Fix software progress indicators NOW!

This is going to be a rant. Consider yourself warned.

I have a problem with how software developers handle progress indicators. For the most part, they are worthless junk. It seems to me that the whole idea is to give the user an idea of how far a process is in its operation, presumably so they can determine the amount of time that will needed for the whole thing to finish.

Today I spent a fair chunk of time waiting for the 20H2 update for Windows 10 to be installed. I will be making references to this experience.

My first attempt at installing this update failed. On the first reboot, my computer experienced a blue screen, with the storport.sys driver being the culprit. I then updated the driver for my RAID card and the card’s firmware, and tried the big update again. It worked this time.

After a few reboots and some additional time, the percentage indicator had reached 98 percent. And it stayed at this point for a VERY long time. After quite a while showing 98 percent, I started paying attention to what time the wall clock showed. I don’t know how much time passed before I started tracking it, but once I started, the indicator stayed there for an additional 65 minutes before it moved to 100 and then allowed me to log in.

The last two percent of the update progress took longer than the previous 98 percent. This mess is the norm for software, not at all unusual. I posted about it before but the events of today are evidence that Microsoft is one of the worst offenders.

3 responses to “Fix software progress indicators NOW!”

  1. That is so true. I don’t think software developers really make any attempt to make them accurate. At best I’ve seen them take the total number of steps, divide it into 100, and jump the bar when each step is complete. However, some steps take far longer than others. In the systems I work with we’ve removed progress bars and simply say what it is currently doing “unpacking data” or “modifying permissions”, and such.

    • Did you see the previous post about this insanity?

      I wouldn’t expect the typical software developer to care about this for their own software. I would expect them to delegate responsibility for installation to a library and be done with it, and I think that’s what most of them have done.

      But I do expect some subset of developers at Microsoft and people who create InstallShield and its friends to think about it, and all evidence suggests they simply do not care.

    • I have come up with a new theory. I think that companies like Microsoft INTENTIONALLY made their progress indicators work this way … because their developers complained that it was too hard to actually calculate a reliable percentage for a complex piece of software … so they decided to make all progress indicators inherently meaningless so nobody would be surprised when an indicator wasn’t accurate. And once the big names did it, the rest of the industry did the same.

      This conspiracy theory brought to you by the same mind that thinks Coke invented the whole “New Coke” fiasco back in the 80s for one reason — so they could change Coke from sugar to high-fructose corn syrup and make sure there would be no outcry about it.

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