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  • Has technology become too complicated?

    Posted on Susan Bradley Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody blog Has technology become too complicated?

    This topic contains 43 replies, has 25 voices, and was last updated by  anonymous 1 month ago.

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    • #231233 Reply

      Susan Bradley
      AskWoody MVP

      Patch Lady here – spotted this article today lamenting about Doctors hate some of technology they have to deal with.  It seems to me while technology
      [See the full post at: Has technology become too complicated?]

      Susan Bradley Patch Lady

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    • #231235 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      Some plain tools that I use on a daily basis that still work well include things like notepad and paint.  What plain, ordinary programs do you really like?

      Good old Calculator of course.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  td97402.
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      • #231338 Reply

        AskWoody Lounger

        … and that’s the “old” calculator, surely?

        $ uname -smr ; dc –version
        Linux 4.4.0-43-Microsoft x86_64
        dc (GNU bc 1.06.95) 1.3.95
        Copyright 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006…

        Oh, this is the new version, sorry. But at least it’s compatible with the original dc … and I mean,  people still have scripts that pipe all kinds of input to dc, and they’re expected to still work even with this new version.

        I still also use things like roff, RCS (really miss human-readable .ini files too, because you could actually do a reasonable visual diff with them!), find|cpio, grep and… well. I’m one of the people who really do benefit from WSL.

        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  mn--.
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    • #231241 Reply

      Nibbled To Death By Ducks
      AskWoody Lounger

      Notepad. 🙂 You can still do some HTML coding in there. HTML 5 has had some blessings, but finding a friendly, free HTML5 editor these days is not one of them.  As far as Technology goes, we’re still in the baby steps of computing.

      I look forward to a day when a computer will:

      1. Accurately detect a problem, not tell you what it THINKS is the problem

      2. Accurately self-heal the problem, with few or no compromises or more damage done to the system by the fix.

      The year? 2050?2150?

      We shall see.

      Win7 Pro SP1 64-bit, Dell Latitude E6330, Intel CORE i5 "Ivy Bridge", Group "A/B [negative] :)", Multiple Air-Gapped backup drives in different locations, "Notify but do not download or install without asking."


      "The more kinks you put in the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the pipes!" -Scotty

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    • #231251 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      Notepad, Paint, Calculator are great and I use them regularly. Paint easily takes a screen shot to jpg format, and I’ve used notepad for a quick thought to store until I know when and where I’ll use it. No nonsense programs that help in a big way sometimes.

    • #231258 Reply


      I like Apples Preview.app (sorry, not windows).

      It views images and pdf files with none of the excess baggage of Adobes bloatware.

    • #231276 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      I think technology has probably made flying actually more dangerous than it was 15 or 20 years ago, but possibly safer than the years prior.

      Fortran, C++, R, Python, Java, Matlab, HTML, CSS, etc.... coding is fun!
      A weatherman that can code

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      • #231485 Reply


        Exactly, talk about ‘diminished returns’! Would be interesting to know if the programmers of the Boeing software that ‘told’ the plane to crash had any real-world flight time? Integrated system would/should alert to altitude vs attitude regardless of stall potential. Airbus has an ongoing problem with software with at least 3 fatal crashes where the computer ‘told’ the pilots that it was commandeering the flight/engine controls and crashed the aircraft. 2 A320’s, and a military transport developed for Spain.

    • #231277 Reply

      Da Boss

      I don’t use many of the old stalwart programs any more. Instead of calculator, I talk to Alexa, who sits on my desk. Instead of Paint, I use the Snagit editor. Instead of notepad, I use Google Docs. I’ve given up on Evernote and OneNote, in favor of Docs. Then there’s Gmail and the Google Calendar.

      The biggest shift for me is away from my desktop/laptop — which have become bloated and unwieldy — and toward phone and tablet.

