May 07, 2003

Zen And The Art of

Zen And The Art of PC Ownership

I'm a very laid back individual. I don't flip out if they mess up my order at a fast food drive through, I don't suffer from road rage, I'm fine with standing in long lines, and I don't put my foot through the television any time another reality show comes on (despite every justification on earth to do so).

I wasn't always able to play things so cool. Things used to really bother me, to the point where I'd yell and scream and rant and rave, and that was never a good way to get through a first date. Then, I bought a personal computer loaded with assorted Microsoft offerings and I magically found that all my frustrations at life could be directed toward my computer.

When it comes down to it, when you really look at how Microsoft PCs operate, or refuse to operate, you really have to marvel at just how much frustration the average human being is capable of enduring.

What other daily item can you think of has to be restarted every so often to shake out irritating bugs? Well, besides bug zappers, I mean. Just the other day, I was happily surfing the Internet when a warning flashed across my screen informing me that "a fatal error has occurred" and that I would have to shut down immediately. A fatal error? Every time I see that message, I envision some sort of unseen digital car crash. A family of four bits, on their way to a vacation to DigitalWorld, smashed into an errant line of code and were all killed instantly. A fatal error had occurred, and to allow the computer a significant mourning period, the user must restart the machine and give it an appropriate moment of silence.

I mean, really, think about it. Imagine driving down the road, and all of a sudden the "Service Engine Soon" light comes on. Just how much sense would it make if, in order to fix the problem, you had to pull over to the side of the road, turn off the vehicle, wait a few seconds, and then turn it on again? That would make no sense at all. Yet that's pretty much exactly what computers ask you to do. And you just grow to accept it, as if there's nothing more natural in the world than constantly restarting your computer.

Right now, I own three different computers. I bought my first computer, a Compaq, for $3,000, in 1997. It became obsolete in 1998. I had a second computer built for me by a friend, at a cost of $1,200, in 1999. It became obsolete in 2001. I had another friend build ANOTHER computer, at a cost of $1,300, in January of 2003. It's scheduled to be obsolete sometime next year. Is there any other appliance in the world that has to be replaced with such maddening frequency?

My current computer runs Windows XP, which is a major improvement over its Windows 95/98/2000 predecessors in that it only requires 1/3 the restarts. My major gripe with Windows XP is that, just about one month ago, these annoying pop-up windows started appearing on my screen. They were much like the pop-ups that appear while surfing the Web, except that these pop-ups seemed to originate somewhere deep down in the Windows operating system underbelly.

The Windows pop-ups carried many of the same messages that traditional Web-based pop-ups entailed. I could grow my penis should I so wish. I could grow flowing locks of hair. I could seduce women instantly. All of these hold a certain amount of charm, I suppose. But the one pop-up that seemed the most odd asked me whether the pop-ups annoyed me (well, duh!) and offerred a $25 product that would stop them forever. Rather than cough up cash, I hit the Web, and with a few quick searches, I found out how to disable the embedded messaging system. No big deal, but again I have to ask, what other daily item rudely interrupts your routine to ask you whether you want a bigger penis? What if every time I turned on the oven to cook a pizza, it asked me if I was happy with the size of my manhood? I don't need such probing questions from a major appliance.

As computers become more and more advanced, and more and more complicated, it's almost a certainty that their level of irritation and annoyance are bound to increase exponentially. Given that, I just don't have the time or the energy to be upset with other aspects of daily existence. Forget road rage; I have a computer to worry about.

Posted by Ryan at May 7, 2003 11:16 AM
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