for varying values of hate

3 06 2004

it’s dishonest, or at the very least short-sighted to say “i hate technology.” especially in this forum, of all places, where i’m using somebody’s freeware program to post to a freely hosted highly customizeable blog where all my friends can see me and respond, while i’ve got an aim window open in case any of them happen to be bored and looking for a free chat (or, rarer by far but still possible, in case they have something important to tell me but can’t afford the mid-day phone call). i can read what everybody else said yesterday, or years ago. i can correspond with strangers. i can talk to florida, california, north carolina or england from here without paying a dime. winamp’s also open, merrily playing songs i’d never have found copies of without napster and kazaa, all of which, of course, were ALSO free. so, yeah, i should stfu, right?
but i hate–and i mean this part–the way it makes me feel betrayed. every time a push a button and get an error message instead of the desired (promised?) response. every time i try to do something a program is supposed to do and it crashes, freezes, or just plain doesn’t cooperate. like last night when i did my research, found out that winamp 2 was supposed to play .ogg files, made sure i had winamp 2, and tried to play one. spaz, shiver, freeze, crash. i even tried to download the plugin for 1.9 in case mine was weaker than it was supposed to be, but that didn’t help either. (and yes, i know winamp’s up to 5 now, and i’ll go there if i have to, but that’s not the point right now. the point is i flipped the switch that says it’ll read the file, and i told it to read the file, and it wouldn’t. kind of like i’ve been listening to the two-tone aim-chat ping sounds for days now b/c ty’s told his aim program not to PLAY sounds, and it’s ignoring him.) so no file-playing for me. or like today, when i spent most of the afternoon trying to make a playlist for this cd i wanted to burn, burn the cd, scan pictures, be all artsy-fartsy about the cover… i followed all the directions. i pushed all the buttons in order. i got a cd that spontaneously quit playing in the middle of track 15. nevermind that it was an 80 minute cd, and had 4 tracks left before its 80 minutes was up. nevermind that the player swore those tracks were THERE, but couldn’t find them. or play them. or function after discovering the problem. spaz, shiver, freeze, crash.
back when i didn’t THINK i could do these cool-o things, not being able to do them didn’t make me mad. now that i supposedly CAN, the can’t factor drives me batshit.
so. since that was our last 80 minute cd, and it’s obviously dysfunctional, we’re going to support the commercial evil that is wal-mart by buying more cds. hopefully the program will work next time, instead of persisting at wasting discs.

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12 responses

3 06 2004
burny_md

eh hem…don’t forget Arizona. 😉
And I’m sorry you’re having trouble with your software. As for the ogg thing, I would suggest upgrading…or finding a different program than winamp. 😉 As for the cd burning, some cd burners don’t support the 80 minute cds, so I would suggest checking, or just sticking with the…umm…70 minute cds? Or have you burned past that mark on those cds before? Just some advice from your not-so-local friendly geek. 😉
*hugs* and don’t blame it on “technology”. That’s like saying you hate the world cause one person cut you off while driving. 😉

3 06 2004
ranagar

(Part 1)
Tim’s right on several points.
1) the standard 74 min CD’s are much safer
2) winamp is definitely not the best freeware for much of anything (basically if it has “win” in the name, avoid it if at all possible)
3) it’s not the fault of the technology (more on that in a minute)
There are 3 real issues here.
1) Currently, the law protects the software publishers. Software companies continue to get away with putting it’s warranty inside the box, inside the shrink wrap (or on a screen during the install that no one ever reads – commonly known as “click-wrap”). You are told that by opening the shrinkwrap, or installing the software that you accept the warranty. What very few folks realize is that warranty is actually a disclaimer saying that the software authors take no responsibility for anything – to include the claims made on the box (and for that matter, in the user’s manual!). This is actually blatantly against the U.S. Federal Law of Merchantability – which among other things states something to the effect of “if you sell a product that you KNOW doesn’t do what it claims to, that is fraud and the consumer is not only entitled to a full refund, but also to sue for damages.” Cem Kaner is in the center of a slowly growing movement to get this law applied to all software. The interesting thing is, that this would apply to all freeware that has a license agreement as well (i.e. AIM and WinAmp) For more information than you ever wanted about how to get $ from these lying blood-suckers, see his book “Bad Software”.
2) In general Software Testers suck. The industry is immature, under appreciated, under staffed, under paid and under trained. They fundamentally don’t know what they are doing, and test what they are told to test. They test on “clean machines”. They test “expected user activity”. They test exactly the same thing in exactly the same way with each release/revision ensuring that they never actually find any new bugs. On top of that, they have no authority to keep something from shipping when it is broke. That’s pretty bizarre when you think that every 35 cent/hr migrant worker that “tests” T-shirts and puts that little “inspected by #12” sticker that they can’t even read in the T-shirt has the authority to NOT put the sticker on the shirt and throw it in the discard bin. This sad state is caused by about a god-zillion reasons (one of which is listed below). We (i.e. folks like Cem, James Bach and I) are trying desperately to teach the world that testing is not unskilled labor, it’s challenging work requiring intelligence, know-how and dedication. Unlike most “groups” who are trying to raise the status of a labor category, we also are trying to raise their individual responsibility. Many, many of the testers we are theoretically fighting to raise the status of on one hand, and the exact same testers we would fire, or never hire in the first place. We want them to either become competent in their jobs or find new careers. (continued below…)

