Awesome design decisions

by Henry Farrell on June 23, 2010

So my university just got me a replacement Dell printer for my office desktop, which is a Mac. When I went to Dell’s site to download it, I found that they have the necessary .dmg files readily available – compressed as an .exe file. Looks as though this has been an issue for “quite a while.”: You might think that someone at Dell would know that Macs can’t read .exe files. You might think it. Still, this doesn’t match my personal-nominee-for-worst-software-design-decision-of-all-time – the wonderful Windows XP tool you had to use to log laptops onto ‘secure’ wireless networks. This asked you to enter in the secure key in a masked text box, so you couldn’t see what you were typing – which is annoying, but in principle justifiable for security reasons. Then, it asked you to enter it in _again_, as far as I can make out, for no logical reason whatsoever that I could make out, and booted you back to the beginning of the process if the two passwords didn’t match. When you have long randomly generated passwords (as you should), there is a not insignificant chance that you are going to type it in incorrectly. Being forced to type it in twice doubles this chance for no apparent gain.

While I’m on a roll, I’m also peeved at Google’s recent decision to randomly challenge you to enter in your password again every couple of days, even if you are already logged in – since I use a long randomly generated password that is impossible to memorize, this usually involves a couple of minutes of searching for the password while swearing profusely. So that’s my life at the moment – how’s yours?

“Steven Laniel”:

Back when I was in college (Carnegie Mellon class of 2000), a friend who was attending the University of Chicago gave me a placard that was posted hither and thither on Chicago’s South Side: a dorky-faced guy with a ridiculously toothy grin smiling out at us. It read

“Barack Obama

for state senate”

My buddy Josh and I thought this was hilarious. Over the years, we turned the guy on the placard into a superhero. We’d be studying for one hard exam or another and would say to one another, “You know who could ace the piss out of this test right now?” The other would respond, “Barack Obama!” to which the first would respond, inevitably, “…for state senate!” Or we’d be at the gym: “Man, these weights are tough! … Know who could lift them without breaking a sweat?” “Barack Obama!” “…for state senate!

The years go by. It’s 2004. There’s a dude up on the stage at the Democratic National Convention who’s making everyone ask, “Why do I have to vote for Kerry? Why can’t I vote for this guy?” Josh and I called one another: “Uh … dude, do you see who’s on stage right now?” It was surreal.

It’s still surreal. Every few months it occurs to me afresh that Josh and I were making this obscure local politician the punchline of a joke probably a decade before he became president of the United States. Bizarre.