As a consultant that does hardware , firmware & software work for my clients, I use a large array of software tools – half a dozen compilers, schematic capture and PCB layout tools, analysis tools as well as the usual gaggle of productivity tools that non-engineers also use. Throw in the tools for running a business and my PC is a regular treasure trove of applications.
With all these tools, the number of upgrades / updates is starting to get out of hand. Every week, it seems I’m updating a major application. The most common scenario seems to be:
- I haven’t used a tool in a month or so.
- I invoke it – and it tells me that an update is available. Often the mandate is ‘mandatory’ or at least ‘recommended’.
- I accept the update.
- The download proceeds. Some of them are simply enormous (Ever downloaded the Xilinx Webpack IDE?)
- The patch then proceeds. The time to execute the patch is often considerable.
- Finally – the dreaded ‘You must restart your computer’ directive. I’ve a dozen applications open, web pages marked, manuals at strategic places – and now I have to close them all down.
Having gone through all this rigmarole, I can finally start using the tool. Of course by now, I just want to ‘get on with it’, and so the release notes often get cursory attention. Inevitably, if I do read the release notes then I find the upgrade is completely useless to me (e.g. support for a new device that I’m not using). If I don’t read the release notes then of course there’s this really neat feature that’s been added that really makes life easier – and I don’t find out about it until weeks later.
Well – enough complaining. Do I have any suggestions? I think so. I’d like tool vendors to realize that their tool isn’t the only one in the box – and that many of us use it on a less than daily basis. With this perspective, I’d like the tool vendors to do the following:
- Download upgrades in the background. A lot of applications already do this – they all should.
- Inform me there is an update available when I close the tool rather than open it. That way I can allow the update to occur while I’m off doing productive work elsewhere.
- Do everything you can to avoid requiring the user to re-boot their computer.
- Limit updates to one or two a year. I know product managers want folks on support contracts to feel they are getting their money’s worth – but this only works if my life revolves around that tool – and it doesn’t!