      I feel sorry for the folks at my local doc’s office. They’re saddled with a monster of a new system,  much like the one discussed in the first article. The intent is to capture everything, but the technology isn’t there yet, and likely won’t be for another decade. So everybody — docs, nurses, admins, techs, absolutely everybody — spends hours and hours on the computer. Is my medical care better for it? Yeah. But it has to be enormously frustrating for the people who input all the data.

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    • #231281 Reply


      The problem is marketers.

      Marketers can’t sell a product unless it has new, often useless, unwanted junk features.

      Apparently “controllability, predictability & reliability” are features that consumers have no use for.

      Marketers remind me of (one of) Jonathan Swift’s comment about lawyers in “Gulliver’s Travels”:

      “that in all points out of their own trade, they were usually the most ignorant and stupid generation among us, the most despicable in common conversation, avowed enemies to all knowledge and learning, and equally disposed to pervert the general reason of mankind in every other subject of discourse as in that of their own profession.”


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      • #231354 Reply

        AskWoody MVP

        Marketers make everyone feel that if they aren’t keeping up with the “latest” technology, that they are Neanderthals and dinosaurs.

        Years ago, a customer of mine was running AutoCAD on Windows 2000. She had one XP computer that was connected to the internet; the other computers in her office were running 2000, and they were on an isolated network that was not connected to the internet. The set up worked very well for her; there was no need for her to get an OS that was newer than 2000.

        But she wanted to go with something newer than that, because she was convinced that she was behind the times, even though everything she had was getting the job done very reliably. She eventually fired me and got a new IT tech, and he immediately put her on Windows 8 and the latest version of AutoCAD. I guess it all worked out for her; but I do know that she unnecessarily spent a bunch of money to make the move from what she had to the newer stuff.

        Group "L" (Linux Mint)
        with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
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        • #232211 Reply


          >She had one XP computer that was connected to the internet
          >at the time when Windows 8 was available
          I’d immediately fire too if you suggested leaving an unsupported OS connected to the internet.

          • #232385 Reply

            AskWoody MVP

            XP was still being supported at that time.

            Group "L" (Linux Mint)
            with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
    • #231285 Reply


      Agreed…..When it comes to technology, I have and always will believe that the new norm for today is:

      If it works and it works well, let’s FIX it.  That goes for computers, software, anything. This constant updating and redoing to IMPROVE things is not needed. If it works, leave well enough alone. All this improving and updating seems to, in most cases, make things worse a lot of the time.

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    • #231313 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      Its like the new F35 fighter, so filled with technology it can barely fly missions in training without some sort of glitch. Makes you wonder how they could ever hold up in battle? Have we become over achievers in using technology for everything? Seems like we now think technology has a answer for everything.

    • #231316 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      It depends on the need. With Windows 8.1, the UWP Calculator works for me. As far as text is concerned, Word is for the longer documents that need something extra. For simple text that I need temporarily, Notepad works file. Also, I’ve found I’m doing more on the desktop, usually surfing the web, so Firefox works great. It’s not getting too complicated yet, even with updates & extensions. Sadly, Microsoft abandoned the Facebook & Twitter apps on Win8.1 in favor of Win10 whatever. The features that they have on the web were ported over (scraped?) to Win10, but FB on 8.1 was still left with “click to Like, click again to unlike”. No additional reactions… Twitter on 8.1 was still stuck with 120 characters & the star to Favorite. After uninstalling them, I access the websites. Going to the Windows Store while I’m writing this & the Official Facebook & Twitter apps are Gone! Nothing but knockoff clients… As for anon’s quote, “If it works and it works well, let’s FIX it.”, let this geekzer adapt it it to the old saying:

      “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” (Before)

      “If it ain’t broke, break it, then fix it Better.” (After)

      UPDATE: Forgot another example; I usually view pictures in the UWP Photos app. Not snazzy, but works OK. But I can view my Pictures library in Windows Media Player & see when I added them. Also, when I go to my Pictures library in Explorer, double-clicking on a pic brings it up in Windows Photo Viewer, since that’s my set default for photos.

