Wednesday, May 2, 2007

USB Plug and Play

Lately, I have been trying to install on my home computer a USB external hard drive, and an MP3 player. The issue I'm running into is that these are "Plug and Play" devices, and don't actually have a driver. I've checked the company website for the hard drive, and am unable to locate anything except for Firmware Updates. Now these are useful, but only if your PC recognizes the device in the first place.

According to the OS manufacturer:
After identifying each device, Plug and Play determines the system resources that each device requires, stores the configuration in memory, and assigns those resources to the device. After the devices have been configured, Plug and Play identifies and loads the drivers that each device requires.
Now what happens if Plug and Play does not recognize the driver? Can I update the Plug and Play source files? I don't know. And I'm not an IT guy, so I'm helpless.

This illustrates a problem that can come up with any scheme to make a customer life easier. When your solution is the ONLY solution, even if it's intended to streamline the end user experience, inevitably it will fail. If only because it takes all control by the end user out of the equation, you have taken away the possibility of positive end user control.

Similar to this is the Automatic vs. Manual transmission debate. While an automatic transmission allows for the end user to do all sorts of things instead of monitoring and configuring the clutch position(shifting), the automatic transmission does it for you. Which frees you up to put on makeup, drink coffee, play air drums, and send email on your Blackberry*. What it doesn't allow you to do is shift at a lower RPM to maximize fuel output, disengage the clutch on hills or while braking, or in the case of failure of the Starter Motor or battery, allowing you to push-start the car.

So for the sake of illustration, we'll use the car analogy:
My automatic transmission car(hard drive) has a broken starter motor(driver). Because it has an automatic transmission(plug n play), I can't push start it(reinstall the driver) to get it running and get home.

So keep in mind the fact that just because the easiest process is in place currently, it doesn't mean your butt is completely covered. In fact, you might just want to build in a back door of some kind.

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