Saturday, November 06, 2010

Trend Micro Rant ... or, how not to win friends and repeat customers

[Warning: the following is long. There is ranting. There are no funny animal pictures. It is only a rant.]

Geez. Wasted much of Thursday night helping my mother upgrade her anti-virus software, and got so miffed that I had to blog about it. Probably I wouldn’t be so miffed if I weren’t in this profession doing this for a living for the past 10 years. I’ve easily done thousands of installs and upgrades. There was no need for a simple procedure like this to take over Two Friggin'Hours.

Had to uninstall the existing program before installing the upgrade. Fine. Annoying, but fine. I plodded through the installation wizard until I got to an error message I couldn't decode.

What I got was an error message saying that I'd already installed this program on three computers and I couldn't install it on any more. Since the program had ONLY ever been installed on that one computer, and not re-installed ever, this was a puzzler.

The installation wizard thoughtfully provided a link that would explain what to do if you got this message. The link was broken.

I googled for it, and found the page at another location, and thought I was home and dry. But no. That page didn’t explain the problem; it repeated the words on the error message. (“Why does the installation tell me I have 3 computers already running this software? Because you have installed this software on 3 computers already.”) I truly loathe customer documentation that simply repeats the error message. I call it the “Duh” school of writing.

Turns out what that meant was that even if it were only on one computer, I needed to deactivate the program before re-activating it on the same computer. Not only did the instructions not suggest anything remotely like that, the support page didn't even suggest that as a solution.

Honestly, if they want their error messages to sound like riddles that you're supposed to guess the meaning of, why don't they try for something more Zen and poetical?

The snow falls on the butterfly's wings
While the wolf howls at the moon.

Finally, after jumping through every hoop, leaping every chasm, decoding every cryptic error message and exhausting the batteries in my cordless phone (I was doing this long-distance, talking my mother through all the steps), we came to the final challenge. To activate the program, you had to reboot.

On the surface, this seems like a simple obstacle to overcome. You normally have to reboot when installing a program. Ha! You fool! That's just what they want you to think!

When you reboot, you see nothing. The application's icon in the task bar is grayed out. If you open the application, it says you have to click a button before you can activate the application. If you click the button, the computer restarts. And you see nothing. So you look at the application and it tells you that you have to click the button and restart the computer again. And again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Turns out what that means is that you're supposed to wait for 10 minutes or so while the application starts up. Since by this point I'd already been doing this uninstall and upgrade for over two and a half hours, waiting was not my first impulse.

There wasn't even any evidence that the Trend program, or anything Trend related, was running while all this went on. Usually you can check the processes in Task Manager to see what the computer was doing, but even that didn't help. And how many average computer users would do that?

Besides, I'd already been caught on that waiting thing. Earlier on, the install wizard got to 98% done before it hung. It kept saying it was "almost finished." Turns out what that meant was that I had to stop using the installation wizard and switch over to start configuring the program before the wizard had finished the install. Not that there was any message telling me this. You're supposed to wait around looking at a message saying "almost finished" until Hell freezes over?

The cherry blossoms pine and fade away
The installation cannot proceed until you deactivate the program before re-activating it.

No, wait. I would've understood that message.


messymimi said...

Part of me hopes people who write this kind of non help help or non instructive instructions get stuck on the way to heaven in a purgatory that has them trying to put together their own elevator up, using instructions poorly translated into their language by computer, and missing two pages.

Cat said...

messymimi, I somehow think someone who writes like that isn't going to heaven...


Anonymous said...

I put my poor son through this recently, or something very similar. He is a saint, that boy, truly. And so are you.

the last dying leave falls from the denuded tree
mothers everywhere weep
for joy
and their blessed children

(who now has a new laptop, purchased by her children, with 24 hour tech support, so they never have to go through that again)

Lee said...

Just reading this made my head itch. Providing over the phone tech support to my mom is something I will do anything to avoid. Although, I did take my parents with me on a trip to London. I get points for that, right?

You are a saint, albeit a somewhat justifiably cranky one.