Tagging: Brett, John, Allister, Darren and Julius.

When it comes to transaction processing, most systems think in terms of very short increments of time - eg taking money from an ATM, the whole transaction is done in a few seconds. Some may take longer - like transferring money between two different banks, which could take a few days. Others are maybe much more long-running - such a house sale and purchase, which could last for weeks and weeks.

So it is with some blog follow up. I only just spotted that Steve the Geek had tagged me a few weeks ago, and maybe it's time to follow up...

  • name at least 5 programs (web or standalone) that you love that go against the mainstream ( optional - reason why - if possible)
  • name at least 5 programs that you dislike; OSes not included, (optional - reason why - if possible)
  • tag at least 5 other people

So here goes...

Bouquets

  • Ilium's eWallet - a super cool bit of cheap software which allows easy maintenance of confidential stuff on a PC (maybe the legions of passwords you might manage, or the account numbers of all your credit cards or bank accounts), and can synch them down to your Smartphone, Pocket PC or Palm. It's one of the first things I install on any new mobile device or after rebuilding a PC. Not so much against the mainstream as genre-defining.
  • Windows Live Mail - I've now got 3 or 4 WL/Hotmail accounts that I use, and this desktop app manages them all nicely, even integrating to the instant search in Vista. Not mainstream since a lot of people -still- don't know it even exists.
  • Numerous web-based forums, often based on software like vBulletin or UBB. In most cases, the forum software just works really well (though sometimes they have real problems with scalability), and has come on leaps & bounds since the early web forums. So much more friendly that Usenet. FlyerTalkDigitalSpy are examples of great web forums; PistonHeads, less so. 
  • Local.Live.com - drastically needs a better name, but it's so good in so many ways that it's a crying shame a lot of folks still don't know about it. I remember the first time I saw Google Earth - I though it was really impressive, even though the UI was horrible. Microsoft's Virtual Earth (even mobile) technology has overtaken Google Maps/Google Earth IMHO.
  • At the risk of being a bit too Microsoft-centric, I'm going to add Digital Image Suite 2006 here. Not as powerful as Photoshop, maybe, but for what I need to do with it (manage photos and do the odd bit of cropping & touching up), it works really well. Shame it's now been discontinued :(

Brickbats

  • Partition Magic - Actually, I used to like PQM because it did something that there was no other feasible way of doing - dynamically resizing and moving disk partitions whilst preserving the data on them. I'm putting it in here because it hasn't been updated in years (since well before Symantec hoovered up the company), and has no roadmap for the future - so it isn't compatible with Vista and never will be.
  • Almost any PC laptop utilities from the manufacturer - whether it's Toshiba's crazy FlashCards that keep popping up on top of everything, or their monitor program to make sure the hard disk isn't being moved too much (??), to Dell's QuickSet utilities, they're almost always slow, the UI is horrible, they consume lots of memory and (in the case of Tosh), routinely just fall over, especially when shutting the machine down.
  • Siebel. Talk to anyone in Microsoft who has to use Siebel (now, amusingly, an Oracle product, but one which MS has spent years and probably $$$$ implementing), and the universal opinion is that it is absolutely horrible in almost every regard.
  • Zune software - I'm sorry, I just don't see why it was necessary to build a separate app which (presumably) shares a lot of its guts with Windows Media Player, that has to be installed to sync with the Zune player. Why can't Zune just consume WMP, even put a skin on it for branding purposes, but not require a different look & feel, separate registration of filetypes etc? Maybe an example of Zune trying to be a little too like iPod/iTunes.
  • Acrobat Reader. How many times have I clicked on a link in a web page to open a PDF file in a new tab in IE7, read the doc and then pressed CTRL-F4 to close that tab, only to get an error saying: "Acrobat Reader: This action cannot be performed from within an external window"... Or how many times has the PC bogged down, only to find the Acrobat Reader process - which isn't even open and visible - merrily chewing away at all the CPU and memory it can grab? Or how many times has IE fallen over like a helicopter missing a rotor blade, only to find that the dreaded ACRORD32.EXE is behind the fault? It's probably better now than previously, but it seriously winds me up when Acrobat falls to bits because I know that most people will just attribute it to Windows or IE.