A few days ago Windows Live Photo Gallery (WLPG) told me that there was a new codec pack available and suggested that I download it. That should be trivial. And yet, somehow, they managed to make it complicated.
Take a look at this web page screen shot – how many problems do you see in it?
The first problem is that it really shouldn’t be asking the user what version of the codec pack they want. There should be a codec pack that just works. Yes, that means the download will be slightly larger, but bandwidth is cheap. It also requires that the .msi creation tool be able to support having both 32-bit and 64-bit installers in one file, but one hopes that a large company like Microsoft could handle that challenge.
The second problem is the naming of the packages. x86 makes some amount of sense, but is more technical than it should be. The real problem is with the amd64 name. That name makes no sense. Yes, AMD originally created the 64-bit extensions to the x86 architecture, and they did a fabulous job, and I am grateful to them for that. But. Still. Nobody outside of Microsoft and AMD calls the x64 architecture ‘amd64’. When most users – even extremely technical users, such as C++ programmers – see an ‘amd64’ installer their immediate reaction is “that’s not the one that I want – I have an Intel processor”. Fail.
The third problem is that the page tells you that there are 32-bit and 64-bit versions available, but it does not tell you how to choose them. Should you choose the one that matches the bitness of your operating system? Or the one that matches the bitness of WLPG? WLPG is a 32-bit program, but I run it on a 64-bit operating system. I guessed that the ‘amd64’ version was what was wanted, and it worked, but I shouldn’t have to guess. This is a problem with almost every one of Microsoft’s pages that has 32-bit and 64-bit versions.
Okay, I have to confess. I sell a shareware fractal program that has 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and I don’t have a unified installer. I’m not sure if the Visual Studio installer projects support mixed-mode installers, and I haven’t tried creating a wrapper. And, in my case it can be interesting for users to install both versions. Both versions will work on 64-bit Windows, and installing them side-by-side lets you see the roughly four times speedup that the 64-bit instruction set can give (when doing high-precision math).
At least I don’t use the phrase ‘amd64’, and I give advice to users as to which version they should install. I’ll give myself two points out of three.