      Windows 8.1, 64-bit, now in Group B!
      Wild Bill Rides Again...

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  WildBill.
      • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  WildBill.
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    • #231325 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      It started with VCR’s, then digital light timers with one or two buttons that required you to push the buttons in certain combinations for certain lengths of time to make them work. Then user manuals went from printed documents to soft copy to online to fragmented online with different chapters written by different people in different countries who didn’t understand the complete product. New software available for download rarely provides comprehensive description of what the software does, does not do, or how much it costs. We’ve lost the ability to communicate complete thoughts even though there are 9 bazillion ways to communicate online.

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    • #231335 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      Anything that is new or unfamiliar appears complicated. Once a task is learned, it becomes rote or automatic. Do you remember drills in learning to read or do arithmetic? These drills were skill builders. You are building computer skills.

      Group G{ot backup} Win7 · x64 · SP1 · i3-3220 · TestBeta
      • #231487 Reply


        Yes, but a company can not be profitable if everyone has to re-learn the task at hand every few months just because there are 3500 new amoji’s, or cool new ‘theme’, or games included. It might be a life-style, but certainly not a sustainable profit/productivity method.

    • #231347 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      I remember when Microsoft software came with a help file.  An actual, locally-installed, help file that was well written and reflected the operation of the product.  The F1 key brought up the help file, from your own local disk, which was great if what you needed help with was establishing a network connection.  You could even search the help file and find good answers to your questions.  Now, the F1 key in most MS programs is useless, and you have to use your favorite search engine to find answers that actually make sense.  If F1 is going to force you to the Internet anyway, might as well do the searching yourself.  That way, you stand a chance of getting a clear, concise answer to your question, instead of an invitation to a training class, or a link to something that doesn’t correspond to the program you were in when you hit F1.

      I think the downfall in help quality started with Clippy.

      Group "L": Linux Mint

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    • #231350 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      Spot-on, Susan.

      What plain, ordinary programs do you really like?

      Back in the day, when I was very often remoting into a customer’s computer, I had to have some basic tools available on their computer, so I learned how to use EDLIN. (Remember that one?) Everybody, and I mean everybody, was quick to tell you how stupid and awful EDLIN was; but there was one thing they never told you, and that was that it was available on EVERY DOS computer ever made. Consequently, if you would learn it and get to where you could actually use it, it would get the job done. At some point, EDIT became universally available, and I used that rather than EDLIN. But there was one problem with EDIT, and that was that you had to press ALT (all by itself) to get into the file save menu; but PC Anywhere (my remote access program) wouldn’t transmit ALT over the line, so I always had to ask the customer to press ALT for me. Consequently, I never entirely abandoned EDLIN.

      In the modern era I would have to vote for PAINT. PAINT has to be the most useful quick-and-dirty graphics editing program ever invented. It doesn’t have a lot of features, but for basic no-frills editing, it is unsurpassed.

      Group "L" (Linux Mint)
      with Windows 8.1 running in a VM
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    • #231359 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      For a long time now, Microsoft has found it difficult to invent new stuff that actually does something useful.  Meanwhile, technology has been promoted as a virtual religion, not much different than the blind faith in progress that was common a half century ago.  This results in “fixing” what isn’t broken, among other things.

      After a lifetime in business I have another view.  Producers are always in a struggle with consumers.  Both want something for nothing, neither get it most of the time.  The balance of power shifts back and forth.  In the case of Windows, Microsoft, having largely failed to make other than security and reliability improvements to later versions of Windows, has used its market position to milk a declining franchise.  Change for the sake of change is one facet of that strategy.  Too bad that they could not see the potential for more constructive approaches, like offering a paid service keeping Win7 and legacy versions of Office updated and secure.

      Susan asked for examples of useful software.  Though I have used Windows since 1992, I overlooked the snipping tool until it was pointed out here.  It now occupies a privileged position on the desktop toolbar.  Previously, I had been taking screen shots and bringing them into Paint to convert to JPEGs.  The snipping tool is so much more convenient.

