Monday, May 22, 2006

Let me screw up!

As I am looking for solutions for making my mobile phone and my PC cooperate and help me keep my appointments up to date, I see that a lot would be easily fixed if I just trusted all my data to microsoft. But I am very resistant to this, despite the fact that I constantly use their products, I have a PC not an apple, and I am increasingly unimpressed with the apple products when it comes to text-editing and gaming, two areas where I am a very active computer user.

So, I am trying to understand why I resist microsoft so badly.

First and most important I think is the fact that I have no real options. The college does not support apple computers and I am not sufficiently skilled to start using Linux without setting my work aside and spend the next year getting used to a totally new operating system. And so I can't really choose. It's microsoft, or a year's pause in all I do (optimistic estimate). This is enough to make me bristle and want to break something.

Second, microsoft gives me no options. The operating system is built in a way that makes it extraordinary hard to make choices and changes. If I want to install - or de-install - a program, microsoft makes me go through a long and complicated process just to be able to see the files I want to move around. It hides information from me, and gives me information that's totally useless. A lot of my early time with any new computer is spent turning off tooltips and warnings of different kinds, and giving myself permissions I didn't know I needed to have. This of course changes from time to time, so with an update comes new and fascinating problems. Or just plain annoying ones. Like now: I can't figure out how to make msn STOP popping up to cover half my screen every time I turn this computer on. I was foolish enough to update msn, and now I can't find the settings which will let me say: No, I DON'T want to start the day by logging into msn, and I don't want to stare at that ugly box every morning at work. Being forced to relate to the software in one certain manner, so heavily controlled by the programmers who think they know what is good for me gives the same reaction as having to buy the software in the first place: I want to break something.

This desire seems to be shared by hackers all over the world. They enjoy breaking the microsoft system. Hence, being a moderately skilled computer user with no programming skills and very little knowledge about what goes on beyond the interfaces I am most interested in, I am a victim of all viruses and hacks spread through the net. Well, not all really, I have been lucky and have not been the victim or too many viruses so far (wood, wood, I need to knock on wood to take the hex off me just from typing that...). However: I am convinced that the reason why I have been so lucky is that I don't use outlook express any more. Of all the things I am unhappy about from microsoft, outlook is perhaps the worst.

I can't use it just as a reader, if I use it the emails will immediately be sucked out of their nest on the server where I want them, and down to my computer. This means that all spam, viruses and everything is now in a file on my vulnerable little amateur system.

All those other frustrated users who want to break something just love sending their bombs by emails, specialised little bombs that are created with the sole purpose of corrupting microsoft systems in different manners.

Outlook is the one program everybody else relate to when they want to address a "standard" of email/address/calendar systems. Again, no options. By now, I think you know how I feel about that.

And after this is all said and done: With the next version of their software, they will have changed all the things I have to add, delete, click, open, close, allow or disallow in order to make the software function the way I like it. They keep me constantly unhappy and frustrated, by throwing new puzzles in my way. Now if I could choose if I wanted to solve them or not, I'd be fine, but having to spend an hour figuring new ways to get the permission I need so that I can move one file from one folder to another in order to make End Note work... I really need to make End Note work, I can't NOT spend that time looking for the one correct box to click... well, it makes me a lot more aggressive than computer games do.

I think my dislike of and frustration with microsoft software is caused by these things, in falling order:

I can't escape it.
I can't be certain that the skill I have gained through being an active user of it will be valid when it comes to solving the next problem.
It treats me as if I am the main threat against the integrity of the system.

I put that last part at the bottom, although that's the thing which really insults me. I did that because even when I am really frustrated I know that the main cause of PC screwups is computer users... I just want to have the freedom to screw up if that is what I really want to do.

Then again: If in USA somebody allows me to screw up - I'll probably find a lawyer and sue them. And so we come full circle.


Mark said...

For gaming, you need access to Windows.

But why unimpressed with Macintosh text editing? You've got Word when you need it, Pages is nice for lightweight page layout, Quark and InDesign when you need heavy-duty page design.

And Tinderbox ( :-) ) for your notes.

Torill said...

I have used word on macintosh quite a bit, and it creates errors when the text mass starts getting substantial. It does the same on PCs, but I find that it gets worse on apple machines - which is no wonder, as word IS a microsoft product. Pages I haven't tried, Quark and InDesign we use at the college for page design, but those are as you say, for heavy-duty design, which I don't do as long as we have a brilliant designer four doors down.

I am not saying macs are bad, it's just that for the things I use a computer for, they are not really all that better. Perhaps I would have used it differently if I had used macs all the time? I don't know.