WServerNews: Why bad UI decisions happen

In this issue:

Cars, toasters and movies—all examples of bad design decisions. Cooling datacenters or warming homes? Beware of using spellcheckers in Chrome. Mitigating the GifShell Attack. Windows news, good and bad. Share your ideas for this upcoming Windows Server Summit 2022 virtual event. Should you be using GitHub or GitLab? Windows Autopilot tips. Password managers, free and paid. Is Big Brother awake? Flying Motorbike. Mutant in the White House. Plus lots more — read it all, read it here on WServerNews!

Remember how simple it was to drive these things? Want to start the motor? Turn the key! Need more ventilation? Roll down the window! Photo by Nikhil Mitra on Unsplash

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Editor’s Corner

Last week in our newsletter I pondered about what makes a good user interface and vented a bit about how today’s fashion-forward web designers are wrong to diss boring but perfectly functional websites like Craigslist. I ended by asking whether readers had any examples of good or bad UI design choices they wanted to share, and reader Craig Hollins from Australia came up with some dandies:

Hey Mitch, the worst UI design, IMHO, must come from the car industry. About a year ago I bought a new Mazda and it’s got some “features” that are just downright dumb.

First up, it has this wonderful system of shutting down the engine to save fuel when you’re stuck in traffic. It completely ignores the fact that you use nearly no fuel idling in traffic anyway. According to the computer I’ve now saved enough fuel to travel an additional 127km since I bought the car which has 18,000km on it. Not worth the effort, especially if it shuts down when you’re waiting for a gap in the traffic. An extra second of unexpected delay when entering is potentially dangerous. You can turn it off temporarily – the button is out of the sight of the driver in the normal position and right next to an identical shaped button that turns off traction control (something you should almost never turn off). Every time you start the car it turns it back on again. Dumb design one.

When you start the car, like just about every other car on the market, there’s a screen that tells you not to read the screen when driving. It stays on until it’s timeout period, regardless of how fast the car is going. No way to stop that. This is a design feature that appeals to the lawyers and not the customer. Dumb design two.

There’s a safety feature that doesn’t allow you to connect your phone unless the park brake is on. You might be distracted despite the previous warning. There’s no way of telling it that the passenger might be the one using it. So you have to start the engine, leave it in Park, make sure the parking brake is on and connect your phone, countering the savings made in design one above. Dumb design three.

Finally there is the inbuilt GPS system. It has a large dial on the centre console that allows you to select one letter at a time when entering a destination. This makes for a lengthy, error prone process to find your destination. And, you guessed it, like the Bluetooth, you need to have the engine on and in Park with the parking brake on. Again, no way of telling it the passenger is doing the entry. Dumb design four.

What irks me about all these “features” is they could not have been designed in there by default. In the early prototype stage someone must have said “but if they use it when driving we could be sued so let’s prevent that from happening.”

Note that these dumb problems aren’t unique to Mazda. All of them are found on all new cars to one extent or another. All of these problems could easily be fixed if car manufacturers listened to customers and not lawyers.

In his above email Craig has brought up a matter that has caused me to fume from time to time, namely the impact of the legal profession (and regulations in general) on high-tech product development whether software or hardware. I’m sure he’s dead-on in speculating that many annoying aspects of UI design, software behavior, and hardware design choices have largely resulted from pressure by the vendor’s lawyers to forestall potential lawsuits from customers and comply (or at least seem to comply) with the increasingly tangled web of regulatory requirements threatening to strangle the tech industry.

Let me give to simple examples. One of the high-tech hardware devices I rely upon every morning is my toaster. OK I’m kidding a bit about toasters being high tech, but consider this: Does your toaster properly toast bread? Mine doesn’t—even when the heat knob is turned up high and both the Defrost and Bagel buttons are pressed, I still have to end up toasting my slices of bread twice to get them decently brown. And I’m not the only one who complains about this (Reddit). The fact is, there just aren’t any toasters on the market these days that will let you *really* toast your bread so it’s almost burnt using just a single toasting cycle—you have to toast it at least twice to get your toast crisp and nicely burnt. Almost all the toasters I’ve tried result in wimpy, soft toast that a clothing designer would label as “camel colored” at best.

