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Time and Trouble: a rant against MS Windows which yealds a potentially important philosophical tenet

I had to use Microsoft Windows today.  I had to transfer a file onto a USB flash drive.  Within seconds I was grinding my teeth, within the first minute I was literally shaking my fist (try it, it is therapeutic) and within the second minute I was shouting at everyone who walked past.

The thing:

So I needed this file to get from the PC to my flash drive. First of all, my drive had a little programme of its own that ran when inserted, opening its own windows but I quickly shut it and the windows down.  (And, yes that’s the drive’s fault and not Windows, except the program’s on a separate, undeletable partition only Windows can use, so it’s a Windows-only irritation.)

Then Adobe Photo-thing (not -shop) decided to open without being asked because Windows had taken the time and trouble to notice I had photos on the flash drive.  Very nice of it, except the hassle of closing Adobe Photo-thing was at least equal to that of dragging my photos onto a folder on the PC, and certainly infinitely more hassle than ignoring the photos altogether as I had intended.

So then I faced the window giving me options for what to do with the drive I’ve just inserted. Incredibly, the option ‘Open Folder to view contents’ is so far down the list I had to scroll for it.  Please, please, pretty pleeh-az correct me if I’m wrong (use the comments) but surely to All-That-is-Holy when I mount a disk within an OS the overwhelming likelihood is that I want to see and affect the files therein.  Admittedly, the options presented to me all did variations of that but if I were to open, say, Windows Media Player, would it load every media file on the disk?  Or none?  Again, if I want to watch one of the mpegs, opening it myself is as easy as having Media Player do it for me before I select which one of them to play.  (Assumptions here: that Media Player would show me all files available, and that double clicking on an mpeg would open it and start playing the file automatically.  Like I say, I didn’t do it.)

So, I opted to open the window to see my files, along with a separate window containing the file I wish to transfer.  (BTW, to do this I needed the shortcut Windows-M which I coincidentally overheard this week, to find and double click on My Computer.)  I check the size of the file (600mb) and the available space on the drive (800mb). Now, I simply drag and drop, right?

Nope.

There was not enough space.  What?  But I just checked…

Now this is my fault, I concede, not Windows’.  It was my fault for assuming the figure at the bottom of the window represented the available space on the drive.  It didn’t.  In fact, it represented the space taken up by all the files in the window, not including folders.  Here’s that again with more italics: it represented the space taken up by all the files in the window, not including folders.  One of the things I shouted to passing strangers was, “For God’s sake, tell me the point of that!”  Again, use the comments and tell me, please, under what situation could I desire such information.  It tells me nothing of the used or available space because there could be anything or nothing in the folders it doesn’t include.  And while you’re typing your answer with both thumbs, I’ll tell you one drawback  I’ve found already: it wastes your time by misleading you that it must be useful info (by its very inclusion) and then requiring you work to find out that it is not and should be ignored.  Windows had taken the time and trouble to give me this useless number.  Granted, I asked for it.  I select Status Info, or whatever, from the view menu by default because I’m a huge fan of useful information.  I just don’t expect the most expensive OS in the world to lead me down a dark misinformation pathway.

So I delete enough stuff from my drive to accommodate the file (watching the figure at the bottom depreciate – how many want to know how much is on a drive compared with how many want to know how much can be put on it still?), drag it drop it, and walk away.

I’m reminded of something my boss once told me back when I was working in a call centre that predominantly  used Windows 98:  “Windows Explorer is terrific.  So powerful if you know how to use it.”  I heeded him, and used Explorer from that point forward to deal with files, and he was right.  It was like a regular window, except that you could always see every mounted drive, device and volume in a sidebar on the left.  Never again for me that useless (less than useless!) Windows window that I encountered today, six years later.  And, it occurs to me, that the Explorer functionality that I enjoyed then, pretty much exists in the standard Mac OSX Finder window that I have been using since 2004.  Standard Apple disclaimer here.

How the hell can it be that Windows is so shit?  I’m not on a pro-Apple crusade here, but I’m dumbfounded at how Windows can be as shiver-down-the-spine shite when it comes to basic tasks (my friend, Pedro, who knows about such things, tells me that its better for gaming at a code level, hence the games and Xbox)?  I argue not for the dissolution of Microsoft, I have no bone to pick with Bill Gates, I just don’t understand how so much money has yeilded such poor results.  I mean, they’re the biggest, the most expensive, and the worst.

