeah I think it is, when you put it that way. It depends on how you define 'can't'. I don't see any situations where you really can't do anything with Notepad that you can do with Vim. It's just a lot harder, to the point that it's no longer a realistic option. Same with the over - there is nothing you can't do with a 2-button one. It's just that at some point it becomes so hard that it's not a realistic option any more. Like, theoretically you can hold the temperature of a Dutch oven (the 17th century cast iron version with the 3 legs that you heat with charcoal) at exactly 170C for an hour. It's just very difficult. I can bake apple pies in my oven that I never was able to with a simpler over.

So yeah - what it boils down to is, what is 'possibility'? 'Technically' possible, or 'realistically attainable by the average user'?

Go give kudos to your dad and his colleagues, Miele are one of best designed appliances I've ever encountered (aside from that microwave).

I successfully navigated washers, espresso machines, etc, set to operate in languages I do not speak and was still able to get them to do what I wanted with minimal effort

I've used a microwave which has one dial. You can turn it clockwise or anticlockwise to add/remove cooking time, which is fine.

The designers thought it'd be good to allow pressing the dial, as if it was a button. Pressing the dial set the cooking time to 30 seconds and immediately started cooking. A one-touch interface, how useful!

The only problem was that it was difficult to press the dial without accidentally nudging it clockwise or anticlockwise. Nine times out of ten I managed to turn it anticlockwise, which set a time of 95 hours or thereabouts - and began cooking.

I hate to think what may have happened in some people's houses where they've done this, not noticed that it said 95 hours and forgotten it was cooking.

Get a commercial microwave oven. I did this - you won't regret it. I got a Sharp Electronics R-21LCF 1000W oven. Yes, it costs close to $300 USD. A similar consumer over will only cost half that. But these things are near workhorses, designed to run near constantly in a foodservice environment (restaurants and the like).

My wife and I decided to do this after experiencing yet another consumer over breaking after only having it a couple of years. We decided to go with the Sharp model, because it (along with Amana) is what you see in most restaurants. We figured to give it a shot, and see how we liked it, and how long it would last.

We've only had it a couple of years, but so far we love it. It only has one knob, only runs on "HIGH" full power, and only allows for a few minutes of cooking at a time. But so far, we haven't had a problem cooking anything in it. You have to adjust how you used to do things (if you're used to power levels - especially "defrost") - but overall, it isn't that big of a deal. Just stick the food in, turn the knob, come back when it "dings".

Doesn't get any simpler.

Now if only I could figure out how to get a TurboChef cheaply...

All those buttons and not a single one to mute the microwaves beeping noises. It would really be handy when others are sleeping.

Now they have bluetooth and chromecast and webcams, so you can play the beeping noises on the stereo speakers of your home media center, and watch your food cook on your giant flat screen TV.

Add 3D, VR, and smell-o-vision and you'll never have to eat again.

Can't wait for taste-o-vision and stop the cooking when it taste good.

As a rule, my first step when installing a new appliance is to disassemble and mute the piezo buzzer using some foam and electrical tape. You still hear the signals but not at the obnoxious default of ~120db.

You should check the manual first for a hidden setting to mute sound. That's how I silenced our work microwaves.

It's funny, just two weeks ago we bought a simple mircrowave with just two knobs for our office:


I explicitely chose that mircrowave because it only had two knobs and I just get confused with too many buttons. I always thought I am weired for not wanting all these special features.

The household has been stove-shopping since late November. I've discovered a few things:

1. A major manufacturer and appliance dealer have managed to deliver 3 DOA appliances.

2. There are no gas stovetop/oven combinations which don't have electronic controls. Certainly nothing for less than $3,000 (and the budget is about 1/6 - 1/2 that).

3. It is oh so easy to screw up a design with a simple oversight. The GE oven that has no externally-activateable oven light. Range tops which lack a center-cross support -- this limts the minimum-sized pot you can use, including the oft-cited-here Moka pot, which sees more use than any other cooking utensil in the house.

4. Manufacturers are apparently putting zero thought into how they package their products, both in terms of styling and shipping. The model we've looked at (otherwise among the better ones available per numerous ratings) has a thin sheet-steel back behind which, at a depth of < 1cm, is a printed circuit board managing the exhaust circulation system. Two units have arrived with dents over this element.

5. Solid-state touch controls work ... until they don't. All are placed either directly above the oven, or directly above the oven exhaust. I'm curious as to what thermal-cycling protection or durability is engineered into these.

This for something whose basic conceit is to get hot when you want it to.

I'm thinking through where stoves reached their apex. I'm thinking that electric spark-light gas range was about it. Everything since has added to complexity with very, very minor increases in delivered utility.

> I'm curious as to what thermal-cycling protection or durability is engineered into these.

Just enough to be sure it lasts past the end of the warranty period.

Just to mention that you seem to be suffering from the consumer version of feature creep. Eg your number 4 is easily solved by simple metal inlays you can buy anywhere - or even make yourself.

Don't look for perfection by comparing the best of each. Sucks that none of them are perfect perfect for you but people have different needs/wants/tastes.

I recently bought a microwave from Samsung that has one know for time, one for power and a button to set the clock. I do love when appliances are stupidly simple, but I do miss the timer function on my old microwave.

My microwave has two buttons. Start and Stop. Press Start once, it starts for 30 seconds. Press it again and it adds 30 seconds. Keep pressing it to add 30 second intervals. If you want to stop before the time runs out. Press Stop and it resets.

The last time I bought a microwave I had two feature requests: Two knobs, one for time, one for power. An inverter so it would run at that power instead of just turning on to full power for a while and then turning off and on again, which ends up scorching food and blowing fuses. Apparently, this was too much to ask. I get the impression one company has the patent on the inverter tech, and they refuse to put a simple interface on their microwaves.

I read somewhere that it isn't possible to not run a microwave at full power. I don't remember why.

I agree on the two knobs though. I noticed after I buying an expensive in wall microwave that the thing would randomly glitch (you have to power it off to use it again). You have to use a "race condition" to launch it at full power without having to set the power then the time and then press the start button.

I had no idea you could fail so bad at making a microwave.

IIRC, Panasonic owns the patent on inverters, but they definitely make a microwave with a simple knob interface, because I have one (http://www.panasonic.com/au/consumer/household/microwave-ove...)

I had one of those. My issue with it was the knob went up to an hour, and was very hard to set at sub-minute intervals. So 30 seconds, or 90 seconds were very approximate. The "add 30 second button" is the only button I really need. Since a microwave can do a lot in a minute, a knob that doesn't allow accuracy within a minute isn't my first choice.

My parents' has a software-controlled knob. The speed that you turn it matters. Fast turns increment by 30 seconds (and I think goes to larger increments when you pass 5 minutes), slow turns increment by 5 seconds. It's a fairly pleasant interface to use.

It's possible a log-scaled timer would be optimal, with the possible exception of new users.

