The curse of sloppily written software

GFI is one of those companies, rather like Quest, that makes really useful stuff which when you’re in need is just the right tool – focused, straightforward, and yet a properly big hammer if the need arises. The firm publishes a product called LanGuard that lets you analyse your network, probe into workstations and generally introduce carefully controlled mischief into your network. The lessons you learn from this will enable you to prevent an unauthorised felon from making an uncontrolled mess of it.

The curse of sloppily written software

Now, as I approach old age I have to accept that I’m getting crosser and more easily annoyed – the march of the grey hair is accompanied by a parallel increase in “harrumphing” sounds from behind my desk. But if there is one thing that really gets my goat, it’s sloppy software coding, especially when you know that the developers behind a product can do better and are actually quite decent chaps.

Take a look at the screenshot below, which is from my installation of GFI’s LanGuard 2011, and two things almost immediately screamed out at me.

GFI LanGuard 2011

First, this product is called GFI LanGuard 2011, and yet it’s installing into a directory called LanGuard 10. Do you get the feeling that the developers responsible for this setup program simply didn’t notice the “11” year change, and just recycled the 2010 code without thinking? Now check out the buttons: you can see Back, Install and Cancel buttons, along with a directory Browse button too. Now read the text: “To install in this folder, click ‘Next’”, but there is no Next button…

Perhaps you think that I’m being incredibly petty in pointing this out, and that the laziness of the engineers responsible for this install program shouldn’t necessarily reflect on the almost certainly different team of engineers who wrote the application code. And you’d be quite right: it’s only a directory name and a mislabelled button after all.

But we set incredibly high standards for software today. We expect internationalised interfaces, fully written help files, install programs that don’t keel over at the slightest provocation. It might have been fun manually fixing INI files back in the 1990s, or Registry keys in the 2000s, but it’s 2012 now and one thing that differentiates a top-flight company from a muddling, middle-tier one is attention to such details.

Too many big-name vendors create great products and then screw up on these peripheral details. Take a look at just about any vendor’s printer driver to see what I mean. I really don’t know what HP was smoking when it created some of its printer driver dialogs, but it must be pretty strong stuff. I’d love to meet the development team from Adobe responsible for the abomination that is the printer dialog box in Photoshop Elements, but in a darkened alley and armed with a baseball bat. Customers have moved on, the quality bar is higher now than ever. Laziness and corner-cutting lead to upset and distrusting customers. In this particular case, GFI has been informed and I’m told that a fix is happening very quickly indeed.

In the meantime don’t let this stupid blemish stop you from trying out GFI’s LanGuard: it’s part of my standard toolkit, a trusted product and I’ve never regretted paying the licence fee for one moment. Just don’t ever make me roll my eyes and sigh again, please guys.

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