Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses

Are Unfinished Products Now the Norm? 111

Posted by Cliff
from the not-ready-for-prime-time dept.
Paul asks: "Long ago when digital synthesizers first became commonly available, I recall a reviewer lamenting how he was getting more and more products to test whose software was unfinished and buggy and would require updates and fixes (this, before the internet allowed easy downloads, would have meant a journey to a specialist repair center). The review also commented how this common problem with computer software was spreading (this was before Windows 95 was out), and asked if it was going to become the norm. These days it seems ubiquitous, with PDAs, digital cameras, PVRs and all manner of complex goods needing after-market firmware fixes often simply to make them have the features promised in the adverts, let alone add enhancements. Are we seeing this spread beyond computers and computer-based products; jokes apart, will we be booting our cars up and installing flash updates every week to prevent computer viruses getting into the control systems? Can anyone comment on any recent purchases where they've been badly let down by missing features, or are still waiting for promised updates even whilst a new model is now on the shelves? How can we make the manufacturers take better responsibility? Apart from reading every review possible before making a purchase, what strategy do you have, or propose, for not being caught out?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Are Unfinished Products Now the Norm?

Comments Filter:
  • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuation@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:49PM (#18136692)
    There is no such thing as an "unfinished" product. They're defective out-the-door.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I'd argue the opposite -- Theres no such thing as a finished product. We're just releasing way too early now. If theres ever going to be a patch, new feature, new version, or any change then the product obviously wasn't finished. The only time something is truely 'finished' is if theres something better to replace it and the original is abandoned.
      • by paeanblack (191171) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:04PM (#18138368)
        I'd argue the opposite -- Theres no such thing as a finished product.

        Of course there is, even in the software industry. Consider the software that runs the Voyager probes. It was completed 100% and shipped.

        The issue is not that it's impossible to finish something, it's that 80% done is where the money is. Companies that go overboard on quality either go out of business or get relegated to serving a niche market. Quality is expensive and customers will repeatedly drop their cash on unfinished products that pass the dog and pony show.

        • customers will repeatedly drop their cash on unfinished products that pass the dog and pony show

          Kinda brings new mean to "You get what you pay for."
        • by Anonymous Coward
          I read an article that the software was updated multiples times. An interesting point was the stuked bits in the processor registers (bit permanentely set to 1 or 0). NASA issued a software update to go around that.
          More info here: http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/science/thirty.html [nasa.gov]

          You may want to look at the Postfix mail server, it went a long time without errors or updates.
        • Companies that go overboard on quality either go out of business or get relegated to serving a niche market.

          Would you call the video game industry a niche market, then? Ironically, video games (!) have some of the highest quality around for consumer-oriented software products. The hard fact that manufactuers understand is: buggy games are simply not accepted by the market. Period. Nobody would download version 1.0.1 of any game.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Endo13 (1000782)

            Would you call the video game industry a niche market, then? Ironically, video games (!) have some of the highest quality around for consumer-oriented software products. The hard fact that manufactuers understand is: buggy games are simply not accepted by the market. Period. Nobody would download version 1.0.1 of any game.

            That's odd. Apparently the top five selling video game developers didn't get your memo. Perhaps you could please contact them again and let them know that we do not accept their shoddy quality in software?

            P.S. Please make sure to send at least a dozen couriers to EA. Hopefully then one will get through.

        • I agree. You can look at the current state of the printer market and see loads of crap that consumes vast quantites of supplies and fall apart in a couple years. But those manufacturers are the only ones left in the market.

          I still have a dot matrix printer that functions flawlessly and is over 20 years old. That company no longer produces printers.

          I think it happens to all industries when the profit margin is marginal. They'll dump it on the market and get new funding then fix the complaints as they happen.
        • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @04:27AM (#18141712)

          The issue is not that it's impossible to finish something, it's that 80% done is where the money is. Companies that go overboard on quality either go out of business or get relegated to serving a niche market. Quality is expensive and customers will repeatedly drop their cash on unfinished products that pass the dog and pony show.


          You raise a good point, but I don't think it covers the whole spectrum. The products listed in the summary have a unique ability to be changed after being sold. I mean that this is unlike the way things were a measly decade ago. When you purchased a VCR, for example, that was it. If it had a design flaw, that was it, you had to either deal with it or get a new one later on. Now, here's the funny thing: What constitutes a design flaw? The flashing 12:00 feature that has fueled the comedy industry for years? There are technical reasons for that. There's expense involved in curing it. Who would have thunk it would have been such a problem? It's easy for the customer to fix, right? Sure. But how would they know that until millions of people have put it through its paces? These days, they can put features in or alter existing ones once they get some hard data back from their customers. On paper, anyway, that's a bonus. "Ah, we didn't realize some people prefer to use the 24-hour format, welp, download this update, and you're good to go."