I dislike microwaves that have the unclear 1-10 power level setting that corresponds to the duty cycle. This requires one to "learn" the microwave and the food in order to cook things properly. The settings I use in my home microwave are very different from the ones I use in my office microwave.

It is much better to be able to select the wattage directly. With food products that specify the wattage and time on the packaging, you are ensured the proper, manufacturer-intended cooking.

I've stopped watching TV may years ago when it become impossible to figure out what all those buttons are for.

Even simpler: Panasonic and Amana each sell a commercial microwave oven that has one knob – and that's it. Turn the knob to the time you want to cook, and it starts cooking – on "high", its only power setting. Open the door, and it stops and cancels the timer.

Another kitchen object that rocks is the upright mixer.

Apparently they are fairly robust inside as well:


I shared an apartment with two 20 year old when I was 45.

They didn't know that knob 2 changed the power (despite it being labelled), they just kept adding more time and eventually giving up.

I prefer microwaves with a 1 minute and a 10s button (just push the correct number of times). Knobs aren't as precise for things like heating milk for cocoa.

We had one growing up that was the same way.

Now I own one with a bazillion buttons and I only ever press one button - +30 seconds.

You can still buy those. They are the cheapest ones in the supermarket. At least where I live.

You can also buy commercial grade all stainless models that have single timer nob and one or two power option buttons. Amana makes the RCS10DSE.

Oh, nice. That way you get 1000W units. Not worth the additional $200 for me personally, but good to know – thanks.

when I moved into my current house I bought a brand new microwave for exactly this reason. Two knobs - how long, how hot. anything else is a waste of time.

Industrial microwave ovens in kitchen still have this UI.

Seriously, that plus a hard OFF switch on the front.

It took me about a second to think of Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. These are the perfect nexus of good and cheap. These things have the critical features one looks for in a writing instrument, my favorite of which is that I can put it in my electric pencil sharpener and the lead never snaps just prior to the point at which it becomes sharp.

And these guys finally figured out something useful to do with that pink, rubbery, knob at the end of the pencil. I've never been able to figure out what this rubber piece is for on other pencils. On some, it works like a highlighter, but not as well -- leaving this pale, pinkish/carbon smudged mess all over the page. On others, it works like the worlds worst paper shredder, ripping through the page haphazardly, but not in such a useful way as to render the contents securely shredded. On Dixon Ticonderoga pencils, this rubber knob removes any pencil markings that were made in error. It's incredible!

The best part, though, is that you can get a box of almost 100 of them for around $14.

The Ticonderoga is a wonderful workhorse of wood cased pencils. As you've pointed out their lead is sturdy and their price is almost unbeatable for the performance. Possibly the only downside is they're no longer made in the USA and I feel like their overall quality has suffered since the move to China and Mexico.

If you're willing to explore pricier options there are so many excellent wood case pencils to be had!

The luxury option would probably be the Palomino Blackwing 602. It's a ludicrously expensive pencil, but for your money you get what is hands down the nicest wood cased pencil available.

Every line of pencil Palomino makes is fantastic, I'm a huge fan of their Forest Choice pencils as a starter for people who are already in love with the Dixon Ticonderoga.

Some others to possibly check out are the Baron Fig Archer, the Tombow 2558, and the Uni Mitsubishi 9850.

I'm a pencil junkie, personally. This is mainly because I'm particularly good at losing things, especially when said things cost less than $0.25/piece. They're so cheap you don't even waste time thinking about keeping track of them. When I do construction projects, I sharpen up a half-box and bring them to wherever I'm working so that when, invariably, I'm holding a piece of wood and a ruler but failed to actually grab the pencil to mark the spot, I can feel around with my free hand until I am jabbed by a sharp lead.

On that list, though, I have a box of Blackwings and three of them are sitting in my pen cup on my desk as I type this. They're exceptional pencils -- almost too good in some ways -- something about the weight/density of them feels at the same time both like you're holding something that's "better than a pencil" but also something that's almost not a pencil. The friction of the lead against the paper is smoother than I'm used to -- not bad, just different. I jokingly call them my "hipster pencils"[0].

I haven't tried the others, but I'll take a look - thanks for the tip!

[0] When they arrived, my wife informed me that my "Yuppie pencils are here" -- I informed her that "yuppie" is about a decade dated and we settled on "hipster" but even that is a pretty inaccurate term since most of the hipsters I know have an affinity for this watered down, swill beer called PBR that we used to buy when we were underage because it was cheap. Kids these days. :P

This person knows their pencils. I agree. Second the Palomino recommendation.

It's all relative but I wouldn't call the Blackwing 602 "ludicrously expensive"...they cost about $1.50 per pencil.

Though maybe you are thinking of the vintage Blackwing pencils. Blackwing used to be made by a different company (Eberhard) decades ago. These older vintage Blackwing pencils if you can find one cost like $50 today. Still the new ones being made are about $1.50 and are great too.

Thanks! I'm a pretty big fan of stationary and writing as a hobby so I try to keep up with what's good.

You're right, calling the price of the Blackwing 602 ludicrous was a bit of a stretch. But considering you can get 144 count of Dixon Ticonderoga for the same price as 12 Blackwings it's pretty difficult for a lot of people to justify.

I did not know about the Eberhard Blackwings. I'll have to look further into that to see if I can get one as a collection piece!

> Palomino Blackwing 602

Looks like $22 for 12 on JetPens [1]:

> The unique rectangular black eraser can be extended as it wears down from use, and also pops out completely from the pencil body for replacement.

That's a nice feature.

[1]: https://www.jetpens.com/Palomino-Blackwing-Pencil-602-Pack-o...

I've struggled with sharpening pencils. I enjoy a good pencil - but I've never found a sharpener that works consistently. Any advice?

One of the KUM sharpeners from here. Using 2 stage blades helps:


Another option buy an X-acto knife (watch youtube videos how to sharpen a pencil with a knife if needed). It's the best way to sharpen a pencil to the way you like it but it takes time. I usually just use the KUM.

My mom is a retired graphic design artist - she still uses a knife to sharpen her pencils. Does it nice and slow, like it's relaxing. I remember going to her office as a kid and her cut and paste was with a knife and spray adhesive too.

We go through a box of 96 ct. pencils every 3 months (4 kids in elementary school). Here's the thing, there are some really good pencil sharpeners out there, but at the end of the day, if you buy good pencils, any newer sharpener will work well. The one I use, today, cost me $6.00 at Office Max last September. It's a motorized, battery operated, sharpener but the sharpener part is one of those cheap, plastic, single blade deals. It's set at a good angle and when it goes dull -- like they all do -- in about 6 months or so, I'll throw it out and spend another $6.00. If I put any pencil in this thing that's lower quality than the Dixon Ticonderoga pencils I buy, the lead snaps off before it gets sharp, but I've never had that happen with anything at least of that quality. And I won't pay more than $6.00 because regardless of how much I've spent on a sharpener (my last was about $50), they go dull in about year and have to be thrown out.

