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Entries in Plug and Run (2)

Monday
May032010

Plug and Run 2

Why don’t software and services just work?

My friend Matt has decided to use Microsoft SharePoint as a collaborative tool in his business. The companies’ email provider offers SharePoint, but at a price far in excess of a large, well known company (did I say Network Solutions?)

Matt likes working weekends. It is his down time….and a perfect time to implement SharePoint.

Here we are Monday afternoon and it is still not working.

Why?

Matt is a sophisticated user. He can write code (sometimes the bane of my existence), and is very, very patient (a trait I want to learn!)

Matt has been on the phone with Network Solutions through the weekend. Their support clearly has scripts to follow, and sadly doesn’t seem to understand when the request is silly.

For example:

  • “What browser are you using?” IE 8.
  • “Please try a different browser.” Huh? Why? Does this make any sense?

Matt patiently searches the Microsoft site, applying knowledge base patches seeming to match. Network Solutions is on the hook to call back…and hasn’t so far.

Why is this so hard?

Personally, I wouldn’t have the patience…it should just work out of the box. Matt is paying for this service; it is not “free.” Obviously there is some subtle set up issue somewhere…

Is it possible Matt is the first to use SharePoint on Vista or Windows 7? Not likely.

Between Microsoft, who ultimately owns SharePoint, and Network Solutions, who is offering this a service, the code should just work.

Skype works this way… Oh yeah, it’s free. Maybe that’s Matt’s mistake.

Monday
Apr262010

Plug and Run

I want software to plug and run. Plug and play wastes my time. Too many times I find myself having to play to get things to work.

I recently upgraded the Counterpath softphone software on my Windows 7 PC. The old version (2.5) didn’t uninstall, the settings didn’t come over (even though I accepted the option to do so) and the software couldn’t connect to the PBX server. After emailing the vendor for support for this (paid) product, I have time to shoot off a Curriculotta on the topic since I can’t make or receive phone calls.

This is after spending 40 minutes today getting a “Plug and Play” router to work (a Verizon Novatel “MiFi” device.) In the end, the software had to be installed twice, the promised process to set up an account never appeared, and I had to hunt around to get it to work. Once set up it has worked fine. Technical skills needed to get this to work were 1.5 on a 1 to 5 scale. Why didn’t it work immediately?

And how about McAfee with their most recent virus software update prompting infinite reboots?

After all these years of writing software, why can’t we make it work seamlessly?

I contend we can. Those Apple people have it good. Apple understands most humans don’t want to look under the covers at the bits and bytes. Humans want software to install easily, configure instantly, and work. Apple shows we know how to do this.

Companies need to understand most humans don’t want to do configurations. We want the software to work. We want it to install silently. We don’t want to reboot. If a product needs to be brought down, and back up, then just do it. Don’t involve us in your software upgrade process.

Windows 7 took me 7 hours on the phone with Dell support. My HP 8500 multifunction printer works perfectly on XP, and chokes on Windows 7 (even the Mark Hurd executive escalation group failed at getting it to work.)

iTunes updated on my PC today. It politely asked if I wanted to upgrade, then worked quietly in the background. My iPhone upgrades similarly, although I can’t take out of the cradle during an upgrade. (One could argue Apple takes advantage of their generally silent upgrade process by sending a large number of large updates.)

My Verizon FiOS cable box upgrades silently (I’m normally asleep during the upgrade.)

As professionals and consumers, it’s time we raise the bar on what we produce and accept. Shoddy install and upgrade processes need to be escalated as issues…companies do respond to squeaky wheels, and as a community we can be vocal.

That said, it starts with us. When was the last time you wrote software silently installing or upgrading?


Editors note: 24 hours later and the SoftPhone still is not working. An article on vendor support models (including email support) will appear later!