Usability, and why it is lost in the Windows world

I plugged my printer into a new MacBook Pro — my first mac ever. A week later I needed to print, so I started poking around for an ADD PRINTER process. Eventually I realized the OS has setup the printer. The OS is responsible for I/O and hardware, so why would it need me to participate. Why should the user be trained like a monkey to click NEXT, NEXT, NEXT, NEXT, FINISH.

Mac is a completely different mindset and design from the ground up. And great design pays off for a decade, the same way the bad designs of Windows 3.1 hurt Windows for a decade. It isn’t just about “OS” security. It is about the work environment that OS provides the user. Windows users (who arent geeks) feel helpless and at the mercy of this mysterious machine that keeps asking questions they don’t understand. Mac Users aren’t made to feel like morons because they don’t work in the computer industry. AND THAT is why they love and trust their machines.

And Windows people simply don’t get it, until they are willing to be a Mac users, no take backs, not using it only when I have to, not bothering to invest in it to have all the tricks you need to live on it the same way you did on Windows. When you jump fully in the pool you start to see the different perspective. Not that everything is rosey and perfection of a Computer Operating System. It isn’t about that, that is the Windows user’s view of a Mac User. The Mac people are busy using the computer to do something that has nothing to do with “OS”. OS isn’t their focus or concern.

A anonymous commenter on ZDNet

This is part of a comment on a gallery related to a “peter cried wolf” set of articles by Ed Bott at THe article itself is just another dose of “get ready, Macs are just as insecure as my faithful windows, so be prepared and start buying Norton stocks products.”

John Gruber has a nice timeline of other equal idiot valid articles here.

But this particular commentary is specially interesting. And true. And it touches another usability handicap of Windows that blows my mind. The User Account Control (UAC) and its endless stream of prompts.

Microsoft wanted, correctly i might say, that people started using the standard division of Administrator/User, starting from Windows Vista. It was the best choice they could have made and the major reason Vista is leaps and bounds a safer system than XP.

Until then to actually use Windows you had to be an admin, with all of the security faults it implied. I remember trying to set my Windows XP machine somewhere around 2005 (give or take) as an Admin/Reg.User duo and finding out that i couldn’t even plug in a usb flash drive as a regular user. (( This might have required that the admin pointed out point by point what every user could do. But i wasn’t ready, or am now, to loose time configuring something that should have been obvious that a regular user could do in a standard household environment and be properly set up from the first moment))

So, about 2 years ago, I was again recruited to give technical assistance to a relative, female, early fifties, school teacher. She had some basic knowledge of computers and still knew how to mess around on the control panel preferences. When she bought a Vista laptop, she setup herself as a Admin account. As it comes preconfigured.

When i picked up her computer to provide a “cleanup” i found out that she had completely disabled UAC. Why? because it kept annoying her and interrupting her workflow with prompts. Every single time from the startup to shutdown. So she did what most people did. Disable it. She wouldn’t know /think of setting her up as a second standard user, but she quickly found out where to disable the UAC. And as such there went the security. No wonder why i was being called.

I already knew why she had done it. If you are the admin, you are annoyed every time you are doing any kind of stuff that might alter the system. Even if it is “admin stuff”. So you would suffer a prompt every single time you opened up a “C:/Program Files” folder. Or every time you changed the wireless network. Or entered the Control Panel.

Jeeezzz!! IF i authenticated myself as the Administrator, if i already passworded my way in to admin land, then by Jove, leave me doing my stuff alone. Stop pestering me! I can’t possibly imagine what hell professional IT admins must have endured trying to use Vista. And then again, maybe that is why they didn’t and kept everyone using XP since then…

And this is what the commenter is referring about. If MS wanted people to setup the admin/user protocol, then force it, design it inherently, hide the admin (SUDO). But don’t do things halfheartedly with the firm intention of annoying the user so much that it must do what you wanted to him to do. Because he/she will find another solution. Probably easier and not at all what you wanted in the first place.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *