Orphaned Computers & Game Systems

Vol. II, Issue 8    February 1999

Why Microsoft Sucks

by Chris Federico

As I write this on my Amiga 2500, the IBM clone that was recently given to me is sitting a few feet away, attempting to power up. I got on Yahoo! Chat a few days ago, and tonight, I thought it might be neat to participate again for a little while. The very concept is still novel to me. In the time it's taken to turn on the Amiga, wait for Workbench to load, open this word-processing application (called Excellence!) and type to this point, the Windows '98 title screen has been displayed. The OS is still "starting up," you see. It's the first popularly awaited upgrade in the history of home computing to run slower than its predecessor -- but people still buy it.

Ah! There it goes. Attaboy. Now to try and load Explorer and get the chat applet running without experiencing any lock-ups. Should be fun.

Adam says that the reason it takes '98 so long to start is that it needs more memory than '95 did. I don't have enough RAM for everything that '98 does when it starts up, so it's using my hard disk to store temporary data. Microsoft instituted this "upgrade," in my learned opinion, to force people to buy more RAM, more chips, more everything. It's an altogether commercial corporation. The love of hacking, and the idealistic fascination with the possibilities inherent in bringing computers into the homes of laymen, is gone.

Back in the heyday of the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bits, the late-'70s Apple mentality was still rampant. Those who made the machines, operating systems and software were excited about the craft to such an extent that sales, while still important for obvious reasons, weren't the overall impetus behind the dogged pioneering. Those people stood behind their products, remained proud of them for years and squeezed every drop of potential out of them.

Now, thanks to Microsoft and, to a lesser extent, Intel (who makes the Pentium chips), that moonstruck community is extinct, as far as modern computing goes. It's all saleability: goading the customer into buying "bigger and faster." There's no exploration or revolutionizing to be done, because chips and software become obsolete -- with deliberation -- within months of being issued. Never mind Microsoft's monopoly; that's another whole subject in itself, and one that's covered amply in the mainstream press, due to government lawsuits against Bill Gates. I'm happy that those suits exist (or is it obvious?).

But how about the products themselves? Now that Microsoft has muscled its way onto every IBM and clone on a variety of levels, and sold its flash to every new computing enthusiast, thanks to the impressionability of the average consumer, can we at least find more good things than bad about the magic potion that Mr. Bill's Traveling Show has preached about?

Nope. For one thing, the hard drive keeps going and going. You can't move the damn mouse pointer without hearing that annoying, muted clacking. What the hell is it loading all the time? It gets in the way of operation; half the time, double-clicking on any icon won't execute its program, because the OS thinks that you've only single-clicked, because it was busy doing that mysterious pseudo-disk-access (there are technical reasons for this, but none offer any defense; nearly every intentionally memory-intensive Windows program is trying to work with the antiquated, slow MS-DOS that's hiding behind it). The manner in which Windows accesses the hard disk is cumbersome and inefficient.

Another thing: All of these lock-ups aren't necessary. I'll repeat that for the morons who think that they're computer programmers because they've figured out how to change the font size in Word: IT'S NOT A NORMAL FUNCTION OF COMPUTERS TO CONSTANTLY LOCK UP.

Chat didn't work, by the way. It's locked up. I'm serious. It's convenient timing, considering the subject material of this article, but now I have to reset the computer.

That's another thing. Why the hell should I have to read a message telling me that I didn't shut my OS down "properly"? There's an on/off switch. What else do you need, y'know? And you're going to tell me that this is well-written software? And the coup-de-grace: If you shut down "correctly," you'll get the large, important-looking words, "It is now safe to turn off your computer." Oh, THANK YOU, High and Exalted Mystery Machine! Don't explode or anything, okay?

It's an intimidation factor that was researched and tested by Microsoft's marketing division. Make people feel that their computers are scary machines that are somehow controlling them, instead of the other way around, and you can convince them that your company is a controlling force in their lives as well; you can talk them into buying anything "for their own good." You also won't have those annoying bursts of independent creativity that could jeopardize big, market-blanketing companies like Microsoft.

I'll conclude with just this: Support your local Amiga users' groups. -- CF