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Are Unfinished Products Now the Norm?

Cliff posted more than 7 years ago | from the not-ready-for-prime-time dept.

Businesses 111

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?"

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111 comments

You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (5, Funny)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136692)

There is no such thing as an "unfinished" product. They're defective out-the-door.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (2, Interesting)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136834)

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.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (4, Insightful)

paeanblack (191171) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (1)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139224)

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."

Re: Voyager updated multiples times (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18139618)

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.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (1)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 7 years ago | (#18140160)

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:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (2, Interesting)

Endo13 (1000782) | more than 7 years ago | (#18141876)

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.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (3, Funny)

CommunistHamster (949406) | more than 7 years ago | (#18142120)

A dozen? One will be enough - he can just clip through their walls.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wong Way (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 7 years ago | (#18141202)

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.

I'm seeing that with several routers that started out great but now release buggy crap.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (4, Interesting)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (1)

DigitalCrackPipe (626884) | more than 7 years ago | (#18146864)

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, so I don't know how this could change.

Re:You're Looking at it the Wrong Way (2, Insightful)

architimmy (727047) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136994)

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, still a bit limited, and definitely only just now reaching a point at which I think a commercial firm can afford to invest in using. That said however, this is the only software package out of many that is usable in professional practice. In defense of application developers, you don't often find people who have extensive enough professional experience to really work on specific practice oriented software. To deal with my example, developers don't exactly know what architects need, in fact many architects don't really know what they need either. The process of figuring this out and how to turn it into software requires unique people. When attempting to provide software that redefines the way the industry designs and constructs buildings you can't exactly ask people what additional features they'd want in an existing software package. That's working too much "inside the box." So one approach is certainly to start a product with the fundamental application architecture philosophy that it's going to be modular and flexible and go from there accepting criticism and adding and removing features as you go. It might take 9 to 10 releases before you start to get widespread acceptance and reach a point at which your software is even usable.

In software, finished == dead (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137524)

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".

If people will buy it.... (5, Insightful)

GrnArmadillo (697378) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

If people will torrent it.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18136820)

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

Thankfully we've fixed that problem.

Re:If people will buy it.... (3, Insightful)

cptgrudge (177113) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136956)

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

Re:If people will buy it.... (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139878)

Liability

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

Re:If people will buy it.... (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 7 years ago | (#18140122)

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>

Re:If people will buy it.... (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 7 years ago | (#18146636)

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 by now that version will be a non M$ version).

OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18136728)

OSS is the epitomy of the unfinished product. OSS geeks have NO room to complain about it being the same anywhere else. May they all ride an unfinished roller coaster.

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (1)

Mark Maughan (763986) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137070)

Would you like a 0$ refund?

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (1)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137202)

God what a devastatingly witty repartee.

I can only assume you consider OSS to be in the what you pay for is what you get category, a zero sum gane of zero. And interestingly after paying and getting nothing, a lot of people would rather willingly commit a criminal act and pirate the supposedly useless commercial offerings than continue to use OSS because it fits their needs better.

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137422)

I think you might be missing the point slightly about open-source.

You release unfinished products not out of laziness or incompetence, but because that way others can work on them too.

You're seeing the development process, which is normally hidden from you, in action. Is it any surprise that the unfinished software isn't all that you'd hoped for?

"Release" means a different thing in the commercial world than in the open-source world.

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18138052)

"Release" means a different thing in the commercial world than in the open-source world.

You keep using that word, are you sure it means what you think it means?

Obviously value and quality also have different meanings, as well.

I like that one about people would rather commit a criminal act and pirate commercial software than use open source.

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138098)

You're seeing the development process

No, you are seeing the development process never end. Just try and count the number of projects, even highly popular projects, that are still stuck in pre-1.0 state because the developers can not be bothered to set a specific goal and work to polish the product up for release, but instead just want to do the fun work of adding new things forever.

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (1)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139900)

No, you are seeing the development process never end. Just try and count the number of projects, even highly popular projects, that are still stuck in pre-1.0 state because the developers can not be bothered to set a specific goal and work to polish the product up for release, but instead just want to do the fun work of adding new things forever.

