Ding, dong, the witch is dead… almost

This iBrotha article was originally published at MacAddict.com by Rodney O. Lain. In honor of Rodney’s death, a good friend and contributor, we are reposting here with the permission of MacAddict. We would like to thank them for their generosity in allowing us to remember Rodney by keeping this archive of his work.




Ding, dong, the witch is dead… almost

fri may.26.2000


“How dare the government intervene to stifle innovation in the computer industry! That’s Microsoft’s job, dammit.”

— MacAddict



I get most of my column ideas at work. This one is no different. But first, some background…

By now, you have heard and have debated the bombshell announcement that Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson dropped Wednesday in the Microsoft anti-trust soap opera, in which he publicly considered breaking the PC behemoth into three companies.

CNNfn reports that this course correction was influenced somewhat by the Computer and Communications Industry and Software and Information Industry Associations Brief on Remedy of Amici Curiae that recommends splitting Microsoft into three companies — one for its Windows operating system, one for its desktop applications, and one for its Internet properties, such as the Internet Explorer Web browser.” You can read the brief yourself by going here.

You should have seen the subsequent reaction: Mac-related message board posts lauded the judge for growing a pair — a much bigger pair, anyway. There was much back-slapping as everyone hammered another symbolic nail into Microsoft’s monopolistic coffin. Meanwhile, Wall Street emitted a barely audible yawn, sending Microsoft’s stock down a very small percentage.

Once again, the Microsoft Question issues forth from everyone’s lips. Everyone waxes rhetorically as theories abound on why Microsoft should be or shouldn’t be broken up. The Microsoft Question is on my mind, however, for a more concrete reason: Microsoft should be broken up because its products are crappy.

This is where my work experience comes in.

Yesterday (Thursday), I was checking out a piece of PC software for my boss. It was pretty much a monkey-see-monkey-do task: install this PC software and document my findings.

Welcome to hell.

First, I had to install Windows. Virtual PC is cool. Highly recommended. I install the Windows software. It crashes the computer. That was my workstation, and I refused to install Windows on again. I felt unclean and needed to wash my hands. I thought again about installing Windows and felt that I had to go and spit.

So, I borrow an iBook from a co-worker who has SoftWindows installed. A PC user, he warned me not to mess up his Windows configuration by doing installations on his fragile OS. “Don’t toast my computer,” he says.

After laughing at him and making fun of the PC for several minutes, I go and try to install the software on the machine. I reboot. I launch SoftWindows. It crashes, flashing a note that Windows has performed an illegal instruction. I scream a few choice epithets, peppered with liberal use of the F-word. My co-worker assumes that I toasted his computer. I call him Sherlock for figuring that one out.

So far, I’ve wasted about five hours.

Those five wasted hours are five prima facie reasons why Microsoft should be broken into 50 pieces. Crashes from Microsoft software have resulted in more hours of wasted productivity than that Apple porno-searching software known affectionately as “Sherlock 2.”

I’ve heard people argue that Microsoft’s rise to prominence stemmed from the fact that market forces propelled the company to greatness. They usually dismiss the fact that even if Microsoft never behaved illegally to gain its marketshare strength, its products leave a lot to be desired.

Now, I don’t mean that Microsoft products have no great features (throw enough crap against the wall, something’s bound to stick). What I mean is this. If you are a long-time Mac user, you should spend a day with Windows as I have. It makes you appreciate the Mac’s elegance even more — and makes you hate Microsoft vis-à-vis software design.

Sure, there’s a chance that I hate Windows because I’m too used to the Mac. Truth be told, I’m too spoiled by the Mac. I never have to deal with what I have to face in the Windows environs (hey, Macs do crash, we know).

Of course, all of this is old hat for most of us.

When I crash my Mac, I just undo my last actions. The same is true for Windows, I’m sure, but there isn’t a Mensa around when you need one to interpret the “user friendly” Windows crash messages.

This column, I think, is what they call a rant. It’s my two-cents addition to this discussion. And, while I’m at it, I may as well offer my answer to the Microsoft Question: offer the company one of two options. Be broken into itty-bitty pieces or be forced to rewrite its programs to be truly intuitive and truly easy to use.

Hell, if they’re gonna copy the Mac, they may as well be forced to go all the way.



Leave a Reply