          From where I sit, 'unfinished' is too strong of term. The fact is, when you're designing a product, you'd need a magic crystal ball that could see into the future to know what problems will be faced. It's one thing to have a hundred beta testers, it's another to have 10,000. There's always somebody that'll try to do something out of the bounds of what it was designed for. A trivial fix would suit their needs, but how does one go about that after the design's locked? There's no easy solution to that problem. At least now products have updatable firmware so new usability issues can be addressed.

          Now, that's just usability I'm talking about. A new issue that has come up deals with internet usage. I have to be honest, I'm a little surprised anybody here really thinks a product can be internet-proofed. Take Quake3, for example. Here's a popular game that is/was played on the net by millions. Shouldn't be any different than, say, designing a LAN game where latency is less reliable. Right? Nope. Cheaters. Somebody sniffs the packets or watches what's going on in memory, and they find creative ways of getting an unfair advantage in the game. The potential here is a ruining of the experience for everybody. So, what does ID do? They make patches, address issues that came up, and kick the cheaters out. Okay. Unfortunately, they're a creative bunch. They can't get at the network code? No problem, we'll screw around with the video drivers and make the walls transparent. Cute. Call me a pessimist, but I don't think it's possible to lock down every scenario and still maintain a fun game for the masses. This problem has permeated to just about any internet-enabled device or application ever in existence.

          Some companies take this to a stupid level. I agree with that. The simple fact is that a product still has to be well-designed out of the box. If you buy a digital camera but an expected function is broken and requires a firmware update, that's bad. That's VERY bad. However, that 80% bit you mention, you're spot on. We buy products to serve a purpose. It's not always the complete package we're worried about. Higher quality may yield a more versatile product, but I'd argue that it's hard to spend that extra $100 on the better camera if we don't see the value in it. As you've mentioned, there's only so much that can be done in a reasonable amount of time or under a budget.

        • customers will repeatedly drop their cash on unfinished products

          Hence my mantra, "The customer is always wrong". The problem I often lament is that customers drive poor quality products by voting with their wallets. Just as a sufficient number of people vote for continued Nigerian email scams, customers vote for continued poor quality products by supporting inept and cut-rate companies rather than running them out of business. Being an informed customer/consumer is too much work for many folks though,
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by architimmy (727047)
      I just spent the whole last week at a software training session for a BIM product my firm is attempting to move from AutoCAD to. This particular product is already in release 9 and has been around for years. In fact it's one of a number of different packages that do the same thing. I remember using the same program years ago and thinking "this is just frustrating" because there were so many restrictions and limitations on what you could do with it. Needless to say, at release 9 the product is still buggy, s
    • Any product that does not make it out the door is "finished", that equates to 60-80% of all software products depending on who you listen to. Personal experience says to me it's more like 10-20%, but I'm not regularly involved in pre-sales or spreadsheet scripting.

      Another category of "finished" software products are those tagged with the euphemisim "functionally stable" or "legacy", wich roughly translated means "go away and RTFM".
    • Just liek a work of art, today's technology products are merely abandoned, and never complete. You can ALWAYS continue to refine and improve a product, but companies require a return on investment, so development work is abandoned.

      Even if work was allowed to continue, no product would ever be "complete".

      The result is products which are "good enough for most of our customers".

      You want Product X - well, you can have it:
      a) never, or
      b) bloody soon, but slightly less than perfect.

      Which do you choose?
  • by GrnArmadillo (697378) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @04:50PM (#18136700)
    It's amazing how much effort you can save when you don't take the time to do the job properly. As long as people still buy your product, there's no incentive to actually fix it before it launches.
    • by cptgrudge (177113) <cptgrudge@@@gmail...com> on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:19PM (#18136956) Journal

      As long as people still buy your product, there's no incentive to actually fix it before it launches.

      With respect to the car comment in the summary (though not exclusive), I've got one word:

      Liability

      • Liability

        Sure, that would work, but it essentially taxes the people who are willing to pay substantially less to get mostly-working products.

      • With respect to the car comment in the summary (though not exclusive), I've got one word:

        Liability

        I see your word and raise you one:

        Risk Management.

        - RG>
      • by rtb61 (674572)
        I have got a better one, class action law suites. I don't care if the lawyers get all the money, as long as they make shoddy manufacturers pay and pay and pay. M$ certainly launced a trend in crap products. Every company saw how much they were making producing products with thousands of bugs in them and getting foolish end users to fix those bugs for M$ at their own expence and those same end users keep on buying new buggy products trying to get a version that is finally bug free (and as we all should know
      • > Liability

        Yup. And every click-though "agreement" absolves software vendors of any trace of it.
  • Software is approaching the complexity of organic life. You know what it means for an organic being to be "finished"?