      Outlook Express is a good example of a useful program–simple, straightforward, did the job unobtrusively–that was taken away for no good reason.  After it was gone (in the shift to Win7), there were many who lamented its demise.  Recently I installed and am now using OE Classic, a very nicely done third party program that basically re-creates Outlook Express.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  wdburt1.
      • #231507 Reply

        AskWoody Lounger

        Outlook Express was discarded and rewritten from scratch because, architecturally, it was a piece of c**p and difficult to improve.  Lots of sloppy coding going on at Microsoft in the late 1990s in order to be fast to market…..

        I find the modern-day Mail app to be a suitable replacement for OE. Does all the same basic mail stuff, without getting into all the extraneous fluff that was added in the Windows Live Mail era: RSS feeds, stationery, Usenet newsgroups, Photo Emails, and so on.

        If you miss the visual style early-mid-2000s Microsoft with lots of blue-ish gradients and shadows, I can see why a program like OE Classic would be compelling.  Nostalgic computing is cool and all (I get it — I collect 1980s and 1990s Macs as a hobby), but living in the past isn’t a great way to be well-equipped for the future.

        Plus they want $25.  It’s the same racket as when the Eagles go on tour and you’re paying $150 per ticket — people want to cash in on your nostalgia.

        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  warrenrumak.
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        • #231526 Reply

          AskWoody Lounger

          I would have gladly paid Microsoft $25 for a one-time license to keep Outlook Express rather than be forced into Live Mail (as it was, I installed Outlook 2003, but given that support ended in 2014, the security risks are unacceptable), Thunderbird, or the glitzy alternatives all striving to show me that I have needs I didn’t know I had.

          So what was too difficult for M$ to accomplish–the same M$ that was already devoting resources to chasing butterflies–was achieved by an entrepreneur.

          Nothing I have said suggests that I liked Outlook Express, or like OE Classic, for reasons of nostalgia.  Susan posed the question about whether tech has become too complicated and asked what “plain, ordinary” tools we like.  I answered in kind.

          • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  wdburt1.
          • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  wdburt1.
      • #231515 Reply


        wdburt1 wrote:
        Outlook Express is a good example of a useful program–simple, straightforward, did the job unobtrusively–that was taken away for no good reason. After it was gone (in the shift to Win7), there were many who lamented its demise.


        Yeah, I loved Outlook Express, still sad Microsoft killed it.

        In same category, I’d also add… Qualcomm’s Eudora.

    • #231367 Reply


      One current theory for why we have not yet found E.T. holds that no civilization ever makes it through their technological age.  They either see the folly and return to an agrarian model, or destroy themselves.

      These last few years in IT sure have me thinking there may be merit to that theory.

      Yes, technology has become too complicated.  Sometimes a simple tool or methodology is best.  Great example – How to write in space.  Method 1 – spend a fortune designing a pen that writes in space.  Method 2 – use a pencil!


    • #231383 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      This software probably doesn’t qualify as plain or ordinary, but it has been depreciated and it works.

      Windows Essentials 2012 is a suite of five or six programs, two of which I use continuously:

      • Windows Live Mail
      • Photo Gallery

      I’ve researched and experimented with other packages, but have found nothing as comfortable to use in mail client and photographic capabilities as these two programs within Windows Essentials.

      Group G{ot backup} Win7 · x64 · SP1 · i3-3220 · TestBeta
      • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  geekdom.
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    • #231394 Reply

      Mr. Natural
      AskWoody Lounger

      I still need qbasic so that I can play gorilla.bas

      (running away!…..)  🙂

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    • #231395 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      Technology no longer serves the user because it is not what the user wants and is of poor quality. Cars no longer have real bumpers yet we have needless technology that replaces good driving skills!

      Computers used to provide an excellent tool assisting man do perform his tasks ;now we are slaves to computers due to the constant barrage of poor software and too many options that are useless.