3 06 2004
ranagar

(Part 2)
3) The third major problem is that “technology” moves so fast that any company that has competitors, has no choice but to publish first. This means that, even when they want to, they cannot afford to hold the software back to complete their testing. If they do, they miss the mass market, even if their software is by far the best. Why you ask? a) Because software publishers have no legal responsibility to provide working software (see 1. above) and almost worse b) because we consumers have come to expect shitty software that crashes and we, as a whole, don’t DO anything about it. How many of those cars 20 or 30 years ago had to explode because of a flaw in the gas tank before they were recalled and the consumers were compensated? How many people have to get Mad Cow Disease before the meat is recalled and the government steps in to shut down processing plants, farms, stop shipping beef and get it on the news? On the other hand, how many erased hard drives does it take before anyone even bothers reporting the problem – let alone before the public outcry reaches such proportions that the publisher has no choice but to make it right?
These things are both why I love and why I hate my job. I love that I am actually making a difference, world-wide, for real people with real software and real legitimate complaints. I hate that it’s an uphill battle against BOTH capitalism AND federal legal precedent. While I don’t have the power to “stop-ship” (and I don’t want it), I do have the authority to refuse to approve things for release and am supported by all of my bosses. Often, problems that I won’t approve don’t get resolved, but since I started at this company, not a single bug has shipped that wasn’t publicly and plainly documented. I realize that you probably don’t read any of the documentation, let alone all of it, but at least I ensure that if we claim it does something, it does it, else we either remove the claim, or note the exceptions clearly – and not behind shrink-wrap or click-wrap.
The truth of the matter is, the technology is capable. So are the developers. It’s the testers, the law and the added pressure of unrestrained capitalism that causes the problems you are having.
In short, to quote Gerry Weinburg “No matter what they tell you, all problems are people problems.”
Please, continue to bitch, bitch louder, I’ll even address the envelopes and emails of the best people to bitch to (Ralph Nader would be a terrific place to start – he is in support of Cem’s proposals and is a consumer advocate on the right government committees).
HOWEVER
Please, please, please place the blame squarely where it belongs. On the law, the people who don’t demand quality in their products in favor of $, the people who are in charge of software test teams, and all of the people who bitch, get angry, throw things, cry, etc. over these defects, but never raise the flag that we, the public, DO have the power to make this problem disappear. All it takes is one, just one, bill to pass that has been under consideration for over 10 years and is continually shot down because there are too many “Bill Gates supporters” who make substantial contributions to political campaigns.
We as a country have overcome similar problems in the past (remember AT&T?). But it will take significant outcry and unification to make it happen.

4 06 2004
tyra

alright, soapbox boy. i’m glad my little rant gave you an opportunity to get into this big old analytical whatever w/the other nerds on the playground, but like i just finished bitching to tim about, y’all are missing the point.
meg came closer to responding to what i was actually saying than either one of you. the mr. fix-it complex strikes again… 🙂
it’s like this, see. 1) it pisses me off that people say things work when they don’t. if it doesn’t work, don’t say it does, and don’t fucking charge me lots of money for something you know is dysfunctional. 2) it disturbs me to observe in myself that what all of these luxuries really seem to gain me is more frequent chances to be aggravated and/or disappointed than i would have been without them. give me a tape-to-tape player and a few colored markers instead–i’d have had this done days ago!

