Isn't SanDisk considerate

Author's note: Here's another article from the archives. This one was written way back on March 17th, 2007. At the time I was still working for the county government and using Linux on all my home computers. This rant came out of frustration at the interaction of not-fantastic bespoke software and annoying semi/anti-features in a commercial flash drive.

We don't have that in the Linux world. Most of our software is free or open-source and is installed from a single trusted distributor. We don't have to worry about whether a package is bundled with spyware, a crappy browser toolbar, or a useless systray icon.

This was brought home to me today when I had to deal with a user's flash drive at work. His department has a number of laptops that can't connect to our network, but this crappy application that the state foisted on us requires them to move data from back and forth between our file server and the laptops. The easy solution to this is just to use flash drives.

Well, this user's flash drive broke and the department didn't have any spares, so he went out and bought a 1GB Cruzer Micro. Nice enough drive, plenty of capacity for his purposes. The only problem was, it didn't work with The Crappy Software Foisted On Us By The State (TCSFOUBTS, pronounced 'ticks-fouts').

You see, TCSFOUBTS is one of those half-baked, government consultingware type of systems. It has a bazillion features and is highly customizable. On the down side, it's slow as all hell, has a terrible user interface, and is difficult to configure. For example, some customization options require manually editing MS Access database tables and quite a number involve hand-editing INI files or other text files.

Now, having planned ahead, the TCSFOUBTS people built in a feature to let users automatically copy their data onto a removable drive with just a couple of clicks. However, by "removable drive," what they really meant is "a path." For this feature to work, you have to configure TCSFOUBTS with the drive letter for your removable device.

By now, you probably see where I'm going with this. TCSFOUBTS needs the drive letter, which has to be configured by the system administrator. However, unlike the old flash drive, the Cruzer Micro has a bootable partition that displays as a CD-ROM drive. (Note from the present: this was before booting from USB was a common thing.) Of course, that's the first partition, and so get the drive letter where TCSFOUBTS wants to copy its files.

What was on that first partition? I don't remember. Some useless utility software that nobody asked for. One of those "value-adds" that they put on flash drives because they want to use the space for something. But it meant that the drive was stuck with an unusable partition that I didn't immediately have the ability to remove. So for the user to use this drive, they would have to hand-edit some INI file, and then edit it back when they got a different drive. And since the users for this system were all non-technical, that sounded less than appealing.

Eventually the user decided to just not bother and requisition an "official" drive. It was just a frustrating series of events. It goes to show how a few misplaced assumptions can completely mess up a user experience.

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