Gee, volunteers mostly only do the things that are fun? I'm shocked!

If you're unhappy with the software, then pay someone to adapt it to your needs. If lots of people are unhappy with the software, then they can pool their resources to pay someone to adapt it to their needs. At least that's feasible with free software.

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18147164)

Gee, volunteers mostly only do the things that are fun? I'm shocked!

No, this is obviously not shocking. However, claiming this is a better development model than that for propietary software is definitely stretching it just a bit.

Re:OSS the Epitomy of Unfinished Product (1)

HeroreV (869368) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139272)

Although some OSS projects never make any effort to produce a stable release (like Code::Blocks), many others are quite good about producing fully-functioning stable releases relatively often. Trunk source access and nightly builds don't make the stable releases any less stable.

Software approaching the complexity of the organic (4, Insightful)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136732)

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?

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

horn_in_gb (856751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136866)

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 :) Tires blow, mufflers fall off, things are changing all the time.

At least software is not subject to the laws of entropy (or is it?!)....

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (3, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137006)

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.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137024)

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.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137118)

Yup -- a program is never done. Always one more feature to add :)

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (4, Insightful)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137126)

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.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (4, Insightful)

MoneyT (548795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137356)

How much does the glass display for an aircraft cost compared to your camera? How much of that cost is testing?

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (2, Informative)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137496)

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.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

Mad Marlin (96929) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138138)

The ones my company produces cost several times my yearly salary a piece, and I am not exactly living poor.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137722)

> 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.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138150)

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 then discontinue the model in 3 months. (Or in many cases they just buy another somewhat OTS solution from a company in Asia).

Not much choice (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138160)

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 significant percentage of the capital to build the infrastructure. It was taxpayer money that provided a significant percentage of the research funding. On the other side of the counter it was taxpayer money which bought the products.

But it was only the directors, CxOs, VPs, and major stock holders who were allowed to walk away with the profits. Where is the taxpayer's cut?

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (2, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139398)

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.

The engineer's mantra (1)

analog_line (465182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18146494)

Fast, cheap, and good.

I can give you two out of three, which do you pick?

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137748)

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 could do if we made the effort to get the top 10 most used applications designed and built properly, and these costs are ultimately passed on to society one way or another?

Because when I'm driving in my car (or the US Navy is sailing in their warship, take your pick) I don't want a stupid software bug to leave me stranded?

You get the idea, I'm sure. Software is typically sold as a product (or in connection with a physical product) to perform a specific task. I don't want to learn a new meaning of pain and suffering as the software slowly evolves to actually working over a period of 1,000 years. I just want it to perform the task for which it was developed safely, efficiently and reliably. This should not be difficult, but the commercial software world consistently produces crap because the market has demonstrated a willingness to pay for it.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138210)

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. Am I somehow being selfish by wanting to run non-buggy software that works? Maybe you don't need that, but I certainly do. I haven't got time to waste on bugs, I have work to do.

Re:Software approaching the complexity of the orga (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18138910)

> Software is approaching the complexity of organic life.

No, no it's not.

What a question to ask here (0, Flamebait)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136734)

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.

Re:What a question to ask here (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18143486)

if commercial vendors did any better...

nunchucks fix it (1)

apt_user (812814) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136798)

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.

A phillips DVD recorder (4, Interesting)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18136852)

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:A phillips DVD recorder (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137796)

> 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 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.

Well, you _could_ wait until the product has been out long enough for someone (such as Consumer's Union) to have purchased a sample off the shelf, tested it, and published a report. But then you wouldn't be on the leading edge! You'd be buying "obsolete" stuff! Intolerable!

Re:A phillips DVD recorder (2, Informative)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137972)

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 firewall.

