Author Topic: Why is test equipment UX so awful?  (Read 3085 times)

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Online mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #25 on: October 21, 2017, 07:39:48 AM »
You paint a picture of Chinese goods that just isn't true. Yes of course there are some products and brands that are utter rubbish, but the same is also true of any country. I can remember when people were saying much the same thing about Japanese cars and their electronics at one time did not have a good reputation either but you can't say that now, their products are as good and in many cases better then others.
Hardware, in some cases maybe, but the level of Chinese software design is almost universally poor.
As regards test equipment, pretty much the only respect in which Chinese products beat the rest is cost. 
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Offline nctnico

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #26 on: October 21, 2017, 08:21:38 AM »
You paint a picture of Chinese goods that just isn't true. Yes of course there are some products and brands that are utter rubbish, but the same is also true of any country. I can remember when people were saying much the same thing about Japanese cars and their electronics at one time did not have a good reputation either but you can't say that now, their products are as good and in many cases better then others.
Hardware, in some cases maybe, but the level of Chinese software design is almost universally poor.
IMHO that is also partly a cultural difference. Just look at a random Asian/Chinese website. It is a total chaos with text and pictures everywhere! If those websites don't work for the target audience, they wouldn't make them that way.
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Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2017, 08:33:14 AM »
You paint a picture of Chinese goods that just isn't true. Yes of course there are some products and brands that are utter rubbish, but the same is also true of any country. I can remember when people were saying much the same thing about Japanese cars and their electronics at one time did not have a good reputation either but you can't say that now, their products are as good and in many cases better then others.
Hardware, in some cases maybe, but the level of Chinese software design is almost universally poor.
As regards test equipment, pretty much the only respect in which Chinese products beat the rest is cost.
I was in no way saying Chinese beat the rest, I was referring to the Japanese, their cars are renowned for their reliability for instance.   
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Online mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #28 on: October 21, 2017, 08:55:24 AM »
You paint a picture of Chinese goods that just isn't true. Yes of course there are some products and brands that are utter rubbish, but the same is also true of any country. I can remember when people were saying much the same thing about Japanese cars and their electronics at one time did not have a good reputation either but you can't say that now, their products are as good and in many cases better then others.
Hardware, in some cases maybe, but the level of Chinese software design is almost universally poor.
As regards test equipment, pretty much the only respect in which Chinese products beat the rest is cost.
I was in no way saying Chinese beat the rest, I was referring to the Japanese, their cars are renowned for their reliability for instance.
Sorry - misread!
Yes, "all the best stuff comes from Japan"....
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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #29 on: October 21, 2017, 09:17:11 AM »
Sorry - misread!
Yes, "all the best stuff comes from Japan"....
Finally! That took you lot a while.
 

Offline tautech

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #30 on: October 21, 2017, 09:29:15 AM »
Yes, "all the best stuff comes from Japan"....
But is wasn't always like that.
50 years ago all their stuff was utter crap and far worse than lots of Chinese stuff of today, that heaps better in just a few short years.

No way back then you could've had todays warranty on a Jap car...they would've rusted away before the warranty finished.  ::)
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Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #31 on: October 21, 2017, 10:01:10 AM »
Yes, "all the best stuff comes from Japan"....
But is wasn't always like that.
50 years ago all their stuff was utter crap and far worse than lots of Chinese stuff of today, that heaps better in just a few short years.

No way back then you could've had todays warranty on a Jap car...they would've rusted away before the warranty finished.  ::)
My point exactly, likewise Chinese stuff was always crap but you really cannot say that now. So many world class companies are subcontracting work to Chinese companies and you can be damned sure they are doing so for economical reasons BUT not at the risk of their reputation. That means that Chinese quality must and has improved. Apple for one, has almost all of their gear made in China, but it is still perceived by many as a top quality brand. :popcorn:
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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #32 on: October 21, 2017, 10:03:37 AM »
But is wasn't always like that.
50 years ago all their stuff was utter crap and far worse than lots of Chinese stuff of today, that heaps better in just a few short years.

