Q&A

Why does anything to do with computer products have to be masterminded by morons? (Because the concept of a community specialist translating Engineerese into sensible patch notes hasn’t reached the hardware industry, and the text is usually written by someone with no more understanding of their subject than… your average English major.)

Why is buying and setting up a computer such a pain in the ass? (Because easy = foolproof = idiotproof, and therefore the customizers who drop the real cash can’t get into the guts and minmax. Also, I have a hunch that none of the parts are made in one place by one company with one vision, and therefore nothing was really designed from the ground up to work together.)

Why are all the options coded with numerical strings instead of descriptive words? When there are descriptive words, why are they aimed at twelve year old children? I just dropped two grand on a machine. For two fucking thousand dollars, the marketing and product description should be aimed at me, cater to my needs, and answer my reasonable questions. (According to a friend who had to interpret the menus for me during purchase, the guy writing the copy isn’t an engineer, doesn’t understand engineering, doesn’t understand what he’s writing about, and doesn’t care about me, he cares about some nerd who will gush during a review.)

Why did I pay a premium for someone else to build the machine for my lazy ass, and yet when I got it, I had to install four drivers and run a setup process written in Sanskrit? (Because apparently while you can’t actually BUY a CRT monitor any more, the default CPU configuration assumes CRT, not LCD. And no one writing the process manuals has had to provide technical support to my mother. Over the phone. At 7 AM.)

Why is not one single element on my “plug and play” machine capable of being plugged in and play properly on the spot? (Fuck if I know.)

Why can I not buy certain types of software as a digital download? (Because if I’m dumb enough to want to pay for what I consume, I must be too stupid to use GOOGLE and turn up three hundred pirate sites where I can just take it.)

Why is that that every engineer I know has heard the good/fast/cheap maxim (pick any two), but I have rarely come across a corporation that has?

Please tell me where my thinking is off track.

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16 Comments

  1. Soulflame said,

    August 9, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    You bought it. The corporation got it’s money. Mission Accomplished.

    Doing more costs more, won’t have any noticeable impact on the number of sales, but it will drag down the bottom line.

  2. Cyndre said,

    August 9, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    People will scoff at me, but I buy a refurbished DELL every year or every other year, drop $500 buck on it with top of the line specs, and I open the box, plug in my old monitor, install my current MMO and start playing once the patching is done.

    Is there better hardware than DELL? yup. Is there better CS than DELL? yup. Is there more customizable sysems, with better upgradability with more longevity than DELL? yup…

    But fuck if I can find anywhere else that gives me the ease of use, overall synergy of system compatability and grants me the cost effectiveness to always run a top of the line machine.

    Oh, and if something breaks, they send a guy to your house for free.

  3. zcline said,

    August 9, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    Um. Buy a mac. Really. If you get it with wireless internet and the wireless keyboard, the iMac will have exactly one cable hooked to it. And I’m sure Steve Jobs is working on that as we speak.

  4. Miraj said,

    August 9, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    Q: Why doesn’t my RSS feed work for your blog? =/

  5. Matt said,

    August 9, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    How come the Windows system tray bug STILL hasn’t been fixed?

    How come it takes 3 seconds for my one trillion terahertz computer to bring up a simple context menu?

    How come it takes 10 seconds to get a network share file list over a gigabit ethernet connection?

    I may spend 10+ hours a day in front of computers, but boy do I hate the little fuckers.

  6. Don said,

    August 9, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Really, buy a mac. I hate my PCs, every single one of them (I have 5 in my office and 4 at home). My macbook pro is like crack to me.

  7. TickledBlue said,

    August 9, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    Its also a jargon thing… jargon is a language of exclusion and the users of it feel better than those who can’t use/understand it. Its a petty form of elitism.

    I remember back in my early days of MMOing asking what things like LOL or DPS meant, each time I held my breath and waited for an answer hoping I’d get a reasonable response as opposed to the dreaded ‘n00b!’. As time wore on I found myself using these terms more and more in casual conversation. I’d become part of the group.

    The whole IT industry is rife with jargon… it helps keep those in the know in paying jobs and those outside thinking its much more complex than it actually is.

    It always reminds of a saying a friend of mine used – he was referring to uni politics but I think it applies in so many places. He used to say: ‘Uni politics is like Doctor Who’s TARDIS… on the inside its big and complex with lots of flashing lights, but on the outside its a scratched up old blue box’. But even that’s an exclusionary anecdote unless your a fan of the Doctor Who TV series 😉

  8. zcline said,

    August 9, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    Buy. A. Mac. You can even play WoW!

  9. Kaa said,

    August 10, 2007 at 10:58 am

    OMG, the Mac fans are out in force.

    But the answer to the most of your questions lies in Sturgeon’s Law 😀

    Kaa

  10. mythago said,

    August 11, 2007 at 1:16 pm

    Um. Buy a mac.

    Just hope nothing goes wrong, because Apple’s customer support will make you beg for the soothing competence of a bargain-basement outsources CS shop in India. (Yes, I own a Mac.)

    Sanya, you probably already know from working around enough of them that an awful lot of engineers ARE engineers because they don’t like people. They aren’t very good at communicating, with, y’know, PEOPLE. They don’t understand why you have to have documentation, why can’t you read their minds and figure out exactly what they mean? or spend hours poring over the guts of the machine and learning it yourself?

