The P in PC Stands for Personal

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend on the part of more and more companies selling software products, or hardware products like printers which require a software component to function.

They’re forgetting that the P in PC stands for Personal. As in, “it’s mine, not yours”.

It’s obvious when a software company starts to forget this simple fact. All of a sudden your system starts doing things for you…whether you like it or not.

Sometimes that may be the result of ancient architectural decisions that are difficult to change. For example, I get angry at the Windows programmers every time I have to suffer through a lengthy timeout when it tries to access a network resource I know is no longer present. There’s no way on heaven or earth — short of hard rebooting the system — to break that search off midstream. Apparently this is an artifact from the early days of Windows, so deeply embedded in the system that it’s hard to root out.

But it should be eliminated. Because it’s my computer, and if I want it to stop doing something I asked it to do, it should do so. Promptly.

Today I experienced a truly unforgivable example of this obnoxious software design practice. I had to uninstall the HP inkjet printer from my Windows 8 system because it shows up twice in my device list. Why? Because both Windows and the sparkly new HP Windows 8 Store App felt each should install the printer (Earth to HP and Microsoft: maybe you guys should, you know, talk to each other about your software where it overlaps each other’s offerings). This involved uninstalling a bunch of HP software via the Programs & Features control panel applet. And about six different reboots, because the software engineers in HP’s printer division apparently have decided they control your computer, not you.

This is not only most decidedly not best practice, it runs counter to a precedent that’s existed for years across numerous software products. Including HP’s own earlier printer software suites. You always give users the option to defer a reboot! It’d be like an American car manufacturer suddenly deciding to put the turn signal controls on the other side of the steering wheel. Sure, it’ll still work. But I bet it’ll lead to a bunch of accidents and product liability suits (in fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if it was unlawful to make that kind of switch, for just that reason).

All of this nonsense — and many more examples I could get into — would be avoided if someone — anyone! — at software companies remembered a simple thing: the P in PC stands for Personal.

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