Well, you _could_ wait until the product has been out long enough for someone (such as Consumer's Union) to have purchased a sample off the shelf, tested it, and published a report. But then you wouldn't be on the leading edge! You'd be buying "obsolete" stuff! Intolerable!
Okay, so you read the review in Consumer's Union, or Consumer Reports or whatever. Only the review is 8 months old at that point. Maybe you could get it on eBay, but you will probably find BestBuy doesn't carry it any more. I repeatedly have this problem with Linux and Solaris hardware. By the time it's certified or tested, it's no longer the current, in-stock product. And while I have no problem with a little trial and error on my home machine, clients are much less tolerant of "well, it should work and it should be covered under RedHat support."

Re:A phillips DVD recorder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18144582)

DVDs made with the Samsung DVD-R120 (and I hear the replacement model too) result in a hard chapter division at 5 minutes. This mandatory chapter creation somehow does not conform to the DVD Video standard and so on many other players there is a long pause at 5 minutes into any DVD created on the Samsung DVD-R120. Firmware updates do not fix it. And don't get me started on how effing long it takes to "format" a new disc or trying to do more than one thing at a time on this recorder.

This is an unfinished product.

Be a responsible consumer (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18137018)

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 claims and yet carry on using WoW? How many geeks despise Microsoft's abusive lawbreaking and went out and bought an XBox? The RIAA and MPAA are evil corporations, right? The DeCSS lawsuits are completely unjust, right? So how come you have hundreds of CDs and DVDs?

The fickle, greedy nature of Western consumerism causes this problem, and by giving in to your irresponsible impulse buying and fanboyism, you are part of the problem.

Re:Be a responsible consumer (1)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137292)

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 adapters - because of their lack of Linux support. However, there's an upper limit on my tolerance for pain. For example, I'm not going to give up buying music, I'm just doing it on iTunes.

Re:Be a responsible consumer (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137530)

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!

Re:Be a responsible consumer (1)

iPaul (559200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137664)

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 "Ooops I did it again" is worth putting a harder to find torjan on you computer, complete with a keystroke logger, and accidentally bundled a virus for good measure. Which, by the way, conflicts with the copy protection installed when you decided to watch "Harry Pooter 7 and the Testicles of Doom."

Re:Be a responsible consumer (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138260)

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.

I've had that problem with routers... (1)

SacredNaCl (545593) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138916)

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 work great, and do what they should have done out of the box that didn't.

While I appreciate the work the 3rd party firmware developers did, and it would be sucksville without them, its because none of the makers are making a good finished product period that we are in this situation and they had to develop something.

Re:I've had that problem with routers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18139348)

I've had problems with routers too. My first router which was one of the first WRT54G routers from Linksys was filled with bugs in the firmware. Not small stuff either. We are talking the kind of bugs that you notice right out of the box. The port forwarding screen would display garbled text for example, which makes you wonder how in the hell this got past the QA team. A friend of mine bought a newer version of the same router and the firmware has vastly improved in quality. I can't say the same for the hardware though. The newer ones are dropping connections and undergoing hardware failures in the first couple of months/years and there are a lot more DOAs.

I agree with other readers that complex software can never be finished unless you work for NASA or something. In the real world that kind of testing just isn't going to happen. Although at the same time I think that more could be done without increasing costs too much. Bugs that are noticeable 5 minutes after you get the product are inexcusable.

Re:Be a responsible consumer (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 7 years ago | (#18141386)

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, and I like the Halo series, but I hate Microsoft.

So, Halo and Halo 2 was worth buying an Xbox for, and Halo 3 will be worth buying a 360 for, but neither is worth selling my soul for. So I borrow them from friends.

The fickle, greedy nature of Western consumerism causes this problem...

There's a more fundamental problem, maybe the same cause: Lack of competition and standards, and huge organizations, makes it very hard to separate the good from the bad. I can't buy a Halo game without supporting Microsoft indirectly by paying Bungie, and directly by buying an Xbox (because they mostly aren't available on a non-Microsoft platform).

It's not just software or even electronics (2, Interesting)

hla (20659) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137028)

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 punch is actually a supply of holes. Don't forget to refill it.