    So what if our software is constantly changing, and is thus "unfinished"? To be finished means it won't improve. Heck, the whole reason for the existence of open source is the "if it's broken, I can fix it" idea.

    So, why do we need software to be "finished," anyway?
    • I wholeheartedly agree w/r/t complex software. Further, if you look at organic artifacts, even something as simple as a knife, the tool is always changing. The knife gets duller, and you sharpen it (removing molecules), and so it is constantly changing.

      I think a lot of people say "uh oh, when are cars going to start getting the BSOD?", but what they don't realize is that, as complicated mechanical entities, cars DO give the equivalent of a BSOD. The word "crash" has a real-life meaning, too, after all

      • by zappepcs (820751) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:23PM (#18137006) Journal
        That depends entirely on perspective. If entropy is seen as a relative process, software that is not being developed is going to suffer entropy as the world around that software is changing. So, in relative terms, there is software entropy.

        Hypothetically, if your current 'perfect OS' software no longer has any development being done, when new storage devices or networking devices become available, that 'perfect OS' is no longer perfect. For this reason, all software will always be 'incomplete' in as much as the world around it changes at an ever increasing pace. Some software is outdated by the time that it is ready for launch as a beta product. For more on that, see the big software projects that some groups around the world have attempted, only to find that on launch it is not capable of dealing with recent changes in the world.

        All software will always be no better than beta given that the above is true. This means that for businesses, good enough is as good as perfect as that is as close to perfect as it is likely to ever get.

        Sure, there are cases where good enough really isn't; medical equipment, space travel equipment etc. but for the vast majority of software for consumers, beta grade is good enough and thus worth releasing.

        Fortunately, some companies release beta software/apps and treat them as such by continuing to improve them before pronouncing the software is out of beta stage. When software is released as final product rather than beta, consumers get upset when they find out it's really only beta that they paid for.

        But the point is, yes, software suffers from entropy and atrophy is relative terms.
    • A nice example of this is the Canon Powershot S1. When I bought it, it did what the specs told me it would do. Then there was an upgrade that fixed some bugs. And after that there was another upgrade, and suddenly it had a macro function! It would now make sharp pictures at distances as close as 5 cm instead of 10 or whatever the specs were. Suddenly it turned rom a nice camere to a very nice camera.
    • Yup -- a program is never done. Always one more feature to add :)
    • by iPaul (559200) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:36PM (#18137126) Homepage
      However, we routinely produce complicated systems that have excellant reliability. For example, glass displays on aircraft - which are quite common in commercial jets. They have to undergo a much more rigorous level of testing before they can be shipped because the liability to the manufacturer is huge. What's the liability if your Sony cam-corder stops working in the middle of your once-in-a-lifetime round-the-world vacaction, all because of a software glitch? The problem is not with the software, the problem rests partially with the people that make and test the systems, but mostly with the people who hire/fire developers, designers and engineers. They do silly things like higher cheaper, but less qualified engineers. They make marketings's brain-fart of the day the top priority. (I realize we're using the world's cheapest 16 bit micro-controller - but could you write the software in Java with a Gui so we can demo at Java One?) And they do things like sacrifice testing to make schedule. And they're also the ones that do things like set budgets and deadlines.
      • by MoneyT (548795) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:03PM (#18137356) Journal
        How much does the glass display for an aircraft cost compared to your camera? How much of that cost is testing?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by iPaul (559200)
          I won't disagree with you on that. A Garmin GPS unit is a couple of hundred bucks. A garmin navigational unit for an airplane is several thousand - all because it has to be certified for use in aircraft. You make a valid point that it's expensive. I was trying to make the point that we can make quality stuff. My gripe is that even "high-end" stuff suffers this phenomena. Even more so in some cases.
        • by Mad Marlin (96929)
          The ones my company produces cost several times my yearly salary a piece, and I am not exactly living poor.
      • > The problem is not with the software, the problem rests partially with the
        > people that make and test the systems, but mostly with the people who
        > hire/fire developers, designers and engineers.