  11. Livid said,

    August 12, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    I honestly think the whole story boils down to one extremely descriptive phrase.

    Cry more noob.

    Sorry Sanya someone had to say it. Love the blog. Post more often, work is slow as of late =)

  12. Taemojitsu said,

    August 12, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    ubuntu ftw. linux for noobs! 😀

    can’t say anything about the hardware issues, other than find a different seller.

    when i noticed, two or three years ago, that i could lag my computer to 100% processor utilization just by right-clicking on the Windows XP desktop as fast as I could, i knew that I had to find a different OS…

  13. pharniel said,

    August 13, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Jargon is a legitimate linguisit tool. It’s used to fill in linguistical gaps in a language.
    The problem comes when it is taken to an extreme and used to discriminate against those ‘in the know’ and those not. Mythago nailed it upthread, you’re dealing with people with notoriously poor communicatiions skills and usually accompnied with one hell of a napoleon complex, combining the two kicks out one hell of an elitist bastard culture that then gets foistered onto the consumer.

    as for get a mac, it is human nature to make anything more complex than it needs to be. Conversly it is human impulse to try to simplify whatever one is working on.
    The pc is the example of overcomplex, the mac oversimplified.
    Whoever manages to come out with a middle of the road solution will make a killing.

  14. Taemojitsu said,

    August 13, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    I can’t help wonder if all those who go on about how computer hardware and software specialists try to make things hard to understand have any actual knowledge of the process. Now, this may be a bit hypocritical of me since I myself have never done anything, but this is my understanding of how things are:

    People assume other people think like them.

    People, especially hackers, want to do the minimum amount of work necessary to accomplish a certain task, and that means a tendency towards less documentation and explanation, both of which are unnecessary to varying degrees depending on how knowledgable your users are of how things work. Optimism.

    But smart hackers know that not everyone is as smart as them, which means documentation/explanation is necessary. The question is how much time they’re willing to devote to such a mundane task instead of doing actual coding, especially what philosophies they’ve picked up for how necessary documentation is for writing good, maintainable code, and how much of the work of writing explanations and manuals they can pass off to someone else who is better at that kind of thing.

    So it’s not deliberate obfuscation. It’s the same kind of inefficiencies and shortcuts and quality control issues that plague everything else in life. You just manage to take it out of perspective because of the whole uncertainty issue about whether these elite hackers feel they are better than the rest of mundane, incompetent humanity.

    I still stand by my comment about linux, because open source software lets you explore every portion of the spectrum for simple/documented vs complex/powerful, instead of being stuck at one particular point like you are with most commercial products.

  15. Staryx said,

    August 13, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    “Why can I not buy certain types of software as a digital download?”

    Depends on what type of software it is. If it’s a game, it’s because the big box retailers piss and moan to publishers about taking them out of the equation. If it’s something like, say, Office 2007, it’s probably because the install for that shit is quite a few GB of data, and I know I can’t stand waiting 3 days for my stupid DSL line to download 4GB worth of crap. Someone tell that Swedish dude who hooked up his Gramma with a 40Gb/s line to come hook my ass up.

  16. Kerri Knight said,

    August 21, 2007 at 1:34 am

    I haven’t personally bought a machine from a store in over 10 years. Despite the model number, there’s no assurance components in the machine won’t change from week to week. About the only thing that stays the same is the processor (and often the video card). Even that, though, at the enthusiast level isn’t true enough (cores, and even stepping codes as opposed to just ‘Pentium 4’ or ‘Athlon 64’). Sure it has 2GB of memory in it, probably some awful Samsung chips with high latencies (they’re cheaper this week than the ones they bought last week), and is that on one memory bus or two (and if so, did your hired labor even know which two memory slots to use on this week’s motherboard to enable dual channels?).

    I don’t usually go all-out balls to the wall on my rigs, when I go for a whole new setup (I usually do the incremental upgrade thing, but the processor/mobo/memory usually go as a major overhaul when a new platform comes up) its about 3 months behind the bleeding edge. My philosophy is more on creating a balanced system who’s components are all complementary and designed to mitigate the usual bus bottlenecks as best possible. Store-bought machines are stuffed with whatever looks best on the display tags in as generic a way as possible (Like selling a car based on what the engine redline RPMs are, that doesn’t help you one bit in gauging its 0-60 acceleration). Then they cram half the hard drive full of software you’ll never use, take an egg scrambler to the registry, and of course we all love the fact the whole drive is formatted in some proprietary way so that it can be image restored with the touch of a button (repairing it the RIGHT way isn’t even possible, just wipe and start over, losing everything you had).

    Welcome to marketing-driven engineering, enjoy your stay.

    I started down the path of education to get into a technology field, at some point I decided “I love tinkering with computers way too much to do this as a living” :9. I found myself surrounded by people who were wanting to go into it for the income potential. Simultaneously I was getting told by several long time tech veterans that you endlessly wrestle with management over a decent budget, end up with sub-par performance, and are subsequently held responsible for said performance despite your original predictions of the very issues that came up. They often told me that they’d go home at night and have no drive to tinker and play anymore, it just reminded them of work.

    TL,DR version: As Kaa said: “the answer to the most of your questions lies in Sturgeon’s Law”


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