15 April 2007

Product Features

Blogger informs me that I can blog in Hindi.

Alas, I don't have some rather more pedestrian features that I could actually use -- for example, an ability to start using my laptop or desktop computer in less than the two or three minutes it seems to take for it to get warmed up once its been turned on.

Another big annoyance in cyber-land is the requirement so common around the Internet that passwords that must be reset in impossible to remember configurations every two months. This is the single worst Sarbanes-Oxley inspired development in existence, all the more so because it is counterproductive.

I also long for the day when it is possible to buy a computer loaded with everything you need and nothing that you don't. New computers inevitably come larded with all manner in "introductory trial offers" for software or services that are hard to remove from the system if you don't have a degree in computer science. Even necessary programs, like a word processor, tend to come bundled with products you don't need.

And, then there are the programs themselves. Why must I wade through 150 font choices, when I only use two or three? Ditto symbols -- I use a section mark and a paragraph mark and one or two other symbols, but must find them in a hay stack of endless ink splats I can't even name. Some features are so fiendishly annoying and counterproductive, like autoformatting, that you have no choice but to devote an hour or so at a new computer to deactivating them so that you don't throw potted plants at the perfectly innnocent monitor.

It isn't that some of the features aren't nice. But, many of them, like "auto summarize" need to be banished from the ordinary user interface and reserved for niche customers who actually use them, instead of being part of the default, so that less savy people like myself have to pull out manuals (which no longer are included in hard copy) and the obscure guts of the system to remove. Also, even if you do remove them, they aren't actually gone. They are still there taking up memory and boot time. Couldn't they, at least, have a wizard that allows you to prune applications when you first boot them up, a process that could be revisited with a click and an inserted master CD?

Apple has been the genius at recognizing that less is more. They brought the world the one button mouse, the iPod, and other inventions that have been wildly popular as a result of their simplicity. But, why hasn't anyone else come to that realization?

There are limits. I test drove a Toyota RAV 4 the other day. The eager salesman informed me that this four seat vehicle with two jumper seats had 14 cup holders. Clearly, too much. But, one can go the other direction too. The European Smart Car comes with no cup holders, but a huge ashtray, for its two passengers. Europeans and Americans clearly have different vices.

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