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Enforced Progress Bar Linearity

Because we've had decades of crap at this point.
  [vote for,

The humble software progress bar is a near universal experience shared between user and computer. From the very start, say the installation of an operating system, the lies begin.

Recently I had occasion to install Windows XP on a relatively modern machine. On the left it has a cutesy green progress bar, and unusually, a sentence above "Setup will complete in approximately 57 minutes" in my case.

This is actually admirable, they attempted to ascribe meaning and a real unit to the progress bar. Unfortunately, because I was installing to a very fast disk, from a very fast disk via a very fast board, this estimate came crashing down. It ultimately took <6 minutes. It was off by tenfold. Estimates that are off by tenfold* aren't very useful. The initial estimate gave enough time for a French coffee break when in actual fact I only had enough time for an American lunch break. I can forgive this example however, the software could know nothing of the hardware it was being introduced to.

What about now, what headway have we made? Well, none, as far as I can tell. Transferring large datasets around still gives wildly inaccurate progress bars**. That is on a computer that should know it's hardware, knows the data you have selected and knows the speed of the interfaces through which it is being moved. Even then, such progress bars will jump to 22% hang around there for a while, race through to 94% and then stay there for 66% of the total time before completing and disappearing. This can be solved.

Wouldn't it be reasonable for an operating system to send information to it's maker via some fantastical huge network? where it can then be incorporated into new versions of the operating system/updates. All it would take is a little packet of information with:

A brief breakdown of the computer "AMD Ryzen 3600, 32gb RAM NVME SSD"

and some typical operations "Install Adobe Photoshop" "Move 100Gb Tiff files to USB 3 SSD" "AutoSave the Powerpoint that has been autosaved 9x this afternoon but still has a stop-start progress bar".

Then the operating system can inform it's own progress bars: "Oh, he's moving 5gb tiff files and 300kb of txt files to a spinning HDD, that's 1s to spin up the drive, 10s/gb and 3s for the rest, let's create a nice linear 54s progress bar and check every 2s or so if we're on track " or "Oh, install Photoshop on the main SSD, that takes 4 minutes +/- 5s on comparable systems recorded so far".

For completely novel operations, the computer could take a look at the task: "hmm, move 113,000 of these 1500- 5500k .czi files, not sure how they will behave. Let's move 1 of each, extrapolate from there and see how we did" Sort of like PID control for computer operations.

Enforcement will be achieved via varying the frequency that hooded operatives tase the relevant company's middle and upper management in darkened car parks /airport bathrooms /their children's schools.

*while completely normal, or in fact, bloody impressive in some of the trickier sciences.

** and it still doesn't check, at least in Windows, whether there is enough space. There's no priority ranking for a "do it all now, fast, I want to go home" Vs. "Do it in the background you have hours".

bs0u0155, Oct 12 2020

Sort of inspired by rule_20regarding_20...tions_20of_20phones
[bs0u0155, Oct 12 2020]

xkcd https://xkcd.com/612/
Randall Munroe got there before you [hippo, Oct 12 2020]


       // hooded operatives tase the relevant company's middle and upper management //   

       Er, is that job going out to competitive tender by any chance ?   

       Will we pay you on a per-capita basis, or will it be a flat fee ? Invoices net montly account are fine, but if you'd prefer it, you can have used, unmarked notes in a negotiable currency.   

       Prior experience in this very specialised area of endeavour leads us to recommend that (a) efforts are directed disproportionately to the higher levels of management, but also applied to significant majority shareholders, and (b) the method of education is varied depending on the offender; beatings with rubber hose (which can be done without leaving significant bruising, despite being very painful), waterboarding, pepper spray on the genitalia, and sherbert (the actual confectionary, not a euphemism) blown up the nostrils all have a very satisfactory effect on encouraging compliance.
8th of 7, Oct 12 2020

       I can see that outsourcing to "Compliance Enforcement Specialist" companies has some advantages. When progress is noticed, a small delivery of carrots will be made to complete the metaphor/satisfy the psychologists.   

       Other software improvements that could be achieved include, but are not limited to:   

       Not putting the "get rid of the window completely" button right next to the "I am extremely interested in this window, fill the whole screen with it" button.   

