Why is Everything so Complicated?

Enough talk about government. Instead, let’s look at software. Specifically, why does it have to be so dang complicated? Take updates. It has become fairly commonplace to get them. If you use Windows, there is even a utility helpfully called Windows Update. On a regular basis, it provides updates to Windows – or something. Generally we have no idea what it updates, but we are simply to sit back and suffer through updates (and often the associated restarts). As an aside, I have been working in this industry long enough that I recall when we were told that installations and updates would not require as many reboots. I can only imagine what it would be like if it required more. But I digress.

As a recent gift, we passed down a laptop to one of our kids. Don’t give me that look. There is nothing wrong such a thing. The laptop is perfectly fine for regular use, and in fact should serve him just fine for a while, and means we don’t have to go out and buy a new one.

It did, however, mean that I needed to restore it to the factory settings because there was all sorts of junk on there, and it seemed that it would be simpler than trying to clean out all the accumulated junk from a couple of years of use. In retrospect, I’m not so sure.

The actual restoration didn’t take long. It was the updating that killed me. After getting back to the starting point, there were some 110 updates that needed to be applied. Okay, that’s not too bad. I just sat it to the side and let it do its thing. After those ran, a service pack had to be downloaded and applied too. This is where I was puzzled. Why in the world do 110 updates need to be applied and then a service pack? Usually a service pack is cumulative, meaning all that other junk should be in there as well (or simply ignored because it’s taken care of in the service pack). Whatever.

After the service pack, even more updates were applied. All told, some 150 updates were applied. I think the total was 157. And this was just from Windows Update. It didn’t take into account other drivers not handled by Windows Update, such as an HP printer driver, which itself installed 10 separate programs, apparently all were “required” to run the printer. I subsequently uninstalled all of the except for the driver itself. No need for HP shop, update, web printing or the Yahoo! toolbar. And doing so then required another three restarts.

This isn’t to mention that vendors such as HP and Toshiba install so much bloatware that it kills the performance of the computer. It isn’t the hard drive – there is plenty of room for that. But usually there are a dozen or so trial apps that start at boot time, and you have to uninstall them to have any sort of decent performance, because you likely won’t buy them, and if you do, you may have to install another entirely different version anyway. Seriously?

Is it any wonder that smartphones and tablets are so compelling (though they have their own upgrade cycle)? Speaking to that, I have to say that I’m enjoying my own experience of dropping the smartphone and going back to the feature phone. I actually get an amazing amount of things done, even if most if it is watching the sheer number of people around me who simply watch their own smartphones…