Free, But Not Without Cost

June 22, 2007

I was hoping to write today about finding a cure for my Yahoo Messenger ills. The latest and greatest instant messenger client from Y! refuses to stay connected for more than about 10 minutes. It drops connectivity in the middle of chats, file transfers, and when it is just idle. Repeated forays into the support forum world haven't been helpful other than revealing others with the same issue. One posting (which I should have bookmarked) purported from Y! itself suggested that using a third-party client might solve the issue. It is pretty sad when a major software producer creates a standard or protocol and then their own software can't utilize it without blowing up.

The "cure," discovered last night in another round of Googling-for-Answers was to change the Ignore List settings in the client. By default it gives you the option to ignore people on a list you create. The alternative is to ignore everyone who isn't on your buddy list. I guess the thinking is that there is some kind of client-server communication required with the specific ignore list, and that this communication is somehow responsible for the connectivity issues. Unfortunately changing this setting in my case did not solve the problem. I still get dropped every ten minutes or so.

It has been pointed out to me that "you get what you pay for" and that Yahoo Messenger is free. So is Pidgin and it never drops my connection. For my two cents I think software producers should spend more time making simple software that work flawlessly, and when it can't work, errors gracefully. Instead they seem more interested in stuff all sorts of ancillary bits into the install package (NO, I don't want the weather bug installed. Or your toolbar. Or anything else.).

As a professional who makes his living creating or designing software I understand how incredibly complex even the simplest tasks are, and how vastly difficult it is to create fluid, easy-to-use interfaces. So I understand that Y! and Microsoft, and others are doing their level best. But I would be interested in software that did one thing, did it extremely well and effortless far more than I am interested in software that wants to invade my computer and deliver ads and unwanted extras. Because even thought the Yahoo Messenger product is free, putting up with all the shortcomings of the software combined with diligently avoid all the invasion-ware extras definitely is not without cost.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.