Ah computers, how I loathe thee.
I’ve had a particularly trying day with my computer today, so excuse me while I launch into an extended power-rant about everything that pisses me off about PCs in general.
Electronics, like people, seem to have an uncannily-annoying sixth-sense which enables them to detect when you’re tired and irritable, so that they can direct a vicious stream of trivial, frustrating quirks in your general direction.
It’s all on purpose, I tell you.
Well alright, to be fair it’s generally the developers.
I just love applications that won’t minimise, and when forced to do so (via Show Desktop or the like), will sproing back up to fill your screen upon every subsequent unrelated action you take.
Or trying to drag-select text that extends below the bottom of the currently-on-screen area - that’s always fun, provided you wanted to select the following 20 pages too, at approximately the speed of light. I call it the "yoyo select" (because that’s what you inevitably end up doing - up!/down!/up!/down!/argh-give up!). Perhaps The Flash was it’s beta-tester.
And Windows behaviour. I could dedicate an entire blog to Windows annoyances, heck an entire internet (but I think that’s been covered already). For example, Mr Vista, when I tell you I want the List View "Applied to All Folders", that’s what I mean. Funnily enough, I don’t mean Details View here and Icons View there, however you see fit. See?
Fixing what isn’t broken, there’s another good one. There’s nothing worse than being in a frantic rush to get a few things done on the computer, and finding that simple tasks have suddenly been renamed or moved elsewhere in the latest version to which you recently updated ("where the HELL has Add/Remove Programs gone??!"). And yes, Logitech, I much enjoy the re-arranged edit block on my keyboard, because accidentally selecting and deleting random blocks of text from my documents on a regular basis is a complete barrel o’ laughs. It must be fun to pull off an ongoing prank on thousands of computer users simultaneously.
And how about good old Bloat. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but performing tasks on computers used to be simple and relatively-efficient. DOS, while archaic and limited, put out the impression of being complex and difficult with it’s command-line interface. But strip that away, and things were quite simple, really. WYSWWYG. All options out there in the open, and well-documented for any to find and learn. And they weren’t all so fundamentally twisted-up with one-another that getting something to work was a miracle of prayer and synergy, as it is today. Windows - with it’s pretty GUI and so-called user-friendliness - is just a paper-thin front for something FAR more complex and prone to quirks and failures of all kinds.
My quad-core machine is infinitely more powerful than my computer of 15 years ago. But really, little practical functionality or speed has been gained as a result - once you overlook all the shallow cosmetic crap, and facilities to cater for people who can’t type, spell, read, or think. A word-processor 10 years ago ran just as quickly as a word-processor today (if not quicker). Sure there are additions of various kinds - but enough to justify tying up a computer with 4 CPU’s running at 3.0Ghz, 4GB of RAM, hard drives magnitudes faster than those of old, etc etc?? Not even close.
I’m so sick of closing unwanted toolbars, information screens (complete with checkboxes - "don’t show this again" - how about "don’t show it in the first place unless I ask for it", douches?), sidebars, balloon prompts, reminders, update dialogs, splash screens, watching unskippable introductions, closing firewall prompts, filling in registration screens (thanks for the spam), spending half an hour trawling through labyrinthine Options dialogs replete with 30 tabs to disable nagging bullshit "features" which detract from the user experience far more than they ever helped, and so on and so forth.
Sick of installation processes that take 10 minutes to perform (what should be) a 30-second file-copying process and a few seconds to throw in some reg keys (let’s not even get started on the whole Registry system!).
And "freeware" - is anything really free? Not a lot it seems these days. Have some spyware free with your download! Install this toolbar! Give us your details! Sign up to the download site to be able to even download our file! Then click "Download" on 3 subsequent pages, until you (if you’re lucky) eventually reach the actual download link! View these ads! Get nagged to buy the commercial version!
Google itself is becoming less and less effective over the years. Search for information on something that can potentially be purchased, and you’d better be wanting to purchase it, because all of your search results will handily lead you to commercial sales sites. Hope you didn’t actually want to find any useful information about it! Far handier than Google’s "SafeSearch" feature, would be a "NonMoney-GrabbingSearch" feature. "Don’t be evil", indeed.
The gist of my disorganised ranting is that I like to be able to quickly and simply achieve the tasks that I wish to perform on my computer, with a couple of minimal and intuitive (to humans!) clicks - no extra bullshit please! - and it’s getting harder and harder to do that. Where a quick Google and/or a few well-placed clicks used to suffice, it’s now more often than not a frustrating epic journey of crap, bloat, errors, unwanted extras and obfuscation at every turn.
Of course these annoyances always seem to peak when you’re in a hurry. A recent hurried attempt to scan my Vista64 system for virii was a comedy of errors. Java wouldn’t install, the Java site was full of "help" pertaining to XP folder names, temp files that didn’t exist, and blissful ignorance of half the errors I faced. So, no TrendMicro Housecall for me. When I did finally get it going (thanks Windows Search! you’re almost exactly as quick and effective as the search would have been in XP! but with added system bloat!), Housecall appeared to work - and if it wasn’t for the "Failed to install" dialogue box that determinedly popped up at the last minute before Housecall started scanning, I might have had some modicum of faith in it’s results. So, off to try Avast!. First Google result, is it the official Avast site itself, as one would expect? No, it’s some bloody download.com link which requires a 3-step registration. Great. Fuck that off. So let’s find the official site - there it is - oh great, a fill-in-your-personal-details screen to access the download, and another one for the post-installation registration process. Log into Gmail to get the registration email, copy and paste the code, and oh yay, a ‘quick-start’ splash screen (there’s an oxymoron!). If software requires me to read a manual to perform (what should be) simple intuitive tasks like selecting what I’d like to scan, then it’s shit, frankly. So, close that, and after the obligatory "tick the box to not show this annoying screen again", lo-and-behold, the program’s interface looks like the panel of a futuristic spacecraft, forcing me to puzzle out how to perform tasks that should be immediately and unmistakably obvious. God forbid there should be a button with "Scan" written on it, which spawns a dialog box where you choose what you’d like to scan. That’d be far too obvious!
Time is precious, developers. We don’t want to fritter away our lives dealing with all of this crap.
It’s funny how computers and operating systems are supposedly becoming geared more towards the Average PC-Illiterate Home User, yet something which 15 years ago would have required the simple copying of a few files (that you perhaps paid $10 for) from floppy to hard disk, and the typing of "Scan C:" is now a time-consuming 50-step nightmare of a process involving various errors and run-arounds and compulsory giving-out of personal details and confusing GUIs with 5000 options and click-throughs.
Vista is all about patching the fuck-ups that the Win9x/NT paradigm spawned. Note that I say "patching", not "fixing". Fixing involves taking away the problem. Patching involves the problem still very much existing, but having had a big ol’ cover (labelled "Hope This Works!") riveted over it. A few things might leak around the edges every now and again, but at least it’s something that marketing can spin with, in order to pretend that the half-assed covering-up of their own company’s past shortcomings is somehow a kind of bonus deserving of double the money you paid them for previous version.
Meanwhile the Bloat Epidemic rolls on, bringing us new, pretty, and exciting ways to fuck things up and have our time wasted, and stretch our fancy new computer’s resources to achieve things that could ostensibly have been performed just as easily - sans bloat and bullshit - by one clever programmer on the hardware of yesteryear. Yester-decade.
Maybe I should buy a Mac. As a long-time PC user (enthusiast, even), that’s not easy to say.
See here for a somewhat-tangential yet equally-cynical (and better-written!) rant about gadgetry - and it’s mindless followers - in general.