Jan 29

Men Behaving Badly” was a cheeky British comedy from the 90’s that was voted “Best Sitcom in BBC History” for the BBC’s 60th anniversary in 1996.  The series featured two men in their thirties taking a keen interest in “booze, birds and football” (that’s alcohol, women and soccer to our American readers).  The otherwise lovable pair often behaved badly, causing those around them to suffer with comedic results.  Today we discuss a few examples of otherwise good software that occasionally behaves badly, causing its users to suffer with frustrating results.

Microsoft OneCare

OneCare is Microsoft’s new PC security and anti-virus software.  It’s only version 2, and since Microsoft typically requires three versions to get its software right, perhaps I should cut OneCare some slack.

I set Windows to download updates automatically but check with me before installing them.  This is so Windows doesn’t reboot my PC while I’m working or have important software running overnight.  However, OneCare sees my requirement for manual intervention as a security risk, and thus is in a constant state of red alert:

Microsoft OneCare red alert

Here is the response from Microsoft tech support:

“Windows Live OneCare currently doesn’t provide settings for users to turn off the warning message.  Since the product is mainly for home users, we advise all users to have Automatic Updates set to Automatic on the computer to get the updates timely.”

Since OneCare is constantly “crying wolf,” I never know if something truly wrong has occurred.  Maybe I should switch to Norton…

Norton Anti-Virus

A friend bought a new PC that came with a free trial of Norton Anti-Virus (NAV).  After the trial expired, he decided to buy NAV with a year subscription.  Fifty bucks later, he begins to download the paid version of NAV.

The NAV download is actually a small installer program, which then downloads and installs the complete NAV.  First, it un-installs the free trial.  But after the mandatory reboot, the new NAV is nowhere to be found.  The installer says it was already downloaded but doesn’t say where and refuses to download it again.  I managed to find it in a temp file buried deep in the system, but my novice friend would have never found it.


ACDSee is a terrific photo management program I’ve used for years.  However, ACDSee suffers from a persistent problem that causes it to occasionally display a cryptic error dialog when starting up:

ACDSee has encountered a system error and will close now

There’s no explanation of what the error is, why the error occurred, nor how to fix it.  Clicking the “OK” button closes the dialog and exits ACDSee.  Providing a single “OK” button only adds to the frustration because it’s really not OK!  Sometimes ACDSee will get into a “funk” where this error appears every time I run the program, essentially making ACDSee unusable because it will never run.

It’s bad enough ACDSee has a nagging error that offers no explanation or recourse.  What’s worse is ACDSee developers have apparently ignored this problem for years, because this error has prevailed across SIX major releases!  You can view numerous reports from frustrated users in the ACDSee support forum for Version 6, Version 8, Version 9, Version 10, and Pro 2.  The standard tech support response is to delete all ACDSee databases and/or re-install the product.  I’d prefer they fix the problem already and provide more meaningful error messages.

Acronis TrueImage

Acronis TrueImage is one of the best drive image programs available today.  But as I was helping a friend install the free trial on his PC, we dropped into this black hole:

Installation Incomplete

Every attempt to install TrueImage resulted in this cryptic error message with no explanation of what went wrong or how to fix it.  But one thing you learn quickly using Windows Vista:

If at first you don’t succeed,
shut off the U-A-C.

So we shut off Vista’s UAC security, and TrueImage installed successfully.  My friend was happy and ended up buying TrueImage.  But without me there, this badly behaving software would’ve blown the sale.

Speaking of UAC…

Windows Vista

There’s an old joke about how the odd-numbered Star Trek movies suck, but Windows has a better track record, producing lemons only occasionally, such as Windows 2.0, ME and now Vista.  It’s not that Vista sucks; Vista is actually a software engineering marvel with over 50 million lines of code and 20+ years of backward compatibility.  But there are a few serious problems with Vista that overshadow the many good features you’ll find.  Arguably the worst of Vista’s problems is UAC.

Vista UAC

User Account Control (UAC) is Vista’s new security system.  Basically, Vista security involves asking the user to confirm every system and program operation every time.  UAC has no understanding of trusted programs; everything is suspect always.

It’s hard to imagine the security experts at Microsoft actually believe UAC in its present form is a good security solution.  Having watched many users in action on Vista, it’s only a matter of minutes before most users disable UAC or simply click away every warning dialog without reading them.  I can imagine how the conversation went at Microsoft as they were designing UAC:

Microsofty #1: With all this pressure from senior management, we better make Vista more secure than XP.

Microsofty #2: How do we do that?

Microsofty #1: Hmm… let’s just ask the user to confirm every single operation.

Microsofty #2: Brilliant!  That way if a virus or spyware sneaks through, it’s the user’s fault, not Vista!

Had Bill Gates still been in charge of Microsoft, surely this conversation would have ended differently after they demo’d Vista for Bill:

Vista UAC: Are you sure?  Are you sure?  Are you sure?  Are you sure?

Bill Gates: What the **** is this?!

Microsofty #1: Umm… that’s Vista’s new security system.

Bill Gates: What do you plan to do, nag the viruses to death?  Lose the confirmation dialogs!

Microsofty #2: But sir, what will we do for security?

Bill Gates: Which product does it best right now?

Microsofty #1: Well… BitDefender is pretty good.

Bill Gates: Fine.  Just copy what BitDefender does.  Or buy them.  Either way, you have six months.

Bill, we’re sad to see you go!  Check out Bill Gates’ last day at Microsoft:

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Article published on January 29, 2008

5 Responses to “Software Behaving Badly”

  1. men behaving badly Trendy Here! Says:

    […] 1996. The series featured two men in their thirties taking a keen interest in "booze, … credit : […]

  2. Richy’s Random Ramblings / Fun: Bill Gates’ Last Day At Microsoft Says:

    […] via Devtopics is Bill Gates’ Farewell speech at CES 2008 – and until this point, I never knew he had a […]

  3. timm Says:

    A Microsoft manager confirms that the UAC security feature in Vista was deliberately designed to “annoy users” to put pressure on third-party software makers to make their applications more secure.


  4. Rise of the Machines Says:

    […] faster than my brain and can remember facts I’ve long since forgotten, but Vista UAC still asks me three times to confirm when I want to delete a file on the C: drive.  Oh that’s right, Vista UAC is […]

  5. Bye Bye Ballmer Says:

    […] Vista – Microsoft billed Vista as the highly-secure, speedy successor to the uber-successful Windows XP.  Instead, Vista was bloated, buggy, incompatible with lots of existing software, and its new “security model” was to ask permission for everything. […]

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