Wed 08 Oct
If I took the time document every frustrating Web site I had to deal with, I’d be posting several times a day, every day. But Cisco.com deserves a special kind of commendation for being egregiously difficult to use, as I discovered last night while trying to download some simple drivers from its site.
A colleague had given me an old Cisco Aironet 340 wireless PC card, so I went to hunt down the necessary software to use it with my Sony VAIO PCG-SR7K. My troubles began almost immediately after performing a search on ‘AIRONET 340’: this page told me that the card has apparently reached ‘end-of-sale or end-of-life status.’ Never mind that that language is unfriendly and unnecessarily harsh, and that the documentation is apparently gone completely; rather, note that the body text directs users to find more information in the left hand navigation, which itself leads directly back to this page.
Even after somehow managing to get past this hurdle and actually finding the software driver, I was then required to register in order to download anything, a remarkably onerous process in which one has to identify one’s language preference three times (twice on one screen!), opt out of further commercial contact five times, accept a typically impenetrable privacy statement, and retrieve a confirmation email. And finally, after having successfully completed all that, I was left to my own devices in terms of finding straightforward instructions on how to download and install the appropriate software for the Aironet 340 card.
This is all so bad because most companies provide software downloads for their products free, and virtually without hassle. At worst, some companies ask for a simple registration, but in those cases, at least the software downloads are readily apparent. As far as complex Web transactions go, software downloads aren’t complicated at all, and yet this one is notably bad, and for no good reason. I saw some mention of restrictions on the exporting of encryption, which might explain why the process is multi-staged, but it hardly excuses the complexity, as any moderately determined violator of export rules could have circumvented this process with trivial effort. The worst of it is, despite the bad documentation and the inscrutable installation process, once I had the software installed, it worked beautifully and without hassle. I might never have discovered that.