As an IT guy, there are software programs out there that are a pain to install and maintain. As someone who uses computers, there are certain programs that make me want to pull my hair out. Programs that deserve a special place in hell… programs written by Satan himself. And here’s a quick list of them:
1) Windows Vista – Several years ago, several stunning “proof of concept” videos began leaking out of Microsoft’s headquarters. They were breathtaking. They made geeks like me salivate. They were the first glimpses of Windows Vista, and they were awesome. Sadly, Microsoft began cutting features from Vista – so much so that Vista went from “an operating system from the future” to “just a little upgrade from Windows XP”. And sadly, Vista fails in this aspect. It fails badly. Windows 2000 was a huge upgrade from Windows NT. Windows XP was a huge upgrade from Windows 2000. Upgrading to Vista seems like a huge step backwards for a lot of people… and in a sense it is. In my experience, Vista requires an 8-way quad-core system with 36GB of RAM just to work as well as a 1.5GHz P4 with 512MB of RAM running Windows XP.
What makes it all so sad is that there’s a lot to like about Vista. Explorer has had a much-needed face lift, and Vista’s icons are much more pleasing to the eye than XPs’. The built-in search feature is nice, as is the inclusion of Shadow Copies. Microsoft did a lot of worthwhile work under the hood – specifically, with DirectX and Desktop Window Manager – but the implementation of that work – Windows Vista – just sucks.
2) Adobe Acrobat – If I had to choose between living in a world without Osama Bin Laden or Adobe Acrobat, I’d choose the world without Acrobat… hands down! When people call Acrobat an “800 pound gorilla” it’s not a compliment to Adobe’s coding or marketing teams. The program really is an 800 pound gorilla – with all the grace of a brontosaurus thrown in for good measure. Acrobat takes forever to load of most people’s systems, when it’s not busy crashing Internet Explorer or Firefox. Previous Acrobat updates have taken 4 reboots to complete. Sadly, although there are alternatives to Acrobat, most of them suck for various reasons. FoxIt, for example, looks and acts like a Windows 95 program, and (most importantly) doesn’t render all PDFs correctly. If I could rid the world of Abobe Acrobat, I would.
3 ) iTunes – Apple’s media player and iPod accessory might run well on Macintosh operating systems, but it absolutely sucks on Windows systems. It takes between 30 seconds to a minute to open on my 3GHz system, and it takes forever on Lisa’s P3-933. And it runs like a dog too, frequently locking up and taking forever to do simple tasks that WinAMP can handle without problem. But perhaps the worst thing about iTunes is the crappy way it handles updates. Rather than simply update files that need updating, iTunes apparently just downloads the full installer – 30-60MB! – with every update. Sure, I’m on cable, and it only takes a couple of minutes to download the updates… but it’s the principle of the thing.
4) Norton AntiVirus – Norton AntiVirus is, perhaps, the worst program ever offered for the Windows platform by a major software publisher. Norton AV initially gained fame for being a decent antivirus program… but then Symantec started bundling the program with OEM PCs. Norton AV got bigger, and bigger, and bigger… Nowadays it seems that Norton AntiVirus wants complete control over every aspect of your PC. And not only that, it refuses to work with other security programs like Windows Firewall or ZoneAlarm. And to make matters worse, it’s a resource hog – bringing all but the fastest computers to their knees. It’s so bad that you want to uninstall it… but that it a tricky proposition. You can always use “Add\Remove Programs”; this might work, but it might make your system unbootable. The fact that Norton has a special uninstaller on their website should tell you something about the stability of their software.
5) Gmail – First things first: I know that Gmail isn’t a “program” in the traditional sense. That’s why I used quotes in “Programs” in the title of this post. And I don’t think that Gmail is bad per se. But I just don’t understand the complete wankfest that Gmail has become for a lot of people. You’d think Gmail is the greatest, most awesomest thing ever invented if you read some of the posts at Ars or the SDMB. According to that lot, Gmail will make you smarter and 10 pounds lighter. It comes with marshmallow cream and is chocolate-coated, and will even service you orally if you ask it right. Why? Why? People, Gmail is a free email service. There are dozens of similar services out there. Despite Gmail’s nifty features, getting excited about Gmail is like getting excited about a freakin’ can opener. “But Gmail offers 5GB worth of storage space!” So does Hotmail. And Yahoo! Mail doesn’t even have a limit. “But you can tag your email!” Great. Outlook has only offered this feature for, I dunno… years. “But Gmail offers conversation threads!” OK, if that’s your bag, enjoy it. Outlook’s worked fine for me for ages, but if having “conversations” in “threads” is soooo exciting that you want to constantly evangelize for Gmail with a fervor that would make St. Augustine blush… knock yourself out. Between OWA, Windows Live mail and Yahoo! Mail, I’m rather enjoying the Web 2.0 experience, thank you very much!