Why Doesn’t Stuff Just Work As It Should?

Steve Fox of PCWorld raised some timely questions in his March 2010 column Tech Products: Revolting not Not Rebelling :

… our state-of-the-art technology too often fails to work as it should. That’s why I have to reboot my Wi-Fi router at least once a week; why my fingerprint-recognition pad periodically forgets what my thumb looks like; and why my smartphone keeps dropping calls without provocation.

Mostly, I think the answer likes in our neglected software development process. In darker moments, many of us probably suspect that our software vendors hire besotted programmers to code their operating systems and mission-critical software in bars and back alleys. In truth, a coding project like a modern Mac-OS-X or Windows 7 may rival the Manhattan Project in resources and organizational complexity. When things go south, where did we go wrong?
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Windows 7 Impressions

I won’t pretend there was any urgent reason to upgrade from XP to Win 7. My XP installation was getting slower and slower, and that was only just reinstalled in July. My new Mac Pro (64 bit Snow Leopard) greatly increased my dissatisfaction with the PC side: if I’m going to live with Windows, and I am, I needed to do something!

A new motherboard and chip was financially out of the question. I’m running an ASUS M2N-SLI Deluxe with AMD 64 6000+ CPU. It’s not that old. By the time you add all the other stuff you always find you need, a slight upgrade turns into a major investment. I decided to go full bore with 8GB RAM, Windows 7 Pro (64-bit), and a better graphics card that would support “Windows Aero”.
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Acronis True Image Home 2009

PC Backup and Recovery
 (Four Stars)

This is not a full review of the Acronis True Image Home 2009 backup product. Nonetheless, the effort that went into its development is obvious and impressive. The GUI makes no asssumptions about the user’s experience level, but don’t let that fool you into believing the product is watered down or underpowered. Continue reading

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Short and Unhappy Life of RegCure

After removing RegCure and reinstalling the drivers, my system works perfectly. If this doesn’t prove that RegCure was removing needed registry entries, I don’t know what does.

I had some problems on my machine in Phoenix. But I’ve always had them, at least since the XP service packs SP2 or SP3, it seems. Clicking a link in Outlook, or in some of my applications, would cause the link to hang and, ultimately, the app would crash.
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Windows XP Shortcuts Don’t Work

The real title of this post should be “Windows XP Shortcuts Didn’t Work”. After a year of suffering, I think I have fixed the problem:

The problem:

  • Shortcuts in the Windows Start Menu usually didn’t work, especially custom shortcuts and shortcut folders I had added.
  • Example: double-click shortcut for an Excel spreadsheet. Hourglass will spin briefly, and nothing will happen. Or, hourglass will “hang” or “clock”, nothing will happen, and I would cntl-alt-delete to Task Manager to restart or log off. Yet, using “Find Target” on the shortcut properties, double-clicking the target icon starts Excel and brings up the spreadsheet right away.
  • Certain other applications (like BOINC) have browser shortcut buttons to go to a remote URL. These would display the same symptoms, and I would have to use Task Manager to abort the process or restart.

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Human Interface Guidelines

Back around the dawn of history, when the ghostly flickerings of DOS still cast long dancing shadows upon the primeval forest, early mankind was still searching for a way to get through the forest while bypassing the medicine men and witch doctors.

This was at places like Xerox/PARC and Apple. We fix the year at roughly 1984 AD.

The idea was that a user ought to be able to navigate the depths of the operating system, and its attendant user applications, with a consistent, intuitive, learnable set of conventions. Since the interface was graphic, not text-based, the new GUI dashboard was populated with graphic icons, menus and consistent keyboard shortcuts (copy, paste). No longer did the stop sign get to be red and hexagonal in one county, and yellow/triangular when you crossed the line into the next county. Apple came up with a pioneering set of guidelines, their famous Human Interface Guidelines – surely not the first, but the most comprehensive and consistent.
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Windows CD Software

I had occasion to have to re-burn a family photo CD I had mailed to a nephew a year ago.

I prepared to use Roxio EZ Media Creator 7 to burn a new CD. It already had the serial from whenever I installed it, but now, it wanted to re-register. Roxio reported back to me that the serial had been “disabled”.

I paid good money for this software. Fraud? Dishonesty? An overly manipulative method to coerce me into upgrading?
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Antivirus Juju and Other Scares

Having dumped the intrusive, in-your-face resource hog Norton a year ago, I’ve been using McAfee. Actually, I get it free as a benefit of being on the ComCast broadband network. I’m still very pleased with McAfee overall, but herein lies a cautionary tale with an as-yet unlearned moral to the story.

I actually started this article on 12/29/2007, and found the draft today, 1/12/2008. Nasty computer crashes caused me to forget all about posting this article.
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Windows in Mac “wrong direction”

Parallels Desktop 3.0 for MacIf you’re a Mac owner, there are some pretty cool products for those times when you have to run Windows.

As I understand it, those products include software that comes with the Mac OS itself. Pictured here is a third-party product, Parallels. There is certainly enough top-quality software for most Mac needs, including Office for Mac, but there are additional thousands of good programs that, for better or for worse, are only written for the PC.
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