Such thoughts have lead to the formulation of the following:

The Kenny Park Microsoft Law: there exists (surely) a number where the collective intelligence of a group of geniuses will equal the collective intelligence of the same number of imbeciles.

Which is as good an argument for devolved government as I have come up with today.

By Kenny Park

Kenny Park, pro video editor in Avid and Final Cut for over a decade.

5 replies on “Time and Trouble: a rant against MS Windows which yealds a potentially important philosophical tenet”

Windows can work very well, but unfortunately, Microsoft seem to have an insane set of default options. Once you’ve got it configured to your tastes things generally work okay.

I realise that the above was a rant so providing information may not be exactly desired (I’ve made that mistake once already) but if you need any help give me a shout.

But yes, generally I ignore My Computer and use Explorer all the time. I find it much more flexible and generally useful. And to find out how much space a folder and its descendants are using, right-click it and select Properties.

I realise that Windows can be a bit on the annoying side in its default form, but your list of rants above is more than a little excessive…

That “Adobe Photo-thing” that started up when you plugged in your USB drive is not so much to do with Windows as it is with “Adobe Photo-thing”. It’s obviously just one of the thousands of apps that people write for installation on Windows machines that just absolutely has to start up every time the PC gets booted. It’s a royal pain in the ass, yes, and such apps seem to be bundled with every printer, scanner, camera, image editor etc. that are around these days, but it’s not a Windows thing.

The drive space info I’ll give you. I can think of a few situations where the status bar info that is provided is something you might like to know but yes, a metric of the remaining space would be a whole lot more useful.

I’m not going to respond to most of the rest of it since most of what you complained about was either down to you or down to software running on that particular PC that has precious little to do with Windows itself. In any case, everyone has made their own evaluation of Windows in its various forms, and I’m not the evangelising type.

In closing I’ll just add that I note you’d used the Windows-M shortcut to minimise all your open windows. In future, you should add the Windows-E (opens a windows explorer window) shortcut to your reportoire… You can open any number of these and it makes life a hell of a lot quicker and easier, in my experience, whenever you need to do a few drag-n-drop operations.

Do try to stay calm though… it’s a far healthier way to go about your daily life 🙂

You’re right, Tall, life’s too short. And I’m obviously blaming Windows for the faults of other software. It’s just, when I’m forced to sit at a Windows machine and accomplish some task, there’s always a moment when I telepathically say to the machine, “Now you and I are going to get along, aren’t we?”

Then, within moments, it starts messing with me, seemingly on purpose, and that makes me SO MAD!

Deep breaths, deep breaths…

I should just switch to Linux and be done with it.

I can understand, and sympathise with, the madness.

It’s just that none of us, unless we’re prepared to completely isolate ourselves from the rest of the computer-using world entirely, are going to be able to avoid Windows completely. For that reason alone I find it best to just keep plugging away with it, in the hope that it’ll one day morph into the sort of OS that I actually enjoy using.

Switch to Linux by all means… I did, years ago. I’m also one of the few (we masochistic few) who switched BACK to Windows shortly after Service Pack 2 came out for XP. It was a no-brainer for me… at least 9 times out of 10 when I am tasked with ‘fixing’ a computer it’s a Windows box, and it’s only by subjecting myself to it day in, day out, that I’ve been able to get to the stage that I can fix most of the ‘problems’ without having to think too much about it.

For what it’s worth I’ve been able to reach a happy equilibrium with the installation of XP on my ‘main’ PC. Granted, it took several years and I’ve broken countless installs in the process, but nowadays we get along pretty well.

Now all I have to do is carry the “at least 9 times out of 10 when I am tasked with ‘fixing’ a computer it’s a Windows box” rationale to it’s next logical stage, bite the bullet, and install that copy of Vista that’s been lurking on top of my filing cabinet since it got sent to me. I’ve been stalling, but it’s becoming a pain in the ass to receive machines that need a fix and get presented with the wall of obfuscation that is good old Redmond’s latest offering, and to literally have to work by trial and error until I get things sorted.

In an ideal world I’d just refuse to look at machines that are running Windows, but that would sort of put me out of business 😛

(addendum: when I think about it some more, the only apps that actually provoke me to rage these days are the ‘security’ suites and ISP packages that seem to come bundled with new Windows machines. It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s Norton, McAfee, Bulldog, or Tiscali, AOL or whatever. They just hunker down like limpets and fight for their right to exist on the machine in question… damn them all!)

While all the time saying, “We’re good for you, you need us!”

Get this: I have Norton installed on my Mac! How’s that for paranoid?

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