25 March 2005

Please MS, can we have LESS?

My curious colleagues over in the pro-IT world ask for "less" all the time; less new features in Service Packs, less things left for the "managed" user to play with, and so on. Here's what I'd like less of, and I suspect I'll have supporters in both home and pro camps on these:

Less scrolling!

That means, make every dialog resizable and it would be nice to either start with a sensible size (Win9x era hint: Find often finds more than 5 items) or remember the size the user sets. XP has several badly-sized fixed dialogs, e.g. the one that lists detected hardware driver choices; you can't see whether "Fast-o-matic SVGA FT-5000 Series 1.04.00..." is "...05 Beta Do Not Use", "...04 Win98SE", "...04 XP" or "...04 XP Brazillian Portugese". Join the dots on what happens next.

Less underfootware!

Trust me: Unless your software lays golden eggs every 10 minutes, I do NOT want it running all the time underfoot. In fact, I'd prolly want to set that golden-egg-lating software to lay 100 eggs an hour between 03:00 and 06:00, thanks. And yes, this definitely means no background indexing; we hated it when it was called Find Fast as inflicted by MS Office, and I don't expect we'll like it any more if it's embedded as an OS or post-FATxx file system "feature" either. And if that indexing service autoruns dropped malware via some exploit, we will hate it all the more.

Less wastage of screen space!

A program isn't easier to use just because the dummy buttons are 200 pixels high. Screen area is a performance resource, just like RAM or HD; please don't squander it on rubbish! We don't buy big monitors and run them just to have everything take up as much space as they did a few years ago at 640 x 480; we either want to see more stuff, or we have to run things larger (low res on big glass) because our eyesight is the limiting factor.

Less functionality!

Testing has to start at the projectorware phase of development, like this:

Dev1: "We need to enrich email with bold, italics, colors, funny fonts..."
Dev2: "Hey, HTML does all that! Just pass it over to MSHTML.DLL"
Tester: "Are you mad? HTML also autoruns scripts and active content!"

Guess which team member missed that presentation...

Today's fun link:


Today's fondly-remembered band: Frankie Goes To Hollywood. A biopsy to Google on:

"...put them outside, but remember to tag them first for identification purposes"


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this one. Much of the content, if not all, is very much valid. It's unfortunate that there's probably not going to be too many people that read this who have the power to do anything tbout this. I figured I'd leave a comment so that you'd know that these are being read and so you wouldn't stop writing them.

One more thing to add to this list if I may? How about the chance to uninstall "features" more easily and with fewer problems or actually making more configuration options available?

Galen (I'm anonymous? You mean BLOGSPOT doesn't automatically KNOW who I am??? Are they mad?)

Chris Quirke said...

Thanks! Yes, one does ask oneself "suppose I started a blog, and no-one came?"

I agree completely; there's been a steady erosion of user control over the OS installation process.

You can see this in WinME, where what can be (de-)selected are all the tiny features dating from Win95, while new and larger fluffware such as Move Maker and Media Player are rammed in.

With XP, you have to use a "response file" as command line parameter if you want to force a non-default OS path. I don't mind a streamlined installation process, but that still needs a "Custom" turn-off so that those who choose to reclaim ownership of their PC can do so.