I'm going to second hxta98596's recommendation and recommend a Kum Masterpiece sharpener. Two blades lets you get just the right point shape and the ability replace the blades over time helps maintain consistent sharpening performance.

Carl Pencil Sharpener CC-2000 Red Angel-5 Premium. Made in Japan.

Lasts for years. Never broke a lead.

After taking an architecture class in high school, I carried a drafting eraser for years which just worked so much better than built-in pencil erasers. I think it was made by Staedtler [1]. It's difficult to deal with a regular eraser again after getting used to that.

[1]: https://www.jetpens.com/Staedtler-Mars-Plastic-Eraser/pd/796...

This is the eraser I started using in drafting and land surveying. Super practical and best of all, it really does erase well.

I would argue that this is not the nexus of good and cheap. While 100 for 14 may look like a bargain in cents-per-pencil, would you really spend the next couple years working with 100 slightly worse pencils for $10? Stated in this way, the answer is obvious.

I would, instead, recommend the Ticonderoga Black. The cedar wood is both smoother to grip and more fragrant than in the traditional pencils. Getting ready to start a task by sharpening your pencil is definitely enhanced by the smell of cedar shavings.

The black eraser seems to be less prone to drying out, and while I'll echo your experience that the pink variants are better than cheap knockoffs that do little more than leave smudges, but even the Ticonderoga erasers can leave pink smudges. Leaving a faint grey smudge is much less annoying than pink.

It is, of course, black. This does make it slightly more difficult to locate on a crowded desk than the iconic yellow pencil. That's an example of a good design feature that's largely become ignored as traditional, but isn't really necessary. One benefit of a unique black pencil is that it's much less likely to be accidentally swiped by another student or coworker.

The Ticonderoga Black also retains the hexagonal cross section, which prevents it from rolling off your desk - another feature that is too often ignored. To try a more modern design, try the cleverly named "Triconderoga" which has a rounded triangular cross section that some people find more comfortable.

And I'm not sure how to say this clearly, but no, that was not sarcasm. I really do like those pencils.

I have some Ticonderoga Blacks here. I gave them to the kids, though, because I don't like the weight. The cedar wood is more dense, making them hard to "hillbilly sharpen"[0] accurately. They're heavier, which kind of annoys me because it just doesn't feel right (I feel the same way about the black wings, but they don't feel quite as hefty as the blacks).

On the eraser, I've not run into pink smudging with the Ticonderogas, or had any of them dry out, but that's mostly because I blow through these things very quickly (4 kids, all elementary age, and I'm good at losing cheap things).

Very good point on the shape -- I hadn't even thought of that as a feature but I should have being that I specifically purchased a few boxes of triangular crayons for the kids -- I hate climbing under tables to fish out whatever color they want that's managed to roll off the table.

I totally get it, though, I'm pretty ridiculous about my pencils, too. I've tweeted, reviewed and written (in pencil) a letter to Dixon Ticonderoga. And they wrote back a snarky-ish reply ... in pencil (I think there's a picture of the reply on my Twitter feed somewhere)! :o)

[0] A term my dad used to use when you're doing construction work, you snap the lead of the pencil and are nowhere near a pencil sharpener so you take whatever qualifies as a sharp edge (often one half of a pair of clippers) and scrape it sharp, again. I often sharpen my pencils with razor blades and find it easy to get a good tip in a minute or two on the standard Ticonderogas.

I'll take that one farther. I've been obsessed for 25 years with their 2 1/2 pencil. The hardness seems just right to me to make a nice line, and they rarely need sharpening. There's also something analog and low quality about their graphite. It's got little hard scratchy chunks in it that I find oddly satisfying.

I get it - it's one of the reasons I don't really get excited about some of the higher end pencils (and why I avoid most mechanical pencils) -- the graphite feel is silky smooth, almost feeling like writing with a ball-point, but I am accustomed to the way the pencils I'm used to feel on paper.

It's just one of those things, I guess. I think of it this way -- I buy the cheapest coffee beans on the market because when I started drinking coffee, it was at my first job where the boss was really cheap. The coffee came out of this huge can with a white label and large bold-faced text that read "Arabica Beans". He'd also regularly just throw more grounds into the filter cavity without tossing the old stuff and just "rebrew". This stuff tasted like dirt, but because that's what I got used to drinking, it's what I think of as "coffee". I can't make myself swallow Starbucks as a result.

That's an abomination of coffee. I feel like if you try something freshly roasted (no roast date on the bag of beans = it's old), you'd taste the difference.

I've never seen someone that excited about pencils.

Might this be satire? ;)

Doubtful; I feel quite the same about the Pentel Twist-Erase III, which, in a variety of lead diameters, has been my implement of choice since high school. This is not least because it excels among mechanical pencils in having the eraser be other than an afterthought - as hinted by the name, the upper barrel contains a twist mechanism which houses an eraser that's a quarter inch in diameter and over an inch in length, and which is immediately available rather than requiring partial disassembly to access. It's also, like that on the Ticonderoga, made of rubber that does its job, which you'd think would be the only criterion but go figure.

Oh no. Folk can get really obsessive about stationary. I have to have Mitsubishi Uniball [1] myself.

[1] https://www.penaddict.com/top-5-pens/

Oh hell yes. The 0.38 Signo is my favorite pen ever, and the retractable version makes it even better.

Drafting, sketching, doodling can make one excited about paper marking tools.


I've seen many people get this excited about pencils. Does anyone else remember Milton Friedman's extended love song to the invisible hand and the pencil?

Anecdotally, I share GPs frustration and excitement about erasers.

It's pretty neat when they actually work well, which never seems to happen with most pencil erasers.

No, these pencils are quite famous. I saw them recommended in a beginner's pack for D&D players.

The Casio F-91W Digital wrist watch


Keeps better time than a Rolex, and is a fraction of the price. Waterproof. Has an alarm, stopwatch, and timer; all things missing from traditional wind ups. Interface is easy to use and discover. The battery last almost forever.

Now, if you're asking if it's aesthetically pleasing, that's a different story. But we were talking about design, right?

EDIT: Wikipedia says they're only splash proof; I used to swim with mine but there you go. And I'm making up the timer function, that must have been on later models only.

Unfortunately, combined with eastern features, it can get you into trouble in US.


Where "get you into trouble" means "you can be sent to a secret prison to be tortured for the rest of your life just because you were wearing a common watch".


Now, if you're asking if it's aesthetically pleasing, that's a different story. But we were talking about design, right?

Hmm I think design also includes aesthetics - at least somewhat. Think about UI/UX. Both are design concepts. You're essentially describing the Casio as providing a great UX but not a great UI. I'd still argue UX is more important, but I wouldn't fully ignore UI when talking about design.

