Brad Fitzpatrick (brad) wrote,
Brad Fitzpatrick

observations: quality in a profit-driven world.

people no longer bitch about the low quality of cell phones ... it used to be that people would say, "oh, this connection is terrible, what'd you say?" but now a typical cell phone conversation between two people (especially when both are on cell phones) just involves asking the same question over and over again until you get a response back you can hear. pathetic.

people in general want more features before they want better quality. windows users typify this ... they always see new buttons and new dialogs as "improvement". me, i'd rather see the size of the binary shrink, memory usage decrease, speed improve, bugs fixed. this is why I use Linux, btw... compare GnomeICU to Windows' ICQ 2000b or whatever... GnomeICU is so small, so clean, so fast. ICQ on Windows loads so many system-wide keyword hooks that all your programs slow down while you use it, it leaks memory, has dozens of buttons all over the main window. it's totally non-intuitive. AIM for Windows is the same way, but worse: banner ads and stock tickers abound. why?

the same goes for hardware: why must computers keep getting so much faster? nobody maxes out their CPUs.... the last good reason I saw for faster computers was software-based DVD decoders, which require about a 400 Mhz processor. I'd rather chip manufacturers weren't in a Mhz race. Mhz isn't even all that matters.... compare the P4's performance with its deep pipeline to AMD's latest offerings. The AMD's 1.2 ghz chip outperforms the 1.5 ghz P4 in many calculations. But do I need 1.5 ghz? hell no. i don't even need 1.2 ghz. You know what I really want? I want a chip that is so cool that I don't need a noisy fan. AMD and Intel both lose there, especially AMD. The thing is -- what are most consumers going to buy? Whatever chip has the biggest numbers, of course! Especially if they don't know what those numbers mean. What I really want is a completely silent computer... no fans, extremely quiet harddrive (for which I'd sacrifice speed), no hissing noise in my speakers. I'm happy with the existing specs on my computers, I just want them to be of higher quality. I don't Windows to fade menus in, I want it to not lock up randomly. But again, what do the masses want? They now associate lock-ups with computers ("Stupid Gateway! I'm not buying any more computers from them!") and think all Microsoft has to offer in the future is more features... integrated web browsers, thumbnail icons, fading-in menus, office assistants! oh boy!

you know, it's not just the computer world that's plagued by this "features-before-quality" problem. i started this entry complaining about cell phones. do you know how much bandwidth is available in the air with 3G cell phone technology? tons! something like 1.5Gb/s, shared over all users in that area. how will this be used? how about give us enough bandwidth for a decent voice conversation that's comparable to what the old analog cell phones used to sound like? remember those? they sounded great compared to this new digital shit. but of course, they won't... they'll offer video playing, stock quotes, email, blah, blah... and they'll limit the bandwidth usage for each phone to so low that the sound quality is only marginally better than existing cell phones. and they'll market the hell out of it! remember how they marketed digital cell phones? "Sprint PCS, the clear alternative to cellular" my ass. All digital cell phones suck ... being digital is not a panacea. Digital just means it's easier to manipulate. Digital could be cool, if they didn't give allocate such small bandwidth to each phone... but, of course, if they don't, they won't make as much money. I think they should charge more for better quality... have phones that can utilize a variable amount of spectrum depending on the priority or length of the call .... have a call to your stock broker and want to be absolutely sure he/she doesn't understand you? turn it to high quality and pay more.

another rant: printers. to save costs, no home printers use postscript anymore, because that'd involve putting a pin-head sized processor on board, and that'd cost money. instead, they put a motor and some ink in a plastic box and hook the parallel port wires directly up the motor... your driver on windows does all the work, moving the print head back and forth, spitting ink at the correct time. that's why your whole computer freezes up while you print something. yet they support USB now, a bitch of a protocol. so they must have some logic in there... why not add postscript support? i suppose because everybody's supposed to have these super-fast chips that are doing nothing already, right? good thing the driver hogs all of it without yielding any to, say, your mouse. with postscript, all printers just worked, and worked reliably. now everything's increasingly dependent on drivers, which are usually closed source, and maintained by companies that have little to no incentive to port old drivers for old hardware to new operating systems ... i mean, why don't you just go get the latest printer from our company? then it'll work under your new OS. you shouldn't be running that old of hardware anyway --- it doesn't have feature 'xxx'. *sigh* Take my USB QuickCam ... it works under Windows 98, but doesn't work with Windows 2k. Logitech has a new model that appears identical, but includes Win2k drivers. Their tech support advises you "upgrade" to the new camera if you want win2k support. (not to mention lack of Linux support)

i'm at depressed at how commercialized and shitty everything's getting. take the net, for instance... it used to rule, but the other day I read yet another article about how internet advertising isn't working and leading net advertisers are going to soon resort to more obtrusive ads. great.

everything's being made cheaper and cheaper to raise profit margins, but at the cost of decreased quality. it's so sad.

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