Saturday, January 21, 2006 In Boiler Room, El Maleeha | trackback

Customization Heaven

Software Default Settings, Abused

Twenty years ago, or maybe even less, software vendors competed against each other to bring the best features and the best functionalities to the same audience. Well, only the giants made it through this tough era, because the audience did not buy it.

History has proven that a lot of features did indeed kill the product. In the latest versions of Windows, it was obvious that Microsoft people were trying to make the user’s life easier, by setting the defaults to the most effective way. Users now do not have to manipulate settings to get their basic needs done. This also drives the audience into acting in a specific way, the vendor meant for. Which I believe is not all bad. In fact it kind of creates a technical agreed-upon behavior amongst the public.
(check out the future version of Microsoft Word.)

Of course, when you are a sharp anti-social computer geek, settings are your bed time story. Software houses now need to cater for your needs, but you see, it should not be hard at all to cater for the needs of computer geeks, because they will always find their way through. Great!

One default setting I tweaked was the amazing “popup blocker” of IE. I put the security up to the highest, and I prevented all third-party cookies. No popup ever shows without my consent. Of course when I want a popup to show, all I have to do is “ctrl+click” the link. But, Flash and ActiveX do not obey. Windows created by Flash applets or ActiveX objects are opened anyway! Don’t know what the solution to this would be, because I do not wish to deactivate Flash and ActiveX embeds.

Another security setting I was happy to change, was Refresh

Meta tags permission. I deactivated it because I did not want sites to manipulate my history list. I use the “back-space” key to go back in history – naturally. Although this is not the only way redirections occur, but after deactivating the tag, I found out that more than 70% of the time, developers rely on Refresh Meta tags. For those who have a redirection scheme, I wish they can drop it and use a simple “click here to move on” – if anything, because it is a lot more friendly, and does not betray the user!

There goes, two default settings that turns users away. Popups, and redirections. There are many other very wrong defaults that make the software vendors act freely upon users’ browsers, they should be turned off so that vendors are more respectful to the space of the user. Here is what Jacob Nielson has to say about default settings.

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