The F91W is very hard to beat but I recommend shelling out the extra ten quid for a Casio W86:


F91W owners are always jealous of my nice bright EL backlight!

While we are at it why not the indestructable g-shock for a few extra tens of quid? DW-5600?


Yup- a fair criticism of the F91W is the weak backlight.

Bought one for my son, and replaced the led with a nice red one. http://www.instructables.com/id/Watch-LED-Light-Mod/

Everybody I know in the military owns a few of these, normally tied to bits of gear. They're robust enough to rely on and when they do get destroyed they're cheap enough to replace. An n+1 configuration is pretty affordable.

I had one glued to the brake fluid canister on a motorcycle for a few years :)

They might only claim to be splash proof but I have dived to 30m with mine over a 10 times and to 20+m probably over 50 times and it's still going strong.

That's interesting. Other people I know have said the same as you but I've had two F91s fail and let water in with light swimming. I bought a W59 which is almost exactly the same (I'm not entirely sure what the difference is) and not had any problems since.

Spent six months surfing, swimming, and sweating through the tropics with an F91W strapped to my wrist. I bought it because it was cheap and I was poor, but I fell in love with it instantly. Lightweight, durable, and accurate as hell, it was the perfect companion.

It's a shame the strap's shitty, though. I noticed a nick along the inside edge one day and thought nothing of it. Got off the bus in San Jose and it was already torn halfway through. By the time I found a place to stay for the night, it was gone. I damn near cried.

I don't have that kind of attachment to watches orders of magnitude more expensive.

I disagree. I have one and every time the hourly "beep" gets back on (not sure how) I have to google it to figure out how to remove it. I don't find this watch well designed at all when it comes to intuitive features.

Had one of those for a looong time when I was in middle/high school. My teachers especially loved how it emitted 2 strident beeps at each hour. And indeed, that was the most efficient watch I ever had.

The frequency at which those beeps are emitted, and the fact that there are, as you put it, precisely "2 strident beeps" makes it impossible to locate by sound alone. I misplaced one of these a decade ago somewhere in the "mess that is my home office" and had been punished with these two, maddening, beeps going off every hour for about nine of those ten years. I'm not sure if it was found by someone else or the battery finally gave in, but it used to drive me crazy.

Let's face it, that's not a problem with the watch per se :)

But that's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;)

Aesthetics is often part of design.

I'm sure at the time this watch was released, it felt like your latest iPhone!

Speaking of legacy watches, anybody remembers the one of the first smartwatches from Microsoft/Timex - DataLink? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timex_Datalink

Not to mention detonates a bomb like no other.

I thought that was Nokia phones that did that?

The F-91W is so ubiquitous that at one point it was associated with Al-Qaida's bomb making techniques.


Each has their place. Nokia 3310 for remote detonation, Casio F-91W for a time bomb.

Best part about the N3310 is that its reusable.

After one year the plastic wristband broke. Bought the one with a metal wristband, it broke after 2.5-3 years.

My only complaint is the light is too faint. I need to hold it about 6 inches from my eye to see the whole display at once in the dark, and my eyes are still pretty good.

Also, if the light button had a timed-release of around 4 seconds that would be a big usability improvement.

Check out the Casio F105W. Identical watch but uses an electroluminescent backlight instead of an LED to illuminate the display.

The best thing about the watch is the weight and small footprint. I can just strap it on and just forget about it. I have been wearing mine for 2 months now almost continuously.

They are a brilliant watch. I've hard two of those watches that have covered most of my life.

I have a couple of those for outdoor stuff. I find the straps quite uncomfortable.

I'm wearing one. The only feature I miss is a countdown timer.

Does it really have a timer though?

Another odd one, but my Honda Fit 2nd Generation. So many things about that car are so well thought-out, and even more expensive/luxurious cars miss things that the Fit designers included. Some examples:

- Cup holder on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. As a left-handed person, this is amazing.

- Window power remains on after turning off the car as long as doors haven't been opened, allowing you to close the windows even if you forget to close them before turning off the car.

- Rear seats can fold completely flat, thanks to the fact that the fuel tank is below the front seats

- Large, unique-feeling tactile buttons and knobs to control the AC heating, and audio systems. So many cars use tiny identical buttons that are impossible to distinguish without looking.

I had several Fiat Panda's (1st generation). It's automotive mobility boiled down to the bare essentials. A 50-year old motor design that has been completely finetuned to the point where it's unbreakable and economic (the 1.0 Fire motor). No power steering (not needed since the car is so lightweight), no brake assist, no power windows, no A/C. Just one windshield wiper, one heater and turn signals, that's it.

I love how simple and intuitive these cars were. Super dependable (lack of options make it so that nothing much could break down anyway), economic and yet some smart mechanical features: the light switches off when you turn the motor off, it's impossible to lock yourself out of the car and the best thing: the back seat is basically a hammock that converts to a bed. Since the car is so boxy it's easy to transport big things like fridges or large IKEA-packages.

I had several of these since they were so cheap (400 euros 5th-hand, but no mechanical issues). Only downside is the rust and the fact they're not very safe.

Ah, the memories...

I really enjoy my Mazda3 2016 dashboard and controls.

Meanwhile I HATED the BMW 3 series controls and shifter. Nothing was intuitive, though it all looked space agey.

I am a fan of the Lexus controls as well. They look positively 90s but are very straightforward to use and behave as you'd expect.

As a former automotive engineer it hurts to see "aesthetics" trump usability.

Yeah, I have the Mazda 3 Astina - 2014. I believe its MazdaConnect is roughly the same, maybe a slightly smaller screen.

Blown away by how good the UX for the whole car is, including a HUD which for its price class and the time is rather amazing.

Adding things like rear cross alert, curving lights and radar cruise in addition to EBA is simply great.

I've got the same model. Also a big fan of the design features

Ugh, my 2016 CX-9's infotainment system is the worst thing about the vehicle. Mazda has tried to cram way too much into that stupid dial control.

True. Love everything physical about the car but the infotainment system has poor UI and bad latency.

This. The controls design on this car is essentially perfect. And the interior space use is amazing. When we moved my son to go to college in another city we had the whole living room piled with his stuff, yet some how it all went into the Fit. The TARDIS of small cars. Pretty nice to drive too.

We have a winner! I bought one in 2010, and I've loved it. The only nitpicks I have are: 1) weak front stabilizer control links that don't stand up well to Illinois potholes, 2) no long mode or refresh mode seat settings (you need the first- or third-generation model for those), and 3) top gear (manual transmission) is too short - 3500 RPM at 70 MPH.

But for all that, it's amazingly roomy inside, good on gas, fun to drive even if it won't win races, and just a great car in general. Controls are well laid out, entry and exit are easy, four full-sized adults can sit comfortably in it, the engine is a gem, and when the rear seats are folded down it can handle a lot of cargo.

