Get Off My Desktop!

I have said sev­er­al times here that it is impor­tant to own your own tech and to be mind­ful of that own­er­ship.  I have also agreed here with oth­ers that the com­ing bat­tle is over con­trol of your devices: be they desk­top, tablet, phone or implant­ed-in-your-head com­put­ers.  Real­ly, this post is a bit of a rant about the ongo­ing bat­tle … a series of skir­mish­es … death by a thou­sand pin pricks style bat­tle of attri­tion.

Again, I have said before that it seems that every appli­ca­tion wants your undi­vid­ed atten­tion despite the evi­dence to the con­trary: that peo­ple heav­i­ly mul­ti­task on most if not all of their devices (some­times on more than one device at once).  I was going to include an image on that last bit, but search google for images of mul­ti­task­ing and near­ly every image found is of peo­ple (some­times with more than two arms and hands) using mul­ti­ple devices.

I’ve been annoyed sev­er­al times recent­ly when Como­do has popped up a requester explain­ing that it was start­ing a virus scan — and that requester has inter­rupt­ed my game or TV pro­gram as if it was some­how impor­tant enough to demand my atten­tion.  This is not uncom­mon: all man­ner of things on win­dows demand your atten­tion exclu­sive­ly.  I was also annoyed today that the Win­SCP win­dow kept demand­ing my atten­tion while pulling the focus away from the ter­mi­nal win­dow in which I was busy “fix­ing the inter­net” — which was the very prob­lem Win­SCP want­ed to noti­fy me (every 10 sec­onds) about.

It may seem tan­gen­tial to this, but I’ve been watch­ing the renewed OS wars with some inter­est.  I’m not sure I want any of them to “win” per sé.  ‘i’OS (there real­ly shouldn’t be an ‘i’ in iOS), Android and Win­dows 8 all have a fair­ly overt­ly stat­ed pur­pose: to deliv­er the user to orga­ni­za­tions that would like to pay for their atten­tion.  I’d like to pour hate on Win­dows 8 — in some ways it deserves it, and has got it — but it’s real­ly only that Win­dows 8 is late to the par­ty and is “try­ing to hard” — hard­er than the oth­er entrants to serve it’s users up on a plat­ter to any­one with mon­ey.  Maybe we’re just lucky that peo­ple aren’t par­tic­u­lar­ly buy­ing it.  But be clear: iOS and Android are no bet­ter, real­ly.

I was real­ly annoyed today while installing Far Cry  3 — it was real­ly the straw that tipped my rage over the edge.  My team­s­peak bud­dies com­ment­ed how rarely my lan­guage is that colour­ful.  It not only deigned to install an icon on my desk­top (which is a death-penal­ty offense, IMHO), but the “social” appli­ca­tion from Ubisoft (the pub­lish­er) also installed it’s icon.  And if that’s not enough, it is not pos­si­ble to use that icon to run the game as it must (in my case) be start­ed from Steam — so two com­plete­ly use­less icons that are use­less because they are unus­able — on my desk­top.  From there, it descend­ed into chaos.  The user inter­face and match­mak­ing are severe­ly bro­ken and I end­ed up sim­ply play­ing some sin­gle play­er to mol­li­fy my mood.

There real­ly is no excuse on the inter­face and match­mak­ing front: games like Bor­der­lands 2 have defin­i­tive­ly schooled the entire indus­try on “how it should be done.”  The prob­lem is that these large pub­lish­ers have now got­ten the idea that they need more “con­trol” over the user expe­ri­ence… even if that con­trol is at the express cost of a crap­pi­er user expe­ri­ence.  It’s all a cyn­i­cal ploy to sneak anoth­er dol­lar out of our wal­lets.  I might even be OK with that last bit if it weren’t for the enor­mous sac­ri­fice required in terms of usabil­i­ty.

But there-in lies the rub.  There is no inter­est in pro­vid­ing qual­i­ty — sim­ply suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ty of spam that you will pay for some of it.  And there’s good evi­dence that this is actu­al­ly caus­ing harm.  The only light I see at the end of the tun­nel is Steam launch­ing on Lin­ux.

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