Q: How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: It can’t be done, it’s a hardware problem.
Up front I need to admit that I’m an idiot. Having said that, I will now attempt to shift blame for my problem to someone else. Let’s get started!
Some products make the mistake of letting the guys in marketing design it, and so the end product is a mishmash of features that make no sense and don’t really work right. Other products – such as graphics cards – have the opposite problem, where the thing is more or less marketed by engineering. Consider:
If you can believe it, this is the name of the product. Like iPod or Diet Pepsi. Into this “name” they have packed the name of the manufacterer, the name of the product, some of its features, the hardware requirements, and some other stuff that is still a mystery to me. What is all of this supposed to mean to Joe Consumer? There is some really critical information buried in all of that mumbo-jumbo.
What happened is this: In the past year a new type of expansion slot was rolled out on new computers, the PCIe. I had no idea. For the past several years I’ve been just buying things based on performance and price. I forgot about the old days when you had to make sure your computer had the right slot. So I bought a PCIe card, and found I didn’t have the right slot.
PCI slots have been around for ages. I see the letters PCI and I think, “Yeah, I’ve got that.” Another kind of slot is AGP. Then they came out with AGPx2, AGPx4, AGPx8. It’s all the same slot, just faster. Take your AGP-shaped card and stick it in the slot and it’ll work. This is not the case with PCIe. In fact, PCIe isn’t just a new slot shape, it is four new slots.
The point here is that I think the makers of these things should let the marketing guys do their job. No marketer in their right mind would put something on the shelf with a name like:
Xfx Geforce 6800XTREME 256MB Dual Dvi Agp DDR3 350MHZ 256 Bit
When shopping the user wants to know:
1) Does it do what I want?
2) Can I use it?
3) How much does it cost?
Carmakers don’t include the Drag Coefficient, steering configuration, and fuel economy in the name of the car. Nobody buys a RENESIS 13b 0.31dc / R&P pwr assist / 18/24MPG / 3029lb. No, they buy a Mazda RX-8. Foremost in the buyer’s mind will be basic facts about seating and type of fuel used, not esoteric facts about engine output and Weight Distribution. That information is there, for sure. But when you go to the lot the dealer is going to want to know what sort of car you want before he asks about any of the other stuff.
The fact that I went through the entire process of buying the card and was never aware that slot type was something I needed to worry about shows that while I’m an idiot, the sellers don’t have any way of coping with idiots. A simple picture of the required slot would have been all I needed. I would have looked at it and thought, “I don’t have one of those in my system.”
Ideally, they should come up with a more user-friendly way of referring to or depicting these slots. Coming up with an alternative naming system for them would be a good start. I’m sure there are all sorts of technical reasons for calling the new slots PCIe. I’m sure on the implementation level there are all sorts of similarities. For the clueless user they only have one feature: The shape. If you can’t plug a PCIe into a PCI slot, then as far as the user is concerned it’s a whole different thing. They are not going to care about how the two schemes use similar methods of packet adressing for crying out loud. They would do better to name one slot type “PCI” and then name the new one “Larry”. At least the user would know that PCI slots and Larry slots were not the same thing.
I was able to pack up and return the card no problem, but now I’m sour on the whole process and I don’t want to think about it any more. I think I’m going to live with my stone-age video card for now. Oblivion looks like rubbish, but I don’t think it’s worth $150 plus the time and energy required figure out what card I’m supposed to get, order it, and then wait for it.
In summary: I’m an idiot. Although, I’m an idiot who had money to spend if someone had the sense to sell me what I wanted.
UPDATE: Upon further reflection, perhaps I needed the history of Poland after all.
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