Agreed-- the flexible interior layout is particularly incredible. It feels like the inside is bigger than the outside. It's crazy that I can fit a dining table, or a load of 2x4s, or five adults and their camping gear, in a subcompact car that I can also parallel park in even the tiniest spots. If you have a roof rack and a rear hitch you can really turn it up to 11.

On the subject of car ergo, a 2000 Miata NB. As someone who is 6'+, I'm consistently amazed at how comfortably I fit. It makes you realize how much wasted space there is in most car interiors.

Almost this. I'm 6'2", can't sit in the NB without bumping my head on the roof bars when closed. But had a 1995 NA for about 5 years and that was just incredibly comfortable. Could fit a remarkable amount in the boot too.

Yep. Just bought a 2011 Sport manual last month. I do mostly city driving and don't typically carry more than one passenger so I was kicking around the idea of a small pickup so I'd have the ability to carry around things like my PA system or camping gear or grab large items at the Depot, etc. instead of renting a pickup/van.

The problem is that there don't seem to really be many light pickups made anymore (like the size of the old S10 for example) and even the used ones in good shape were a bit on the pricey side for my frugal nature.

Well, I unexpectedly needed to buy a car last month and found a 2011 Fit with only 39k miles and got them to sell it for $9500. May have been able to talk them down a bit more if I had the luxury of time but it was within the market value given by several resources so I was OK with it.

Only down side was some minor wear-and-tear maintenance that the previous owner likely traded in to avoid dealing with (and the dealer wouldn't cover under warranty) but I still feel reasonably OK with the overall cost.

And of course the car is great. Moved out of my old place around the same time and only needed to rent a cargo van for the largest furniture items. Everything else has packed easily into the car with the seats folded flat. I love how the passenger seat can fold back as well so you can fit a 7-8 foot ladder or other long items like standing lamps.

Clutch feels a little "chattery" on cold mornings but apparently this is common on many Honda and Acura cars. Either way, my overall impression is that it's still quite a bit of car for not a whole lot of dough. Being able to just buy it for cash may have improved my overall enjoyment as well.

Yep, I have a 2012 Fit Sport Manual. The Honda transmission is generally great overall, much easier to shift than my friend's Camaro IMO.

Have you had to replace the coil packs yet? That's the maintenance thing I mentioned having to deal with. Seems to be a common issue and I actually suggested it to my mechanic when I started getting rare, intermittent cylinder misfire codes after a few weeks.

To the mechanic's credit, they didn't want to replace them off the bat because they couldn't reproduce the issue and they had me drive for another week to see if it threw the error code again. Of course it did and when I brought it back the second time they swapped the coils and all has been right since.

It just seemed like a common issue when I searched for the OBD-II code online and I guess I just added another data point.

I have a 2011 Fit Sport. Great little car.

Doesn't hurt that it's dirt cheap to maintain and insure. I have maxed-out liability limits on my policy and only pay $35 a month.

> $35 a month

Wow! Are you in the US? May I ask what insurance you have?

Colorado with Geico. $300k/$300k bodily injury, $100k property damage, $300k uninsured motorist injury and a few other miscellaneous coverages.

Liability only shouldn't be expensive. I pay $85 / month on my v6 09 accord coupe for comprehensive.

I agree. Owned one for a couple years. Everything was great as long as you don't run over chewing gum because you might get stuck.

>Cup holder on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel. As a left-handed person, this is amazing.

Huh, as a lefty in a country that drives on the left side of the road, I'd never considered this was a problem.

As a righty in a country that drives on the left side of the road, I'd never considered it a problem either.

I have a 2007 Fit Sport automatic. Other than a failed transmission pressure sensor, it's been drop dead reliable.

I drove one of these recently, I'm 6'1" and the seat wouldn't go back quite enough. Probably only 1-3 inches, but a total deal breaker.

Yeah, it's the one thing that nearly put me off buying one - I'm six foot and it didn't quite feel right. I'm glad I took the plunge though: I got used to the slightly more upright driving position, and I love the car. The upside of the slightly more restricted seat rails, btw, is that rear passengers always have great leg room, even in such a small car.

Yes! I think some of the changes they made ~2007/2008 in their interior design were huge leaps in front of most other cars IMHO.

Also, two of the cup holders are right at the AC outlets. Very good for cooling drinks.

> the fuel tank is below the front seats.

Doesn't sound like a good idea in an accident.

Why not? If something catastrophic happens, will it really make a difference?

Because if a fire starts, you'll have zero time to get out. In the rear, you may have a second or two.

Putting it at the back isn't always a good idea - Ford Pinto anyone?

There are many hatchbacks safer (ahem) than the Pinto. IIRC it had a particular design flaw in addition to the gas tank in the rear, though I've lost the details and wikipedia doesn't seem to be helping.

Any idea how the 3rd generation compares?

car and driver was convinced that a lot of the performing characteristics that made the 2nd gen a fun economy car have been messed up but as an appliance car it's still extremely practical

Apple MacBooks are the best laptops that I have ever used. Nothing comes close to them. Even my Surface. It's a great device (by far the best Windows laptop/convertible available), but it misses on some details (light bleed on the edges, kickstand doesn't align all the way)

The Metal Unibody Macbooks have been first in class since the first introduction in 2008. It's truly a remarkably designed machine.

I agree. I have a mid-2009 15" MBP to which I long ago maxed-out the RAM and replaced the HDD with an SSD, and it's still my daily driver.

About the only time I notice its age is when I do something involving very heavy disk i/o. While it is an SSD, it's still only SATA II. The vast majority of the time I don't even notice. It's been a great machine.

Until you need to replace literally anything in them. When their design suddenly looks massively hopeless compared to a thinkpad.

I feel like ThinkPads are severely underrated even for their time. Their user-serviceability may not help sell units, but for anyone who's actually owned, used, and needed to repair one, the design was genius.

They aren't designed to need that kind of servicing. They're designed to last long enough to justify a replacement, and the 2008 and 2009 MacBooks we have under our bookcase continue to prove this.

Until, like they said, any one part needs fixing, then you're SOL with a bill that runs 33-50% of the price of a brand new one.

My old Snow Leopard MBP was pretty much perfect in its day. It's long in tooth now but with a new battery and an SSD upgrade would still be well and truly usable as a general web-and-email machine.

I upgraded everything in my Snow Leopard-era 13" MBP and it was still running fine until I stupidly spilled water on it last month.

Now replaced by a 2015 13" MBP, which feels almost identical (although that Retina screen is goooood... as is the HDMI port).

And I can still sell most of the 2011 MBP parts on eBay to get some of my investment back!

I still have my white 13" MacBook with Snow Leopard. Using it is a bit nostalgic: remember when Apple made a super stable OS that optimized for getting actual work done? I don't remember it ever crashing, not even once!

I still own&use one; I upgraded SSD and ram an it is still pretty ok for small web dev and internet browsing.

Yeah, I have a mid-2011 Macbook Air that I've been using heavily since day one, and it still performs like a champ. I've never owned a non-Mac laptop that I didn't want or need to replace within two years.

