Things that should just work – my smart phone

Ok – so I got a new toy this week: a Palm Treo 700wx smart phone. I have never been a really big fan of the whole smart phone/blackberry kind of thing, mostly because I am rarely away from a computer long enough to need another eMail device. But, the company was upgrading our cell phones, and since I do not really use a phone much (I think I get about 4 calls/year), I decided to go for something that could do something other than talk. I also figured it would give me a chance to do some Windows Mobile development experiments. I have had the device for 3 days now, and I really like the form factor/engineering of it. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to do much else with it, other than look at it.

Our provider has not yet figured out how to hook it in to either their voice or data network (even though they supplied the phone).

So, while I was waiting for that to work, I decided to play with it from the local side, by hooking it up to my PC. That is when I hit another problem. The install kit for the phone does not recognize Windows Vista (which I am running). After a bit of digging, I realized that I do not need to install the ActiveSync software, as Vista has the Windows Mobile Device Center. So, I download that, get it installed, and plug my phone into the USB port. Windows recognizes the new device on the port and proceeds to install the drivers. All seems happy. I launch the Mobile Device Center. Unfortunately, my phone does not show up as connected. I spent a significant amount of time playing with it yesterday – working through various troubleshooting guides I have found. Still no luck.

This should not be this hard. To me, this is in the category of “things that should just work” – especially since both devices are running versions of Windows. Maybe I expect too much.

I will repeat myself on this…

This should just work!

PS – anybody who has made this work, please leave me a comment with any suggestions you might have!

 PPS – why are data plans so insanely expensive in Canada, compared to the US? It cannot just be market size – is it just because they can get away with it?

Friday morning rant…

This morning I am going to talk about various things which have been getting on my nerves this week (leaving aside the obvious things that always get on my nerves, like bad government, war, etc.).

  1. Software that constantly interrupts the flow of what I am trying to do by asking me stupid questions. I know many people have talk about this before, but it seems that no one actually writing software ever listens. Software should only ask you questions when it really needs to. It should never ask for confirmation to do things which are (or should be) reversible. I go to uninstall a piece of software (this happens with my Bluetooth mouse driver, Visual J# Redistributable, and almost everything in the Windows ecosystem) , and I am very intelligently informed that “if you uninstall this, you may not be able to use it anymore”. Isn’t that what “uninstall” means? What a completely useless bit of information. And, if I really need to use it again, I can always reinstall it! Many UI developers will argue that they are simply protecting the user from making mistakes. In reality, they are just doing the easiest thing so that the software does not have to take responsibility for keeping things clean. Implementing undo functionality everywhere is messy and time consuming. But, it is the right way to do it for the user. So, my note to developers is, stop wasting my time with stupid questions!
  2. Software that does not uninstall itself properly. I am getting really tired of software that installs a bunch of stuff on my computer (not just spyware, but stuff that is actually necessary to the functioning of the software), but does not clean up after itself when it uninstalls. One of the worst offenders in this category, I think, is Visual Studio. Uninstalling Visual Studio seems to take forever.
  3. Installing Open Source Software. Is it my imagination, or does a lot of open source software go out of its way to make itself hard to install on a Windows platform? To be fair, there are some projects out there which are very good about this (Apache, Tomcat, JBoss all spring to mind), but there are many which seem to be trying to be difficult. Is it a question of trying to make people think it is Windows fault that this stuff is hard to get working, so that people will be encouraged to go elsewhere? Or is it a just a lack of caring? If open source wants to dominate proprietary software, the fact is, it has to be as clean and easy to set up and make work.
    (Then again, I have run a lot of closed-source software with the same problems – not sure what their excuse is either!)
  4. Web sites that override the back button. What is it with these sites? Do they assume that their content is so compelling that there is no way you would ever want to leave? Or are they trying to stop you from leaving (like you are not going to find another way out)? This web site behaviour is just plain rude, and inconsiderate of the user. For the most part, if a site does this, I will never go back.