Is it me, or is every consumer product in the world becoming less useful and more filled with 'unwanted extras' that you don't really need or want? The other day I bought a replacement mouse. Its nothing fancy, no cordless 4-D neon-lit hyper-scrolling cyber glove; its just a simple 3-button deal with a cord - not exactly pushing back the frontiers of physics and science, is it? Like most mice it came with an USB/PS-2 adaptor so can be used in either port. This is a good idea, except most PC users will stick with PS-2 for the simple reason of free-ing up another USB port. Has everyone noticed how bad some USB mice can be in terms of response time? Pah, maybe its just me drinking for too much whiskey late at night. :)
The competition between hardware and software rivals is strong, you only have to walk into any medium sized PC store and look at the vast shelves and shelves of each product there is to choose from. For computer newbies it must be a bewildering task - finding what they need from what looks shiny and new. I'm sure most computer users have had their eye caught by some flashy piece of kit they don't really needed. Sometimes understanding all the technical details can cause customers to instantly fall into a deep and long-lasting coma. So how do companies make sure you buy their products?
Let's face it, most of us want something for nothing, or, something for next to nothing. This is true because no-one wants to feel cheated. We've worked hard to afford that shiny new hardware and don't want to end up with some cheap, flimsy piece of junk that breaks the second time you use it. One way to avoid (or at least lessen) this feeling of dis-satisfaction is to bundle some extras with the product. Buying a new car is a prime example of this trick. Do all those little gadgets actually make your life any easier? or do they simply help waste most of your precious time?
Think about this, a car with electric windows is great, but suppose you're driving down the road one day, you turn too sharply and you end up in a lake or river. The car battery shorts out and you can't escape because (yeah, you've guessed it) the electric windows don't work. My point? Well, those old, ancient mechanical windows that you had to wind down yourself worked just as well as the fancy new ones. The electronic windows are merely 'extras' for the main product itself.
The computer industry relies on the extras to help sell their products. A person in a computer shop will often look at the list of 'extras' and so think he/she is getting more for their money (they don't want to feel cheated).
Scrolling back to the new mouse I bought. Installing the hardware went without a single problem - not surprising as there is only one plug :) A good example of design and minimalism! Why can't all hardware in the future be this simple? Maybe we are getting there with USB devices, but there is still the problem of software drivers.
Here is where the junk hits you. Along with the mouse came a CD - "Oh, drivers and perhaps a small app for extra settings" I thought. Nope junk.
In fact the CD installer (after being forced to accept that their crappy drivers might not actually work) wanted to install a massive 51 megs of stuff on my HD! Perhaps I'm getting old, but I remember when a mouse driver was 40Kb max and fitted on a floppy disk. So what was all that 51 megs of junk?
MouseWare - support 4500K
eBay shortcut 10K
LogiTech Resource center 4080K
WildTanget Game Channel 11900K
I'm sure you will agree this is junk. Why the F**k does a mouse driver CD have a MP3 player/ripper and net radio software on it? I could understand if they had a nicely presented catalogue of their LogiTech products on the CD and perhaps some helpful information about avoiding RSI and how to sit comfortably, use their mouse correctly and so on... But an eBay shortcut? Why? Do they secretly want me to sell this brand new mouse on eBay while I rip off music tracks into MP3s ?
Junk. Pure CD-filling junk!
Looking at software (especially Operating-Systems) in general there is an awful lot of unwanted junk. Once upon a time you installed a single application to perform a single task. Now it seems that every app wants to be its own web-browser, mp3-player, instant messenger, help-desk and auto-update agent. But what about the original (and main) purpose you installed the software for? I don't want to recieve the latest advertisements from their affiliate companies or be forced to close a million 'messenger-like' popup advert windows everytime I reboot - I just want rock-solid software that is quick and reliable!
Until then, I hope to see you all on eBay - buying thse "CDs of 'useful' extras" I've just copied with some ripped MP3s - #;o)