Saturday, November 22, 2008

Can't you just stay put?

Every now and than I'm thinking about how could the software I use become more usable. I'm no expert in this field, but I can tell an unusable interface when I see one.

These days, it is very common for a piece of software to offer an automatic update/upgrade when such is available. If you're using a modern Linux distro (ever since 2002?), you're used to the fact a central tool upgrades all of the packages that requires it, across the entire OS and the applications installed on it. Although there isn't a perfect solution for this on Windows, applications for that OS had come a long way. Most notably, games,, Firefox, Notepad++ and so on, all offer an automatic upgrade. Even software I write and support these days offer the same functionality.

Having said that, there are different ways to offer and install such updates. In this area, MS has something to learn from the other guys, especially their open source counter parts. My workstation at my work place is running XP with automatic updates (cannot afford myself a catastrophe, especially since I'm dealing with malware all day long). This means that about every week some updates are installed. After the update process completes, I get an annoying pop-up asking whether I want to restart now or later. Such pop-ups are the worst thing that could happen, since they grab the input from whatever you were doing. Moreover, choosing the option to restart later, doesn't make the damn thing go away, but only makes it pop-up some time later, asking the same question. Why? Didn't I just say I'll restart later?

Not only I think updates shouldn't require a full system reboot (unless the kernel is upgraded, but this is not the case 99% of the time), I also think a small balloon saying "Updates were installed, click here for info/reboot" would suffice. The user's productivity is far more important than a KillBit update for some ActiveX, especially when in both cases the user is informed of the situation, but in the later, the user isn't annoyed ever hour or so.

EDIT: ironically, this happened even now, while writing this post.

1 comment:

  1. Can't agree with you more. That's the reason I don't have automatic update download enabled at my home PC. Actually instead of installing the updates and rebooting later I just ignore the message that warns me about new updates, I know I don't want to reboot at the moment and the annoying messages will keep on popping. And then, when I finally shut down the computer anyway I say to myself "I'm too tired now to go over the updates, I'll do it next time". So someone is obviously doing a bad job.