The only major problem is the keyboard layout which IMO is close to inexcusable. Swapping fn and ctrl with no way of fixing it is thoughtless at a level that a company like Apple shouldn't tolerate.

Yep, they're built to last too. I have an old white plastic MacBook I handed down to my nephew that's still chugging away after seven years. It runs like it's practically brand new and it's built like a tank.

The Macs are legendary for their design, but I have to say the winner is the MacBook Air. We have one at home, specifically the 2011 model MacBook Air. Such a fine piece of equipment and it still works pretty today as well as it did 6 years ago.

Got the some model here. Even though I now also own a 13" rMBPro which is barely heaver, there's something about the MBAir's design that makes it FEEL so much lighter to carry around. It's much easier to hold, and it looks much thinner on a table as well thanks to the curved shape. A truly amazing design.

+1 for Macbook Air 13" 2010 (dedicated GPU).

Best laptop I ever owned, hands down.

Have been using Air since its 1st gen.

If the screen on the Air wasn't so shitty, I would still be rocking that thing. It had legendary battery life and an amazing keyboard, all while being super light.

I think that the MBA the best MacBook they've ever designed. No compromises, light enough to forget about and lasts long enough to almost never need charging.

I seriously wished they re-released that with a Retina screen.

Shitty? The Air screen is pretty good. Yes, it is not retina but I'm happy with the other bits such as color depth, view angle, brightness, and just general quality.

Textmate 2 - It's such a well-engineered piece of software, and it's gorgeous.

Bialetti Brikka - Such an elegant design, and it makes delicious coffee, Italian-style.

Nespresso - If Apple made espresso machines. The espresso tastes great and it's easy to clean.

Patagonia MLC 45L - My pet peeve with luggage is that the good stuff tends to be heavy. Not this! It's big enough for extended travel, has backpack straps if you need it, durable (w/ lifetime guarantee), and is well-designed without being "design-y," if that makes sense.

Charles Schwab checking account - Okay, not a physical product, and doesn't have very impressive visual design, but well-designed regardless. No account minimums or fees, the best customer service I've ever experienced, no foreign transaction fees, and they rebate any and all ATM fees worldwide. It's the absolute perfect money bucket.

Blundstone boots - The perfect footwear if you're unsure of conditions. Hiking--check. Going to dinner--check. Walking in the city--check. Walking through snow--check. Traveling--check. They're very, very comfortable.

Elixir (programming language) - This is what happens when a tool is made for one's own use, as opposed to being designed for a hypothetical "other" who doesn't exist. It's magical.

> Nespresso

Anything that creates such an inordinate amount of waste is not well designed in my book.

Even the inventor of coffee capsules regrets creating them due to the ridiculous amount of waste.

> Bialetti Brikka


> Blundstone boots

And yes!

I agree. It's so weird to see the two mentioned side by side.

Nespresso is great for the user. You just have to buy the pods and machine and you will have the caffeinated beverage that Nespresso makes.

But then you look at the Bialetti (or any moka pot) and you wonder why so many people own Nespresso (and other pod based coffee makers. All you have to do is get coffee grounds and you're good to go. Fill the reservoir with water and the puck with grounds and throw it on the stove. Sure, it might take 1 or 2 more steps, but it will almost always make a better cup of coffee and you are not wastefully throwing out plastic every time you make a cup.

I'm so annoyed that the awful Textmate 1 website is still the first result on Google, and has not been replaced. Every time I recommend it, I have to go into an explanation of how to ACTUALLY find the editor, so they don't just see the one from 2005 and leave.


> Textmate 2 - It's such a well-engineered piece of software, and it's gorgeous.

I use TextMate 2, and it's great because there's nothing unusually dumb about it.

But I still miss TextMate 1.x every single week. I often want to drag two or three folders onto the TextMate icon in my Dock and have a TextMate "project", with no other files or directories other than what I've dragged. This was such a great and intuitive use of the macOS Dock, and a feature that I haven't ever found anywhere else. Doing it by hand with .tm_attributes is such a pain that I might as well just create symlinks to recreate the feature.

I think TextMate 1.x was a better-designed product than 2.x, even though I have no doubt that the source code was a mess.

I would almost agree with Charles Schwab. I really think they are likely the best option in most cases

..That extra almost comes from their revamps of their Android app over the years. The new UI's just don't see much consistency, and the UX for cashing a check is especially weird and unintuitive. Why do I have to select an account if literally only one account has checking cashing enabled? Why is the whole UI otherwise unresponsive unless you click the doesnt-look-like-a-button "account" box? Weird.

I'm a big fan of my Schwab account too. But I'm a bit angry at them recently. The standard protocol for an expired card... I believe... Is to send a new one a month before expiration. I was caught in a foreign country without my Schwab debit card of choice. Spent thirty minutes on an international call only to be told that my card was expired. I know, I know, I could have inspected my card a little closer. I feel that this was a cost cutting measure on their part...

Sorry for being weird, but what Blundstone boot model exactly are you refering to? This one? http://www.blundstone.com/shop/black-mens-or-womens-premium-...

No, not being weird at all! :)

This video does a good job showing the differences: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SM68SNtODqs

If you do decide to get a pair, note that they need some time to break in; mine were uncomfortable at first!

Did the boots break in, or your feet? :P

The MLC is my go-to for standard travelling (not a climbing or backpacking trip). People tend to choose wheeled suitcases because they think carrying a heavy suitcase is difficult, but eliminating the wheels, handle and frame, will save a significant amount of weight. For example, the wheeled version of the MLC weighs 1.5kg (over 3lbs) more than the normal version. For a carry-on size suitcase, using a lightweight, non-rolling option makes much more sense.

Main downsides: The MLC good for carrying clothing and flat items, but it's not so great for carrying non-flat things, although it can do it. It is also a little large, and has no compression straps, so you need to use packing cubes or absorb the excess space with something (e.g. those plastic air bubbles that come in packages sometimes).

Has Schwab upgraded their web security recently? Last time I looked at them, they had a 8 character upper limit on their password field that they then lower-cased.

Yes: http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/client_home/password_for...

They also have 2-factor auth, which can be enabled by request.

Lol this kind of stuff isn't a priority for most websites. But you'd think financial operations would be the first to update.

Isn't Charles Schwab terribly insecure ? There was a post here a year ago about their password and 2fa policies.

Teenage Engineering OP-1, a music synthesizer. Really well built, buttons and knobs feel fantastic, and the display is super fun. The OP-1 in action: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umatbZ0n4mE

Great recommendation. For those folks balking at the $850 price, I agree it's very expensive. But a decent synthesizer is going to start around $500 anyways and it goes up very fast from there (synths can easily cost +$3000 with full size keys). The OP-1 is not ridiculously pricey when compared to competitors products.

