Colorado DMV Site: Almost as Annoying as Going in

Registering your vehicle online, or as I explain it to my seven-year, buying a really expensive sticker, is almost as bad as going into the DMV in person.

I lucked out and my emissions were done this year. But then they randomly ask for the last eight digits instead of 6 like normal people. They make you certify everything is right, twice.

Next, you are redirected to another site to pay, always reassuring. This page has a stern warning about how you have only 30 minutes on this other site or it will time out. I should have seen that as a red flag, but I blithely continued on.

First annoyance, this site had all my itemized charges in loving detail, every nickel, every dime, but had nothing about me, not my name, not my address, nothing. So I get to fill that out all over again.

Finally, I reach the screen where I can enter my bank account number. I paste in the routing number, which is allowed and is correctly interpreted as my bank. But then they commit the original usability sin: Not allowing pasting of the account number. Seriously?  Which is more reliable, me typing a 10 digit number or me pasting it?  Oh, it’s for “security”. Right. It’s not like that myth was debunked for passwords 6 years ago.

Then I hit Next, nothing happens, I triple check the number, it is right. I turn off my adblocker and I start over again, of course it has lost my address, more typing. Still nothing.

Then I notice the scroll bar. It has scrolled a section of the page past where I have to enter the name on the bank account. Sure, it is marked in red, but I can’t SEE that as it has helpfully been scrolled out of view. Also, it should really know my name already. Here is that hidden field, after I manually scroll up like some kind of animal and enter my name.

Showing the name field which the page scrolled past

Then and only then can I get to the confirmation screen. I have to accept the terms, again. I click on the checkbox, click Next, notice it is not working. I then see the red text saying (I’m paraphrasing here) “We are pedantic jerks, we are going to make you actually scroll to the bottom of the terms, which no one does, before we will let you check the box to show that you acknowledge them.”

Then of course you get the “don’t you dare hit back or else we will charge you 19 times” popup window. I made my IQ roll on this one and cropped out the last four digits of my bank account. The sharp-eyed among you may be able to read part of those pesky terms.

Please wait popup window screenshot
Please wait, our programmers are t0o dumb to prevent double submissions

Why are government websites so head-desk levels of crap usability?

Zelda: Breath of the Wild: Too stingy to bother with

Spoiler Level — Mild to Medium, only for the first parts of the game.

A few nice comments before I rant

First, the few things I liked about the game in the time I played it

  • Climbing is mostly fun. Sounds odd, but it’s true
  • Gliding is also fun
  • Blowing stuff up with the bomb tool is fun
  • Moving metal stuff with the magnet tool is mostly fun, if a bit temperamental
  • Although not as pretty as a PS4 game, the graphics are mostly pleasing

But the crippling flaw of the game is that, to be different or hard-core or something, the game is stupidly stingy, in a profoundly un-fun, infuriating way. The various bad decisions made around gameplay mechanics all work together to drown out any pleasure in exploring or playing you might have.

I’ll start with the single dumbest decision in the game, the absurdly short weapon durability.

Crumbly Weapons are Crumbly

  • Weapons break after something like 20 hits, even the metal ones, even things like bows that make no sense. A wood pickax in Minecraft banging on stone has like 4 times the durability of a steel sword in Zelda. Yes, the crumbly weapons are going to be a theme. I swear some kid has made a sand castle with higher durability than a Zelda tree branch
  • When a weapon does break, you are not auto-switched to the next one, you have to stop in the middle of a fight and pick one. Or fight with your bare hands, that doesn’t work so well.
  • The inventory system starts you out with a  set number of  sticks,  swords, so when your gear breaks constantly, you will run out of good swords that you had to pass up and end up trying to beat a strong enemies with a stick.  Or you may end up hoarding good weapons and making fights take longer than they should. Or you will have to backtrack to where you thought there was a good weapon you could not pick up and you will get lost. Speaking of getting lost….

