Speed and the „more” factor will be the downfall of software products

This time i won’t start from the title, i can tell you only, it isn’t what you think, you’ll realize that by the end of the post.

Unfortunately, lately (about one year ago, maybe more) i’ve noticed some bad tendencies in the software market.

Nero Burning Rom Version 6We’ll start our discussion with a well-known and widely used application: Nero Burning Rom. Many of the people i know still believe 6 to be the best version. But what’s the problem with it as of late? Well it has become bloated and by bloated what i mean is that instead of having just plain good old Nero Burning Rom they added tons of extra software like Showtime, Nero Scout (a sort of google desktop) and maaaany others. This one (Nero Scout) adds services and eats up resources and you have to remove most of it manually you can’t do it from the setup of the program or even fully disable it from the program interface. I don’t need all that crap.

Now i don’t say that all together the price of the whole package isn’t wort it, i just say i don’t want all that extra stuff. Instead of concentrating on making the burning process more efficient they try to eat up markets which already have their leaders, why are you trying to force me to use your software?

But you’ll say there is Nero Express! Well i’ll say for me it doesn’t exist. I like a rich interface and being given a choice of all those settings. For myself it takes longer (as clicks and operations needed done) to prepare to burn a DVD with Express then with the plain old, so-called „complicated” version. What i like is that the „underground market” has started to distribute a so-called Nero Micro version, which is exactly what i’m looking for.

Oh and one last thing! Why does it take more resources now to burn a DVD / CD? It’s the same old process and thing!

Now also about Nero but about other software as well. Why do they have to ship them with all sorts of toolbars like Google Toolbar or Ask.com toolbar? Am i not paying for your software? Isn’t there enough ad ware (and i don’t necessarily mean the bad kind) on the market?

ACDSee latest versionsThe „Nero”-case is somewhat similar to another software i liked and used a lot: ACDSee. For those of you who don’t know it’s a pretty professional picture viewer which offers basic photo editing and enhancement (it’s true power lies here as you can make batches of resize, auto-levels/contrast and more).

In some situations it outputted smaller files then Photoshop at great quality, resize filters are more variate and seem better. Well they’ve „enhanced” this one too, with a database for pictures (tags, picture descriptions, …), a kinda useless device detector (which is actually kinda old) for cameras you plug in, etc. I don’t mind these new features but why the F$&# can’t you turn them off. And why do there have to be links to payed services in ACDSee? And another stupid thing in full screen view/windowed view of a picture to get access to all the editing features, event to print you have to click an extra button to get the „Full Manager” (or similar). And on resource consumption and bugs (yeah it tends to give errors and hang up sometimes) i won’t even comment.

Now on to my own experience with software development and what i’ve noticed/heard even further. Unfortunately, now, most companies want everything done as fast as impossible, having some stupid sales/marketing people dictating release dates. Even if they’re not dictated by them, everybody seems to somehow force the programmers to work fast with less emphasis on quality.

Recently we’ve become lab rats for them. In their hurry and competition to release motherboards or many other PC components they release them with beta drivers! Come on, it’s like saying: „We didn’t have time to test it! Why don’t you test it out for us since you’re interested in it!”. In case you didn’t know more then 70% of the crashes and errors of our everyday operating system, Windows, is because of faulty drivers and buggy software.

I’ll take a wide-known example with windows: why can’t it work ok from the first release, only after the first service pack? Similar situations are on the gaming market! See the acclaimed game Crysis (try and open the console while you’re playing by pressing ~ and see how many errors it has behind, even with the 1.2 Update). Why does everything have to be done fast (and bad might i add)? Why can’t everybody be like Blizzard? They release a game every a couple of years, but when they release it, it breaks the market and their product is an example to follow for everybody.

Norton & SymantecAnother tendency i noticed is that of globalization, and somewhat unfair strategy: „Can’t beat ‘em? The let’s buy ‘em!” Not to serve as an example, but it’s a situation i disliked with Power Quest and their great software Partition Magic! Since Symantec bought it (another company which in my eyes is falling rapidly down) they released a 8.04 or 8.06 version and the only difference is that it has the Symantec logo and name! But where is the version for Windows Vista? Nowhere to be found, not even after the release of Vista SP1.

Since i brought Symantec up, well a great promising company started by the great Peter Norton (for those of you who don’t know he’s the first to give multitasking to DOS, and much more). Do i have to mention other great software which were a reference in the field such as Norton Disk Doctor, Unerase, Ghost, etc? Even their Anti-Virus software was good, … , long ago. Well they screwed them all up. For example, in current versions of Disk Doctor i can’t see a nice schematic of my HDD while performing a scan and I can’t do surface tests on the whole drive (only on free space). By the way, if you know any such kind of software which does it’s job properly please tell me. Or Ghost, it just lost it’s ability to clone drives/partitions which was actually it’s main purpose (some might contradict, but try doing that for the windows partition and restoring it – but backup first). They turned it a System Restore / Apple Time Machine like software. Aren’t there enough on the market?

Now heading back to the idea of making software fast as required by boss (is it only me but do they tend to get dumber and dumber?) or by the company. I’m a little scared of what Microsoft wants to transform this market into. They say because a software developer / programmer is expensive, they want to make programming as easy as possible and create so called „Software Factories”. And this is old news. Where do you think they aim at with their .NET Framework and Visual Studio? More clicks, less work and coding. Soon there won’t be funny T-shirts with „I Code for Food”, it’ll be „I Click for Food”, This, in my humble opinion will only flood the market with lots of low-quality software. I would say more but then i’ll never end this post.

But unfortunately: Do we have a choice in this? Can we change anything? Even as programmers i fear we have little, even no power to change things. Please, correct me if i’m wrong and tell me how we can set things straight, just like old times when software had to be resource efficient and the necessary resources (people, time, specialised testing and benchmarking software) were allocated to this task, as the resources available on a computer were limited. Now that we have a lot of computing power does it mean we have to waste it (see Vista) ?

And talking of slowing down and quality of work. How do you think they managed to build the pyramids? I would love to have a deadline like theirs: „Just finish it until i’m dead 😛 !”. How do you think Leonardo Da Vinci figured all those things out? How did the ancients know so much about the stars? I’ll tell you, they had time and less worries. All they had to do is think about all these things. With so much time at hand it’s no wonder they succeeded in making such wonders (excuse my repetition by i really want to emphasise this).

And as i side note, more time to do something results in less worries, less stress and stuff done properly as you have the time to think of all the possible situations. As a side bonus you really get to really enjoy what you do and have more satisfaction from your work.

To end all this, i ask you all, to get in touch with your „inner tortoise” 😉
(watch this video for more details: Ted Talks – Carl Honore Praises Slowness, sorry wouldn’t want to be embedded in the page)

Signing off…


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