I wanted to suggest another option that is much less expensive and worth checking out if you are interested in this type of music is Teenage Engineering Pocket Operators [1]. These are just a fun instrument/toy to play around with and they only cost $50! From the same company too...I wouldn't say the Pockets are a "best-design thing" but I do think they are an easy and inexpensive way to start messing around creating your own music on a hardware instrument before deciding on a bigger purchase like a $1000k synthesizer. The website is great and has sample sounds of each model:

[1] https://teenage.engineering/products/po

I just got one of these for Christmas, and it's honestly one of the most beautiful and intuitive devices I've ever used. It's such a creative and inspiring tool.

Oh no! I've been ogling these since they came out, and only recently convinced myself I really didn't need one. Now it's back on the table...

I came here to also vote for the OP-1, and I don't even own one. Sure it's a bit expensive at ~$850, and you can get similar functionality at a lower budget with hardware and software. But the OP-1 provides an amazing tool in a standalone device, in a great experience and form factor. I'll be saving up for one for awhile, but it'll be worth it.

I have coveted the OP-1 since before is came out, but I've also been college poor the entire time. It really hurts my heart.

1k bucks for that device seems a little bit on the pricy side.

$850 USD, and most products on this list are on the pricey side. You usually get what you pay for.

Only thing bothering me about it is the keyboard. It fits in the overall aesthetic, but I feel like they chose style over substance and regular keys would be more usable. Any comments from first hand experience?

It's a bit tough to play by itself, but I'm okay with the tradeoff for the portability.

FWIW it works quite well if you connect it to a MIDI host and use another controller to play or sequence the synths on it.

...just don't connect your 12v AC adapter to the OP-1's USB hub that wants 5v, or you'll lose all data connectivity (USB disk mode and MIDI) to the unit. :(

Hey, Justin Vernon and I both agree with you. Best small-scale synth ever.

Was going to say the same here ;)


#1 The Nokia N9 (specifically the alarm clock) When trying to find a clone for Android, I found this guy's blog post which explains why it's perfect:


The swipe interface of the operating system is also the best I've ever used. If I play around with the N9 for a few minutes now; then go back to android, it feels clunky an inefficient again.

#2 The Nintendo Gamecube It just works without having to setup profiles or download updates, the controller is awesome (subjective) and it carries the greatest Mario Kart, Smash Brothers and Mario Party ever created (also subjective).

I remember watching an interview of Yamamoto explaining how Sony blatantly copied the N64 controller, even copying Nintendo's mistake of having 4 right-side buttons of exactly the same shape (for the fingers).

Nintendo corrected this with the gamecube controller having different shaped buttons on the right (see here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GameCube_controller the A, Y, X and B buttons)

For some reason, Nintendo reversed back to the "bad" playstation-like buttons after the gamecube.

If anyone knows why I would be interested.

The smaller, yellow "c" buttons on the right hurt to use a lot, having a higher and skinnier profile. For fighting games that matters quite a bit, because there's a lot of quick button mixups. Playing some games on the N64 could be painful after a short while.

I imagine they went back because all the games expected the old layout by that time since it was used with the other systems, so it was just easier.

I don't know why they reverted to the 4 same-sized buttons on the Wii classic pro controller and the WiiU controllers. If I had to guess, I'd say that on the Wii, the wiimote + nunchuck were the primary focus and the 'pro' controllers were an afterthought. You could use the legendary gamecube (GCN) controller for some games anyway.

In this super-long (and interesting) article about the GCN, under the heading "The Pressures To Create The Perfect Controller", there's a write-up of the design and decision process for the creation of the controller.


Maybe it's because I play a lot of games, but I don't know why four identical shaped buttons would be bad. I never press A and think I'm pressing B because they are the same shape. It's not clear to me why you think different shaped buttons is inherently better.

Gamecube-style button shapes can be packed more tightly, which I've occasionally thought would be nice when playing Super Metroid and its various romhacks and inspirees. Some of the advanced mobility techniques require complex inputs, and while rebinding can help those flow more naturally, that only works up to a point - when you're trying to reliably perform sequences like spin-jumping, cancelling over an enemy, selecting missiles to get in a couple of quick midair hits, deselecting missiles, and firing beams to clear out approaching nuisance flyers so they don't hitstun you and break your flow, every millimeter between the buttons makes a difference.

One thing where it shines: new players and tutorials. When the button is shown to the screen they can immediately track it. Sony is pretty bad with that, GF always asks "what is R2? What is R3? ..."

For some reason, my gf picked up 'right bumper', 'left trigger', etc from the Xbox 360 much more easily than "R1/L2" from the PS2.

I've been using an Android alarm clock program that is unfortunately called Alarm Clock Xtreme for nearly a decade. It works pretty great. It's not quite as slick as the N9 alarm clock that blog post describes, but it's pretty close. If you're still trying to hunt down an alarm clock, give it a shot.

I'm quite a big fan of it ACX myself and use it as my daily alarm clock. However, my one gripe with it is that with the major update (ages ago now), they removed the option to set an alarm with no snooze option.

Is it better than Timely? I love Timely, but its lack of updates for many years now is worrying.

What are you looking to be updated in your alarm clock? Personally, I find updates to simple Android applications that don't seem to need new features somewhat worrying. It often seems to be coupled with a new requirement for network access...

There are a few things I've missed (multiple timezone support, bugs when waking up from lockscreen in some cases), so overall it's mostly 'keeping up' - mobile apps that don't co-evolve with the latest versions of the OS's will stop working at some point.

I don't know, it's good enough that it's the only one I've used :) It does still get updates, for what that's worth.

Also, one thing I don't understand with the iOS alarm. Why doesn't it work like the Android one? On android, when I set an alarm, it tells me exactly how long I will sleep if I go to sleep right away.

The newest iOS has a feature that sounds like what you describe under "Bedtime" in the clock app.

Still not the same. Imagine that you're telling siri "wake me up at 9am" and it replies to you "alarm will ring in 8 hours".

The stock Android alarm app seems to have everything that is mentioned in the blog post (at least that is the case in Android 7.0+, can't speak for older versions)

Fiskars Axes: http://www.fiskars.eu/products/gardening/axes/splitting-axe-...

Barbour Jackets: http://www.barbour.com/eu/categories/mens/waxed-jackets/barb...

Camper Shoes: https://www.camper.com/en_FI/men/shoes/peu/camper-peu-17665-...

Stihl Chainsaws: http://www.stihl.com/STIHL-power-tools-A-great-range/Chainsa...

