The idea of “stupidless computing” came to me in the car this morning while returning Diane’s PC. Has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? I felt a tremendous desire to do something about this.
Areas of stupidness that come to mind:
- spyware It’s very easy for an ActiveX Browser Help Object (BHO) to insert itself into your PC’s startup routine in several difficult-to-detect ways. People are used to clicking “OK” whenever a dialog box pops up, assured that the computer is trying to be helpful rather than malicious. You need special software to find them all (I use Spybot Search and Destroy in Advanced Mode for this).
fragile operating systems Though Windows XP is pretty stable overall, it’s not easy to maintain once things go wrong. System Restore goes a long way toward fixing this, but it’s still somewhat cumbersome. It would be nice if the user could easily monitor what’s being loaded and running that’s definitely “not part of the original installation”. Or, configuring a system so a system restore doesn’t immediately wipe out all your user data like email and the like.
unclear concept A lot of software has the problem of not having a clear purpose. The result is that its visual interface (the GUI) is also unclear. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player series has this problem, in my opinion. A lot of productivity software that I introduced to my Dad have so many buttons and controls that he didn’t know where to look. Is it so much to ask that a piece of software present its main conceptual objects in an obvious manner?
verbose-yet-ambiguous description A lot of the help text in software tends to run long and unhelpfully. I think it’s because the copy tends to describe a process of clicks that require memorization as opposed to understanding the underlying concept. Or the concept is inherently at-odds with the user’s understanding and desires. There’s some name for this in the User Interaction literature that escapes my mind.
p>For my stupidless computing initiative, there are a couple areas I want to explore.
- For OS-related stuff, I’m curious about exploring the Microsoft OEM System Builder tools to see what it would take to build an easier XP install. Or just being able to monitor the “who’s running when” chain would be nice. The number of secret programs that check the Internet for updates is getting annoying, especially when they break.
- As far as software goes, it might be fun to design some productivity applications like photo browsers, email, etc.
Reinventing the wheel, one application at a time! Maybe not one of my best ideas :-)