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Old 04-07-2002, 20:18   #1 (permalink)
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Thumbs down Software (a rant)

Stepping onto Soapbox:

I know this is a car forum but all of the contributors here are also computer users so it's an appropriate place (amongst others) to have this little rant.

I posted a joke a little earlier today that laughingly referred to Software pre-release testing and it got me to thinking about just how bad it really is.
I've just been through a lengthy experience with another software vendor who, despite being the market leader in the CD burning market, do not have any Australian tech support. The closest support centre that spoke English was the US and this meant a number of 1.00 a.m phone calls at International rates.
All of that would be bad enough but a search through their knowledge base and the user forums revelaed that the problem I was having was common but still unresolved.

Now I understand the commercial pressures to release software in a competitive market and I am equally aware that the sheer number of possible hardware / software combinations that could be experienced make 100% testing impossible.However this industry needs to get it's collective act together and quickly. As consumers we have put up with fixing bugs ourselves for far too long.

Let's take our friends at Microsoft as a good example. Within 3 months of release there were two major software patches for Office 2000 that represented about 28% of the original code. If we put that into context we are saying that you could buy a new car and then at your own time and expense replace 28% of it under warranty. The manufacturer wouldn't tell you about it (you'd have to find out for yourself) and then you'd have to collect it from somewhere and install it in your own time. Would you accept this? I very much doubt it.
It has been argued that there is a significant difference in the price of software and motor cars when this analogy has been used but the same would apply with a $60 toaster or any other small appliance you bought.

The only thing that seems to have happened in the last few years is that software producers have been closing call centres and relying more and more on user based support groups and knowledge bases for self-help - which only allows them to further abdicate their responsibilities.

I don't have solutions for this one except to suggest the following -

1. As with any other consumer product we should be concerned with warranty and after sales service when making purchasing decisions (i.e do they have Australian based tech support).

2. Use the consumer laws we already have in this country to demand refunds or other remedies for non performing products.

3. Use the most powerful tool we have - public opinion. If you find a bit of ratty software don't just accept it - make as much noise as you can everywhere you can.

4. Send letters and e-mails to the senior management of the companies involved - both the local distributor and the producer.

As someone who has probably spent 8 months in total listening to hold music and searching knowledge bases to find solutions my own future course is simple. If it doesn't work - it's going back.

Steps off soap box.
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Old 04-07-2002, 22:51   #2 (permalink)
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(The below relating to more custom development rather than off-the-shelf packages)

There are a few organisations trying to get development houses to sign with them and receive their "stamp of approval". They are basically trying to introduce some form of standards into the software development industry. The law and software development is sketchy at best, in terms of liability and support. From what I have experienced, the government leaves everything up to the client and the software house, having to create their own legal agreements.

As for these new standards proposals, I can't see them taking off in a hurry, as the industry moves more towards outsourcing overseas (read - India), and as project timeframes get increasingly more ridiculous and unrealistic.

You are dead right though, there is a real lack of quality coding around at the moment, and it is really starting to show. The IT "bust" on the Nasdaq hasn't helped this either.
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