I simply cannot understand it. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I know all of the explanations. I have been in the role of the preacher who spreads these explanations to some of my friends. Yet in reality I am still baffled by it myself. What am I talking about? Why do people still use Windows? Before you send me hate email/comments, hear me out.
A very close friend of mine had an issue. He needed to use a web application which provided a service necessary to get some work related tasks done. It simply was not working. Despite his hardest efforts, he could not turn that around. Although he is a very smart and capable person, he does not posses technical knowledge on this particular area of expertise. Like so many other people confronted with issues utilizing their PC’s, I completely understood and offered to diagnose the problem.
His lovely web app, needed to install an Active X control in order to work. It doesn’t offer any alternative. I personally don’t like to install these things, except the really necessary ones, like the ones from Microsoft. Yet I don’t know why they don’t come out of the box to begin with, but that’s another story. He insisted that he trusted the source and he needed the info on this web app, so I installed the control and proceeded to reload the page.
Then a lovely error message stated that the application only runs in Internet Explorer 6.0 (he was running 7.0). Ay-ay-ay! Their own crap doesn’t support their previous crap. Let’s step back for a moment. One thing is to make your own, non-standard-complaint crap. But to make your new non-standard-compliant crap which is not compatible with your last non-standard-compliant crap? Are you really trying to give us a great big collective headache? Was that one too many ‘crap’s? Great, I Google instructions on how to downgrade the browser.
This took me to the Microsoft support site, which forced me to installed the lovely Windows Genuine Advantage (and other updates). I have read all the horrors this introduces, but again, my friend was in a pinch and I was here to help him. I installed, and restarted the machine. According to WGA I had a valid and legal license, no problems there. I sighed in relief, confirmed the install of the rest of the updates and restarted the machine.
When the machine booted up again, half of it’s functionality had been disabled. I could not access my network, or the internet. I could not access the system hardware configuration. So much for being confirmed BY THE SOURCE that I have a valid license. The owner was basically locked out of the machine and OS he paid with HIS MONEY for his use. I tried to troubleshoot the problem, but without the assistance of my Google to look up any occurrences of similar issues, I had little options.
Luckily there was not a lot of important data on the machine. After a while he finds his Windows install disk (again, paid for with a valid license). I format the drive to get rid of all that gunk and reinstall Windows. After about an hour, I have a clean machine, which is running a bit smoother (simply because it still has no apps and a lot less DLL’s to load) and is ready to go. I load up the site again, reinstall the Active X control and give it a whirl. Instead of seeing results, I get another error message. This time, he wants me to install Service Pack 2. Now this is one of the old disks which doesn’t even have SP1.
I go to the Windows Update site, select all the updates and direct it to download and install. Keep in mind this is a fresh, untampered with machine. After the process was completed, at least half of the updates weren’t installed! Log files, explanatory error messages, troubleshooting options? Ha! In your dreams! I had to iterate over the process 3 times in order to get everything installed. After the fourth reboot, finally SP2 appears as an option in Windows Update. Downloading and installing SP2 alone consumed more than an hour. Not to mention a period of about 10-20 minutes where the SP2 installer simply became unresponsive. I had no idea if it had crashed or hit a snag. I didn’t kill the process in fear that it would render the machine useless… again.
We haven’t had the time to go back to the site and see it’s next complaint, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised other issues have to be resolved before being able to utilize the service.
Do you know when was the last time I encountered a problem like this utilizing applications and operating systems that are built on open standards? NEVER! It doesn’t happen! There is no obscurity, and therefore, all the processes necessary to get the service you require to work is much smoother. Since it is widely known how the protocols work, everyone can support it, regardless of what your OS or client application is.
If I could leave one message to the 10 people that take 5 minutes of their day to read this it would be this: The alternatives to Windows are better! Really! Stop being afraid! You will thank me if you at least try to make the switch. I have been happy ever since. The sad thing is that I have a very very very small, yet loyal fan base with one or two strays every once in a while. 8 of the 10 readers are already using an alternative. I already know this for a fact. If I could only convince the ninth guy to switch, then maybe… just maybe I would have accomplished something worthwhile with my day.