Re:It's not just software or even electronics (1)

deltacephei (842219) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137752)

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 this transition (1980?) will not have had as much exposure to higher quality manufacturing and base expectations on what they know - hence replacing the hole punch every five years is normal. Yet the argument breaks down for many consumer items - for instance, I've got no desire to trade in my sweet fast ride for a older heavier less fuel efficient version.

WRT software: patches are becoming so ubiquitous they are part of the culture. Whether this reflects higher inherent complexity and still evolving process or simply acceptance of crappy quality is harder to discern.

Re:It's not just software or even electronics (1)

SacredNaCl (545593) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138972)

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 to the store to buy a guage for measuring air pressure. Every single one of them now, plastic. Went to another store, same thing, went to another one, same thing. Now this one is a gift for my father, I wanted to get him one like mine - hard metal, rotary design, thick glass, accurate, and you could run it over without breaking it. The best I could do is the barbie & ken special, well, hell, its digital and at least back lighted display. But drop it from 3-4 ft and its probably toast, whereas mine I could throw it off a cliff, have an 18 wheeler run over it, and it might just scratch the metal.

Re:It's not just software or even electronics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18146240)

Now this one is a gift for my father, I wanted to get him one like mine - hard metal, rotary design, thick glass, accurate, and you could run it over without breaking it. The best I could do is the barbie & ken special

Restoration Hardware sells those meter-style metal-and-glass tire gauges. They're made in China, but the quality is damned high.

Re:It's not just software or even electronics (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139604)

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 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 royally they can just fix it with the next maintenance release.

Re:It's not just software or even electronics (1)

SillyNickName4me (760022) | more than 7 years ago | (#18143524)

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 royally they can just fix it with the next maintenance release.

http://www.frontier.co.uk/games/firstencounters/ [frontier.co.uk]

Ok, the internet quite existed in 1995, but most people didn't have an internet connection yet.

Re:It's not just software or even electronics (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138022)

> 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?

Be sure the upgrade path is open (1)

DingerX (847589) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137130)

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 there, they compounded problems by not having at hand the hardware necessary to upload firmware. That's why when you buy a cellphone today, you factor in the cost of a USB connector.

TiVO (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18137238)

When I first bought my TiVO, it said that it could connect to my home network. It didn't really mention that it required an external network card to do that. So I went to TiVO's website and found a Linksys network card that TiVO said would work, and I bought it. I connected it and it did not work, because the TiVO I bought had an old version of the TiVO software on it that didn't work with that network card. The only way to get my TiVO to work with that network card that TiVO had approved was to have a phone line. So much for working with my network out of the box.

I review consumer electronic devices (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#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...

Re:I review consumer electronic devices (1)

justthinkit (954982) | more than 7 years ago | (#18144050)

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.

There's nothing wrong with unfinished products (1)

Bluesman (104513) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137374)

Really, who cares? It's not as if everyone has the time to

Re:There's nothing wrong with unfinished products (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18138226)

Ha, well played. You'd have my mod points if I had them in the first place.

The easy answer (5, Insightful)

earnest murderer (888716) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:The easy answer (1)

megalomaniacs4u (199468) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138204)

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.

Not just products but everything else (1, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137624)

Even Slashdot posts are sometimes left unfinis

Two Questions. One answer. (1)

WK1 (987981) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137666)

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?

If it don't work like it should, return it. It's much easier to review a product myself, anyway. If enough people returned shoddy (aka unfinished) products, manufactuerers wouldn't make shoddy products.

My first CS-teacher said (1)

rainer_d (115765) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137746)

"There's no finished software.
Finished software is outdated.

Re:My first CS-teacher said (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18137944)

Finished software is outdated.

Then how do you explain Linux, huh? It's both Finnish and unfinished...

*groan*

p990i (1)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 7 years ago | (#18137996)

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?

Re:p990i (1)

ZERO1ZERO (948669) | more than 7 years ago | (#18143780)

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.

Oh thats right (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138006)

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 more important. Microsoft and vista is an example of that. At least they patched some of the security holes before they launched.

