Sunday, August 02, 2009

And, turning our attention for a moment to a different Gates...

You know, having now done it a half-dozen times on three different machines, it occurs to me that you simply cannot get through a complete install or reinstall of Vistawhich is to say, the operating system itself plus a select handful of garden-variety add-ons like Firefox or one of the established antivirus programswithout having something go wrong. At best, you hear that ominous ding and get a little dialog box that explains why "module 28764" won't load, so you have to end up rooting around in the startup processes to turn the damn thing off, lest you keep getting that same annoying dialog box at every reboot. At worst, the install fails for some reason that is never quite made clear, and you have to "roll back" what you've already done and begin anew. Of course, when you're talking operating systems, you're talking hours, not minutes. What's more, my grim experience tallies with that of just about everyone I talk marked contrast to the generally happy-go-lucky reports from Mac users.

I realize that I'm very, very late to this party. The jokes about Microsoft and its foibles ("Hmm, what if Microsoft built cars?") go way back. But that just underscores my point. All these years and they can't get it right? This is the company that quite literally transformed the way America goes about its business, in the bargain transforming a dweebish college dropout into the world's richest man...and three decades later they're still debugging?

What gives?


It occurs to me that this sad story may have more to do with SHAMland than with its nominal subject
fanatical religious faithand also provides some insight into why I chose the subtitle I chose for my book. (For the record, it's ...How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless). Very few Americans, I think, would sit there praying while their child is dying and desperately in need of medical attention. Millions upon millions of us, however, put our faith in one faddish self-help "belief system" after another, thinking that our spanking new attitudes alone will carry the day, substituting hope for personal initiative (or substituting a dogged, New Agey commitment to "our dreams" for a more modest and realistic plan of action). Rather than motivating genuine achievement, the core "logic" of self-help too often provides a convenient excuse for indolence and procrastination, while also fostering a slavish addiction to self-help itself.

You can't blame all of this on the gurus. They're just selling it; strictly speaking, no one's forcing the hordes of followers to buy in. But often, in assessing a given phenomenon, you have to consider human nature. For example, it's not crack cocaine's fault that it's addictive and that so many lives are wrecked as a result of its existence. Cocaine is just a substance, a chemical. But clearly we humans, weak as we are, can't handle crack; we are powerless, many of us, against its effects. If we give in to it, in some cases even just once, the high it provides will take us down the road to ruin. Something to think about.


Athol Kay said...

RE: Microsoft - on the bright side, at least this minimizes my deep seated fears about robots becoming self aware and enslaving humanity.

Noadi said...

That is why I use Ubuntu Linux 90% of the time (do have Windows dual installed with linux on one of my computers for a few things). Somehow a totally free open source operating system works better.

I like Macs too but they're out of my budget.

Steve Salerno said...

AK: Good point. A militant robot made by Microsoft at some point would probably just start spitting diodes and eat itself anyway.

Noadi: Yes, Macs are pricey. I keep wanting to make the switch but despite all the annoyances of PC life, I just can't justify the difference in price. And what makes it worse is that I think Apple takes advantage of the "coolness factor" in setting its price points. Look what happened with the iPhone. They know that Mac addicts, just like diehard buyers of certain lines of foreign cars, will pay considerably extra for cachet alone.

Stever Robbins said...

Been using MSFT products since 1980, and they've never improved in quality. Now that they charge $90/hour for support, buggy software is paradoxically a revenue stream for them. (Not to mention a compelling reason to get people to upgrade to the next version of the OS. "Now with fewer bugs.")

The cost-of-ownership argument fascinates me. I was Windows from 1990 (Win 3.1) through December 2007. Switched to a Mac.

Applications The Mac comes with software that you must buy for Windows. (Mail, address book, calendar, iPhoto.) Many 3rd party apps offer cross-grades. Most of my apps are cross-platform, and it took a call to support and maybe a single upgrade fee to switch platforms.

Furthermore, with Parallels, I was able to run my Windows versions of the programs until I wanted to cross-grade. In the very worst case, I could run Windows completely within my Mac for all legacy software, without it costing one incremental cent, with all the speed and flexibility that I had running native on Windows.

Time My time is valuable, to me, if not to my clients. Being an ex-computer administrator, I actually log the time and effort I spend maintaining my computers.

I spend more time maintaining my one remaining Windows machine that I use for nothing but running a single (Microsoft!) application than I spend maintaining two Macs that each have 20-30 applications apiece.

If you were to value my time at $8/hour, in concrete, documented system maintenance time, any excess fees for my Mac paid for themselves in saved maintenance time within a month of purchase.

Oh, yes. My Mac had a hard drive crash. Apple store scheduled a diagnostic appt, diagnosed in 20 minutes, replaced hard drive overnight. Restored flawlessly from Time Machine (the included-with-OS-X backup program) with ALL preferences and registrations intact and I was up and running exactly as I'd left off, in less than 24 hours after the hard drive crash. No by-hand configuration or installs necessary.

In short, even if you value your time at $5/hour, I suspect the incremental time you just spent on your three VISTA installs would justify a Mac purchase two or three times over. Minimum.

RevRon's Rants said...

We have 4 Windows machines & 2 MACs, and while I agree that MAC maintenance is simpler, I can't justify the price differential inherent in going to a MAC-only business. I have thousands of dollars invested in software that is essential to our operation, and can't see the logic in buying & using virtualization software, just so I can run those apps on a MAC.

You'd think that, being in the publishing industry, we'd naturally go with the MAC, but the truth is that the publishers, service bureaus, & book manufacturers we work with are all quite happy to work with Windows files. In fact, many prefer or even insist upon Win apps. Now, things might be different if we were in the music or video business, but such is not the case.

I will admit that I've refused to "upgrade" to Vista. As a matter of fact, on one of my PCs, which came with Vista pre-installed, I wiped the hard drive clean and did a fresh install of Windows Xp within a couple of weeks after the purchase. With just a few (free) utilities(AVG Antivirus, Ccleaner, and Smart Defrag) my maintenance time on each machine runs about 10 minutes a week, and it's been a looong time since we had any problems. I can live with that.

RevRon's Rants said...

I think that the root of Windows' problems is really market demand. They have to be all things for all people, residing on machines that are composed of components from a plethora of sources.

If Microsoft took out even the most seemingly useless "feature" from their OS, there'd be a huge outcry from folks who can't live without that bell or whistle. And if they put off releasing software until it was perfect, it would be Microsoft who has a 5% market share, not Apple.

Most people demand the newest and flashiest, and buy from whoever offers it first. Then they scream about bugs. Those "bugs" are inevitable, as are component failures in a market that demands every feature at a Wal Mart price, and demands it yesterday. While Microsoft certainly has its share of lemons (Windows ME, Vista), on the whole, I think they do a remarkable job.