Friday, April 18, 2008

Is "Beta" Just an Excuse?

Just get it to Market
Anyone else frustrated with the proliferation of the word Beta?
Why not just call it half-baked code we want to build a buzz around and tell the truth?
I'm not sure Google started this trend, but they certainly popularized it. But hey, they popularized the web, so I'll give them credit. And when they release a Beta, it seems to be pretty good and solid.
But they never take the Beta tag out.
Breaking the Brand
Now it seems that every software shop or garage-coder has started putting junk on the market. I'm convinced they do this to stake their marketing flag rather than to build their customer base.
The problem is that when you show every potential customer your wart-covered code, some of them go elsewhere and don't come back.
If you're upgrading or adding new features it's fine to have a beta, but don't make it your customers' only option. Keep the functioning site up and put a "Care to try our Beta?" link on it. Microsoft does this with their pop-up "Care to try our new Download Center® Beta?"
Don't get me started on pop-ups, but at least Redmond lets me stay with the Byzantine download pattern I'm used to.
The Final Straw
So now you're asking yourself "Why's that mild-mannered WillSQL4Food all worked up today? What pushed him over the edge?", an important part of my morning routine, was broken (beta-ed) this morning. They taunt me with the promise of full-color Dilbert comics every day, but dash me against the Rocks of Beta with a cryptic error.
Come on, Scott! Come to think of it, Mr. Adams probably did this to create material for some strips.
I just hope they're funny.

Thanks for stopping by,

Friday, April 11, 2008

Windows Automatic Updates: Delay that Reboot!

War Story:
In my previous company, not only was I prohibited from changing this behavior, but the IT police would roll updates mid-morning and force a reboot sometime thereafter. I worked in two different facilities for this company and in a fit of Standards Adherence they behaved differently at different facilities. At corporate HQ, I'd usually receive a notice about 10:00 in the morning that my machine would unceremonially reboot in four hours. The dialog could not be minimized and continued to taunt me with a countdown timer. I could suck it up and reboot manually to clear the requirement, but if I didn't I was in for a rude interruption in the middle of my work day.
The second facility, for the same multi-national conglomerate, would give the same warning dialog, usually about the same time of day, but with a 90 minute countdown. This meant that if I didn't take action shortly, my machine would reboot during lunch. Fortunately, I don't trust these things enough to walk away without saving my work, but I can't count how many delicate spreadsheets were lost by others while out for a quick sandwich.
Suffice it to say, then, I get rather annoyed on my personal machine having to tell Windows to wait until I'm ready to reboot after Automatic Updates are installed.
I don't mind the first message. I don't even mind being reminded - on a reasonable interval.
But every ten minutes? Come on, Redmond!
So here's how to tell your machine to leave you alone for a while.
From command line, run gpedit.msc
Navigate to:
> Computer Configuration
> Administrative Templates
> Windows Components
> Windows Update
Modify Configure Automatic Updates to Enabled and choose your settings therein
Modify No auto-restart for scheduled Automatic Updates Installations to Enabled
Modify Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations to Enabled and specify your time limit (mine's 480 minutes)
Then enjoy clicking Later only once every eight hours rather than the default 10 minutes.
On some corporate machines, you may not be able to edit this policy.
Editing group policy is up there with registry editing - you could break something, so be careful! If you're like me, you'll wander from the path above and fiddle with things. It will start with "Hey, what's this do?" and could end with "Where's my Windows XP Professional Edition CD?"

Thanks for stopping by!