Why is this? Probably so toaster manufacturers can avoid potential lawsuits from runamok toasters burning down someone’s house.

Here’s a second example. Big-release theater movies today are boring for two reasons. First, they’re packed with software-created special effects instead of real people acting in real-world on-location sets. In fact I would speculate that today’s movies are the most complex and expensive software-created products available.

But the second reason many recent movies are boring is because they’re mostly remakes of older titles. For example, ion this past year we’ve seen remakes of classics like Death on the Nile, Scream, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, All Quiet on the Western Front, and so on. Why? Most likely because of legal decisions by studios. If the rights to remaking Death on the Nile which was originally made in 1978 and starred the talented Peter Ustinov have been purchased by your studio, and there haven’t been any lawsuits against it since the original was released, then producing a reboot of the movie is a safe bet—and an economical one, since you already have a script you can work with and tweak to make it appeal to a modern audience.

Fear (of lawsuits) and greed (making choices on grounds of economy instead of usability) have infected our software ecosystem just like almost every other area of Western life. I can’t stand it sometimes…but it’s the way it is.

What are your thoughts on this matter?

Anyways, we hope that you enjoy this week’s issue of WServerNews, feel free to email us your comments or questions about anything in this newsletter.

This Week in IT

A compendium of recent IT industry news compiled by Your Editors. Feel free to email us if you find a news item you think our newsletter readers might be interested in. And for more tech news coverage see the News section of our TechGenix website.

A quick look around the world brings up some interesting news items for IT professionals. In the UK for example there’s fear that too many servers could mean no new homes in certain areas of the country (Gizmodo). Now if that’s not a good example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, what is? Then there is the news that the central German state of Hesse’s local Data Protection Authority (DPA) has banned the use of Microsoft 365 in its schools, citing concerns over privacy violations (TechGenix). Compliance with policies of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) seems to be at the root of this decision (TechGenix).

Here in Canada where your trusty Editors reside comes news that employees at small and medium-sized Canadian organizations have been given a “C” rating for their knowledge of cyber safety and awareness (ITWorld Canada). Personally I think that’s rather generous from talking with various business owners and their employees. On the positive side however it looks like the recent widespread outage at Internet provider Rogers has sparked a deal in Canada between major telecoms to help them avoid such situations in the future (CTV News). I guess we’ll see how this pans out the next time butterflies land on our Internet backbone cables.

On the cybersecurity side we have the following news items for you:

And if you’re worried about the GIFShell Attack you should read this article by Tony Redmond on Practical 365.

Finally some good news—guess what? Five years of data show that SSDs are more reliable than HDDs over the long haul (Ars Technica). Hah, how about that—who would have guessed?

Windows news

We promised to catch up with Windows news this week, so here goes. I guess the big announcement of course is that Windows 11 version 22H2 has been released (Redmond Channel Partner). There’s good and bad news associated with that. First, the good news about all the cool new features:

It’s not all good news however. For example:

We’ll have more on this topic in the coming weeks as things develop.

Windows Server news

Just a couple of quick articles on Windows Server that may be helpful to know about:

Upcoming webcasts, workshops and conferences

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Microsoft Ignite is coming on October 12-14 in Seattle, Washington USA – In person and virtual – Register now!

Windows Server Summit 2022 – Share your ideas for this upcoming virtual event – Complete the survey

Also be sure to check out the following event listings:

Got comments about anything in this issue?

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Meet the Editors!

MITCH TULLOCH is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows Server and cloud technologies. He has written more than a thousand articles and has authored or been series editor for over 50 books for Microsoft Press and other publishers. Mitch has also been a twelve-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award in the technical category of Cloud and Datacenter Management. He currently runs an IT content development business in Winnipeg, Canada that produces books, ebooks, whitepapers, case studies, courseware, documentation, newsletters and articles for various companies.

INGRID TULLOCH is Associate Editor of WServerNews. She was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press and collaborated on developing university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program. Ingrid also manages Research and Development for the IT content development business she runs together with Mitch.

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IT Workshop – tools, guides and useful stuff

Got a product or solution or some other resource you’d like to tell our readers about? Email us!

