A list of things that bother me

I was going to write something friendly and innocuous this week. But I’m in a black mood, so the musings ain’t so friendly. With that warning, I wonder why upgrading desktop software, instead of buying the whole damned thing new again, is such a pain.

I have a friend who wasted 10 precious hours, and those hours are precious when they could be spend with your kids, or doing billable work, trying to upgrade a certain piece of antivirus software via a download from the Web. I won’t say which company’s software gave her all the grief — let’s just say it starts with N. And my friend? We’re not talking about a technical lightweight here, either — she’s in our business, and knows her way around the Web and the desktop.

So she bought the initial N software a year ago (full price), which came with one year of antivirus updates. So far so good. And after a year, the vendor informed her, online of course, that her antivirus updating agreement was expiring, and that she would need to pay a small fee (less than $50) to ensure that she received updates for the next year. Also, so far so good. It’s when she tried to enable the new agreement that all hell broke loose. She paid with a credit card, tried the download multiple times (starting over from the beginning of the arduous process at least three times), and even waited on the phone, on her own nickel, of course, for an interminable time for technical support, which she never did receive.

Giving up in disgust, she eventually got (most) of her money back, but she won’t recover the 10 wasted hours. And since she still needs virus protection, she’ll probably have to buy a whole new package again from scratch.

You’d almost wonder if some vendors make the upgrade process so difficult that people like my friend simply give up and buy the whole damned thing new again just to avoid wasting the 10 hours.

Next, I wonder why Microsoft is still called Microsoft — yeah, yeah, I know it’s one of the most recognized brands on the planet, but with the leaks in its security and the bad taste lingering after antitrust investigations in the U.S. and Europe, the brand name doesn’t seem to have the cachet that it once had. Wouldn’t you want to change that name?

Also, I wonder why we make computer hardware so bloody ugly. Have you looked in your local neighbourhood computer room lately? There they sit, stack after stack of black boxes with flashing lights. Black. In rooms where heat is a concern. The whole concept of elegance in hardware design seems to be missing from our business (with the notable exception of Apple). Is it that every hardware designer grew up on Star Wars and really thinks that black, shiny and flashing is cool?

To differentiate their commodity product, one notable PC manufacturer last time I looked shipped their computers in boxes with distinct black spots on them — black spots like those on cows, get it? ’Cause the manufacturer comes from a state that has cows, get it? I wouldn’t buy one of the things for that reason alone…if that’s our idea of aesthetic improvement, we’re bigger geeks than I thought.

One more thing: when was the last time you ever referred to that thing on your desktop as a “microcomputer”? And last but not least, I really wonder what part of being in our business sets you off? Let me know — you and I will both feel better as a result.

Hanley is an IS professional in Calgary. He can be reached at [email protected].

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