No way back then you could've had todays warranty on a Jap car...they would've rusted away before the warranty finished.  ::)
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Offline nctnico

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #33 on: October 21, 2017, 10:15:51 AM »
Yes, "all the best stuff comes from Japan"....
But is wasn't always like that.
50 years ago all their stuff was utter crap and far worse than lots of Chinese stuff of today, that heaps better in just a few short years.

No way back then you could've had todays warranty on a Jap car...they would've rusted away before the warranty finished.  ::)
AFAIK almost every car rusted in the 70s and 80s.
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Online bd139

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #34 on: October 21, 2017, 10:18:20 AM »
There’s one thing the Japanese always fuck up and that’s software.
 

Online mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2017, 10:23:38 AM »
Apple for one, has almost all of their gear made in China, but it is still perceived by many as a top quality brand. :popcorn:
But none of it is designed there. There are a few small signs of some innovation ( e.g. DJI ), but few & far between at the moment. 
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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #36 on: October 21, 2017, 10:37:30 AM »
But none of it is designed there. There are a few small signs of some innovation ( e.g. DJI ), but few & far between at the moment.
Thing is, they can design very nice things. It's just that we are readily paying for crap, so they happily produce crap. Garbage in and all that.
 

Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #37 on: October 21, 2017, 10:40:28 AM »
Apple for one, has almost all of their gear made in China, but it is still perceived by many as a top quality brand. :popcorn:
But none of it is designed there. There are a few small signs of some innovation ( e.g. DJI ), but few & far between at the moment.
While that may well be true, it does not have to be designed there to be made there. Loads of cars are designed here in the UK for overseas manufacturers included Japanese car makers but it is still a product of whichever country it is made in regardless of where various parts were designed.
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Offline SeanB

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #38 on: October 21, 2017, 05:03:07 PM »
Yes, "all the best stuff comes from Japan"....
But is wasn't always like that.
50 years ago all their stuff was utter crap and far worse than lots of Chinese stuff of today, that heaps better in just a few short years.

No way back then you could've had todays warranty on a Jap car...they would've rusted away before the warranty finished.  ::)
AFAIK almost every car rusted in the 70s and 80s.

If you bought Italian made it came with the rust built in as well, straight from the factory. Russian steel, which was hot rolled and not pickled and descaled between rolling sessions, and which thus had the scale rolled into the sheets, providing numerous places for rust to start. They were already rusted when they left the factory.
 

Offline nctnico

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #39 on: October 21, 2017, 09:28:02 PM »
Apple for one, has almost all of their gear made in China, but it is still perceived by many as a top quality brand. :popcorn:
But none of it is designed there. There are a few small signs of some innovation ( e.g. DJI ), but few & far between at the moment.
While that may well be true, it does not have to be designed there to be made there. Loads of cars are designed here in the UK for overseas manufacturers included Japanese car makers but it is still a product of whichever country it is made in regardless of where various parts were designed.
But even then a lot depends on the assembly process. Over here we avoid cars which where made in the UK. The exact same model they made in Germany is better.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #40 on: October 21, 2017, 11:23:54 PM »
That may well be true, but I wasn't saying cars designed and made in UK for overseas manufacturers, what I specifically saying is that a lot of british designers are hired by overseas manufacturers to design cars that are MADE overseas.
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Offline janoc

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #41 on: October 21, 2017, 11:26:02 PM »
I suggest watching the recent series of Dave's videos with John Kenny from Keysight. He actually addresses many of these gripes.

E.g. the 800x480 screen res. limit on their scopes? Well, d'oh - the MegaZoom ASIC is literally pumping the data out as video as that was the only way to get the fast screen update rates. The main CPU is only overlaying extra information on top of that. So until the new ASIC is out, they are stuck with that resolution. Which takes years.

He also speaks about the importance of not releasing something "too early" or you won't amortize the (enormous) costs of developing that hardware. That's a very different market than selling $50 Chinese tablets that are almost all identical inside (so the dev. costs are minimal) and sell in huge quantities. So the economies of scale aren't quite the same.

