Monday, November 01, 2004

Just pay them, baby

I recently set up a computer for my father to use as his home system. He had always used his work computer to access e-mail and the web as the only other computer he had actually purchased was in 1986 and had all of 64Mb of RAM and 2 360Kb floppy drives. In those days, 10 Mb hard drives were incredibly expensive and the processor speed was probably 4.77 Mhz. Because he was retiring, he would no longer have access to a work computer and needed to get something for use at home. I set him up with nothing too powerful; a 1.8 Ghz system running WIndowsXP with a 40 Gb hard drive and more importantly to this story a 802.11g wireless network card and router. I set them up with a wireless keyboard and mouse so that all they had to do was unpack it and turn it on. And other than forgetting to repack the power cord this is exactly what happened.

My mom was concerned that once the computer was set up my dad would disappear for hours at a time leaving her all alone in her advancing years. She was probably afraid that she would die and he wouldn’t notice for a couple of weeks, finding her dead on the sofa watching C-Span. I don’t know about you but C-Span is certainly boring enough to kill me.

So Comcast comes and sets up their Internet connectivity and boom they are on-line.

On a side note, has everybody that works in the computer field had a family member or friend call them up and ask them how to make some program you’ve never used or some hardware you’ve never seen work? I get this all of the time from family as most of my friends do work in the “business” and are pretty self-reliant. Sometimes I can’t figure something out and I call friends but if I call you know it is something “out there” that has gone wrong. I had this conversation a couple of weeks ago with my parents.

“Hi Vince” my dad said. “We are at your mother’s hair dresser and her printer doesn’t work. Can you fix it?”

My parents bought me my current printer for Christmas a couple of years ago so they know that I don’t even have the same brand printer as what this lady had. However, and I hate to admit this, but we figured out the problem by finding her manual on-line. The problem was an empty ink cartridge. That sure wasn’t obvious.

Back to my story. Now the computer works, the internet is accessible, and now my mom won’t leave the computer alone for my dad to work with. Therefore, I offered to send a second computer just like the first. To this my dad responded that he had an old Laptop from work and couldn’t he just connect from it. This old laptop is running Windows95 and it probably doesn’t even do that well. I explained that wireless networking didn’t exist when that OS was written and none of the wireless net card makers I had checked with supported running on Windows95. My dad asked about installing his copy of WindowsXP running on the system that I sent them on his laptop. I explained that not only was it illegal but MS had put systems in place to help prevent it for this release of their OS.. My dad responded by stating that he was being ripped off by MS.

Now, MS is not my favorite company as I think they played some “dirty pool” in the early 90s (and this has nothing to do with web browsers) but I do believe that they should be paid. This is a company that helped move the PC to its current position in our homes today and has thousands of people who have worked just as hard as I have over the past 15 years and you and I should pay them for the software that need to legally run their apps and OSes.

If you want something for free, it exists. It’s called Linux and you get what you pay for. If you are technically savvy and can use and need the limited number of apps available for the platform, then Linux is the OS for you. But for those of us who don’t want to write our own apps and want to use the PC to do the things that we want, Windows is a necessity. And to use it, we have to pay for it.

Be Happy and Healthy


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