Asking Permission of your Docking Stations
For years I've avoided Docking Stations Port Replicators. Early on, they at least made sense, because they had a bunch of ports that your laptop didn't already have. Now, other than more USB ports and the occasional DVI port, most Docking Stations seem like Port Duplicators. Sure, folks argue that you don't have to plugin multiple cords, but I don't personally find it all that difficult to plug in the monitor and one USB hub.
Anyway, the real point here is this - Has docking/undocking ever worked in Windows? The only docking station I've ever used that hasn't sucked egregiously has been the Toshiba MultiDock II Docking Station. It's for the Portege m200/205 Tablet PC and is not only a docking station, but also a stand that expects you to use the laptop screen as the primary monitor. The docking station experience in Vista with this laptop, so far, seems to be fine. No errors, no troubles, although for some reason when I'm docked I can't go into standby.
However, things aren't so rosy on the Windows XP SP2 totally fresh install side. I just got a Lenovo ThinkPad T60p. A fine laptop indeed. It also happened to come with a Docking Station. The station has lock-and-key on the top with two buttons marked "1" and "2" that I'm apparently supposed to press in order. When I press the first one I get a message telling me that:
"You cannot eject your computer because of of the devices in the docking station, "Docking Station," cannot be stopped because of an unknown error. Since this device is still being used, do not remove the computer."
Sometimes I'll get the same error except it'll say "USB Printing Support" - and I'm not printing.
On the other hand, when I plug my new T60p into the docking station, it just reboots. no blue screen, no How's your Father, just black screen, then BIOs. I'm not going to use the docking station anymore. Sigh.
From my point of view, I need my Docking Station to understand this. When I pressed the Undock button, that wasn't a request. I'm not asking your permission, Docking Station, if I can take my computer with me. Understand this, Mr. Station, I'm taking the computer with me, and I'm taking it now. The fact that I pressed the button at all was a kindness - a heads up, if you will - to you. If you choose to do something about it, cool, do what you have to do and shut down what you need to shut down, but if you have a problem doing that, you should error on the side of "I guess he's not coming back" not on the side of "Don't Leave!"
Seems to me the design of the Undocking experience is sub-par at best, similar to the "Unplugging a Device" experience. Much of the device related errors are like this. When an anonymous dialog tells me that a Device can't do something, why doesn't it tell me WHY not, and offer some suggestions about how I can move forward? If you're going to put up a roadblock, as a designer, always offer a detour sign so I can continue the journey.
Does your docking station experience suck as well?