Our TOOL OF THE WEEK is Skydive an open source network analyzer that helps you visualize your network. Find out more in this article from Linux Magazine.

Should you be using GitHub or GitLab? Well, it depends. Find out more in this comparison article on ITPro Today.

How should you go about managing Windows Server in your environment? What tools are available for doing this? Thomas Maurer goes into this in detail in this post on his blog.

Tips and Tutorials

Got tips or tutorials you’d like to recommend for our readers? Email us!

Think Tesla has a lock on the buzzword Autopilot? Think again! Check out these articles about Windows Autopilot and learn how to get the most out of using it:

Imaging using MDT with Autopilot (Mick’s IT Blogs)

Co-management settings: Windows Autopilot with co-management (Microsoft Endpoint Manager Blog)

Prompt for time zone (and maybe other stuff) during Autopilot (Out of Office Hours)

How many ways are there to manage Autopilot devices and profiles? (Out of Office Hours)


Got a freebie you want to offer our readers? You can reach almost 200,000 IT pros worldwide with our newsletter—email us!

Need a good password manager but don’t want to pay the money? Some of them are FREE! (Tom’s Hardware)

Bitdefender releases FREE decryptor for LockerGoga ransomware (Bleeping Computer)

Factoid: Is Big Brother awake?

Our previous factoid was this:

Fact: The Pentium brand is finally going away after 30 years


Question: What do you remember about the Pentium when it was first introduced?

Some responses from our readers:

The Pentium Bunny Men! –Larry Shirley, Chief Engineer at IDCNY

The whole to-do about coming up with a name. Was it a competition? –Steven A. Murray from the NYS Office of Information Technology Services

Time flies. The memory of Pentium – so longed for then, and which I did not get, because in 1993 were neither common, nor easily available, nor cheap – it makes me feel old. It’s hard to believe how big a leap separates us from the moment we heard about the Pentium for the first time. –Angelica Steckel

Now let’s move on to this week’s factoid:

Fact: Why Physical Security Maintenance Should Never Be an Afterthought


Question: OK when was the last time you (or someone from your security team) checked to make sure that the security cameras outside your home or workplace are actually functioning properly? Which brings up the related question about validating backups…

Email us your answer and we’ll include it in our next issue!

Fun videos from Flixxy

Flying Motorbike – The XTurismo hoverbike is designed to fly for up to 40 minutes at a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h).

Animals That Are Smarter Than You Think – Here are some outstanding and incredible videos of genius animals filmed from all around the world.

The Dancing Movies – A tribute to dance in films.

Elon Musk Shows Jay Leno His SpaceX Rockets – Elon Musk invites Jay Leno to Texas to give him a personal tour of his revolutionary rocket factory – SpaceX.

And Finally

The odd, the stupid and the remarkable. Good for your mental health.

Elon Musk activates Starlink for Iranian citizens after US Sec of State issued a General License (Teslarati)

[Hmm, I wonder if there a correlation between the average Starlink speed and the price of Starlink stock.]

Cloudflare launches an eSIM to secure mobile devices (TechCrunch)

[But but but using this would mean trusting Cloudflare!]

Simple 20-20-20 screen rule really does help with eye strain, research shows (Aston University)

[But how scientific is this really? Have they tried varying each of the three independent variables and compared the result? Perhaps 56-23-18 is optimal—hey, might be a good research project for a Ph.D. thesis!]

Richard Nixon exposed to radiation on Moscow trip in 1959, documents reveal (UK Guardian)

[Ah, a Mutant in the White House—that explains everything. Oh golly I’m sorry, I forgot the rule about no politics in this newsletter!]

Hey reader! Got an amazing or weird or funny link you’d like to suggest for this section of our newsletter? Email us! But please make sure that it’s G-rated as in “Gee whiz”, “Golly!”, “Good grief!”, “Gaaahh!!” and so on. Thanks!

Please tell others about WServerNews!

We hope you enjoyed this issue of WServerNews! Feel free to send us feedback on any of the topics we’ve covered—we love hearing from our readers! And please tell others about WServerNews! It’s free and always will be free—and they can subscribe to it here. Thanks!!!

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