Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Simplistic End User Design

Recently a friend who is an excellent cook has talked about finally getting a decent food processor, now that their existing [mediocre] one has finally given up the ghost.

As usual it set Marcus and Agata of on an interesting trail of discovery, since food processing equipment is not at all an area of knowledge for us.   But we thought as Engineers and logicians we would turn our mind to the task.

We were told that the gold standard was Vitamix and that the 750 is a great machine, but that the 300 series is probably enough for a small  household on a reduced budget.

And then our local qoqa bargain site has amazingly a Princes Turbo blender for /only/ 199 CHF

Before the offer expired (24 hours) we now had a deadline to investigate and comment and advise on this technology.

The race was on to use Google to intensively Internet Research ...

Occams Razor Extended

Marcus used Occam's razor principle in 2009 to talk about product ownership.  Today I'll propose to use it to help with product design and selection

The gist of the argument is:

Buy a product that by design meets your needs closely.  Something without lots of needless add on gimmicks that if you seriously consider it, you know you will never use end us being a distraction and an annoyance.

Many of us can relate to this argument in many other spheres of our lives.  The washing machine with > 30 programmes, but we settle down in real life to just using 2.

The Word Processing package that is so sophisticated we are deeply conscious of the fact that we use less than 5% of its capabilities, making us feel like idiots.

The car with an infotainment and computerised audio/ climate/ engine setup system so complicated that you hardly dare go into the menus for fear of screwing something up.

End User vs Actual Design
Many products have a complicated Internal design but operationally and for End user interaction they are simple to operate.   Apple products for example, typically have excellent End User accessibility and interface.  However internally they are difficult, and sometimes impossible to service: too much solder and glue meaning disassembly & component replacement is not just impractical but impossible.

But the end user is not directly affected  (I'm leaving out Environmental waste concerns as this is a separate, though valid discussion beyond this article scope)

So the first pass must be that End User operation must match a users capability, and for most people, even professionals this means simplicity.

In this Case
- What do all those buttons do?
- How easy to clean if I spill liquid over the unit itself
- How strong is the motor
- What is the Warranty
- If it goes wrong then how do I get it fixed
- Will it physically fit under the kitchen cupboards
- Do components fit in the dishwasher, and can they be 
- International voltage in case I move country
- Spare parts if I drop and break something

Our analysis had us going to the Vitamix all of the time.

Oh, but the Cost Argument
A slight setback to our argument is that the Vitamix 350 with its quality and simplistic design costs 799 CHF (at least) in Switzerland.  And that the Princess device on the qoqa offer was only 199 CHF.

The Verdict
- For Marcus and Agata, our mostly occasional needs would easily be satisfied via the special offer of the Princess Blender
- But if you are an expert cook, who wants a simpler and more professional unit, and somebody who has been obsessing about the ultimate Vitamix quality product, then the choice is clear
- Go for the superior, simpler and elegant Vitamix and to hell with the cost!

Vitamix vs Blendtec

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Welcome to Switzerland

Subtitle:Feeling Poor again in Switzerland

With what I can only describe as the secondly shockingly expensive contraption being advertised on the Swiss bargain website  in a matter of one week, I feel compelled to write something.

I still believe after over a decade of living in Switzerland, i.e. my views are not just of somebody /fresh off the boat/ that money still flows relatively freely in this non EU country.

On the Lausanne metro  I play a game of who is my carriage is NOT using an Apple iPhone. And then, of those iPhone users who is using the latest 6S technology and who has been so rude as to stick with something older.  (The results are that over 50% of those using Smartphones are Apple by the way, and a sizable proportion, I mean over 40% of them are on 6x technology)

But back to the Breaking Point
I talked in March 2016 about how  was still my favourite Swiss bargains website, and that they have expanded to etcetera.

So the and sister websites provide

- A daily deal
- For Switzerland
- Designed to appeal to the Regular Swiss customer, i.e. not the super rich
- Provide Real Bargains

So the first shocker a few days back was the chance to buy a Laurastar Ironing Board and Iron for only 1499 CHF.  That is 1046 GBP or 1514 USD; for International readers

And then today we have the chance to buy a Husqvarna 315 robot lawn mower at 2499 CHF which is 1744 GBP.

