Shareware Beach

Monday, 9 October 2006

World’s Worst Download Manager

Filed under: Software Development — Jan @ 19:10

The Akamai Download Manager that Microsoft offers on its web site to download the Windows Vista previews is one of the worst pieces of software I’ve ever tried to use.

An important guideline any user interface design book will teach you is that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission. Instead of asking the user “Are you sure?”, provide a fool-proof undo mechanism instead. The user is always sure, until he changes his mind. Of course, this puts the onus on the programmer rather than the user.

The programmer of the Akamai Download Manager must have had a particularly lazy day. When my internet connection is interrupted, as invariably happens during an overnight download, the morning greets me with the following message:

Network error, cannot download. Check connections, and try again. Would you like to retry now?

Of course I want to retry! I want to retry until the cows come home! That’s why I’m using a download manager in the first place. If I change my mind in the morning, I’ll just delete the file.

But it gets better. When the download was completed, I was told:

The Download is complete.  However, the download integrity is questionable (MD5 mismatch).  Check the file and download a fresh copy if needed. Would you like to start over?

Ack! The good news is it actually does an MD5 check. This is not part of the HTTP standard, so Microsoft must be passing this along in the link to the download manager. My computer crashed this morning due to a power outage, so the integrity failure is not unexpected. But why do I have to download the whole thing again!? Why not use a list of MD5 hashes for each 1 MB or 10 MB chuck of the file, and re-download only the faulty chunk? Those 100,000 downloads of RC2 are going to be gone pretty fast this way.

Halfway through the second attempt, my internet connection acted up again. So did the Akamai stuff:

The Download Manager cannot handle this download.  The download will be canceled.

I clicked the mislabeled OK button (an expletive would be more appropriate), poof!, my download was all gone.

So I googled for “4 gb download manager”, found a link to Internet Download Manager, confirmed the page says it can handle 4 GB downloads, downloaded the thing, and restarted the download once more. Being a shareware product, this one will hopefully work a bit better.

With all the effort Microsoft is putting into Windows Vista, I don’t understand why they don’t try to make a better first impression. Microsoft could easily link to the 30-day trial of the download manager I just found. They could probably buy the whole company with some of their spare change.

Anyway, if you want to download Windows Vista, don’t use the “recommended” download manager. I feel better now.


  1. “World’s worst” seems a little harsh, especially since it’s not responsible for your sketchy internet access. It would have been helpful if you’d held off on the review for a day so you could tell us whether the “free” DM worked any better…did it?

    I like the idea of chunk repair. If it is feasible, sounds like that would be a reasonable addition. Hope Microsoft would be willing to pay for it.

    Comment by Carol Mann — Friday, 13 October 2006 @ 13:42

  2. I did hold off the review. I used the Akamai download manager to download the previous two Vista builds too. Then too the download would be interrupted constantly with the first error message.

    I know my connection isn’t very reliable. That’s the whole point of using a download manager.

    And yes, the other download manager I tried worked flawlessly over the same bad connection. It’s not free though. It’s a 30 day trial.

    Comment by Jan Goyvaerts — Friday, 13 October 2006 @ 19:08

  3. I couldn’t agree more with this review. This is my third attempt at downloading Vista RC2, which takes all night, only to discover the next morning the stupid prompt asking if I want to retry. This has happened three times. The last time it actually finished downloading the entire thing, but the download manager crashed towards the end of the integrity check and deleted the entire download. What a piece of trash!

    Comment by Greg — Friday, 3 November 2006 @ 21:09

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