Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Programmers Need Supervision

I was using Windows on my Mac for the first time in a while. The first frustration is that when you haven't used Windows for a while it wants to download and install massive updates, in my case include Vista Service Pack 1. Not everyone leaves their machine running all the time! And when you start it up to do some actual task, the last thing you want to do is wait for updates to install.

Next I tried to open a PDF help file and Adobe Reader wanted to update itself. Except the update failed saying I didn't haven't sufficient permissions, even though I was logged in as Administrator. That wouldn't have been so bad except the failed install left me without a working Reader, neither old nor new.

So I downloaded the latest Adobe Reader 9 and installed that (after rebooting in hopes of cleaning up whatever mess the last install might have left)

This install succeeded (I guess I did have sufficient permissions after all!) But the process was somewhat amusing. For example one of the stages was "Creating Duplicate Files". That seems like a strange thing to do, let alone advertise. Most of the messages it displayed looked more like debugging than anything else. Do I really need to see every registry key it's creating? Even if I did want to see, it flashes by too fast to read anyway. Write it to a log file if you really feel someone might want to look at it.

Then it sat on 99.90 percent complete for a long time. That's typical, but the funny part is that it wasn't 99% done or even 99.9% done, it was 99.90% done. Even more amusing because that 0.10% took about 10% of the install time. Why even display a number? It's such a rough estimate that the progress bar is more than sufficient.

And this is from Adobe who probably have some huge number of people who architect, design, review, and test this stuff. How come none of them questioned all this debugging output?

Someone really needs to supervise us programmers!

1 comment:

Larry Reid said...

I think it's safe to say that in general, humans perform better if someone else has expectations of them: hence coaches in sports, editors for writers, theatre and moview critics -- or maybe movie directors for actors is a better analogy. The trick with software is that, even when we do have a "coach" or "mentor" or whatever, that person is usually another geek. No one sets expectations from the user's point of view. Andrew is the rare exception to the above rule.