A bargain?

Well if you consult the UK Manufacturer website ...

You will see the UK price is 1600 GBP including 20% VAT compared to the qoqa bargain price of 1744 GBP equivalent with 8% Swiss VAT.

Unflippin believable.

Now I do know that Husqvarna is a Swedish company so it's imported to both countries.  There are therefore no Internal Manufacturing costs to deal with, just perhaps different costs of transportation and the maintenance of a local retail distribution network, the costs of which due to higher labour costs might be marginally higher in Switzerland.

But a difference between 1600 GBP (including 20% VAT) for the UK and 3170 CHF (including 8% VAT) which is 2212 GBP equivalent?

Oh, and these products, an Ironing Board, a Lawn Mower maybe up-market, but are being sold on a /Bargains/ website, and check the qoqa history, are nearly all without exception sold out within the 24 hour timeslot.

So yes, Marcus the non Apple iPhone or iPad user and not the Husqqvarna mower or Laurastar Ironing board owner, feels suitable poor today.

Welcome to Switzerland indeed.

Husqvarna Robotic Lawn Mowers

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bike Days Solothurn 2016

Bike Days: A few jumps

Marcus has cycled all his life, well since the age of a toddler, since we had a large garden and driveway in England, making for private tuition, experimentation, falls and eventual progress.

Agata has now cycled a Road bicycle almost daily for over 15 years.

So, when Agata heard of a local Swiss large bicycle expo in Solothurn, I said YES PLEASE!

Obviously this forms part #3 of Marcus' birthday celebration :-)

The main attraction was the Expo.  So in Pictures and comments, some highlights of what we saw.

Bike Days Expo

A queue

I know, everybody was standing around looking at each other thinking.  In Switzerland, a queue.  How can this be ?


Small Swiss startup with big plans.   Like some others they are exhibiting 1000Wh battery capacity electric bikes with upto 750Watt motors.  Astonishing!

My definition is an immensely impractical and heavy but showy bicycle.  Ideal for making a statement but not very practical.  A plaything really, but hey, it takes all sorts.


Some impressively light, fat tyred bicycles, no electric power and good in the snow

 Started doing motorhome VW rentals.  Impressive

 Marcus found what appears to be a rarity.  A swiss bargain.  A seller at the show of waterproof smartphone cases.  We plan to use this to protect our phones whilst out cycling or whilst swimming.

Light and Motion

 I scrutinised the design of Taz 1500 and 1200 and was very impressed.

Do an interesting mains powered neck and upper body massager.  Apparently can be used on feet too.   Marcus the model shown above, it was a beautifully strong massage as my expression shows.

 Rose are an international bicycle mail order company.  They had complete bicycles on display

They have a bicycle configurator ... wow!

So Many Stands
There was so much to see.  We didn't photoshoot everything.  For example at the Garmin stand we tried the Vivoactive HR, and found as we suspected that it looks great, but might not work on a smaller wrist.


 Really High quality and beautifully Engineered electric bicycles.   But you will pay for it!


At the stand a bike with Sram Red eTap , the world class Swiss Triathlete Daniela Ryf, and a variety of  road and cross bikes.  Very nice.


 Custom fitted cycling shorts.  Now for women too.

The Town
We also took time to stroll around the Solothurn itself.  As it was Sunday, of course all the shops were closed.

Whilst the focus was Mountain/ off-road bicycles or Electric there was still a good showing of Road Bicycles and Accessories.  We had a great time browsing, and testing out the food at the nutrition stands.  Thanks to Agata for finding this event.   Marcus' birthday celebrations continue!

Google Photos Full Album

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gruyere Running 2016

Marcus pre race chat

Agata announced that Marcus' birthday celebration has been extended to cover the weekend.  So as a 'treat' we have just participated in the 20km run around Gruyere Lake

About Gruyere
To Marcus and Agata, Gruyere is famous for it's cheese.  In fact the example cheese factory just below the town is a mandatory tourist attraction for visitors to us.

Marcus is quite partial to the 8month old Gruyere cheese available from Coop Supermarkets, the vintage 12 month variety being very rare. The price of at least 20CHF/ Kg compares unfavorably (for example) with British Mature Cheddar. This makes it an occasional rather than frequent purchase. Welcome to Switzerland.

