Yes, I DO hate software

Author's note: In yet another installment of "From the Archives", here is a little entry that I wrote up back in September of 2007, but never bothered to publish. It's a little dated, but sadly it still has the ring of truth to it. Of course, there has been some improvement. A lot of hardware doesn't come with a CD anymore - they just give you a pamphlet with a link to the crappy software instead. But anyway, I thought this entry was based on an interesting quote, so here it is.

On an episode of Hanselminutes a month ago, Scott and Carl spoke with Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror fame about the "ultimate developer rig" he built for Scott. During the course of discussion, Jeff uttered what is, undoubtedly, the best quote about software developers that I've ever heard.

Nobody hates software more than software developers.

Not only does it sum up the feeling of true software geeks everywhere, but it also offers a sad commentary on the state of the computer hardware business.

This quote was uttered in the context of a discussion about "mouse software," i.e. those useless CDs full of crap-ware that get thrown in the package with even fairly standard mice. They typically include drivers, a control panel applet, some kind of tool that runs in the system tray, and probably a few other things.

As Jeff and Carl rightly pointed out, the reason they, myself, and many other programmers hate such software is that it is, quite simply, useless. Nobody needs to install the software that comes with a standard wheel mouse because their operating system (no matter what it is) already supports it. In fact, Carl went so far as to say (half-kidding, I hope) that if he caught any of his employees installing "mouse software," they'd be fired on the spot. Any half-competent programmer or IT person should know better.

Sadly, this phenomenon isn't just limited to mice. USB media devices seem to be the worst offenders. Cameras and MP3 players in particular always seem to come with some kind of software that's supposed to help you move files onto or off of the device. Of course, as it's always third-rate crap-ware, as the vendor makes their money on the hardware and just throws in the software as an after-thought. But the worst part is that there's no reason you should even need it, because any decent MP3 player or camera really ought to "just work" as a USB mass storage device (with the notable exception being the iPod, which is decent, if overrated).

So really, it's not that software developers hate software, it's that we hate crappy, unnecessary software. That's probably because we know what we need and can easily judge the value of a program. We can tell when all a program does is the digital equivalent of busy-work. Being handed a CD of code that doesn't do anything useful feels like being condescended to. That angers us.

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