What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Taking a break from politics and the state of the world for a moment to comment on one of my many pet peeves, amply described by the deliberately unfinished title sentence above. From time to time, a niece of mine in England sends me some brilliant piece of computer animation, often accompanied by a note of a tongue-in-cheek explanation that this is what computer geeks do when they get bored and have time on their hands. . But I think those little prancing stick figures or whatever other animated figures that appear in these amusing productions are showing us just a glimpse of one half of the geek mind - the Dr. Jekyll half if you will, designed to lure us into a state of complacency while the Mr. Hyde half is busy designing far less benign computer surprises, I swear designed to send we poor ungeek types into a state of frustrating confusion.

I’ll cite just three examples - the first discovered when I resumed writing for this blog after a four month lay off. Writing here used to be simple. That is to say, once I decided on a subject and had in mind what I wanted to say about it - all I had to do was type it on a Microsoft Word page as I would type an essay or a letter, adding the occasional basic codes that I’ve learned to indicate bold or italic type or a link to some other web site - check my spelling, go to Google’s Blogspot, hit "new post" - paste in what I’d written - - hit "publish" - and voila - another masterpiece hit the Internet. But when I started posting new commentaries a few days ago, I was greeted by a new "improved" Blogspot with a "new" look which to this blogger is little more than some visual juggling and making everything I do at this web site more difficult and slower - such as not being able to hit "publish" and have anything appear the way I typed it. Which is about my experience every time something on the Internet is "updated" to make it new and better.

I have a PC with Windows XP installed and Outlook Express for my e-mail. Geeks would call my OE my e-mail "client." I’m not sure to whom or what the "client" refers - me or Outlook Express - but then we’re dealing with the Geek language which bears little resemblance to English - or any other language for that matter. Any way, I have always found Outlook Express a logically and neatly laid out program and easy to use. Users of OE know what I mean. On one page, the derfault mail boxes are shown on the left of the screen, In Box, Out Box, Sent, Deleted and Drafts - to which you can add any number of subject specific boxes to store. At the top of the screen is the simplest and most logical of toolbars which includes places to click to create mail, reply, reply all and forward. Even the most ungeekiest among us are/have been able to use this e-mail program without adding gray hairs or growing ulcers. So what happened? Of course Microsoft decided to improve/upgrade/better/elevate/refine /enhance and generally frustrate millions of we non geeks by dropping Outlook Express and including, with later versions of Windows - a less understandable and more geekish default e-mail program. So on my laptop with Windows 7, I do not have nor can I download Outlook Express and I along with my fellow frustrated non geek millions would like to know why. OE wasn’t/isn’t broken and thus did not need fixing or replacing, so why did they do it? I’m pretty sure I know why. Microsoft and all the other Geek companies have to be shown as constantly moving forward with "new and improved" versions of programs and products that are working just fine - and in some cases, dump them altogether for something new - partially to sell more stuff to geeks and non geeks alike - the former already programmed to buy anything advertised as "upgraded" and the latter afraid that they’ll be left behind in an outdated cyber wilderness and partially, maybe mostly, because this is what geeks do, and there’s really no way to stop them. I know that’s a hell of a long sentence but I try to fight the geeks with whatever weapons I can muster.

And finally, for this complaint session, because I have a laptop with Windows 7, I have been exposed to a new geek attack launched without warning against the non-geek world. I, along with the millions referred to several times above, have been "programmed" to automatically accept announcements of Windows "updates" and to blithely click away to install whatever protections or improvements Microsoft is sending to us without cost or obligation. But with their most recent "update" unbeknown to we non-geeks was an "update" or complete change of our versions of Internet Explorer. My laptop was suddenly changed from a user of Internet Explorer 8 to Explorer 9, changing the look of my home page and eliminating all of my carefully created and preserved favorites. I immediately rushed to the great and all powerful Google to learn how to rid myself of the unwanted intruder, but none of the solutions offered worked, so I, having learned a few things during my dealings with the world of Geek - clicked on System Restore, picked a date that preceded the last "update" and through the miracle of computer time travel, Explorer 9 was gone and good old Explorer 8 was back in business.

None of these things were broke and none needed fixing but you can be sure that the Geeks will continue to try to persuade us that broke or not, they need to be fixed. All I can say to my fellow non-Geeks is be aware - keep your old programs because they’ll never be available again - and remember, time travel is possible on your computer.