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Trial, tribulation, and error

A few weeks ago, heresy showed it’s ugly face in the Kauffman household. Evil found a foothold in one of my vulnerable children. By now you know that when I speak of heresy I’m speaking of one thing: computers. Beth asked for a cheap Windows laptop.

In the name of Jobs, The Woz, and The Lost Partner, I beseech you: where have I gone wrong?

Because my parents were over at the time, my dad in particular, the collective shudder was almost enough to bring down the roof, bringing this insanity to a tragic end.

This has nothing to do with Windows, evil, or my family… but I find it amusing so I had to find a way to work it into the post. There’s a buzz word at my office – one of several steadying the rungs of the mythical ladder to Tally (if you have to ask, you ain’t getting there). The one that comes to mind is: root cause. Say it again: root cause. Don’t you feel smarter just saying it? All right, it’s really two words, so maybe you just feel silly, not to mention you’re talking to your computer again. You should probably see someone about that. But back to root cause: it is one concept. Applying the problem solving skills taught in offices around the world (and yet come naturally to our species as early as the pre-pubescent years), I sought to get to the bottom of this Windows virus before it got started. It turned out it was worse than I thought.

Beth infected my son too.

Both of them were obsessed with the idea of playing an online game created by Sony Entertainment called: Free Realms. This game only runs on PCs running Windows.

And before you ask, the answer is yes – the name itself is a sick, twisted joke. Entrance is free, but there are opportunities to spend once you’re inside.

Back to Windows, and computers in general.

Kids don’t always understand elegance, and when they do, sometimes they don’t particularly care. They don’t understand how little time daddy spends maintaining our relatively large family network of computers (none, not counting the voluntary tinkering – with more PCs than people), compared to other daddies. They don’t truly understand what the word “crash” can mean. They don’t know what a virus, worm, or malware is. They don’t know what Internet security software is.

Well, if you recall, a few posts back I contemplated a world where me and Beth shared an iPad an my MacBook. This presented an interesting test run. My MB runs Windows Vista in the latest version of Parallels (v5).

Vista may have been the dumbest software descision of my life (I shoulda had an XP!), but I needed something do the occasional bit of work at home and Vista gets it done (if painfully).

With a devious grin, I unleashed my kids on Vista – or was that the other way around? Right off the bat: “dad, what is Kaspersky, and what are virus definitions?” Then of course: “dad, Windows says it wants to restart to finish installing important updates. I hardly had time to get started yet.”

I’ll bet there are a few Windows appologists out there convinced I haven’t booted their ‘ole pal Vista since the install – thus the delays. They’d be wrong. I’d had it up the day before – with the software and definitions up to date.

Next, of course, we had to install Flash. Always Flash. Then there was a Sony browser plugin. Then there was an executable file from Sony.

It took us half an hour to get Windows set up to play a web based game. I think THAT should be in the Windows 7 ads.

I was setting up my laptop for my kids to play a simple web based game and it took me a freaking half an hour. So I sent the old Bald Ballmer an email telling him they oughta fix that. So yeah, Windows 7 was my idea.

Of course, for all I know Windows 7 could be an abomination worse than Windows 3.x – I’ve never seen it. So maybe it’s not my idea after all.

Here’s the best part. Although I’ve muddled through Vista relatively unscathed, it’s crashed – hard – beyond the three finger salute hard (control-alt-delete), every time the kids played their game. It’s never crashed right away, so they get a chance to play for a while – enough so they want to play again – and live through another crash.

Cheryl keeps saying they’re not going to be allowed to play on dad’s MacBook anymore, but I disagree.

Oh, how I disagree!

I think this is a great opportunity to learn a lesson in life, to learn how the harsh, real world works. It’s a time when very little is at stake, and there’s little to loose. Is it probably the game? Of course it’s probably the game. But what happened to Microsoft being so far ahead of Apple when it came to single apps crashing and not bringing down the whole system?

So my simple response to Cheryl is no. I’m going to give them Vista every time they ask for it, and let them see it for the ugly piece of software it is. Then they’ll know.

Windows bad. Mac good.

Get a Mac.

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UPDATE: since I started writing this post a few days ago, the kids have stopped asking about Free Realms and Windows. They haven’t moved on to new games either. They went back to the old web games that worked – on the Mac. As for myself, I’m actually considering throwing good money after bad – buying 7. Lord help me, for I am about to sin.

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