On Defenestration

This morning I got into work to discover that my three-week-old Windows XP-based Dell would not let me log in. After taking my username and password, it just hung. I tried booting into “safe mode.” Same behavior. I tried logging in as Administrator. Same behavior. No matter what, same behavior. No error messages, mind you, and nothing in any sort of system log that might point to what is amiss. Nothing to help me at all.

This machine had suffered no trauma — not even a software installation since the last time it successfully started up. It had just decided to throw a fit. Long, long story short: The IS/IT department was stumped by the machine’s behavior too, and ended up calling Dell. Dell’s suggestion was to reinstall XP. Which I basically ended up doing. My machine let me log in for the first time at 2:18 P.M., and is now suffering from very minor but very annoying glitches systemwide.

The thing that is so amazing to me is, Bill Gates and his minions have trained people to expect this sort of behavior from computers. Sometimes, things go wrong for no apparent reason at all, and you have to reinstall an app or even an entire OS. And that’s just the way it is.

I firmly believe that someday users will be more sophisticated and will not put up with this crap. I firmly believe that someday, people will expect nearly flawless behavior from their computers, and they will wonder why they ever thought that mysterious crashes and breakdowns were acceptable. I firmly believe that someday, people will understand that end-user software does not have to cost money, does not have to crash or break down, and can be tinkered with to the user’s utmost desires.

I firmly believe that someday (not too far off), the world will run on Free Software. Someday, Microsoft is going to take a fall and find itself suddenly and staggeringly irrelevant, like IBM in the late 80s and early 90s. When that happens, I’m buying the beers. Until then, I breathe a sigh of relief each day when I come home to my Linux box.