But he also talks about how the user interface is being developed at their company (and how competitors are "stealing"/copying it ...).

Watch it, it should answer quite a few of your questions.
 

Offline nimish

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #42 on: October 22, 2017, 11:15:00 AM »
I suggest watching the recent series of Dave's videos with John Kenny from Keysight. He actually addresses many of these gripes.

E.g. the 800x480 screen res. limit on their scopes? Well, d'oh - the MegaZoom ASIC is literally pumping the data out as video as that was the only way to get the fast screen update rates. The main CPU is only overlaying extra information on top of that. So until the new ASIC is out, they are stuck with that resolution. Which takes years.

He also speaks about the importance of not releasing something "too early" or you won't amortize the (enormous) costs of developing that hardware. That's a very different market than selling $50 Chinese tablets that are almost all identical inside (so the dev. costs are minimal) and sell in huge quantities. So the economies of scale aren't quite the same.

But he also talks about how the user interface is being developed at their company (and how competitors are "stealing"/copying it ...).

Watch it, it should answer quite a few of your questions.


This is was basically what prompted this post. Those are basically bad excuses -- well we couldnt figure out how to sell a better UI because we designed  and marketed ourselves into a hole that needs an ASIC to get out of so we have to bodge a trash UI until we can scrape enough pennies to design a new one  / we weren't able to leverage the huge economies of scale of the consumer electronics industry and decided to do our own thing because???

A good company isn't really overly worried about "stealing" UI developments since they are able to compete and innovate faster than any fast follower. It's a basically a poor workman who blames the tools he made himself.

I dont believe that keysight couldn't have engineered their way out of the issues with their legacy ASIC or used COTS parts. They clearly chose not to for reasons that are beyond me. Or maybe they truly do have poor engineering, in which case why not buy Chinese?




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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #43 on: October 22, 2017, 11:29:17 AM »
They won't do any of those things because they probably don't have to. If the current model still brings in enough money, it would be poor business practice to replace it too soon. That has been mentioned too.
 

Offline rhb

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #44 on: October 22, 2017, 01:03:05 PM »
I'd like to comment on the software quality. 

For background I wrote a couple of 15,000 line libraries which were in active use for almost 20 years without any bugs being reported. We ran extensive regression tests every time we built the package and never worked on new features if there were outstanding bugs found by the test suite or users.  First year of deployment the package had fewer than a dozen user submitted bugs and went down from there.   There were none in my code.  The code was instrumented to report user information back to the development group via UDP.  It was heavily used.

The first order problem is programmers that don't care about their users or the quality of their work.  I've worked with some.  All they care about is padding their resume with the latest fad.

"Oh! You want wheels on your car?  We can do that.  Brakes?  We can do those, but it will probably slip the schedule."

The other major issue I see is the object oriented paradigm.  Contrary to what was claimed when introduced, no one throws away the bad class hierarchy.  They just hack it into submission.  So when a helicopter pilot buzzes a herd of kangaroos, they scatter, hide behind rocks and fire TOW missiles at the helicopter. (From a 1990's conference paper) The kangaroo class had inherited the infantry class as a parent.

Test instruments target a skilled user community which is presumed to know what they are doing.  That is often not the case, but catering to the hopelessly ignorant is a losing proposition.

The UI is far less important than that it not be necessary to reboot a scope in the middle of diagnosing an intermittent problem.
We all get what we deserve whether we want it or not, either as individuals or members of a group.  Sometimes this is as punishment and sometimes it's a blessing.  Which is always ambiguous and depends entirely upon what we do next.
 

Offline janoc

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #45 on: October 22, 2017, 10:12:58 PM »
This is was basically what prompted this post. Those are basically bad excuses -- well we couldnt figure out how to sell a better UI because we designed  and marketed ourselves into a hole that needs an ASIC to get out of so we have to bodge a trash UI until we can scrape enough pennies to design a new one  / we weren't able to leverage the huge economies of scale of the consumer electronics industry and decided to do our own thing because???