        No. It rests entirely with customers who buy cheap, heavily advertised crap, complain bitterly about how it doesn't work right, and then go right back and buy more cheap, heavily advertised crap from the same vendors.
        • by iPaul (559200)
          That's true, you don't have a market without buyers. However, I think we've had a kind of "boil the frog" situation. Companies have gotten cheaper and cheaper over time (the big evidence I have for this is the disappearance of research in most companies). So, every year it gets a little worse, but no one really complains that bitterly. However, with regards to:

          go right back and buy more cheap, heavily advertised crap from the same vendors

          I don't think there are really "other vendors" to choose from. I think they've all gotten into the ship it before its ready mentality and the

        • There isn't much choice when the maker of the cheap, heavily advertised crap was so heavily subsidized with government funds and stock market favoritism that no competitor had a running chance in the market.

          I don't think many people fully recognize what an impact government had on the software industry and the internet through the 90s. It was taxpayer money that provided a significant percentage of the capital for the companies which went big (or went broke). It was taxpayer money that provided a signific
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by timeOday (582209)

        However, we routinely produce complicated systems that have excellant reliability. For example, glass displays on aircraft - which are quite common in commercial jets.
        Compared to something routine like PowerPoint, avionics instruments are actually extremely simple. The number of flight-critical LOC on the Space Shuttle is like 5% of a modern OS. There has never, ever been any piece of highly reliable software the size of a modern OS or an office suite.
      • Fast, cheap, and good.

        I can give you two out of three, which do you pick?
    • Software is approaching the complexity of organic life.

      I'm approaching 100 years old, but I've still got a very long way to go before I get there.

      So, why do we need software to be "finished," anyway?

      Because as a consumer, if I blow 300 bucks to buy a funky new PVR, I'd like it to at least record the programmes I ask it to, the way my VHS VCR did 20 years ago?

      Because the time lost in business due to poor software products being inefficient costs a staggering amount of money compared to what we cou

    • by dangitman (862676)

      So what if our software is constantly changing, and is thus "unfinished"? To be finished means it won't improve.

      I don't think the contention is that software should be perfect, and should never be changed. However, it would be nice if the software at least worked well when it was released. More and more software is being released in an almost perpetual "beta" state, even though users are paying for it. It seems to be more acceptable to release software with bugs in it, that hasn't been through a proper testing regime.

      So, why do we need software to be "finished," anyway?

      In this context, I would say it would mean that it isn't full of bugs. I think that's important.

  • How can we make the manufacturers take better responsibility?
    From the bastion of a community where release early, release often is the motto, regardless of the state. Doesn't have a feature you want? Write it yourself. Wrecked your system? Sorry we have a take it as you find it license.
  • My answer to buggy/unfinished products has always been to take a pair of nunchucks to them. I think of it as an alternative way of 'finishing' them.
  • by iPaul (559200) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @05:07PM (#18136852) Homepage
    The DVD recorder has some "issues" with recording to DVD. It's very fancy, otherwise, complete with 6 possible recording inputs and can do slide-shows off USB keys with photos. Nifty specs. It seems that the primary solution is to update the firmware. You would think someone at the factory might have attempted to record video prior to shipping it, alas, they apparently did not. (It is an intermittant bug that causes the audio to progressively lag the video). Hey - it compiles, ship it!. Since the process for updating the firmware seems non-trivial, is riddled with warnings, involves a USB key and I'm lazy - I haven't done it.

    Combine this disturbing trend with product reviews that are little more than a regurgitation of the back of the box. (Along with some weird DMCA rules about what can and can't be reviewed on a product esp. vis-a-vis security.) Now you have a situation where you can't even get real reviews of products, and no review is ever "not positive." It's just that some are more positive than others. So, here you are, trying to buy a $500 video camera so you can tape the birth of your fist child and you aren't even really sure that any of them work. On top of that you can't even trust the reviews you read on various sites. I agree with you, this is not a good thing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)
      > Combine this disturbing trend with product reviews that are little more than a
      > regurgitation of the back of the box.

      This is because only those who can be trusted to publish positive reviews get pre-release samples to review.

      > Along with some weird DMCA rules about what can and can't be reviewed on a
      > product esp. vis-a-vis security.

      There are no such rules.

      > Now you have a situation where you can't even get real reviews of products,
      > and no review is ever "not positive." It's just that s
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by iPaul (559200)
        Yes, there are [eff.org] DMCA restrictions on security testing. I'm a little foggy on the rules, bou have to get an express agreement from the author/manufacturer that you are allowed to perform security testing. An example [chillingeffects.org] Of course I'm one of those EFF supporting lefties. Say it's a spam firewall you're reviewing, so you want to run a set of attack scripts against it to see if it actually does it's job, securely. The attack scripts are illegal under the DMCA as well as the act of running them against the firew
    • by GWBasic (900357)

      What I do is buy consumer electronics from Fry's, which has a very liberal return policy. If a device doesn't work, I return it for store credit. When they ask why I returned it, I state that it just doesn't work and probably shouldn't be sold to the general public. I've used this technique for graphics cards, sound cards, and keyboards with malfunctioning drivers.