      What happened to KISS…keep it simple stupid!

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    • #231398 Reply

      AskWoody MVP

      There’s an ever expanding gap between technology and progress and at this rate we will be back in the stone age very soon.
      In W7 the snipping tool to GUI/Window capture (and still use it in W8.1)

      | W10 Pro x64 | W8.1 Pro x64 | Linux x64 Hybrids | XP Pro O/L
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    • #231410 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      I still use all the old standards like notepad, paint, calculator, etc. (until MS eliminates them).

      Unfortunately MS in it’s infinite wisdom and forcefulness is he!! bent on eliminating the average user with new “Features” that not many want in the first place. You would think that somewhere down the line, average users that can no longer use these new “Features” will drop off and find a simpler way to use a computer whether it’s windows or not.

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    • #231491 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      I regretted the loss of Outlook Express when I switched from XP to 7, but found Windows Live Mail to be a somewhat OK substitute. I am still using Office 2010 and, on occasion, Office 2003, Excel in particular when I need to make plot charts the quick and easy way.

      And Windows Picture Manager, because with it I can still make very large Bitmap files into much smaller GIF ones.

      More generally, as a practicing engineer, before being shoved by circumstances more to the science side of things, I remember clearly witnessing the tension between marketing department people and engineers; the former trying to push “better and improved” versions of whatever was working just fine already, and writing brochures that painted rosy visions of mostly unnecessary things one would be able to do with those “already” “improved” products. Engineers, on the other hand, just wanted to get things working properly, as well as to come up with really new things, like nothing that had existed before, but that also worked reliably and were fit for purpose.

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      • #231553 Reply

        AskWoody Lounger

        I’ll nominate Microsoft Office Picture Manager to the plain-and-simple list.  I’m not a Photoshop wizard, but unless I am mistaken, MS Office Picture Manager will do something that Photoshop CS5 will not do, i.e. show me the measurements (in pixels) as I crop, allowing me to crop to a specific measurement.  PS CS5 takes more steps, and trial and error.  Unfortunately, MS Office Picture Manager only works in 8-bit mode, so the photo when pulled into PS for further adjustment in 16-bit mode shows as having been corrupted or something like that.  Still, if you can do all your adjustments in PS before cropping, and know that you want to save in 8-bit, it’s a good final step.

        • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  wdburt1.
    • #231538 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      Ms. Susan, I agree simpler is often better.  I, also, use Paint.

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    • #231564 Reply


      I still use freecell.exe and. solitaire.exe, do they count?

      On a serious side, I still use Notepad daily for quick notes, although I generally use Notepad++ for coding or anything longer and complicated.  <Windowskey+R>, mscalc<enter> is so engrained that I often run it by accident when I’m thinking about something.  I’d also count cmd as simple, since powershell was supposed to fully replace it.  For managing systems, mmc still beats out Server Manager in everything I can use it for.  Same goes for Control Panel over their “Tiger Electronics” replacements. MSPaint works, although I don’t need to manipulate images often; the old Windows Photo Viewer beats out all of the c**p that MS has tried to replace it with.  And then there’s the very useful Snipping Tool, and on my systems that have it NTBackup.

      Most of the most useful tech tools in Windows are still from the XP/7 era like robocopy, wmic, and shutdown.  Not that they’re “simple,” but they’re still the best.  I blame the fact that we’re in the Berenstain Bears reality for why everything’s so mixed up.  Everyone’s either selling “single purpose” apps following the Unix ideology which in no way can be used in a poweruser context, or blatantly tries to be everything by dictating how you should use it.

      Applications are supposed to be modular but integrated: Do something simple (or a bunch of small somethings) really well, but play nicely with others.