4 06 2004
ranagar

I love when you rant at me!
You missed the point of MY rant. My point was that you are absolutely correct, and the only way that it’s going to stop is if we either bitch louder and in a more coordinated manner or do exactly what you suggest – go back to tape decks until they fix the crap!
I didn’t miss your point, I simply didn’t respond with the “God, you’re right, that sucks. I hate it too. I have a dual tape deck laying around somewhere if you want to borrow it.” response that would have been more appropriate than my taking advantage of a semi-public forum of new people to display this particular soapbox too. 😛

3 06 2004
walkinthewilds

Sorry to hear that programs are blowing up on you.
A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to get to hear Douglas Adams speak. He defined technology as “the stuff that doesn’t work quite right”. Because when it works all the time, we stop thinking of it as technology. Paper is a great example. It takes some fancy knowledge to make paper, but we’ve worked out most of the bugs and I have to say it it still a superior technology to computer screens in most ways.
Things are pretty atrocious in terms of bugs in the software world. Unfortuantely writing good stable code is hard and verifying that fact is hard as well (hopefully Scott will make it less so).
The other thing is that many of the programs out there (mostly the free ones) are created by programmers out of the desire to make cool things that people will enjoy or find useful. This is done as a gift (although often for the aim of getting credit for it). That means that
they do it as long as it is enjoyable or feels worthwile. That is also why the programs that a lot of geeks use and have the source code to tend to be more stable (Linux, GCC, Apache), when a program they use breaks enough times to really annoy them, they will fix it. If enough programmers get annoyed, most of the bugs eventually go away.
I guess it’s kind of like spelling and grammer mistakes in books. With that many words and paragraphs, it’s highly likely that there will be some mistakes that the authors miss (some better than others, just like in software). If the book is popular enough to continue to be reprinted, readers will find the mistakes and hopefully those corrections will make it into the next revision and the quality of the writting will improve.

3 06 2004
ranagar

Good analogy with the book! I like it a lot! Let’s take it a step further.
When reading a book, if a . is accidentally placed where a , should go, most people won’t even see it, because they either expect the , or assume that the ink didn’t take properly, or just weren’t paying that much attention to the sentence in the first place.
If someone makes that exact same mistake in software, it can still go unnoticed by most users in most circumstances, but then, one day, out of the blue, you do something that makes the computer read that “sentence”. What happens then? More times than not, the computer doesn’t say “oops, that’s not what the programmer really meant” and just keep reading. It doesn’t have that kind of heuristic ability. It tries to “read that sentence” with the . then it gets all kinds of confused and everything crashes.
It would be kinda like if when you noticed the typo, the binding of the book fell off and all the pages got blown all over the room by the fan.

3 06 2004
walkinthewilds

As for commercial software, it is the company’s responsability to put out stable code in the same way that car companies are responsable for making cars that are reliable. However, it usually comes down to economics. Companies in general will build products to the level of quality that the customers will pay for. For good or for bad, people seem to prefer a program with more features and cheaper cost than they do one with fewer bugs. If a program is too unstable, they won’t buy it. So the level of quality seems to reflect what people will put up with, no more, no less. When people take pride in their job, then their products tend to be of higher quality than what the customer demands, but that is driven by pride in their work, not money.

4 06 2004
ranagar

Amen.

4 06 2004
tyra

ok, don’t take this as a personal attack or anything, but that’s a terrible fucking answer. (, i’m talking to you too.) a) if the 80 minute cds don’t work, why do they MAKE 80 minute cds? why do they sell 16 varieties of them at wal-mart? why is the default setting on the software that come w/this burner for an 80 minute cd? why does the burner’s packaging advertise its compatability with 80 minute cds? b) for that matter, why should i have to upgrade to a different version of winamp if the one i have says it performs the function i need it to perform?
i don’t care who the hell you pin the blame on, it’s called bullshit. it’s called a completely lack of integrity on SOMEBODY’S part, and it’s one that costs me money and mental anguish, because i’m being lied to. whether the shit is free or expensive, whether a particular company hires good software testers or none at all, if the software/hardware can’t reliably perform a function, it shouldn’t list among its specifications the ability perform that function.
p.s. also you missed the point. i’m complaining about inconsistency and unreliability as a general function of the technology i have experience working with (about which i have a right to be pissed off!) i wasn’t bemoaning the particulars of any one program, and so CERTAINLY wasn’t hoping for recommendations for MORE programs to get pissed off at instead. grrrrrrrr!
(i’ve now spent 2 days failing to burn 1 cd–on 3 different kinds of disks, from 2 different computers… i’m tired. and cranky. so please, i mean the “it’s not personal” part. i’m just really annoyed!)

4 06 2004
ranagar

Again, I agree 100%. Especially after you added more detail. You have EVERY right to be at least as angry as you are.
No argument, no debate, no soapbox. Intentionally deceptive and dishonest bullshit – agreed.

3 06 2004
bluemeg

it is disappointment… it’s supposed to work but doesn’t. that’s not just technology?

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