Nimish, how much test equipment did you design?

How do you want to leverage consumer electronics economies of scale which are designed for products with the shelf life of maybe a year max (and to be thrown away when the battery finally dies) vs. test equipment where the same models are commonly sold (and supported, including replacement parts!) for 20+ years? Heck, it is starting to be impossible to find parts for devices that are 2-3 years old today.

And it is not because the company is unable to build something newer but simply because it both doesn't make economical sense (you really don't need fancy capacitive HD touch screen on a power supply or siggen sitting in an automated rack where nobody touches it during the entire lifetime of the setup) and because the customers demand them?

It just doesn't work like that.

A good company isn't really overly worried about "stealing" UI developments since they are able to compete and innovate faster than any fast follower. It's a basically a poor workman who blames the tools he made himself.

Yeah right. Tell that to Apple, for example. They are obviously a poor company because they are suing everyone left and right for the slide to unlock and rectangular slate shape of their phones ... UI is often the distinguishing feature of the product, so of course you don't want the competitors to just copy yours after you have possibly invested a ton of money in the design, usability research and what not.

I dont believe that keysight couldn't have engineered their way out of the issues with their legacy ASIC or used COTS parts. They clearly chose not to for reasons that are beyond me. Or maybe they truly do have poor engineering, in which case why not buy Chinese?

Do you seriously think that a company designs an ASIC at the costs of millions USD when they could just buy stuff of the shelf? Or redo their entire design, including all certification, whenever a new display model or CPU comes out so it doesn't look "legacy"? :palm:

How many scopes on the market do you know that have the abilities of the Keysight/Agilent ones when it comes to waveform refresh rates and the response speed of the UI, even when a lot of sample memory is being used?

 
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Offline nctnico

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #46 on: October 22, 2017, 11:04:19 PM »
How many scopes on the market do you know that have the abilities of the Keysight/Agilent ones when it comes to waveform refresh rates and the response speed of the UI, even when a lot of sample memory is being used?
IMHO the Keysight UI is clunky and the high waveform update rates come at a very high price where it comes to other abilities like doing math on the actual data. For example: My GW Instek scope is much easier to use than the Agilent DSO7000 series I used to own.
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Offline nimish

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #47 on: October 22, 2017, 11:30:01 PM »
This is was basically what prompted this post. Those are basically bad excuses -- well we couldnt figure out how to sell a better UI because we designed  and marketed ourselves into a hole that needs an ASIC to get out of so we have to bodge a trash UI until we can scrape enough pennies to design a new one  / we weren't able to leverage the huge economies of scale of the consumer electronics industry and decided to do our own thing because???

Nimish, how much test equipment did you design?

How do you want to leverage consumer electronics economies of scale which are designed for products with the shelf life of maybe a year max (and to be thrown away when the battery finally dies) vs. test equipment where the same models are commonly sold (and supported, including replacement parts!) for 20+ years? Heck, it is starting to be impossible to find parts for devices that are 2-3 years old today.

And it is not because the company is unable to build something newer but simply because it both doesn't make economical sense (you really don't need fancy capacitive HD touch screen on a power supply or siggen sitting in an automated rack where nobody touches it during the entire lifetime of the setup) and because the customers demand them?

It just doesn't work like that.

A good company isn't really overly worried about "stealing" UI developments since they are able to compete and innovate faster than any fast follower. It's a basically a poor workman who blames the tools he made himself.

Yeah right. Tell that to Apple, for example. They are obviously a poor company because they are suing everyone left and right for the slide to unlock and rectangular slate shape of their phones ... UI is often the distinguishing feature of the product, so of course you don't want the competitors to just copy yours after you have possibly invested a ton of money in the design, usability research and what not.

I dont believe that keysight couldn't have engineered their way out of the issues with their legacy ASIC or used COTS parts. They clearly chose not to for reasons that are beyond me. Or maybe they truly do have poor engineering, in which case why not buy Chinese?