Other Game Play Stinginess

  • Exploring does not fill in the map, you have to climb towers, guarded by powerful enemies called guardians. The starting tower is handed to you, but you have to get the others. So you’re lost all the time.
  • The only quick travel is to shrines, villages don’t have quick travel. Sometime the shrines are close to a village sometimes not
  • What you can buy in villages is expensive, and the drops don’t make up for it, I ended up selling food and rare ingredients to have cash to sleep in an inn (which does restore your health)
  • Resting at a fire is free, but resting at a fire does not restore your health. Also fires (campfires) are not that common
  • You might want to rest anyway, because at night random skeletons pop up and make you break your weapons.
  • You have to solve 4 shrines (mini puzzle dungeons that reward an orb or a skill, or both) for one extra heart (health)
  • Speaking of hearts, you start out with a stingy 3
  • The skeletons and other random baddies are super easy, and the guardians nearly one shot you, there are no medium-easy bad guys, at least in the start of the game. If it weren’t for the stupid “tower” to show the map decision, the guardians being so overpowered relative to your tiny 3 or 4 hearts might not be such a problem

Cold is way overpowered! It would kill Bear Grylls!

  • In cold areas, you freeze very quickly, after about 30 seconds (not a typo!) 
  • In the beginning or tutorial area, you must beat 2 shrines in a cold area to leave the tutorial area.
  • You can light torches, but they go out when you do anything, like climb or need to fight. You can only light or re-light at a fire. There aren’t many fires, you will almost certainly freeze to death unless you’re standing directly in front of a fire
  • There’s no flint, don’t be ridiculous. It’s not like there’s wood everywhere, oh wait, yes there is
  • Special food is the only kind of reasonable fix for cold in the tutorial (Plateau) area. Food fixes it, but in a stingy way (see below)

Quest Giver Bait and Switch

  • The glider you need to leave the Plateau is promised to you by a mysterious stranger for 1 orb rewarded from a shrine, you show up with said quest item and he says, nah, I need 4, not 1. Yeah, bait and switch, that’s what I play video games for. 

Stamina Mechanics are Exhausting

  • When swimming, you drown after about 40 or so seconds. If you dare swim quickly, you die even faster. Quicksand and water in cold areas kills you instantly. After only 4-6 hours of playing, I started avoiding swimming altogether if possible. This is due to the stingy amount of stamina you have.
  • Stamina is so not cool. Stamina’s a boring, fiddly mechanic, you end up micro-managing and working around it so much you end up with little time to actually enjoy a game. Zelda has the dubious distinction of most annoying use of stamina in a video game
  • You can climb almost anywhere, trees, straight up a cliff, it manages to be fun at times, but you will die a lot, as it’s unclear if you will have enough stamina to make it to the top before plummeting to your death There is a tower in the beginning area that is exactly 5 feet too high to make it up with your starting stamina. Ask me how I know!

Food is Weaksauce

  • You can only cook at fires with pots, most fires do not have pots. Fires are already not super common. Flint has not been invented yet apparently.
  • Raw food is common, but the game snatches defeat from the jaws of victory by the limited cooking fires
  • The food buffs are ok, but again, stingy, if you dump 5 hot peppers (the max number of ingredients allowed) into a dish, you will get a whopping 12.5 minutes anti-cold duration.
  • Other foods get you 2.5 minutes for their buffs. With the limited quick travel, wandering around lost because you can’t find the tower, or can’t beat the guardians, and the need to forage, these buffs will soon be gone, probably just about the time you really need them. Or you can hoard them and then not remember them when you get attacked

Other Random Stinginess

  • Apparently you can upgrade inventory slots, but this super slow, you have to get lots of seeds and chase some sprite all over the world. Wouldn’t be as big of an issue without the crumbly weapon problem.
  • You cannot save to another save game slot without a barely usable workaround like creating a new account on your Switch and starting over from scratch. You are at the mercy of the auto-saves, always a bad idea
  • Last and certainly not least, even after being out for 3 years, this annoyance fest of a game costs $59.99. The standard Switch package does not include any games

In which I Nope Out on Zelda

It seems that some of these problems may be a bit better later (I saw a screenshot with a whole 7 hearts in it, and stamina also can be raised), but I’m so bored and annoyed at Zelda: Breath of the Wild  so far I won’t be verifying that as I have just plain noped out.

