Technology at its Worst

Every once in a while, a completely ridiculous activity is needed on a computer, and it seriously makes me question my entire profession. In the past 16 hours, I’ve had two fully baffling user experience situations that have almost had me ready to toss my computer.

Microsoft’s User Experience

The first involved Windows. I run Windows 7 in a virtual machine (VM) on my MacBook Pro. I do this every day, and usually, I just close the lid at the end of the day to go home, leaving OS X and Windows simply running while the lid is down. Everything suspends, no big deal. OS X rarely needs to be restarted, but I reboot about once a month or so (usually as part of my monthly password reset). Windows on the other hand, needs to be rebooted about once a week, usually once it reaches a point where it’s mostly non-functional. Yesterday I decided I’d actually “shut down” my Windows VM, leaving only OS X running so that today would be a fresh restart. So at 4:30pm, I click Start > Shutdown.

Windows tells me it needs to update my computer (with whatever stuff it downloaded in the background), and it begins immediately applying those updates (without prompting me, I might add), and I can’t shut off or unplug my computer while it’s doing so. Swell. Bad user experience there, Microsoft. If you want to hijack my machine to apply updates, do it at the beginning of my day, not the end. I’m almost never in a rush to start working, but I’m always ready to go home at the end of the day. If I were using a desktop, that might be fine. But on a laptop, you need to flip the process around. I’m shutting down because I’m ready to leave… with my computer.

And so, I sat. For 15 minutes waiting for Windows to do its thing. That 15 minute delay also translated to me being caught by a train on my way home, contributing to an extra 25 minutes on my drive. All in all, a 20-minute drive home at 4:30 that should have had me home by 4:50, resulted in a 75-minute trip, and I got home at 5:45. My kids are visiting my parents, except for the youngest, Noah, who, although exhausted, greeted me with a smile an numerous hugs, just before going to bed. Thanks to Microsoft’s dumb implementation of an update, I lost out on a good hour that I could have spent with that little guy, and instead just kissed him goodnight and watched him go.

Adobe’s User Experience

The second bad experience involves Adobe. In fact, I’m still sitting in the middle of this experience right now. I decided I needed to test Adobe Dreamweaver temporarily to see if some of the problems I’m having with my current code-editing tool could be alleviated for the next few weeks by switching to another platform temporarily. My current development environment is actually causing errors and code problems.

One such crazy feature (that can’t be turned off by the way, due to a bug) is “quote completion.” This means that when you type a quote, like “, the program automatically adds a second quote, but leaves your cursor in the middle, like “|”. So in code, if you want to type: $fred = “sample”; you would start typing the characters: $fred = , but as soon as you type the first quote, the program automatically adds the second, and you see this on the screen: $fred = “|” with your cursor flashing where the vertical line is. You can then proceed to type the word sample, and you’ll see this: $fred = “sample|” with your cursor flashing at the line.

Now the problem is, in code (for this particular language), the semi-colon is necessary at the end of the line. Normally, you would have just typed your ending quote and then a semicolon. But because the quote was inserted, you have to either delete the quote, then type the quote and a semicolon, or use your right arrow to move past the quote and then type a semicolon. In other words: automatically inserting the quote saved me no keystrokes whatsoever, and in fact, made me have to rethink the process of typing that line of text, making it slower and harder to type. Pain in the neck.

Anyway… back to Adobe. I decided to download a trial of Dreamweaver. You’d think it would be a simple process. Go to Adobe’s site, find the trial, click a download button, wait for the download to finish, then install it. At least, that’s how it should be. Here’s how it really went. (Incidentally, I’m going to put “DBC=#” throughout, meaning “Dialog Box Count” every time I’m prompted with a dialog box that I have to answer):

  1. Since I was using Chrome, I just opened a new tab and typed “Dreamweaver trial” in the address bar, and got Google search results. The first result took me straight there.
  2. On the page it talks about downloading the trial, but there’s no download button. It turns out that the download button is a Flash object, and I have a flash blocker installed, so the button doesn’t appear. I have to click a blank space on the page to activate the download button, which I can then click.
  3. I get a notice that there’s an Adobe Flash update. [DBC=1] I do the update, which also requires me to answer Windows’ prompt [DBC=2] that I need to be an administrator to do this. When complete, I have to close the Flash installer [DBC=3]. The Flash update reveals nothing new for me.
  4. I then restart my browser and repeat steps 1 and 2 [DBC=5].
  5. I click the download button, and get a Flash dialog [DBC=6] telling me that I must use the Adobe Download Assistant (I’ll call it “ADA”) to download Dreamweaver, and that the download assistant will launch automatically. This is an Adobe Air application.
  6. The ADA starts to launch, but I get a notice [DBC=7] that there is an update to Adobe Air. I start the update, which prompts the Windows dialog again [DBC=8] asking me to prove I’m an administrator. The update runs, and then tells me (after three dialogs [DBC=11]) that I can now run ADA.
  7. ADA launches. I get a notice [DBC=12] that there’s an ADA update as well, and I can’t download my program until the ADA update is applied.
  8. I download the ADA update, close the updater [DBC=13], which relaunches everything. It’s been about 10 minutes by now.
  9. Once ADA finally launches, it tells me that I need to sign in to my Adobe account [DBC=14] to download my program. I sign in. I forgot the password on my first attempt, but got it on my second.
  10. Once I sign in, I have to accept the new terms and conditions for ADA [DBC=15]. I agree to the terms.
  11. ADA just sits there looking at me, not downloading anything. It’s recommending various applications like Photoshop that I can download. I don’t want that, I want Dreamweaver, but that’s not in the list.
  12. Then a dialog pops up [DBC=16] saying that Adobe Air has now finished updating (I had thought it was done in step 6, but apparently it was still updating in the background). This triggers another Windows dialog [DBC=17] asking for confirmation of the changes because I have to be an administrator. ADA restarts as a result.
  13. ADA then prompts me [DBC=18] to log in to my Adobe account to complete my download. I log in again. Again, ADA just sits there, not giving any indication that it’s downloading Dreamweaver. It’s a good 15 or 16 minutes by now.
  14. I close ADA [DBC=19], and go back to the Adobe web page and repeat step 2 again. This causes step 5 to happen again [DBC=20]. Then ADA launches.
  15. ADA again prompts me [DBC=21] to log in to complete my download. I log in.
  16. Now it sees that I’m trying to download Dreamweaver, and begins downloading the file. It’s going to take about 15 minutes, so I start writing this blog entry while I wait. I’m now basically done, and there’s still about 10% more to download.

All of that–21 dialog boxes confirming my actions–just to download a single EXE file to test an application. And then from there (now that the download has just finished), I have several dialogs to step through including yet another Windows prompt asking me to confirm that I’m an administrator.

And people wonder why I’m trying to eliminate using computers and somehow run my entire life off an iPad which typically has only one prompt when I want to do something.