For Christmas we bought Danna's parents a nice shiny new Dell computer. Dell makes great computers but this is my first experience from and end users perspective. At work, the IT department grabs new computers and rewrites their hard drives before we even get to unback the box. I was excited. Shortly after I turned on the switch, I was sorely let down. Not by the hardware, but by the software.
I now know why Microsoft tries so hard to lock down the desktop so computer vendors don't dink with it. Our new shiny dell was preloaded with dozens of applications, all littering the desktop. For the Geek in Heat that might be a great thing, but for Danna's parents it was a dizzying array of icons. "Which do I use for e-mail?" Well, there are several choices. Several image editors, several virus scanners, and on and on. What's worse, most of this software was trialware. For example, the image editor that replaced the simple-yet-functional image viewer built into Windows expired in a month. Do you think it cleanly removes itself so the Windows editor runs again? Think again. The virus software was the same way: it ran for a month and then required a credit card. What's more, it continued to nag nag nag every time we logged in. These are not the kinds of apps that should ship on a home users's system.
Don't even get me started about trying to run as a normal user. It makes perfect sense for Mom and Pop: get the tech-savvy kids to set the damn thing up, and then lock it down so "Father Thumbs" doesn't go tinkering. What a disaster. With the exception of Solitare and Office, none of the apps we tried worked. Entertainment software might be forgivable, but Windows itself surely isn't. Windows Update can't run in the background in automatic mode unless you run as an admin. XP Home doesn't come with the needed ACL tools to twiddle the filesystem to work for badly written apps. The whole experience was an exercise in patience.
When are we going to get it? Security might start with thousands of PREFAST bugs, but it needs to end up in users homes. I'm not running as root on my Tivo, and I shouldn't run as admin on my tablet.