Saturday, October 13, 2007

P180 vs PowerMac G4 MDD

For some reason two people I know recently decided to go out and buy a new PC. They decided to get a desktop PC and to have it custom built for them. When you have a PC custom built you need to specify every part like which CPU, motherboard, Video card etc.. It's a whole lot of fun and one can spend days and weeks mulling over benchmarks and spec sheets to.. well.. just to understand Asus' catalog of motherboards. In any case it's alot of fun and at least one of my favorite bloggers has made the argument that it good for programmers (at least) to build their own PC so that they have a deeper understanding of their tools. This is totally ridiculous of course. If it were true I'd feel some need to make use of my VHDL skill and build up my own CPU or plunge back into the world of assembly of C every 5 years... The reason you want to build your own PC (or have it built for you) is because it's fun dammit!.. A very geeky kind of fun but fun non the less.

(I can't bring up custom computer building without mentioning arstechnica's computer buying guide. Every time I've ever made a custom PC I've done the week of so of research and ended up with exactly what arstechnica recommends. Well, disturbingly close anyway.)

At any rate, the point I was getting to was the question of which case to buy came up in conversation. These days it seems impossible to talk about computer cases without mentioning the mighty P180 case from Antec (or the new, updated P182). The Antec P180/P182 is widely thought of as one of the best if not the best case on the market. One of the most important about this case is the designers made quite allot of effort to make it --QUIET--! I own one. It's quite nice. The doors and sides of the thing are made of some sort of sound dampening material. The drives and fans are mounted on vibration dampening mounts.. It's well thought out.

That said, it doesn't *look* very exceptional. The case comes in black and silver. I bought the silver version and I think it looks like a mini fridge with the front door shut. Needing a name for it on the DNS, I called the it "the fridge". Funny eh? no? well never mind then!

anyways.. So the P180 I have is good and all but I can't help but compare it to the PowerMacs G4 MDD case. I mean they sit side by side on the floor next to me so it's hard to resist the urge.

When I first brought the P180 into the house I was impressed at its height. This is a full tower case. Really it's in a whole different class than the MDD since the MDD (MDD stands for mirror door drive just in case you were wondering) is a half height tower or Mini tower as some people call them. The youngens I think call them that. Damn things keep playing in my yard. Get out of my yard you rascals. Wait, I don't have a yard.. never mind.

The PowerMacs G4 MDD is freaking fantastic. To open it you just use the handle on the side and the whole side door comes open like this:

Notice the lack of cables? The cables are all built into the case. They took the time of threading all the big fat IDE cables through the case. I love it. The case has space for 4 hard disks and two optical drives. Putting in new HDs is incredibly easy and you don't have to worry about the big phat IDE cables getting in the way.. did I mention that?

Upgrading the RAM is easy, you just open the door and the slots are laying there in plain view uncluttered by cabling on the open door. Just plunk in RAM and your good to go.

The computer even runs with the door open. It doesn't like it but it runs.

The experience with the P180 much like any other case in this respect. First there's the screws:

Yep, I took a picture of the screws. They can be undone without a screwdriver but, meh, I didn't need to unscrew anything with the mac. It has a handle with a metal latch.

Then you have to slip the big door off like this:

.. just like every other PC case.. booo.

oh and be very, very careful when you do this. The first time I did this I was having trouble getting the door off because the monkey that made my machine put the side panel on such that some of the panel's slotting hook thingies (technical term) were on properly and some of them weren't. The panel was really on there tight.

So what I do is I grabs the front of the case and pulls the side panel with all my might... you know.. the way you do when the door is stuck. BAM! The damn thing exploded in my hand.. bits of the door hinge when flying all over the room. "%^*&(^!" I yells.

(The picture it a view of the front of the case from the top. You can see the optical drive in the right of the image.)

The P180 has a big front door on it. The idea is the big front door covers up the drives and air intakes and such so the sound is muffled. This door is on a double hinge that lets you fold the door out of the way.. The first picture on the blog shows you what the computer looks like with the door folded to its side. Unfortunately the double hinge is a bit weak. If you put pressure on it it breaks into many pieces. (5 actually).

So.. I super glued all the pieces back together.. That didn't work very well.

and sent an email to antec that basically said

"Um.. I broke the door, can you send me a new one of those plastic door hinge bits."

They sent a new door so I'm happy again but I leave you with the warning: "The door hinge on the P180/P182 is weak. Don't apply any pressure on it or you'll break the hinge into 5 pieces!".. That said it looks like Antec will email you a new one free of charge if you or a former friend breaks the door .. presumably within some sort of warranty period that I should now about but haven't bothered to read. :-)

Anyways.. inside the case looks like this:

.. well... it looks like that if you happen to have a computer inside it.

The P180 puts the hard drives in the little removable compartments so mounting them is easier. It's no MDD but it will do..

See the circle thing that looks like a keychain ring? If you undo the screw underneath and if you unhook it and pull the whole thing comes out. Very nice.

Dear Antec,

Please get an old PowerMac G4 MDD and make a case that has the sound dampening of the P180 but the convenient access of the MDD and I will declare it to be the ultimate case.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Yeah yeah we know.

If you have an opportunity to get feedback never dismiss it.

Getting feedback from customers is never straight forward. The most important thing, I believe, is that you only get a fraction of the feedback you think you're getting.

When it comes to quantity of user feedback I generally operate on a rule which I discovered while writing Myster. The rule is, you won't get feedback unless your app doesn't run.

This is an exaggeration and simplifications, but it's there to underline a point. Customers don't exist to provide you with feedback so when they feel compelled to give you feedback it usually because they've found something that makes them yell. It can be because you app doesn't work at all, it could be that you've taken away something someone had based their work flow on, and it could be because your app is missing some capability that's vital for its continued existence in that firm.

Now, just because someone isn't yelling at you, doesn't mean that you're product isn't bad. Clients/users don't give feedback if the problem is not large enough to trigger a strong enough emotional reaction to bother complaining about. If your customers are used to dancing bearware then they aren't going to report things that aren't really, really broken. If you're customers are used to something really refined and you suddenly make a big mistake and disable or remove something they really liked then you'll get feedback. In one case your program really sucks so you'd expect to get lots of feedback on where it's broken.. In the other case your program fulfills their needs even with the change and you're still getting angry feedback. This happens because feedback is triggered based on the emotional reaction of events.

There exist some companies that use only customer feedback to guide their development efforts. These companies are usually fairly successful with this strategy however this represents a minimum level of competence. As someone who wants to present the best possible piece of software you need to be more proactive. Solicit feedback wherever possible. Find time to just sit and watch your client working on your software. There are really big gains possible for software that really fits the client needs. If you're software doesn't convert your user base into a heard of zealots there's still room for improvements. :-)

Before I leave this topic i want to point out something. The more "advanced" your users the more likely they are to feel confident to give you feedback. For example, if you're product is aimed at the technical community you can expect to get alot more feedback per user than if you're aiming at the consumer space. Also, users that try out your product early tend to be of the more adventurous type and will also tend to give you lots of feedback as well. Be aware that as your product matures your user base will naturally tend to shift to more casual users (and the user base will get used to your product's quirks) so feedback starts to dissipate later in that product's cycle.

ok see ya.