OK, I get it. Software is hard. I’m a developer, I’ve seen it and lived it.
But my god, something is screwed here.
Case in point. I’m really starting to think that Windows Vista, that poster child for screwups, was more reliable and performant than Windows 10. Really? I used Vista for years, both at home and at work. It had its moments, for sure. Windows 10 should beat the pants off of Vista. Microsoft has money to spare, and something like a dozen years more of experience in OS and software development.
The result? Windows explorer needs to be restarted an average of once per day, because things like the task bar don’t load. Windows can’t remember windows arrangement between the laptop and external monitor. Occasional random freezes that require a restart. Whenever I wake up the laptop, it’s pretty much a game of russian roulette to see which apps are still running, or which have randomly stopped running. This is where we are after three decades of development, with an almost unlimited budget for developers and expertise? This is on a pretty powerful machine, and I’m only complaining about Microsoft software.
And I haven’t even started on Skype. Skype was a mainstay app for me for a long, long time – mainly for it’s chat functionality. This isn’t cutting edge tech – chat! Then Microsoft bought it. Recently I started having bizarre problems with Skype. Sometimes it wouldn’t start up. Sometimes it’d just show a white screen. Sometimes it wouldn’t show what the person had sent (despite a good internet connection). Really? Is this rocket science? Turns out I had to uninstall the version of Skype that apparently came with Windows 10, and install a different version – not what is in the Windows app center (or whatever it’s called). So, apparently there’s two different versions of Skype floating around for Windows 10, and the one on the Windows app center is not the more stable one. Brilliant!
And in case my esteemed reader thinks I’m just beating on Microsoft, I’m not. I’m actually a bit of a (disappointed) fan. WSL is great, and the way forward in my book. Let’s look at another enormous, hugely profitable company – Adobe. They were already in my bad books because new versions of photoshop (the only app I really used of theirs) mysteriously wouldn’t work with older versions of MacOS (yes, Apple is in that book also). But now I’m using Windows and trying to use their Acrobat “software.”
What a shitshow! PDFS have been around for a long, long, long time. Just displaying a PDF should be only slightly more complicated than a text file at this point. Adobe Acrobat is a laggy, bloaty app that takes a marvelously simple basic use-case scenario (view a PDF) and botches it completely. Sadly, I recall using some third-party app for PDFs in the Windows Vista days… and here I am again. How many decades later?
A company the size of Adobe or Microsoft certainly has the resources to fix these problems. In fact it seems almost a given that for every piece of software produced by one of these giant companies there’s a much leaner and meaner competitor written by a very small company or even a single programmer. Of course the trick is finding that software. It doesn’t help that those little companies tend to get bought (and killed) by the big companies…
Why is the software from these big companies so bad, despite all the resources at their disposal? I think there’s several factors at work:
- They just don’t care. Adobe focus is on huge, bloated, expensive enterprise level software. Acrobat may be huge and bloated – but it’s not a profit center for them (I assume).
- Features over fixes/performance. At some level the organization chooses to prioritize adding new features over fixing existing issues or improving performance. This could be because management pushes new features, or because developers would rather write a new feature than fix old code. Or because middle managers never get promotions for fixing bugs, only for adding features. Or maybe we can just blame it on sales. The real issue is one of prioritization.
- Simple incompetence. This is always a possibility! I suspect that there are plenty of talented, professional developers at these companies – but perhaps those are not the ones being put on these projects. Again, an issue of priorities.
I’ve been using computers for nearly 40 years at one level or another. The capabilities of our computers have increased exponentially in this time. Too often the software we use has not kept up to the potential of the hardware. The end result is we must keep buying new hardware, to keep up with the demands of the same mediocre software. I don’t think this is going to change any time soon.