It is a source of endless astonishment to me how many software companies will invest huge sums of money to craft their perfect product, then fail at the last hurdle by shipping it using an install program that doesn’t work properly.
The Windows Installer (.msi) format in particular is a fabulous software install system that, when properly executed, allows me (the system administrator) to automatically install the required software on hundreds (potentially thousands) of computers with no manual intervention.
Sadly, the vast majority of companies use mangled versions of this system that incorporate unreliable third-party addons, often to do things that Windows Installer itself is capable of without any help. Even when they don’t use these, the open nature of the Windows Installer format means that a variety of tools exist to create .msi files, and many of them do not follow the specification correctly.
This often means that while the software will work fine for a manual, single-computer install, it performs unpredictably when used for an automated install. At best, the install will not work correctly. Our Adobe Acrobat deployments tend to have about a 5% failure rate even though the install is identical for every computer. At worst, it can stop the entire computer from booting up. I once had to remotely kill the Flash Player plugin setup on more than 200 machines in one day because it popped up an invisible modal dialog box at system boot.
As a result, I have spent the last few years becoming intricately acquainted with the internal format of Windows Installer files, the various stupid ways in which systems like InstallShield muck them up, and the various ways in which they can be fixed.
On rare occasions, an installer will be so bad I will start over from scratch and build my own. I’m not prone to blatant product recommendations, but I have been using the freeware version of Advanced Installer for a couple of years now, and it’s sheer reliability cannot be ignored. I have never managed to create an installer that did not work first time, which only begs the question as to why so many install programs I deal with work so poorly when making a good one is so easy.
You’ve probably noticed that I can be somewhat scathing at times, especially when it comes to companies that produce rubbish hardware, rubbish software, or both. So when they send me a customer satisfaction survey after being inevitably disappointed when calling their support line, you had better believe I do not hold back.
Adobe sent me a survey recently. Not having solved my problem ensured the feedback got off to a bad start. Not having solved the problem 6 months after being notified of the bug made things worse. Closing my original case 5 months ago after explicitly agreeing they would leave it open until a resolution was found was really just the icing on the cake.
This survey response was not a testament to their finest hour. This survey response was, in fact, a trophy sculpted from the still-steaming pile of faeces that Adobe metaphorically dumped on my desk when the Acrobat 9 install media was first delivered.
Adobe Acrobat 9 is a bug-ridden and bloated piece of software that I will never be buying again.
When you put a paragraph like this in your release notes:
…what you are really saying is “we don’t support our products for business use”. Roaming profiles and networked home directories are standard features of these operating systems when used by large companies. To say you don’t support them is to say you do not support your biggest customers.
I cannot stress enough what a spectacularly stupid idea this is.
Of course, I know what’s really going on here. It’s you wimping out because for the last 8 months you’ve known about a massive bug in one of your flagship products and a lot of your customers with support contracts are hacked off. You clearly think you can fob them off by bleating that ‘it’s not supported’. Unfortunately, you have already lost future business over this. Almost certainly a lot more than you think.
The fact that this bug also exists in other products you have released recently only underlines the fact that some of your programmers are idiots and your testing regime is substandard. Last month I bought a suite of licences for Adobe Premiere Elements 7 only to find it has the same bug. I sent them back for a refund and bought Serif MoviePlus X3 instead, which was not only cheaper, but also has more features. Next time I need software, guess who I’ll be calling first?
Love and kisses,