One thing that I've noticed about Windows Vista is that Microsoft seems to have hired robots to write the error messages that the OS displays, and that these robots are writing error messages so that other robots can understand them. I want a human to write error messages, and for those error messages to be understandable by other humans - please. Is that too much to ask?
Take, for example, this error message I got yesterday when trying to get Windows Update working on my 64-bit Vista install:
Seriously, how many people are there in the world who are going to go "Hmmm, error code 8024402F ... ahhh yes, I know what the problem is"? I can't, and I've been neck deep in the Microsoft ecosystem for what is getting to be almost two decades. I'm betting that that number is probably down in the single or maybe low double digits, and that those people don't have any friends or social life because they waste all their time remembering error messages.
Why do I get that error code vomited out into my face by the system and yet have to click on the Get help link in order to get help on it? Why can't the page just display at least a brief synopsis of the problem that error code 8024402F relates to in order to give me a little heads up as to what's coming? And why does that Get help link look so pale and anemic compared to that Try again button, which despite inviting us to click on it is, in fact, utterly useless and you can click on it until the end of time and not get a result?
I'm picking on this one error message here, and if it was the only such example of help written "by robots for robots" things wouldn't be too bad, but it isn't. Windows is in fact crammed full of them, and to make matters worse, there are far too many undocumented error codes and far too many codes that just seem to be the programmer's way of telling us that they really don't know what went wrong.
Ease of use when the system is running properly is one thing, but it's also important to have ease of use when things go wrong, and this is an area where Microsoft engineers could improve on greatly. Sure, I have to acknowledge that Microsoft has made huge leaps forward and the greater use if web-based help is making sure that new and updated information is filtering down to the users, but there is, without a doubt, a greater need for clarity and easier access to information when it come to crashes, lockups, and other problems. For example, Event Viewer is a vital tool when it comes to troubleshooting, but under XP venturing into the Event Viewer was only for those who knew what they were doing. Under Vista, the Event Viewer has been improved considerably, but there's still huge room for enhancement.