Do you seriously think that a company designs an ASIC at the costs of millions USD when they could just buy stuff of the shelf? Or redo their entire design, including all certification, whenever a new display model or CPU comes out so it doesn't look "legacy"? :palm:

How many scopes on the market do you know that have the abilities of the Keysight/Agilent ones when it comes to waveform refresh rates and the response speed of the UI, even when a lot of sample memory is being used?

You don't need to be a chef to criticize the meal. Otherwise all the people reviewing multimeters here would be guilty of the same issue, right? And Dave too--how many scopes has he designed?

Apple's LAF suits in the 90s (they lost!) and other trade dress suits against Samsung (still going, years on) are basically considered some of Apple's stupider moves. They bogged the company down in revealing lawsuits and took time and press away from Apple's products while giving PR to their competitors. Lose-lose all around.

The point I'm making with using COTS stuff is that basically good *product* engineering says that you should focus on what the user wants and needs (they often don't know!) not what the engineers making the product want, like some sexy fpga design or cool ASIC. For example, Keysight's fully depreciated MegaZoom IV ASIC has cornered them into either admitting that 1000000 wfm/sec updates are marketing wank or they need to blow millions on a MegaZoom V. Smarter companies would have designed to a spec, then been able to swap out the tech as the market evolves, so they could use COTS to cut costs.

Furthermore, if you look at costs of COTS components, the fancy button panel and TFT LCD that John Kenny designed probably a) wasted a bunch of his valuable time b) cost more than taking a commodity capacitive tablet display and a few pots coupled with a common graphical UI c) can't be reused on any other tool without serious rework. All this means that despite him getting it designed down to cost, it's ultimately a one-off. Even he admits that Keysight has historically been quite bad at reuse.

I keep coming back to the r&s rtb2000 series because it clearly looks like R&S realized this and have developed a common chassis with touchscreen and a few multifunction knobs and buttons and can swap out the hardware to e.g. make that new spectrum analyzer. They can then use this commonality to drive a better graphical UI, and can put the economies of scale from having 1 display and 1 set of physical controls to use in paying for better components. Unfortunately they decided to piss on people in the UK and didn't offer their launch deal here otherwise I'd have been on it.

And, if they did it right, when the market demands 3d VR scopeview nextgen 5000+++ they can just swap out the display hardware rather than having it tightly coupled to their measurement engine, like with MegaZoom IV (seriously whoever decided that ought to be slapped, what a dumb move)

John Kenny even admits that NI does exactly this: they designed one really really really good voltmeter (I think) and then turn all their other measurement tools into frontends for that. They then spent time on making a decent (for t&m) software, labview (yes, i know) that they can sell for a much, much higher margin than any hardware.





 

Offline janoc

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #48 on: October 23, 2017, 08:24:34 PM »
How many scopes on the market do you know that have the abilities of the Keysight/Agilent ones when it comes to waveform refresh rates and the response speed of the UI, even when a lot of sample memory is being used?
IMHO the Keysight UI is clunky and the high waveform update rates come at a very high price where it comes to other abilities like doing math on the actual data. For example: My GW Instek scope is much easier to use than the Agilent DSO7000 series I used to own.

Certainly, but I guess the made a conscious decision to prioritize one over the other. E.g. my Rigol is pretty terrible on both aspects  :-//
 

Online bd139

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #49 on: October 23, 2017, 08:36:23 PM »
Incidentally, I noticed something the other day. I was standing in the control cabin for a nice modern x-ray facility. Turned out it was 10 years old. Also turned out the UI was shit and the interface laggy as well!

I think this is just the status quo on low volume high value products.

Rigol is not that bad actually. There are clearly compromises but the sort of compromise that results from people sitting down in a meeting and asking "how the hell do we do X?" rather than prescriptive like Apple for example which is "we will burn the whole tree down and grow it again until it looks about right". The UI is discoverable which is what is important. I haven't read the manual yet and I probably won't have to. Bar referencing the SCPI documentation for the DG1022Z, I've quite happily set up an SNA type system with a DG1054Z and DG1022Z and power sensor just by playing with it. That's pretty good  :-+
 


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