      I also try to buy from stores that are a bit more selective about their merchandice.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    How can we make the manufacturers take better responsibility?

    If it doesn't work right take it back. If a manufacturer continues to put out a shoddy product, don't buy their products in future.

    This is incompatible with the idea that you must have the latest game, the latest gadget, the latest console, etc. How many people on Slashdot know about Sony's abusive behaviour and yet bought a PS3 anyway? How many people here know about Blizzard shutting down Free Software competition with phony copyright

    • by iPaul (559200)
      I agree - even though I've been very pleased with my Philips TV, I am hesitant to buy another Philips product because of a very shoddy Philips DVD recorder I bought. I'm also won't buy anything made by Sony because they "castrate" their products (and are trying to make everyone else do the same) in a dim-witted effort to combat piracy. I don't buy commercial music CD's any more because of the anti-piracy nonsense that was put on them. I will not buy another computer that uses broadcom wirless ethernet ad
      • by DogDude (805747)
        I'm not going to give up buying music, I'm just doing it on iTunes.

        That's right... either buy a CD that can be played in most of the billions of CD players on the planet, or buy an iTunes song, with enough DRM that you have to actually burn the damn thing to a CD in order to make a usable copy. That's pretty smart! You've outwitted them, that's for sure!
        • by iPaul (559200)
          Who the f*** carries around CD's any more? Who doesn't burn them to a computer and carry them on frickin' MP3 player along with about a thousand other songs? I have more confidence of what's on that burned CD than I have on the one I bought from the store. iTunes has obvious and simple limits on what it can and can't do, or what it will and won't play on. You buy a $12.99 "Britney Spears" CD and stick it in your computer you're accepting the risk that some jackass at Sony didn't decide that protecting "
    • by dangitman (862676)

      How many people on Slashdot know about Sony's abusive behaviour and yet bought a PS3 anyway?

      I don't have any actualy figures, but I'd estimate about two people. Although that's probably just a rounding error.

    • Bought a USR 8054, the features I needed weren't actually there... The update ...however long later added them, or the illusion of them, they never worked. The entire router became less & less stable as time went on. I tried to find a good one, but all of them were cheap POS because of the software involved. Even the "quality" stuff was hampered by poor software. So I figured I would try my luck using replacement software and not care. This I have a couple routers with 3rd party firmware now that w
    • How many people here know about Blizzard shutting down Free Software competition with phony copyright claims and yet carry on using WoW?

      See, Blizzard does get a bit of credit for actually working with Cedega to fix World of Warcraft problems. None of the other companies you mentioned have done anything to improve their karma.

      How many geeks despise Microsoft's abusive lawbreaking and went out and bought an XBox?

      And this is what bothers me about the corporation, specifically the conglomerate. I like Bungie

  • I will always have two paper punches (hand perforator) at home. One is over 40 years old, and was used by my father. The other will be replaced every 3-7 years, depending on how long it will last.

    The old thing is virtually indestructable, while modern equivalents are of lower quality, even though they come with those little bars to align your A5 or A4 paper size (Or US Letter).

    Ours already broke off, so I just crease the paper in the middle and align on sight.

    Henk

    Note: That little compartment in a paper p
    • Yes, and it extends further than this. I've scored a number of higher quality items at estate sales, all manufactured at least 30 years ago: metal rather than plastic snow shovel, office equipment, bakeware. An old Maytag dryer, refurbished by an older guy who knew what he was doing, runs circles around any appliance purchased in the last ten years. The lesser quality, higher volume sales curve won out over the higher quality, lower sales volume one somewhere in the last n decades. Consumers born post
      • The art of finding a quality box fan...or quality fan period... I've got an Emerson made in 193X ...Works great, out lasted every single fan I've ever owned in my lifetime. Goes bad? Worth every penny to repair it. I miss stuff like that being available. Best I've been able to do here is the "commercial quality" items and even though are loud, obnoxious, and still have more plastic than I feel justified for my 6x-27x price premium. No, that kind of quality doesn't exist anymore, not at any price.

        I went t
      • Whether this reflects higher inherent complexity and still evolving process or simply acceptance of crappy quality is harder to discern.

        Acceptance of crappy quality, I'd say. Now, take video games (pre-Internet.) You ship a product on a ROM cartridge or a CD, that has no way of ever being updated except by shipping the customer a new media ... well. Believe me, the reliability of those products approaches unity, because a single software error could (and has) cost millions. Consequently, it was worth the
        • Now, take video games (pre-Internet.) You ship a product on a ROM cartridge or a CD, that has no way of ever being updated except by shipping the customer a new media ... well. Believe me, the reliability of those products approaches unity, because a single software error could (and has) cost millions. Consequently, it was worth the investment in design and quality assurance to make the product reliable. Contrast this to, say, any modern operating system where the programmers know that even if they screw up
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by John Hasler (414242)
      > The old thing is virtually indestructable...