    • #231626 Reply


      Instead of Notepad (or it’s replacements), I used WordPerfect’s ‘Program Editor‘ (pe.exe and later ed.exe) to edit plain text files as long as possible. With 64-bit Windows, it doesn’t work anymore unless I run it in DosBox. It had the BEST macro recorder / playback functionality I yet have to see in nowadays text editors and I miss it just about every day…


    • #231627 Reply


      Addition to my previous post: http://www.columbia.edu/~em36/wpdos/shell.html

      EDIT: Link is broken, could you please resubmit with correct link.

    • #231699 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      The old Photo Viewer, which still exists in 10, but has to have registry hacks to work with anything but TIFs.

    • #231884 Reply

      AskWoody Lounger

      I, also, vote for the old Windows Photo Viewer, I do not like the new Photos App. Here are some links for information on how to get it back into Windows 10, I like ghacks reg file, but remember to make a ‘System Restore Point’ first, and also full backups are a good idea,


      How-To Geek also has some good information, but is older, dated 09 March 2017:


      and for really in-depth registry editing, this website lists the code to install:



    • #232235 Reply


      Ironic that I just came from this Reddit post to here and your comment about MS Word.


    • #232340 Reply


      Windows 7. :p More seriously, CPU-Z and GPU-Z, Unlocker, VirusTotal Uploader, and OpenOffice Writer, among others. And yeah, Notepad and Calculator, of course.

    • #232389 Reply

      Noel Carboni
      AskWoody MVP

      I’ve let this question brew a while, and I think I’ve got an opinion:

      Technology is necessarily complicated. It’s the nature of the beast. Advancements in complexity – and the management of complexity – are moving us forward. Life is complicated.

      It’s this headlong rush to change everything at a breakneck pace that’s the problem.

      If we allowed people the required YEARS to ferret out the best parts, to get good at using them, and to suggest refinements, THEN it would not be so complicated. The right things would be made simpler to use, and the unnecessary parts would be marginalized.

      The untenable part is that there’s no time any more to get good at anything. Mostly it comes and goes and very few folks even get to know it at all, except the most superficial aspects. The industry infers from this that we all need dumbed down technology – which isn’t the case at all.

      What we need is time to adapt to the complexity, to learn it, to harness it, and to make it work for us.

      No one in their right mind would say that we need a new operating system release in anything less than 3 years. 5 years might be even better.

      I was watching a video on YouTube the other day by a machinist using a lathe that was built – no lie – in the early 1900s. The machine is the better part of a century old, and he – a 3rd generation machinist – claims to still be learning how to best apply it. Now, when he gets a job, he knows how to set it up, to get things right the first time, to do the job with precision and efficiency.

      Why do we have 6 months to get familiar with a new release of Windows 10? Who in their right mind thinks that’s the right release cadence?

      It’s not about complexity. Complexity is necessary. But what’s equally necessary is to have the time that’s needed.


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      • #232439 Reply


        This subject is discussed so often it seems to become one converstaion. Usually the comments attempt to address the effect of rapid pace on the user community after Microsoft has released the latest not-ready-for-primetime patch, update, feature release, whatever the item may be.

        Your example of a 3rd generation machinist demonstrates where I believe the problem exists; and so where the solution needs to apply. You, Noel, are both an end user and a maker of tools. Like the machinist is a user of his lathe to make pieces for others. He does not burden his customer with the development of skills or improvement to his machinery. He takes on those tasks and associated costs as an internal development process. In this case, He is best served by the already superior machine. He knows that by making this development process invisible to his customer, he will optimize the customer experience and can demand higher payment for his work.

        Many opinions speak of Microsoft outsourcing testing as the final step of development. I find that word inadequate. Outsourcing brings to mind paying skilled contractors as a replacement for inhouse employees. Instead Microsoft breaks the concept of pre-release testing by delivering an unfinished product. Your machinist would never ask a customer to run that lathe for themselves. He would consider that inherently not safe.

        Microsoft chooses this design purposefully. We should respect their choice for their product. Recognize that their choice does not control our choices. Then run our own decision process to find our own best path.

        Those who complete that process and still come up Microsoft will have a better understanding of why that is the correct choice for their needs.

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