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   more computer tech complaints
Wednesday, August 18 2004
I didn't have any coffee or food until noon, when I got home from a series of errands that included a housecall near Saugerties. So I was in a really bad mood when I checked the messages and heard a couple unnecessarily impatient messages left by one of my clients. I found myself frantically doing work on a pair of laptops, not having understood that she expected me to have the work done by this morning.
Whoah, if you ever want to find out what really annoys you about a computer operating system, perform the following experiment: attempt to get a long list of things accomplished in the smallest possible time without benefit of either blood sugar or caffeine. All the careful thinking and design put into the Macintosh operating system wasn't enough to keep me from yelling at the damn thing. Here are two things that stood out as especially infuriating, one related to the operating system and one related to Aladdin, the company that makes the de-facto-essential StuffIt Expander utility.
My first complaint is about the monotonous gyrating of icons in the dock when their applications have a message to tell me. Couldn't the OS X designers have come up with a less maddening signal? How about a subtle (and very static) alteration of color cast? It doesn't take much to send a signal. There's never a need in a user interface to make things jiggle like they have to pee.
My second complaint relates to the first in that one of the things that would be gyrating in the dock would be StuffIt Expander's icon, telling me about a dialog pleading that I go to their fucking website to download the latest version of their utility. StuffIt Expander throws up a dialogue and just sits there waiting for me to say what I want to do, as if whole villages of crippled orphans will be set on fire if I delay the essential upgrade. I've never run StuffIt Expander on anyone's computer and not been badgered to upgrade. Does this mean that Aladdin creates new versions of this product every week? What the hell is left that can be improved in that program? The only thing it does is expand a compressed archive. I haven't seen any new features since, I don't know, 1992. And, aside from being continually badgered by the upgrade nag, I've never suffered as a result of failing to upgrade. What makes this nagging particularly infuriating is that there doesn't appear to be any way to turn it off. I've pressed the button with the cryptic label "Disable" (the other buttons are "Not Now" and "Download") but it doesn't appear to do anything at all.

Hours later, after I'd recovered my blood sugar and the client had apologized, I went over to the House of Stank and finally completed that cowboy electrician gig by installing a little telephone wire and a couple light fixtures. I have to admit that the house is looking nice now that the surfaces are mostly finished and it has all of Larry's mostly-tasteful stuff in it. I wouldn't say I understand why he paid what he did for it, but he's made it about as pleasant as it can be. If you just ignore the piles of sawdust that accumulate on the deck from whatever is eating the clapboards from within, hell, you might even be enchanted by the gilded hovelness of it all.

This evening I was installing the SMC2536W-AG WiFi card in my Vaio laptop and having all sorts of problems: the drivers on the CD were refusing to install, as were the various driver installations I found online. SMC's North American website made no mention of this product, but SMC's Italian website did - proving that it doesn't always pay to click on America when you find yourself on one those puffed-up corporate sites featuring a world map on its homepage. ("Oh sweet Jesus! Your corporation is ever so global! Excuse me while I brush up on my Mandarin!").
The solution to my installation woes came when I allowed the Windows XP Add Hardware Wizard to search the internet for an appropriate driver. It actually worked. I nearly shit my pants! Believe me, I've installed a lot of devices in a lot of computers, and I've tried that option a lot of times. You'd think it would work at least occasionally given how prominently it's featured. But this was the first time it has ever worked.

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