Sunday, March 16, 2008

Quick thoughts

OK, so I still haven't uploaded the Yahoo pics or anything, so more interesting stuff will be coming later. However, I had some quick comments that I knew I would forget, so I wanted to jot them down somewhere.

I know it's cliche by now to hate on Microsoft, but they really could use some help in the user experience division. Case in point: MS Windows Live OneCare. Now, I use the software, which I guess says some good things about it, although it certainly helped that it was almost free. So when I installed it, let's just say it's a good thing I'm a CS major.

The first problem was that it needed a network connection continuously to install. However, there was no notation, description, or warning. The only message you get is a cryptic "install failed due to failure in network connection" or some similarly worded message. Fortunately, my CS mind said: maybe it needs to be online to activate like some other Microsoft products. It turns out it needed to download a large amount of the program...I think one of Adobe's products, maybe reader, had a similar install a while back, except they actually made it clear what was going on.

Then, once installed, it says I need a subscription. Of course, I close, reopen, and restart trying to figure out why it thinks I need to buy something extra. Finally, my CS mind says to go ahead and click the button to continue and get a subscription, just to see what happens/what it looks like, although I was not very optimistic at this point. I had noted that the package said it included a one-year subscription, so I was a little confused.

Anyway, once you get there, you have to select that you already purchased a subscription-a little confusing because it seems like it's talking about a stand alone subscription, not one included with software. Anyway, I figured I'd give it a shot, and low and behold, that's how you get you included one year subscription activated.

We're not done yet, though: MS had one more bit of confusion to throw at us. After you input your number, it came up with a screen with a PURCHASE button at the bottom!!!!! Purchase order or subscription or something like that! Now, fortunately, I had experience working with the MSDN system, and knew that this was how things could look, even when they're free. So I went ahead and "purchased" my (free, included) license, and it worked. Apparently, purchase a license is MS speak for associate my included license code with this account.

Anyway, I managed to get it all figured out, but I seriously wonder what most people who purchase this, who I expect are not CS majors, especially given the nature of this software, are thinking when they see these screens. I hate bashing on MS because I think they're making some good efforts, but the apparently lack of any UI people having gone over this or even anyone with any common sense having tried to use this software is a bit concerning. MS, you have potential, but every failure like this just makes me and others wonder. I am amazed that any normal consumer can get through this install...and it's specifically consumer oriented software! Note to MS: user experience goes beyond the packaging!

UPDATE: It gets worse.
Backup is one thing I liked about OneCare. If you're going to be doing backup, surely it helps to have the maker of the OS on your side. They know which files need to be backed up, how best to restore, etc. However, here again we run into MS being overbearing and having seemingly no idea how real users would like to use the product.
In the new version of OneCare, the backup program no longer supports backing up the Program Files folder. Period, end of story, that's it. I looked around for quite a bit, because, just like EVERYONE else, I have plenty of valuable files in there. All I managed to find were forum replies from MS reps that, completely fulfilling expectations based on MS's reputation, stated that you could not back up from program files, so you would just have to move the files elsewhere. Has anyone at MS ever even used a PC? You can't easily alias those files, some of them are locked, and many of them are large. The decision not to give us the option to back up these files was ridiculous-the way to do it before was by manually making a backup plan, so it's not as if many consumers had this problem of backing up Program Files when they didn't want to. And the sheer idiocy of suggesting that people could just move the files-it's kind of staggering, really, and if MS ever wants a better reputation, they're going to have to stop this kind of behavior. Again, I hate to jump on the "MS sucks" bandwagon-they have done and will continue to do good things-but stuff like this just frustrates end users and worsens their reputation, rightfully so.

One nice thing (and one of the biggest features) of OneCare is that it's an integrated place to take care of everything. However, I already have spyware and virus software; firewall is included with Windows, and now that I have to install a separate backup solution, all onecare is really good for is reminding me to defrag. At least it was super cheap, but if I were Ballmer, it would be high time for the project manager of OneCare to move on.

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