I gave the Kindle Android app 1 star and rage quit

Here’s why:

  • The See in Store buttons has failed for over two weeks as of 08/19/2014 (including the version before full screen was added).  All I get is a blank gray screen.  I call it the Gray Screen of death.
  • The button that appears when you buy a book  (I think it’s “Read Now”) has never worked.  I always have to go the Libary page and Sync to get my book.  I think it’s like those walk buttons in New York that are not connected to anything.
  • About 20% of the time, Syncing to get a book looks like it works, then, when I open the book, Kindle crashes because it wasn’t really done downloading, even though the indicator bar filled all the way up.
  • No wishlist support at all in the app
  • Twice, my app lost all access to its books and had to be re-installed before it could do anything.
  • It took six months for the full screen mode to show up on my Nexus 7. My other book reader had it almost as soon as that feature was available.
  • One click ordering is bad – I prefer the enter password every time approach.  If I didn’t lock my tablet, I’m pretty sure my 2 year old toddler would have bought some books or apps on Kindle.
  • The recommendations keep on getting worse and worse.  I get a bunch of mainstream books recommended when I’ve bought 98% science fiction and fantasy – which Amazon knows. I have to switch to the more specific recommendations tab every time – it doesn’t remember that I never buy anything.  The old layout showed the recommendations immediately, even if they were mediocre.

I’ve decided to try Google Play books for the heck of it.  Here are my initial impressions:

  • The reader is minimalist with a nice page animation
  • Page turning is much faster
  • I have not been able to figure out how to send a sample from the website, only while in the reader
  • I like full screen mode (although Kindle has this now)
  • DRM still stucks

Update the first:  I don’t like the way the Google Play books reader sometimes highlights stuff in books (like Geographical place names). Very distracting.

Update the second (08/29/2014):  You have to “pin” a book for it to stay.  This makes no sense for eBooks, which are usually less than 1 Meg, and not for a tablet with Wifi only.  It make more sense for videos.

Also, I have found some books not on Google play, and bought a Kindle book that was much cheaper (around 50%) and read it without using the Android app; recently, I was willing to pay $0.50 more for The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks to read in Google play.

Netflix: The Download Progress Bar is a Lie

Earlier this evening, I attempted to watch instant Netflix on my PS3. They been having problems lately, and on trying to watch a show, it got stuck in the middle of the download phase, clearly showing a download progress bar. I said, whatever, I’ll try back later when it’s less busy.

So here I am trying again, nearly 10:30PM local time, and it still doesn’t work. I notice that when I log in, I receive an annoying message saying I must go log in somewhere else, but logging in here seems to work. I’ve seen this before but ignored it.

I still can’t watch a show. It still gets stuck show the download progress bar. So finally I go out to the PS3 itself and re-re-login. Upon doing that it then informs me that I have to accept new Terms of Service. This is for the Playstation Network, not for Netflix. I do so, and guess what – it works fine, instantly even.

I don’t know if this is Netflix fault or Sony’s fault, but either way this is horrible usability: making it look like it’s working, showing me a download progress bar, producing a vague error message that sounds like it’s telling me to do what I just did (sign in), and making me accept Terms of Service for the second time in the last month or so.

Yes, that’s right, this happened before, just long enough for me to forget what the actual problem was. Horrible use of system status, unclear error messages, lack of memorability, they are really pulling out all the stops to violate as many usability heuristics as possible.

While I’m ranting, let me just mention that the newish PS3 Netflix client is a major downgrade. There are too many columns jammed in side by side, making it difficult to read the text. It also makes searching for a title very difficult: not all of the alphabet entry area is visible. If I had to hazard a guess as to why it’s built like that, I think they are assuming you’re on an HDTV. I’d like a downgrade to the old version, please.

Update: With the downing of the Playstation Network, I thought I’d completely lost the ability to use instant Netflix on the PS3. However, the same proceedure that failed before (trying to log in, then hitting the back button, doing this several times) works – for a while. Then you have to do it again.