       Not putting the "I'm off home now, please eject this drive full of useful data" menu button next to the "this drive is of no further use, nuke the contents please" button. That's the equivalent of "I would like the steak please and for my friend, please shoot him and dispose of the body"... "oh, sorry, I meant the chicken, they're right next to each other easy mistake... Bob? you OK Bob?"   

       Not putting the "rename" menu item next to the "delete" menu item.
bs0u0155, Oct 12 2020

       I like this - a sort of crowd-sourced estimation.

A better* way of getting a really accurate, linear progress bar is to have the computer estimate a really long time for you to copy those files, like 2 hours to copy a couple of Gb, and then just to make sure it does take exactly that long, by slowing down the copy process to comply with the exact linear progression of the progress bar.

*[for specific interpretations of the word ‘better’]
hippo, Oct 12 2020

       // by slowing down the copy process to comply with the exact linear progression of the progress bar. //   

       "You work for Apple, and we claim our Five Hundred Pounds for something only worth Forty Pounds".
8th of 7, Oct 12 2020

       //...and we claim our...// - you can do this by downloading the iClaim app onto your iPhone. You’ll have to enter your name and credit card details, purely for identity verification purposes.
hippo, Oct 12 2020

       We do not own, or have access to, an iPhoney. We do, however, have a selection of hammers of varying sizes, kept in a sturdy box clearly labelled "iPhoney Improvement Kit".   

       It resides on the footplate of our steam road-roller, which has prominent placards reading "Mobile iPhoney Modification Service" and a big, illuminated flashing arrow sign pointing to just in front of the roller.
8th of 7, Oct 12 2020

       Regarding waiting while software does stuff, SolidWorks have gone completely stupid.
When you do something on SolidWorks that takes some time, the Windows cursor changes to the spinny blue ring as expected. This is fine.
After a time, the blue ring turns back into the standard pointer, and you think "it's finished thinking, I can carry on working".
But no! The SolidWorks "taskbar" panel (does that have a "proper" name?) ALSO (sometimes...) has either an hourglass or a green progress bar, which (as per this idea) is a completely vague representation of actual progress.
So you actually have no idea if it has finished thinking, besides trying to click on something and seeing what happens.
Grr! </rant>
neutrinos_shadow, Oct 12 2020

       //You work for Apple, and we claim our Five Hundred Pounds for something only worth Forty Pounds//   

       I just went to apple.com and had a look at what they could offer me in comparison to a $2200 Ryzen7/rtx2080 rig. I started laughing at the >$5000 base price, I stopped laughing when an equivalent spec went north of $13k on mac pros.   

       The xkcd captures the feeling quite well!
bs0u0155, Oct 12 2020

       “Windows XP on a fairly relatively modern machine”? Relative to what? Microsoft stopped supporting XP over six years ago.
kdf, Oct 12 2020

       // Microsoft stopped supporting XP over six years ago. //   

       Pr. "Microsoft stopped telling you that they couldn't help, and you needed to pay for an upgrade to the newest version of Windoze over six years ago" ...
8th of 7, Oct 12 2020

       And stopped providing security updates, or even making a half-assed effort to ensure compatibility with newer hardware or software. On top of that, progress bar time estimates aren’t any better these days either.
kdf, Oct 12 2020

       We know. Do you want to join the re-education programme staff ? No previous experience necessary, all training, equipment and protective clothing (including two pairs of bloodstain-resistant steel-toecapped Kicking Boots) provided (unless you want to bring your own favourite weapon), excellent health plan, vacation and social benefits, and you get to beat on overpaid worthless bozos who don't understand technology until they plead for mercy through swollen, bloody lips.
8th of 7, Oct 12 2020

       No thanks, ‘twas ever thus. And anyone still using it deserves what they get.
kdf, Oct 12 2020

       //Relative to what? Microsoft stopped supporting XP over six years ago//   

       When you have mission-critical custom software running expensive hardware* it's trivial to throw new-ish ~5yo hardware at it for a performance/reliability boost with what would otherwise be on it's way to lining some IT bod's pocket via eBay. If it's single purpose and air- gapped. Security doesn't matter.   

       //progress bar time estimates aren’t any better these days either.//   

       That, as described, is the point. I then went on to outline, at least theoretically, how that might be addressed.   

       *I use this to sound cool. Really, we just can't afford a re- write, and that makes us stuck with XP, like the US military.
bs0u0155, Oct 12 2020


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