Monday, October 02, 2006

PC Equals Poor Choice

Remember the old joke that made the rounds a while ago? It postulated what the world might be like if cars were made like PCs? Its humor was based on being so close to reality. You never have to reboot your car in the course of everyday operation. Your appliances don’t get viruses, etc. Lately, I have been thinking about this in terms of the Microsoft Operating Systems, their software and Internet Explorer. I am not finding the joke very funny when I am the punch line.

From what other product in our lives would we tolerate this level of non-service? When we buy a car, we drive it off the lot. We may take a quick peek at a manual later to browse certain cool features or to look something up, but we can depend on the car operating efficiently and instantly. When we buy a new TV or appliance, either it is a simple matter of plugging a couple of cords in or the company sends a technician to install it.

Besides my recent experience with my IP regarding the problems their very invasive software client had caused for me (I guess they call it Total Control for a reason, but I don’t want them to have “total control” of my computer or my life.), I wrestled this weekend with Microsoft Word’s Mail Merge function. This is the single most poorly designed functionality I have ever come across. Have a list of names and addresses in a Word document that you want to print out on a sheet of labels? Good luck. Now, this seems to me to be a common problem or task. Why does Microsoft make it so that I have to jump through database-esque hoops of source documents and data sources? After I spent two hours figuring out the instructions, it still did not work properly. At that point, I was too frustrated to troubleshoot the problem and just threw in the towel for the day.

The last keeper of the list I was trying to turn into labels was that dinosaur of modern word processing technology—a Word Perfect user. Guess what? It is incredibly easy to print a sheet of labels from a list of names and addresses in a Word Perfect document.

Let’s face it. Microsoft is a real world example of that old adage: Eat s**t, ten million flies can’t be wrong. When I was moaning about these recent technological headaches to a friend and saying, “Why can’t they make a computer that does what I need it to do instead of making me stand on my head and rub my stomach and whistle before I can do what I want to do? He said, “They do. It’s called a Mac.” And he would be right. No compatibility problems. No operating unreliability. No viruses.

I have used Macs and even owned one once, at least, I had an Apple. I guess I went down the PC path because that is what everyone in every workplace I have ever been (except those graphics arts guys) had. Thus, it was easier to use the same thing at home. Plus, many of my computers ended up being surplus buys from office start-ups going T.U. or from companies upgrading everything.

Habit is not always one’s friend. I wish I had not just bought this new computer. I am too much the product of depression-era children to toss it with so much “good” left in it. (a somewhat debatable point).
I will get my mailing labels done eventually. I have two months before the next newsletter to figure it out, after all. But why, why, why does it have to be something I have to figure out? In Seattle, techies often refer to taking a job at Microsoft as going over to the Dark Side. I think maybe I can see that from the consumer standpoint right now. BTW, the instructions from my IP’s offshore tech support guy do not seem to have completely eliminated my connection problem, although the interval before it is cut off seems to be longer. Why this should be so, I have no idea. He certainly did not give me any information from which to extrapolate or figure it out.

And, right now, I haven’t the heart to call anyone or go online anywhere for any more “help” on anything.


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