I will never be confused or lumped in with the modern assemblage of DIY’ers (Do It Yourselfers for those even less handy than I). My father was a firm believer in the idea that if you learned how to fix something yourself, you were putting someone else out of a job, and that was unfair, unpatriotic and un-American.
I’m not quite that bad, though. I can change light bulbs, hang shelves and I’m a wiz at “put together” furniture from places like IKEA. Strangely enough, one of the things I do know how to do that most people would hire someone to do is fix windows – that’s the glass kind…with a small “w”…not the Windows that runs the world.
This wasn’t an ability I asked to learn. I was house manager of the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at Gettysburg College my sophomore year, which happened to coincide with a time of heightened tensions between my fraternity and its chief campus rival. This was in the days before vinyl windows and I spent many Saturdays replacing panes from the 12-sectioned windows that had been broken out by our rock-throwing rivals. On the bright side, with each window replacement I got better at the task.
One would think that with all the versions of Windows that Microsoft has delivered, they would also be better at fixing.
Outside Looking In
As reported last week by Paul McDougall in InformationWeek, former Microsoft Program Manager Mike Bibik generated a web site called “Fixing Windows 8” (which appears to have gone down since the news broke either due to protests by Microsoft or due to heavy traffic, depending upon which story you read or believe). The site calls out (or called out as is now appears) a number of issues in the application software giant’s yet-to-be-released operating system.
As McDougall reports, “Most of Bibik's complaints center on Windows 8's new Metro interface. Bibik says the Metro UI will be a navigational nightmare for users who aren't tech savvy.”
Most of the issues Bibik addresses stem from Microsoft’s attempt to make one universal operating system that serves not only desktops and laptops, which navigate Windows with a mouse and/or a keyboard, but also touch-screen tablets. It is not unlike Microsoft to try and “fix” something that already works. Many were dismayed over the universal changes in Windows 7 after having grown comfortable with the similarity between many previous versions. After nearly 2 years of using it, I am still on very friendly terms with the F1 key to help me find functions in Windows 7 that I instinctively knew where to find in Windows XP and other previous versions. I can’t even imagine the kinds of problems I’ll have with Windows 8, which, according to Bibik, does not at this point in time include a tutorial to demonstrate how to use the new setup. It seems this is more evidence of the battle between Marketing and developers.
But Bibik also points out bugs in the new operating system that have yet to be fixed. As evidenced by Microsoft’s history of rolling out monthly patches, it’s unlikely that anyone is holding out hope that those will be fixed anytime soon.
Based on what the press has reported on Bibik’s revelations about Windows 8, it would seem that they should consider addressing the existing issues before rolling out the new OS. The front facing issues alone could pose a significant adoption issue, but the bugs in the system open it up to all kinds of failures – from malfunctions to security issues.
My father, who always seemed to have an appropriate cliché at hand, used to remind me of two things – one, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; and two, that you measure twice and cut once.
Rather than rush something out the door, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend some time focusing on the structural quality of the OS and get it right rather than having to go back and fix it every month? By applying a platform of automated analysis and measurement, Microsoft could weed out the bugs so that they don’t wind up as application failures down the road…and while spending that additional time, maybe they could also add in a tutorial so the new GUI is less daunting for the average end user.
It seems to me, Microsoft would be wise to spend some time on bug prevention and look a second time at its new OS so that it only needs to fix it once over the coming year, not 12 times (i.e., the monthly rite of Patch Tuesday).
At least that’s my not-so-handyman’s advice on how to fix Windows.