      How much did it cost, in current dollars? How many of those do you think you could sell at that price? Would you buy one at that price?
  • This has been going on for as long as CE have been sold with "commercially developed" firmware. If it's simple, it can be bug-free. When it gets complicated, if you're using the "write and debug" model, you will get bugs. And you'll get usage bugs: ones that affect practically all users, but don't show up until expensive real-world testing is done.

    Shameless self-plug aside, this is happenng even with firmware we'd thought was following a different development model, like that in modern fighter jets [slashdot.org]. And th
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:03PM (#18137354)
    Posting anonymously, because I review consumer electronic devices for a major web site. It gets depressing. I think I'm one of the few "reviewers" that don't reguritate press releases and/or the specs on the box. I work through each advertised feature and really try it out. I almost always find bugy user-interfaces, features that don't work, and features that are not documented. I used to start these reviews enthusiatically, but over time, I'm gotten more cynical. Today I'm working on a new review and finding the usual problems: Pop-up error messages that are blank except for an "OK" button, security holes big enough to drive a truck through and documented features that plain don't work. And this is with an expensive device that won a major award at an industry trade show. I look at the shiny box with the happy models and I read the glowing quotes from other reviewers and I wonder if they are using the same product I am.

    Sigh...
    • Maybe we need class action lawsuits against trade publications that give favorable ratings to obviously defective products. Let's start with PCMagazine that used to be the gold standard for thorough testing of products.
  • Really, who cares? It's not as if everyone has the time to
  • The easy answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by earnest murderer (888716) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:08PM (#18137396)
    Apart from reading every review possible before making a purchase, what strategy do you have, or propose, for not being caught out?"

    Don't buy new products. Seriously, if it is worth buying it will still be on the shelf in six months. Even then I wouldn't buy it until I had read a few *user* reviews, immediately disregarding the top 10%. Check out some forums. Unofficial forums that is, publishers are notorious for nuking negative comments. I do not trust professional reviews. Ever. Even for existing software things can be pretty sketchy for a while. Consider how often Apple manages to botch iTunes, and that's their billion dollar baby. I know it's not what you wanted to hear, but you have to do your due diligence and be patient.

    Frankly I don't see this problem going away until it is legislated away. If the bills concerning paid advertisements (i.e. the Sony PSP blog et.al.) have any teeth and clear consumer friendly rules, then reviews might have some value again. Not a lot, but some. Beyond that, liability is the only thing that's going to reign publishers in.
    • Seriously, if it is worth buying it will still be on the shelf in six months
      No it won't! It will be replaced by a new refreshed and possibly restyled model. Big manufacturers like Panasonic have a six month product cycle.
  • Even Slashdot posts are sometimes left unfinis
  • "There's no finished software.
    Finished software is outdated.

  • I bought myself a p990i (with orange, uk). Its a very nice phone - the specs are great - 2mp camera, ieee802.11b, pop3,smtp,3g, etc. Anyway, the phone crashes regularly, the interface is slow, when pull the num keys down to reveal the qwerty keyboard, the screen goes white for about a second.

    There's a firmware fix for it from sony ericsson, but orange have installed branded firmware so I cant upgrade to fix the bugs. Any suggestions?
    • by ZERO1ZERO (948669)
      You have 3 options:

      1. Contact Orange, tell them to fix it or your giving them the phone back.

      2. Upgrade the Firmware yourself, and wipe all the Orange stuff off.

      3. Keep taking it from Orange and keep paying them money for a crappy product.

  • See the problem is that a program is only as good as it's programmer. Unfortunately, software test engineers are worse. I think also there is a lack of good programming technique. I've seen people take advanced C classes whos code couldn't even handle the simplest exceptions. I had an instructor who would take off 10 points for not catching extra tokens in a command line. As a result my code is tight.

    What I see is in this world who ever gets their product out first is the winner. Thats why public betas are
  • It's really gotten out of hand. I just bought a new 2007 Jeep Wrangler. This is a major redesign of the old Wrangler line, and, for the first time, includes not only ordinary ABS, but active stability control in both yaw and roll, with rate gyros and computers.

