Monday, March 21, 2016

Adobe Jumps the Shark

I love Adobe Systems.  I worked there three different times, and was employee #40 when it was just a tiny little start-up.  I grew up with Adobe, built some important software for them, wrote one of the seminal books on PostScript.

But for god's sake, who's in charge over there, and what are they doing?  I have never had such miserable experiences with installers, updaters, subscriptions forced upon me, crashing applications, and overall lack of awesomeness.  If Adobe is in decline, it's Adobe's own fault.  You don't have to sit back and be old and pointless.  You just don't.  Photoshop isn't any better than it was 10 years ago, and may be slightly worse.

You have all seen Adobe Air update messages -- two a week for a while there -- without any idea of what Adobe Air is, or why you want it, or why it needs to be upgraded.  But this is the one that sent me over the edge today, as I was concentrating on some work that I was doing.  Up pops the most useless dialog box ever, to interrupt my concentration.  You launch an updater to tell me that I don't need to update?  Really?

I recently tried to upgrade my Acrobat Pro (yes, I'm one of those people who actually paid for Acrobat Pro -- several times).  I bought an update, because I have at least 5-10 valid serial numbers from the, past, because I've been buying it over and over again -- not because it keeps getting better, but because it won't run on modern systems unless you upgrade it, and you can't upgrade it without paying.

So I buy an upgrade, and it tells me that my existing serial number is too old, and the upgrade won't work.  Okay, well crap, okay.  So I can no longer use the app because I attempted to upgrade it, and I can't easily get my $199 back other than by spending $449 for the full version and then calling tech support and asking for my $199 back.  Maybe Adobe's cloud could notice that my upgrade isn't valid and automatically refund my money, and delight me?  Naaaah. So for months I've been unable to use Acrobat Pro because I don't feel like calling tech support and spending 30 minutes on the phone to fix it.  I'll just quit using it. Take it out of my dock. Print things out, sign them, scan them back in, rather than using Acrobat to sign documents. Sigh.

I have five or six Macs in my office, and on all of them, sporadically, I am told that Adobe Creative Cloud is messed up, and I have the opportunity to Quit.  What I really need is to find and run the uninstaller and remove it from my systems, but I don't have the time or inclination. Maybe the little dialog should offer that as an option?

Adobe has an "Uninstaller" because it installs so much crap in so many places in your system:

I have to sign in to some cloud to use software.  I don't want that.  I don't want to subscribe to something and pay every month for something that I only use occasionally.  I want to pay $600 and get to use it whenever I want.  That's what products are supposed to be.  Whoever decided that people want to pay monthly for productivity software is just wrong, and listening to the wrong people: the Wall Street analysts who want recurring revenue.

Here's a little secret: if people start to hate your products and your business practices, you won't have recurring revenue for long.  The recurring part is based on trust and value. At this point, you are losing both.

I'm clinging to Illustrator and Photoshop CS5 because they just keep working, though now they all crash on Quit, because the operating system evolved but they didn't.

Is that what you want, Adobe?  For loyal customers to go away?

Come on, Adobe, put somebody else in charge and fix this stuff before it's too late.  It's way past ridiculous and broken.

Glenn Reid

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nest Thermostat: No, Thank You.

Nest Thermostat Review: 2 out of 10

I bought a Nest thermostat, partly to learn about it from a professional standpoint, and partly because I was excited to try it out. People are raving about them.

Bottom line: after several days of trying it out and setting it up, I got so angry at it that I took it off the wall, put back the ancient one that it was replacing, boxed it up, and I'm returning it. I *never* return *anything*, so this is notable.

Nest Sucks at Being a Thermostat

The thing that's wrong with Nest is that it isn't very good at its basic function: being a thermostat. There are two things that it should do:
  1. Determine the temperature in the room, and the desired temperature, and try to make the room be the desired temperature.
  2. Turn the furnace on and off.
On the first point, yes, it kind of does that, but it doesn't show you the current temperature in the room -- only the desired temperature.  It knows the current temperature in the room, right? And every other thermostat on the market shows you both temperatures, right? So why is it that there is literally no way to see the current temperature in the room?  The only answer I can think of is: "design".  We didn't want to mess up the beautiful display by showing you two numbers, because that would look bad.  Right.  Good decision.

On the second point, turning the furnace on/off, the brand-new 3rd Generation Nest with a fresh software update ... fails miserably. The furnace runs for a while, then I think when the room temperature is just about the desired temperature, it starts to cycle the furnace on/off every 3- 4seconds, for quite a number of minutes. As a programmer, I'm pretty sure this is because the temperature sensor is not quite accurate enough, so when it's on the line between 68 and 69, let's say, it flips back and forth (maybe the temperature is 68.5643 and it rounds off to 68 then to 69 then back to 68 as the temperature fluctuates 0.001 degrees.

This is so basic to the functionality of a thermostat that they probably have internal brown-bag lunches on this topic at Honeywell, when you join the thermostat engineering group. Hysteresis, they call it. Except they don't seem to  have thermostat engineers at Nest, just "user experience designers."


Nest is Not That Helpful

Okay, it sucks at being a thermostat, but isn't it awesome as an Internet of Things poster child? Sort of. The app is nice, and it does show remote status pretty well, and remote control (except for that part about "what temperature is the room, anyway?). But it's focused on saving energy, which is great, but it is not very focused on making me warm on a cold day, which is the other reason for having a thermostat.


Nest has a feature they call Auto-Away, which uses the built-in motion sensor to decide whether or not you're home (a pretty good idea) and turns the furnace down when you're not around. This would be great, except for WHEN YOU ARE HOME, and just NOT IN FRONT OF THE THERMOSTAT.

Motion detector delays are pretty standard, right? Like your motion detector light fixture on your front porch. There's a switch on there to decide how long a delay you want.

Nest's Auto-Away feature has exactly one control: ON or OFF.  That's it.  You can't set the delay for how often you walk by the thermostat. It seems to have a really short one, like 10 minutes, after which it decides you aren't home and TURNS DOWN THE HEAT.  That is so completely not helpful, on a cold day.

When you find yourself getting out of your chair many times during a day and walking into the room with the thermostat in it and waving your arms, to try to make the heat go back on, you start to realize that the product is badly designed and implemented.

Remote Control

Which brings me to the last feature, the ability to control the furnace from someplace else. This is totally great, and works well.  AND YOU NEED IT, becuase you have to turn Auto-Away off, because it sucks and that's your only choice (ON or OFF). But if Auto-Away is off, then you have to turn it off remotely if you are Away, and forgot to turn the heat down.

Fail.  Epic fail, all in all, because it has all the ingredients of being awesome, but absolutely sucks at doing its basic job.

Shame on Google, for buying them and placing such high success value on a product which just really isn't awesome at all.