Barney's Blog

Blog archive

Doug's Mailbag: Are We Really the Problem?

Readers chime in on Microsoft's assertion that most computer problems are caused by user error:

You said, 'I've done plenty of dumb things with computers, but looking back, the software always allowed me to carry out the action -- and often poor design led me to my mistakes.'

With technically, this is true. But isn't it also true with cars that won't prevent you from driving too fast or driving off the road? People are required to go to training to learn how to operate that type of machine and the related usage rules. Yet people who have not educated themselves on using a different type of machine (computer running Windows) blame mistakes on Microsoft.

Next week I'm going to tell the judge that I got my speeding ticket because my Ford didn't prevent me from speeding! Clearly a poor design on Ford's part.

I would certainly estimate that 90 percent of helpdesk calls are because the end user is either careless or clueless, but the other 10 percent is because of bad programming. (Still human error -- just not end-user error.)

Frankly, I am surprised that the average end user gets along as well as they do with their computer. Having been in IT for over thirty years, I find it remarkable how well these exceedingly complex general-purpose computing systems really work. Still, every now and again, I get stumped by some subtle error that takes hours to locate and correct. The average user has neither the time, the knowledge, nor the patience to trace these 'bugs' down.

Whether or not the question is worth asking or whether the answer worth knowing is of any value is an entirely different question. The popularity of the iPad (and even the HP Touchpad -- when sold at the latest fire sale price) tells us that end-users want products that are simpler to use (which translates into more complex to design and build).

Apple can sell exceedingly simple-to-use products but it must do so at premium prices. Microsoft can sell an exceedingly flexible, but complex, operating system and offer the end-user more choice but also, more things that can go wrong.

We did not decide to allow everything that come in the communication ports to run on our computers. Microsoft's Outlook and IE does that for us without our consent. It was decided by Microsoft that we should run software from an unknown outside source on our machines to view the Web by means of IE. We do not have the support tools to stop any of this from happening because we don't know what all was opened up to the public domain.

Since when did we decide that an overflow of anything in our computer should be allowed to execute or even accepted into the execution path of a process? We did not decide that if an image file shows up in an e-mail to display the image automatically and then allow some background kiddie script to automatically access and transfer my Excel files to a stranger. We are held hostage to someone's short-sighted vision of the future , forcing us to change the manner in which we have to conduct business. We now bear both the cost of keeping current with all the software changes along with the outrageous upgrade costs.

And you say that WE are the problem...

Share your thoughts with the editors of this newsletter! Write to [email protected]. Letters printed in this newsletter may be edited for length and clarity, and will be credited by first name only (we do NOT print last names or e-mail addresses).

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/29/2011 at 1:18 PM


comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe on YouTube