Welcome to my blog for all things related to business quality (processes, systems and ways of working), products and product quality, manufacturing and operations management.

This blog is a mixture of real-world experience, ideas, comments and observations that I hope you'll find interesting.



Technological progress in reverse

I guess we are all familiar with the demise of Concorde and the apparent reversal of the normal forward progress of technology – we used to be able to fly to New York supersonically, but no longer. Air travel has become slower, albeit a lot cheaper.

But less esoteric technologies also exhibit the same frustrating reversals, and for the life of me I don’t know why.

I’ve just upgraded from Windows XP to Vista 64-bit. I did so with a heavy heart as several of my clients had been to IT Hell and back when they introduced Vista; however, it actually went quite well and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the experience. But why has its USB interface gone backwards?

With XP you could hot plug and unplug USB devices, especially memory sticks and PDAs, with impunity but with Vista you are supposed to use the ‘Safely Remove Hardware’ facility; if you don’t then you can get anything from normal operation to warnings of data corruption or insistence that you re-install the device.

That means I have to use 6 extra mouse clicks every time I remove a device, which is not a show-stopper but it’s an absolute pain if I want to suddenly nip out of the office and take my PDA with me, or if I’m doing a lot of moving data with memory sticks. Silly as it may seem, I have found that I use my PDA a lot less than I used to as it’s often out of sync with the PC. Yet the hardware hasn’t changed, so why is ‘Safely Remove Hardware’ suddenly a must-do? 

Staying on the PDA theme, I’m somewhat disappointed with Windows Mobile 6.1. I had the 2003 version before and, by way of comparison, WM6.1:

  • Is very much slower to start up (no ‘instant-on’)
  • Needs more steps to do many actions
  • Is incompatible with much more software and many more interfacing devices such as mobile phones
  • Is larger, slower, and decreases battery life
  • Won’t auto-start the voice recorder when you press the voice recorder button – you have to turn the PDA on in voice recorder mode, THEN press the button, making it useless for instantly capturing that fleeting thought
  • Does not remember the category filters, so if, for instance, you use a lot of categories in the Tasks screen, and filter it to show only the ‘Urgent Phone Calls’ tasks, you have to set the filter every time you turn it on or you see everything at once. The only fix I have found is to pay for third party software that does remember the category filters you have set, just like Windows Mobile 2003 used to! 

In both these examples the supplier (Microsoft) doesn’t seem to be thinking about how users actually use the products; I am guessing that they are just doing what is convenient from their design engineers’ point of view.


And to the customer, it looks like the technology is progressing backwards. Today’s products are less usable than yesterday’s. We can argue the rights and wrongs of supersonic flight, the cost to the environment and the cost to the passenger, but I fail to see why personal computer software should be making easy things more difficult for me than they used to be.

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