Marcus Race Report

We started from the back. I mean right at the back, behind the fun runners. A calculated risk. And marcus calculated wrong. After an initial descent there were some ascents up single track paths. Hundreds of people started walking.

In such a circumstance you can't overtake, so Marcus walked too.
Eventually at about Km4 the path widened and it was time to accelerate.

Obviously I overdid it. By Km 14 I was close-ish to the front of the whole race (!) but exhausted. So over the next 6Km I struggled to keep place and on Km 19 I gave up and about a bzillion people rushed past me.

I finished with a respectible sub 2 hour time, but as every runner knows: could have done better, a lot better.

Meanwhile Agata was not far behind and in her category came a brilliant 10th.

I think I was about 27th ... if only I was a little older :-)

Some Photos

Lots of Prizes

I was promised a flat run around the lake.  But the route says it is flippin hilly. And time would prove the map right.

Agata finishes the Marcus pre race standard meal. This is of course: specially mixed Porridge oats, honey, Cinnamon, Lactose free milk. Heated, stirred, served.

Marcus just before race

A lot of 20K entries

Marcus post race exhaustion


The celebrations are not over.  We are in a campsite in Berne waiting for the next part of the vastly expanding Marcus birthday celebration.

Gruyere running website
Gruyere Cheese and Chocolate
La Maison du Gruyere

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Thank You Kindly

John Mayer: Who You Love

A sincere thanks for the many wonderful Birthday wishes I have received this Friday.  In fact today's post (Saturday) is on hold until some time to think and write presents myself.

Until then you will have to make do with these sentimental videos.

The Cure: Friday I'm in Love

Black Eyes Peas: Where is the Love

Kygo: Stay

Zara Larsson:Lush Life

To be continued

Friday, May 20, 2016

Another Day Week Month and Year

Rolling Stones: Waiting On A Friend

It's Marcus' Birthday .. wahoo

Indeed, as planned, still alive for another year.  Another very wonderful year.  Wonderful through I would suggest via our own Marcus and Agata efforts, of respectful living, of positive living, here in Lausanne Switzerland.

Time Off for Good Behaviour
As a youngster I had my Birthdays organised for me

As a teenager: The next step was to hold my own Party

Then at an early career stage it was a drink after work

Later in work, a Drink over Lunch

Later at work, a Lunch with Friends at Work

Later at work: Bringing in home cooking and chocolate to Work

Getting Older:   A day off work

Older Still: 2 days off work and a weekend, for a long weekend break

And finally: Always take off from work, the year in which your Birthday falls.  Well, only if you have earned it of course.

Because It is So Easy
The current Digital world sets the bar very low.   Social networks to which I belong know my Birthday.  So friends, family,  ex coworkers, subscribers to Enthusiast forums, they are all told it is my Birthday.  So in today's world if you do not receive a barrage of Wishes, then your 'friends' could not even be bothered to press a button, or let us say take 10 seconds from their /busy/ schedule

Birthday Cards
By the same token, though physical Birthday cards are somewhat unusual today, some of the /older generation/  still value them and so I hope for some paper correspondence to Switzerland.  This is a bitter sweet hope though, because I am quite confident at least 1 card from a special friend will not arrive. They are /too busy/ I understand.

(NB: If I am wrong, this post will be edited and apologies forthcoming)

Doing what I love

I expect Marcus' birthday in 2016 to be almost ideal.

Time spent with my best and special friend, my partner Agata.

Full of  calorie-burning exercise, smiles, and mindful (not meaningless) conversation

Perhaps the odd party like gathering

Staying well within the law, and not annoying the neighbours

Some Pictures Then

A fantastic present from Agata

Bicycle Ride.  
Meticulously planned by Agata of course.  She found those small and deserted roads, and a few mountain Colls to cycle up and down.    We were positively exhausted to return home, get a 30 minute nap, then our for a party ...

</bicycle ride>

Some socialising

Back just before midnight, after a full day of celebrations.  My sincere thanks to everybody for their good wishes.

Roger Daltrey: I'm Free