Genelec Speakers: http://www.genelec.com/8351

Desktops: Mac Pro 1st Generation

Laptops: Macbook Pro

Phones: iPhone

Operating System Kernel: Linux

High Level Programming Language: Lua / LuaJIT

Low Level Programming Language: C

Web Server: Nginx

I'm Finn, coming from the land of Fiskars and axes. And I have to disagree with Fiskars. The axes are very good for chopping wood, but that's it. If you are serious backpacker, craftsman, carpenter etc, you wan't to use your axe in different ways too. The biggest "chopping" axe from fiskars is too short for building a fire that would keep you warm for the whole night. All of their "splitting" models have unnecessarily heavy head which you don't want to haul while backpacking. And the vedge thing in splitting models mean that it's very tricky to sharpen poles that you could strike to ground for a tent. And you can't use the axe as a hammer or you lose that sweet 25 year guarantee. And you can't swap the handle of a chopping axe for a longer one.

It's very good tool for one spesific job. There are axes that are good for range of jobs.

And I have to disagree with Fiskars. The axes are very good for chopping wood, but that's it. If you are serious backpacker, craftsman, carpenter etc, you wan't to use your axe in different ways too.

Well, never had a problem with the ones in our family. And IMO the fact that unlike everyother axe I know it just won't break and leave you without an axe in the middle has to count for something too.

I agree. Fiskars' axes are mainly for chopping and tree pruning. But that is also probably one of the most common things to do with axe. Their middle size models are probably the best in my opinion. I wouldn't of course use Fiskars' axe for carving and stuff like that. It doesn't work at all, but for say carving, you need a special purpose axe anyway.

I agree ... a "Splitting Axe" like those from Fiskars are probably not best (well-designed) for uses outside splitting wood.

I agree with the OP, though, that Fiskars' axes are fabulous when it comes to splitting wood over your average Home Depot special.

local "pros" tell me that stihl has been good or that the more expensive models are still good. but many are said to migrate to husqvarna.

i personally don't like all the plastic parts on newer stihl's. like "easy-to-use" cover holders which previously where solid screws.

There have also been new (mostly stupid) legislation, at least in EU that has forced Stihl and others to make worse products (cutting down emissions, and at the same time power).

I only recommend Stihl Professional series (with metal bodies). Husqvarna's are usually equally good (it is mostly that Stihl has the best model in some class, while Husqvarna has a better model in some other class). Partner Chainsaws were also pretty respected, but Husqvarna bought them. New Stihls may feel a bit plastic, but in practice they do their job pretty nicely.

What comes to power tools, Hilti is the one to look at, although I did go with Bosch power tools (Bosch is pretty average in every sense, but also trustworthy). It is easier to buy Bosch (Blue Series) than Hiltis. I also do like the stackable Sortimo L-BOXXes that Bosch uses these days: http://www.sortimo.com/products/cases-boxxes/.

Hilti T605 or something. Oh those memories. Best job I ever had until then :-) Noisy, boring but well-paid and the first time I worked for a company that enforced safety regulations. Oh, and they paid extremely well compared to what I was used to.

thx for the info!

speaking of bosch: i will recommend https://www.festool.com over anything else. they also offer sortimo-like boxes.

So what is a good universal outdoors axe?

the favorite axe in my collection has a simple, old head and a wooden handle. i put it together myself.

Speaking of axes. I can vouch for Gränsfors bruk (https://www.gransforsbruk.com/en/). I grew up in the same, small village and until recently I didn't know that they were known internationally for their craftwork. They are one of few businesses that still thrive in the region, supposedly because they stuck to producing quality goods instead of like most other businesses, switch to mass-production. The masters (it takes years before employees get to do axes, starting with simpler things such as nails or shafts) still put their initials on the wares they build.

Best boot on the world for varied, highly intense outdoor work is the Meindl Army Gore Pro Boot.

If you take care of them they seem to last forever. Mine have survived over 14 years of infantry exercises and still survive.


I had Meindl Island boots. I didn't take good care of them. They took a lot of abuse. One thing I would say is their achilles heel is the bottom of the shoe. I did some hard digging and shovelling where I abused the shoes a lot, especially their bottom. At some point, the bottom of the shoe was totally destroyed, and started to rip off. I do know that people do change the bottoms for Meindl shoes. Otherwise there were almost no wear at all. And well, I think I had them for some good 5-10 years anyway, so I do consider that they served well.

I agree, those look awesome. I have done some hand forging, so I do understand how much effort goes to make those axe heads. They also look stunning beautiful. Great craftmanship. Fiskars' axes on the other hand are pretty awesome in their own right. It's hard to compare handcrafted tools to Fiskars. I would prefer to use Gränsfors, although they are probably too good for me — do I have a right to use such a great tool?! On the other hand, I have little to complain about Fiskars. Thanks!

> Stihl Chainsaws

Can definitely speak to the quality of Stihl tools. When I bought my first house, for the first three years I ended up buying a new cheap electric $80 string trimmer every year. They would burn out, mysteriously fail, or the string would get twisted up in the drive shaft and you couldn't get it out without taking the whole thing apart.

After the third one I'd had enough and I bought the $500 Stihl gas Kombisystem [0] with the string trimmer attachment. That was eight years ago and it still works perfectly. Starts on the third pull every single time. I eventually added the blower and edger attachments as well, replacing several other yard tools with a single system.

The only real downside is Stihl is an extremely old school company. I don't think they sell online to this day and you can't find their stuff in your local big box hardware store. I had to go buy mine from an actual equipment dealer out in the county. So you may have to hunt around to find a place that sells them.

[0] https://www.stihlusa.com/products/multi-task-tools/

Will second Fiskars, Sthil and close to second Macbook Pro for hardware but cannot get myself to do it as I struggled for almost three years with their clumsy "userfriendly" fn button that took the place where ctrl should be.

Best designed OS would IMO be Ubuntu somewhere 0before Unity.

Fiskars also makes excellent scissors [1], and their "Heritage" series is apparently still manufactured in Finland.

I grew up with the solid molded one, in classic 1970s orange. The current "original" one is a rather cheap-looking matte presumably made in Asia, but you can get the Heritage-series fabric scissors [2] (they're fine for things like paper and cardboard). They come in both left- and right-handed versions.

[1] http://www2.fiskars.com/Products/Crafting-and-Sewing/Scissor...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Fiskars-Inch-Heritage-Seamstress-Scis...

basically r/buyitforlife

4000$ for a single speaker seems pretty extreme, and i've spent a good amount of time in professional recording studios. Am i missing something with the Genelec speakers?

What am i getting out of 1x Genelec that I'm not able to get out of having 10x (!!!) Yamaha MSP7 studio monitors?

You should compare the MSP7's to some lower end analog Genelecs. I hope you get a change to try them. For sure MSP7 is not a bad product either.

Nubuck is not a really well designed material. It's difficult to clean and maintain, and you can ruin your shoes in a rainy day.

But yes, Camper shoes are great. They even come with 2 years warranty and have a good customer service.

Yes, but there are different fabrics for Peus. What I like about them is that they are easy and quick to wear. They have somewhat a barefoot feeling. And they are wide. So many shoes are too narrow for me. I don't know why shoemakers make the shoes so that they get more narrow on the toe end. If I look my feet, they are wider on toe end.

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