What I think is programming is an art form. I know people who play metal on guitar. When you ask them what key they're playing in they stare at you blankly as if they don't have a deep understanding of the notes they are playing. I think programming is plagued with the same problems. Programmers no longer have a deep understanding of whats going on in a system. Part of that I think is due to the educational system. Many Universities start teaching Java as a first language. You learn what a class is before you learn what a class REALLY is.

It takes a good understanding of the ENTIRE system to find bugs. Often programmers are completely focused on their little piece of code and aren't held up to standards as long as it works when they test it.

Yes. My car's (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138056)

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 conditions. This could result in a loss of vehicle control and cause a crash without warning".

So it has to go in for a firmware upgrade. Over 60,000 vehicles are affected.

There is a simple solution (1)

McDrewbie (530348) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138100)

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.

This isn't a new problem. (1)

ThatSandersKid (1068182) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138326)

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 prevalent every day. (Think Windows 3.0)

Re:This isn't a new problem. (1)

EdBear69 (823550) | more than 7 years ago | (#18140416)

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.

Ask Harley Davidson owners (2, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138504)

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 your tv manually to the signal of your console/homecomputer/VCR. Yeah indeed young ones, there was a day when your tv didn't tune itself. In DOS you had to tweak your config for most games to load the proper stuff. Some worked only with special memory drivers others required smartdrive yet others would refuse to run with it. Plug and Play hardware? HA, you not only had to twiddle with the hardware but actually remember the settings so you could configure each and every game by itself.

Hell, what of the fact that back then you didn't have a fat pipe to download tons of helpfull texts or patches? Something didn't work? Take it back to the shop and try to explain to the idiot behind the counter what is wrong with it.

Outside Sony (I bought a PSP) I haven't actually had a faulty product in years. Back in the early AT days I had to deal with all kind of faulty components to one extreme of plugging in a vid card and watching the magic smoke escape from the motherboard in one massive fryup. Got my money back but still.

At least that doesn't happen anymore. Downloading new drivers seems pretty tame compared to that.

DO I think it is right then that products ship in an incomplete state? Well, if you don't like it, don't buy it. If you don't like shovelling shit, don't get a horse. If you don't like messing with motors, don't buy a HD. If you don't want to worry about how much petrol is in the tank, use public transport. WALK!

You don't NEED a computer. You don't NEED a PDA and you don't NEED a phone. If you WANT one, you are in the bad luck that at the moment these are still very incomplete devices wich often require lots of extra effort to get working.

Remember, there are WORKING alternatives to them all. Typewriters are still in perfect working order (Office software), the postal service is extremely reliable (email), agenda never run out of batteries (PDA) and an old fashioned landline phone from 20 years ago still works wonders.

Yeah it sucks that the tech ain't ready yet, the same it sucked that if you wanted a car in T-ford days you needed to crank it to start it. Use your electric starter activated from outside with your key and count yourselve lucky you are born today. A couple of generations down the line your grandchilderen will moan about matter transporters while they enjoy their effortless computers.

Oh and things are already improving, I remember when you bought a mobile phone and it had to be charged first before it worked, nowdays they come with a small charge so the sales clerk can properly setup the phone and explain it. Progress. I rememeber when all the settings for the network had to be entered manually from a badly copied sheet. Nowadays phones are preset. I remember having to setup a modem with your phone landline to get online. Nowadays you just plug in the cable modem and your done in a couple of seconds.

Kids these days, they don't know how good they got it.

Re:Ask Harley Davidson owners (1)

gradedcheese (173758) | more than 7 years ago | (#18138918)

"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 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)."

Wrong fuel? Like Diesel in a gasoline engine? Yeah, those nozzles are designed not to fit correctly. Gasoline but wrong octane? This was once a problem but modern engines (ie: since the late 1980's) have knock sensors. They detect knock (early detonation from using a lower octane fuel in a high-compression motor) and retard the timing accordingly. There's no need for nozzle differences and the owner's handbook and other printed materials tell you the minimum octane rating.

