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Brad Fitzpatrick

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observations: quality in a profit-driven world. [Nov. 21st, 2000|07:20 pm]
Brad Fitzpatrick
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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[User Picture]From: nolegs
2000-11-21 07:27 pm (UTC)
diazepam, go get some
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[User Picture]From: anilnaik
2000-11-21 07:38 pm (UTC)

History of Technology (HIST 315)

This is a rough theme of the class I'm taking this term.

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

I think you would have really enjoyed that class. If you get some time before graduation--take it. Half of the class is history the rest are science/engineering types
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[User Picture]From: bradfitz
2000-11-21 07:40 pm (UTC)

Re: History of Technology (HIST 315)

Whoa! What a cool class! I might take this quarter if I can. Hell, only taking 12 credits right now.
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[User Picture]From: brianbrian
2000-11-21 07:40 pm (UTC)


i think it's because everything today is quantity over quality, like what you said about the processors. companies just want to sell the product for $80 once, and then if it works or doesn't work, they figure they've made their $80, and that's all that matters

i was talking to someone the other day who just bought a new pentium 3 800 (i think that's what it was) mhz system, he was all excited about it. he's not going to play games, or do any 3d stuff, i know he's going to maybe use it for wordprocessing and solitaire once in a while.

another thing that makes me upset (now you've got me going, uh oh) is that i own three copies of Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl, but if i want a copy of it on a CD, i still have to pay full price. what's up with that? i thought you were paying for the music on the cd, but i guess it's not really like that
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From: (Anonymous)
2000-11-21 07:57 pm (UTC)

Re: yeah

Well, I think the point is that since you own it on vinyl, you're allowed to record it on CD... and not give those CDs out or sell them.

But I liked your train of thought.
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[User Picture]From: muerte
2000-11-21 07:47 pm (UTC)
Damn the man!
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[User Picture]From: patrick
2000-11-21 08:00 pm (UTC)
you are correct sir. as the saying goes, "they don't make 'em like they used to."

with the computer industry, if more people just got a clue that the companies are making things worse, they would stop using the crappy products. there needs to be a balance between quality and quantity. most companies don't maintain it. they get the quality first, and then start to cut corners to make it faster and cheaper. unfortunately, that's how to make money. higher prices and better quality doesn't last because lots of people hold out until the price drops.
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[User Picture]From: jlb
2000-11-21 08:05 pm (UTC)


Makes me wish I had gotten onto the internet years earlier. As it is I was only able to see the tail-end of the time when the internet was almost commercial free.

Lately, I've experienced the realization that I don't really enjoy the internet that much anymore. I don't find surfing the web entertaining, and the sites I used to love reading are either gone or updated so rarely that they might as well be dead.

I definitely agree with the quality comment. It seems there's never a time when my computer is working flawlessly. Right now my video card is about to die. It's a geforce 1. It's not that old. I paid a lot of money for it. But I know they figure that anyone who bought a geforce when they were top of the line would have already upgraded to something new.

bitch, moan, bitch, moan. I'm gonna go read a book.
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[User Picture]From: patrick
2000-11-21 08:24 pm (UTC)

Re: testify

lies, i know you really are going to play balder's gate 2! video game junkie!!
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[User Picture]From: kvance
2000-11-21 08:12 pm (UTC)


I hate logitech quickcams more than you :)

Er.. g'ah, gotta get back to work.
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[User Picture]From: bradfitz
2000-11-21 08:18 pm (UTC)

Re: logitech

hahaha.... that's great. made my day .... nice knowing somebody hates them that much. makes my hatred for them pale in comparison. :-)

no luck hax0ring it, eh?
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[User Picture]From: xcandescent
2000-11-21 08:21 pm (UTC)


I understand that you're ranting, but your comment about not wanting cheap speed is ... well, kind of mindboggling. Last time I checked, wanting a slower processor was not on my wish list.

If you're that hung up on chips that don't require a fan, go buy the new Mac Cube. Seriously. I dislike Macs, but the fact that Apple pulled that design off without having tons of melted plastic on their hands is mindboggling. Plus, it doubles as an ashtray and waste receptacle if you turn it over. ;)

In any case, I like cheap speed. In fact, I plan on picking up a gig Athlon as soon as I can scrape up the cash. Oh yes -- the only applications that require that kind of power these days are games ... and those are my primary apps. ;)

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[User Picture]From: bradfitz
2000-11-21 08:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Shrug.

Perhaps I wasn't clear ....

