Geeks rescue consumer victims of “software rage”

This evening on CBS 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft updated his report from earlier this year and gives the Geek Squad their fifteen minutes of fame.  Kroft covered the challenges and increasing complexities computers, networking devices and the myriad of consumer electronics that contain computer chips… everything from personal computers to mobile phones and all-in-one remote controls, or as Steve said, “anything that needs to be programmed, requires technical support, and can crash, die, or merely freeze.”

“We are becoming slaves to our own technology – addicted to and dependent upon all sorts of beeping, flashing gadgetry that is supposed to make our lives easier.

“But it has become so complicated to set up, program and fix, that most of us don’t know how to do it, giving rise to a multi-billion dollar service industry populated by the very people who used to be shunned in the high school cafeteria: geeks, like Robert Stephens.

My favourite part was the snips of interviews and sound bytes from one of the folks I read regularly, tech columnist David Pogue.

“Part of the problem, when it comes to computers at least, is that there are so many cooks for what you are using. Microsoft made the operating system, some company in Taiwan made the equipment, you’re running software from a company in California, and now you’re installing the driver for a digital camera from a fourth company. You know, what are the odds that all of these are going to work flawlessly together for all 400 million people who have PCs? Zip,” Pogue says.

“So, what do you do?” Kroft asks.

“You get unhappy. You develop software rage,” Pogue says.

Pogue is right: how many times have you gotten to your wit’s end after trying everything outlined in the manual. Often, you’re lucky if you find a cryptic (or poorly translated) electronic read-me file or esoteric web page reference, as some companies don’t even include a real manual with their products these days. 

In an article by By Paula Rooney, the author notes that a major problem around our launch of Windows Vista was (and some will say “is still”) a lack of software drivers for third party hardware components and peripherals…

“Tons of vendors haven’t done Vista drivers and that’s left a big hole in support. I can understand when it comes to printers and scanners, but when we’re talking about hard drives, chipset controllers and video cards, things that run the PC, it’s surprising,” he said. “It’s not just peripherals but primary component manufacturers aren’t ready, and that unusual compared to the previous releases [of Windows].”

Rooney calls out that in the feedback gathered by CRN, the top three problems facing Windows Vista early adopters — and I’ll suggest, often users of any OS — are:

    1. Lack of available drivers from ISVs causing application conflicts;
    2. Lack of available drivers for existing and new peripherals and hardware components;
    3. Buggy drivers

Drivers, drivers, drivers. 

A good article is this one, “The hunt for drivers” on the Windows Help and How-to site, and the use of Windows Update to locate and install the latest updates for your software and hardware.  In Vista, Windows Update is integrated into the OS, and found that (according to the site) “more than 31,000 updated drivers were ready when Windows Vista was completed” which is almost three times what was available when Windows XP was launched.

“In many cases, you don’t even need Windows Update to install new devices. Often when you plug in a new device or install a new add-on card in your computer, Windows Vista will detect the hardware and automatically install the correct driver in less than a minute. A notification lets you know when installation begins and when it’s complete. You don’t have to do anything.”

Sometimes, that’s true, as I found when I connected my HP scanner to my Windows Vista

Tags: customer support, Windows Vista, drivers.