A couple of IT annoyances.
It seems that whenever I turn my computer on at the moment, about half of the software needs to auto-update. Pidgin (IM client), Firefox (and extensions), Anti-Virus, Adobe Reader and Flash, Windows, iTunes…it’s incessant! And it means that it’s about half an hour from pushing the on button to being able to do anything useful.
Of course, I could disable all the auto-updates. What I’d really like is to be able to click a button that says “update all my software now” and run all the updates at once at a time that is convenient to me.
The auto-update problem is only made worse by my second annoyance.
We did a module in my computer science degree about Human-Computer Interaction. In it we were told that a progress bar should tell you three things:
- How much work has been done.
- How much work is left.
- How quickly the work is progressing.
Some status bars used to achieve this. Actually, the best ones were usually multi-progress bars that showed how far a job involving lots of smaller jobs had got. One bar showed overall progress and the other showed progress of the smaller sub-tasks. Linux installs were always pretty good for this sort of thing.
But I’ve not seen a progress bar that does any of the above three things for years now. I see progress bars that do all of the following:
- start again from zero once they reach 100%
- advance at unsteady rates
- stop for a long time at a certain percentage and then suddenly leap
- advance at a steady rate but then the work is not complete when they reach 100%
And what’s really bad is that we now take this for granted. I mean, what if your car’s petrol gague suddenly dropped from 3/4 full to 1/8 full? Or if your washing machine showed it was on the last rinse when really it was still doing the pre-wash? Would we accept that?
We should be telling our software installer vendors that this is unacceptable. I’ve wasted many hours staring at progress bars that are telling me a job is nearly done when it’s really far from completion. I’ve been late home and I’ve been late to bed because of such things. I bet you could do analysis that shows that businesses are losing millions of man-hours while people wait for things to complete in this way.
We need progress on progress bars! Who will stand and join with me to reclaim our %-complete’s and make them what they once were?