    Yesterday, I received a recall notice:

    DamlierChrysler Safety Recall F50 - Reprogram ABS Control Module

    "The software programmed into the ABS control module on your vehicle may cause the rear brakes to lock up during certain braking condition

  • Do not buy a new product as soon as it is made available. There is hardly any device or feature that you need so desperately that you can't wait several months. Use that time to research the different products and you'll most likely find a different one (or that same one, but now complete) that works fine and you'll probably save money too.
  • Remember the NES? The ZIF connector was poorly designed and was prone to geting dirty and breaking at random intervals. It's the only console that comes to mind in which you can fix by blowing into it (despite only furthering the damage done.) It took a rather long time until Nintendo did much to fix the situation hardware-wise, with the release of the NES2. It was released in 1985. The concept of implementing half-baked concepts into retail products isn't exactly new, although it is becoming more prevale
    • by EdBear69 (823550)
      The concept of implementing half-baked concepts into retail products isn't exactly new, although it is becoming more prevalent every day. (Think Windows 3.0)

      Think Windows 1.0, 2.0x, and 2.1 while you're at it.

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:21PM (#18138504) Journal

    Around 1970 the quality of the bikes was so piss poor that factory new machines would often simply not work without extensive work by their new proud owner. So did the japanese with their fastly superior quality bury HD as it deserved too?

    Hell no.

    But bikes are an odd product. They are bought by 'fans' not just fans of a brand but fans of a the idea of bikes themselves. Having to spend hours working on your brand new bike to get it work is not actually a minus to a HD owner. A nephew of mine is a HD nut and once he finished a bike he loves riding it, on the look out for a new wreck, sorry, rare find to work on.

    Most tech goes through this face. Long before polaroid made photographs a snap you had a large group of photographers making photos despite the hassle involved. It wasn't always that cars were black boxes that just start always when you turn the ignition and you never ever look under the hood. Early car drivers had to be their own mechanics. No, that is not right, that sounds like they objected to it. For early car drivers, it was part of the fun.

    It ain't just tech, ever had a sister who LOVED horses? They actually enjoy taking care of them, shoveling shit and hauling hay.

    Computers are just the same, early adaptors don't mind the nitty gritty, for them it is part of it. As my nephew likes scraping rush, my sister loves shoveling shit, I love messing with obscure setting and compiling my own kernels. Take those "messy" bits away and you ruin the whole experience.

    The problem is when the "normal" people get involved. When a tech moves from the early adoptors to the mainstream. When it is no longer a "hobby" but becomes a necessity.

    There is a reason we no longer use horses for transportation. There is a reason why no courier service uses HD bikes and there is a reason why MS tries to hide all the settings from the user.

    The problem is that in a very real sense some tech moves into the mainstream before it is ready and/or the mainstream audience has the wrong idea about the tech.

    If you owned a horse back when it was a mainstream form of transportation you had better accept that the horse had to be properly maintained, the movie idea of driving it hard across the desert into the town, jumping off and heading into the saloon just ain't "real". It requirs rubbing down, watering, feeding. They don't show that on tv.

    They don't show you having to exchange the oil of your car, check its tires, replace the lights either.

    The computers on tv? They have voice commands, can log onto any service automatically and always have the right file just a keypress away.

    Reality is that computers just haven't reached a level of ease that suits the mainstream audience who just wants their product to run with zero maintenance. Is this wrong? Well, could you blame ford for not making its earliest cars as easy to operate as todays cars? Offcourse not. Tech has to develop. It has developped, compared to even the early home computers modern machines are a doddle to administrate.

    You need to be your own "admin" of your system, know how it works, why things happen and how you can deal with them. Sure it would be nice if the system was advanced enough to just deal with it but that ain't the case. Yet.

    Neither does your car, just ask your local mechanic how often they got to fix cars after their owner put in the wrong fuel. Why doesn't your car warn you before you put in the wrong nozzle? Because the tech ain't ready for it yet. One day it will, just as your car nowadays warns you when the oil is out (the oil light was once an innovation).

    Same as your PC will one day warn you accuratly when you are about to download some dangerous software (No I am not talking about UAC or similar crap, that is closer to a sticker on your windscreen telling you to check the oil).

    BUT not yet.

    Early games required a lot more tweaking then they do nowadays. Believe it or not, once TV's didn't come with an AV button and you had to tune in you

    • "The computers on tv? They have voice commands, can log onto any service automatically and always have the right file just a keypress away."

      That's because it's easier to do on film without shoving a bunch of mundane user interface stuff into the story line. Just like movie characters don't use the bathroom unless it's useful to the plot and stuff like that.