The 'oil light' has been present on almost every car ever made. It used to indicate low oil pressure, which is a result of either simply not having enough oil, having a failing oil pump, or the like. Now they also have electronic level meters hooked up to that light, but that's not a major improvement, it's just that people don't bother using the dip stick.

Re:Ask Harley Davidson owners (1)

SacredNaCl (545593) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139098)

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 doesn't - that becomes a severe problem.

Re:Ask Harley Davidson owners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18139274)

Well, the thing you have to appreciate, though, these unfinished products people are talking about are not computers. They contain computers, and do have updatable software but... well, a computer is an open system. Software is regularly added to them, hardware is added too, some don't work right, etc.. I'd see the Harley owner as most analogous to the guys that are constantly getting that just a little faster video card, then a new system to handle the new card, then a new card since that new system can max out the old card again, etc...

          What people are complaining about, though, are defective products. A DVD recorder that doesn't record DVDs is defective. A projector or DVD player or whatever that pops up error boxes (with no text no less!) when stuff is supposed to happen are defective (excluding if the error popped up becasue of a power surge or brownout.. there's not much the programmer can do about that!) If a menu doesn't work, at least take it out, and put a comment in the manual that that the feature will be implemented in the future. There are not the huge # of combinations of hardware and software like a PC, this is a standardized set of hardware running a fixed set of vendor-supplied software; the levels of buginess some products have really are not excusable.

Re:Ask Harley Davidson owners - AMF (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139726)

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 were flimsy in any number of other ways; it's just that the gas tank thing was so memorable. AMF changed the name of the company for a few short years to AMF Harley. It didn't take long for "AMF" to acquire its new meaning--"adios, motherfucker..." I believe (but am not sure) that Harley Davidson was bought out by its then-employees after sales fell through the floor. If that's not accurate, then whoever bought it dedicated considerable effort to bringing the bikes up to their former high quality.

It's somewhat interesting that the same era saw the exploding Ford Pinto gas tanks. The story making the rounds was that Ford knew about the problem but deemed the fix too expensive until people started being immolated by the dozens. The other spectacularly shoddy vehicle of the era was the infamous Chevy Vega with its warping aluminum engine block.

Shoddy workmanship isn't new, but the modern tradition of shoddy workmanship seems to have had its genesis in the early Seventies.

Harley Davidsons are a joke motorcycle (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#18142114)

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

Re:Ask Harley Davidson owners (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18142456)

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.


You mean like taking the baffle out of the muffler so that you can annoy people for miles around and think you're cool for doing it?

Harleys are compliant with municipal noise bylaws when they leave the factory, yet very few remain that way.

The cops are too chickenshit to do anything about it, if my car made that much noise, I'd be getting a ticket and order to fix it faster than you can say "municipal noise bylaws".

Re:Ask Harley Davidson owners (1)

zen-theorist (930637) | more than 7 years ago | (#18144010)

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.

recent example Linksys WRT54g router (1)

alonsoac (180192) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139356)

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 should sell the routers with the latest firmware, specially if there is a big advisory about it.

The shop will do that for you (1)

scsirob (246572) | more than 7 years ago | (#18141454)

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. Quality costs money. Service costs money. As soon as peope are willing to pay for qualiry and service then I'm sure they will receive a lot better products.

Re:The shop will do that for you (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 7 years ago | (#18146762)

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".

Release early, release often (1)

damacus (827187) | more than 7 years ago | (#18139914)

... 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. It was such a departure from OS9 with so many changes that Apple pushed it out the door just to get people using it and to give developers a reason to stop concentrating solely on OS9, even though it had many usability issues. Early adopters were affected, but people were able to make that choice for themselves. (Apple did release 10.1 as a free upgrade, unlike the following releases.)

Finally, as for abuse by companies constantly releasing paid frivolous updates/fixes.. the marketplace should take care of them and limit this abuse.

Just take it back and get a refund (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 7 years ago | (#18142064)

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 aside... (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 7 years ago | (#18147118)

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] .
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