Speed is good, and I don't want a slower computer, but I'd rather see future progress being done making computers BETTER, not just FASTER.

Better is a superset that includes getting faster... but I also want a good design, correctness, portability, open and good documentation, lower power consumption....
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[User Picture]From: crichton
2000-11-21 08:46 pm (UTC)

Your rant

Right on, man. I need to get into Linux myself. Windoze is really getting on my nerves these days. I don't even want to contemplate having to do 2000 servers... ugh.
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[User Picture]From: insomnia
2000-11-21 09:03 pm (UTC)

Worse is Better...


You should read "Worse is Better". I found it on Jamie Zawinski's website ages ago... it makes some very good points about how it is often better to ship something than to keep working on it until it is perfect.

That's not to say that people should release crappy products with a lot of bloated features that make what's already good crash twice as often, however...
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[User Picture]From: bradfitz
2000-11-21 09:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Worse is Better...

I've read all of the content of jwz's site. :)

Worse is Better sometimes, but it's *nice* having better from time to time....

Hell, I'd even take "Worse" over "WorST".
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[User Picture]From: steve
2000-11-21 09:04 pm (UTC)
Not that I don't agree with you, but in defense of Intel, the P4s new (long ass) pipeline is more efficient at faster speeds. Comparing the 1.5GHz P4 to the 1.2GHz Athlon is not really a fair comparison of the architectures.

And I would like to admit that even as a Windows fan, consumers are so spoiled by getting new "visual" features that when Microsoft adds internal improvements people bitch and complain. Grrr...
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[User Picture]From: bradfitz
2000-11-21 09:06 pm (UTC)


When do people bitch and complain about new Windows non-visual features?

Also, I know deeper pipeline is necessary for continued increases in performance, but as the products stand right now, clock frequency isn't the determiner of performance... but people don't know that. They'll simply buy the fastest one, clueless.
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From: evan
2000-11-21 09:22 pm (UTC)


Perhaps you should take your own advice and apply it to LiveJournal.

We don't really need to-do lists or picture changing; what we need is better site design, more consistency, and better documentation.

Unfortunately, that sort of work isn't fun, and the users enjoy new features more...
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[User Picture]From: bradfitz
2000-11-21 09:26 pm (UTC)

Re: reflect

I try!

to-do lists: *I* need, regardless of what others need. I'm making that to balance my own workload... I'm building it regardless, whether or not I integrate it into LJ

picture changing: easy hack.

better site design: I got somebody on it. Look at news tonight or tomorrow.

more consistency: see above.

better documentation: on what? I think the docs are pretty good.

Plus, I'm redoing the style system to address every problem and difficulty with customization so far.

Also, I keep working on making parts of the system faster. I'm also always cleaning the code and reorganizing it....

If all the time I spent working on LJ was adding features, we'd have a hell of a lot more stuff than we do now.... very little work I do is user-visible.
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[User Picture]From: detritus
2000-11-21 09:38 pm (UTC)
I hear ya. I just installed red hat 7 last night. Noticed Licq. Looks really nice and small. Only thing is, i havn't gotten it to recognize my modem; haven't had a chance to play yet.
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[User Picture]From: mart
2000-11-22 09:25 am (UTC)


This is pure speculation, but it's extremely possible that if you've just moved from Windows to Linux and the latter doesn't see your modem that your modem is a "software modem" or winmodem.
Like the printers Brad described, which are driven by software running on the peesee rather than the printer itself, winmodems are basically expensive soundcards with phone jacks. Very few of them can be used from linux currently.
Most recently-made internal modems are winmodems unfortunately. External ones are a different matter, of course. Also, this isn't a hard and fast rule. A friend of mine has a quite recently purchased internal modem which is actually a proper one.
The reason I'm still dialling up from Windows is that I've not yet purchased a non-winmodem. That should finally be happening in the near future... I've not been getting around to it since March now! :)
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[User Picture]From: mudflapgirl
2000-11-22 05:59 am (UTC)
Brad, let me know when you come up with a product design - I'd like to put some start-up cash on it!
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[User Picture]From: josh
2000-11-22 03:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Quickcam Shiznit

I finally got my USB Quickcam to work with Win2k...

I'll send you the driver if you'd like.

I gave up on the attempt to get it working in Linux, but it works fine now in Win2k.

Just my 2 cents.
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[User Picture]From: bradfitz
2000-11-23 01:33 am (UTC)

Re: Quickcam Shiznit

yeah, that'd rule!
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