      "Neither does your car, just ask your local mechanic how often they got to fix cars after their owner put in the wrong fuel. Why doesn't your car warn y
    • That only worked out for Harley Davidson because they achieved icon status. Fender music company survived CBS for the same reason, even though it probably shouldn't have. Gibson survived for much of the same reason. People put up with the problems with their Vespa scooters ...yadda. But my router, my phone, it isn't a vespa, it isn't a harley, it isn't a ferarri. I just want it to work right, out of the box. I bought it to do those things, and when it doesn't -- and when nearly every model on the shelf d
    • Harley was bought out in the early Seventies by AMF, the sporting goods company. It was AMF that decided they could bring certain efficiencies and cost-cutting measures to bear on the manufacture of the motorcycles. Unfortunately one of those was that the walls of the fuel tanks were flimsy and given to blowing out or exploding. Given the location of the fuel tank on the bike (the rider sits on it), the result was some horrific accidents. Those that weren't fatal left the rider hideously maimed. The bikes w
    • Around 1970 the quality of the bikes was so piss poor that factory new machines would often simply not work without extensive work by their new proud owner. So did the japanese with their fastly superior quality bury HD as it deserved too?

      Hell no.
      Actually. I think you'll find that in the rest of the world, they did exactly that. Harley Davidsons are seen as a joke pretty much throughout Europe
    • dude i'll reply to this just noone else is going to^H^H^H^H^H^H^H cause you put so much effort into it.
  • 2 weeks ago I bought a router and after using it 2 days I noted that the network was slow. I checked the linksys page and I found out that there was a big notice asking people to upgrade to a new firmware which suposedly would fix speed problems. Ok so I try to upgrade the firmware and the router goes dead. I speant 2 hours with linksys customer support. Then I went to the store to retun it, they would give cash back so I got another router, again with old firmware. This one upgraded ok. I think the store s
    • Sure. The shop will do that for you. If, and only if you and all other customers there are willing to spend the extra $$$ for such a service. But I'm sure before you go out and buy your Linksys router, you check price levels on a couple of sites. If that up-to-date Linksys in your local shop then shows up at 3x the price, I'm sure you will pass up and buy from that cheap place. So your shop with service will be out of business real soon.

      The entire issue revolves around people wanting everything cheap. Quali
      • It's also not "new in a box" after they take it out to update the firmware. People want one with the shrink-wrap still on it. Otherwise, they want a discount for an "open box" or "demo".
  • ... it's the UNIX philosophy. But it's really not just applicable to UNIX... it applies to software development in general.

    Things can always be improved and tweaked, but while that code is unreleased, users are living with previous versions which may lack other features a new version brings. This is why lists of known issues are maintained. That list of caveats to let the users decide.

    Also, at some point you just have to get that sucker out there for people to start using. Mac OS X 10.0 comes to mind.
  • by AmiMoJo (196126) <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Sunday February 25, 2007 @06:13AM (#18142064) Homepage
    In the UK, if a product is advertised with certain features and those features either do not exist or do not work, you can return it for a full refund under the Sale of Goods Act. Items must be "fit for purpose" and advertising must be accurate.

    That really is the best stratergy. If companies get too many returns, they will realise that their products are not up to scratch and either go out of business or fix them.

    BTW, don't be fooled by retailers who claim you can't return things once the packaging is opened. The law appilies to everything, even software and things sold in those stupid "blister" packs you have to destroy to open. Just because the manufacturer made it impossible to find the defect without opening the product doesn't mean you can't return it. Even cars, which loose thousands of pounds in value when you drive them away from the dealers fall under the same law.
  • jokes apart, [sic] will we be booting our cars up and installing flash updates every week to prevent computer viruses getting into the control systems?

    It's no joke [flightglobal.com].
    • by systemeng (998953)
      Likely a problem crossing the international dateline. I once heard of a problem (perhaps urban legend) where a plane flipped upside down when it crossed the dateline due to the system making a mistake in computing the direction of up in the eastern hemisphere.
  • Apologies for ranting off at the most convenient target but:

    EA only seem to release bugfixes when patches are coming out to support paid "booster packs". Battlefield 2 is a prime example of EA's continued disregard for their customers. Every time I see their intro movie I groan, because I know the game is going to have been rushed out the door.

    Contrast this with Starcraft - those chaps seem to be still releasing patches (I think the last one was within the last 2 years - not bad for 1998 game!). Valve keeps
  • It has sadly become the norm for console game systems. When my coworker brought home his shiny new Wii (on launch day I believe), he said he had to hook it up to the internet and let it download software/firmware updates overnight. So basically, he couldn't just sit down and play...or maybe he could but it didn't have all the functionality it promised. The same is true with the other console systems now. It seems that everything wants to connect to the internet just because it can...basically since broadban

There is no opinion so absurd that some philosopher will not express it. -- Marcus Tullius Cicero, "Ad familiares"

Working...