The splendour and misery
of Microcrap Windows, of Microcrap Office
Some informal remarks towards a modular calculus of open source software (With apologies to Samuel R. Delany or, indeed, to anyone who actually knows what "a modular calculus" means; it's late, I'm tired and feeling the urge towards "humorously pedantic usage of the English language")
I'm feeling vaguely heroic as I fade towards sleep on this very early Saturday morning.
First came the rescue of Raven Tresses' laptop which, shortly upon her arrival home from work, refused her any but a frozen mockery of her normal desktop display.
Dusting off the mental files left over from my days in the worlds of help desk hell, I asked to take a look at her machine, sagely nodded as the still somewhat familiar WindowsXP desktop appeared before me, I made sure she had back-ups of most (if not necessarily all) of her files, explaining that we might need to try restoring the system to a previous state.
"But first," I mumbled, stumbling after the unfamiliar terminology, "Let's see if it'll boot into safe mode."
Raven powered-cycled the beast and I hit a couple of F keys, stopping the process, then found a way into the fabled Windows Safe Mode.
The screen's resolution was awful, the few default icons bloated and blurry, like a drunkard's self-analyses. But we had navigability! And, realizing I really didn't know what I should do once there, I moved with outward confidence to "Explore" the Control Panel, hoping a further course of action might leap out at me like the hideous graphics on an amateur's website.
Fortunately, Raven desired sustenance and so, having nothing immediately better to offer, I suggested she try re-booting and said I'd take another look after supper, if necessary. (You all know where this is going; if the Dilbert panel above didn't give it away, plain old experience will have for most of you.)
Though two manual reboots hadn't accomplished the task, one manual reboot and a brief, directionless visit to Safe Mode did the trick. Raven was back in business.
Or so she thought.
After she had cleaned up after my (frankly, very sub-par) dinner, she asked me whether I was able to open up the latest Microsoft Office file types — the ones which end in ".docx" rather than just ".doc".
You see, she's still running Microsoft's Office2003. And the latest version makes files which, er, aren't compatible with previous versions of the company's own fucking software.
Built-in obsolescence has seldom been so blatantly predatory.
Gentle Readers, I admit it: I smirked. My voice could have lubricated a fleet of battleships, such was my smug self-satisfaction.
"Why yes," I said, smiling a smile at once wondrous and yet nauseating to behold. "I'm running Linux — which comes with OpenOffice. Just send me the files."
Rather than belting me and then shoving me out of my chair, Raven displayed a saintly patient tolerance and merely inserted her USB key into my machine. Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents appeared on my screen and I converted them all into a format she could use. And Gentle Readers, she thanked me while she wiped the oil of my magnanimity from the aforementioned data storage unit.
Oh yes, before that, she'd had a similar problem, this time with an obsolete version of Adobe Illustrator, which wouldn't allow her to manipulate an image created with one more reason. And I, never having needed to separate a logo from its background, fired up TheGimp, consulted a few online forums, and soon saw her with a usable graphic for her work.
All of which is to say: People! Next time you're looking for an upgrade or a completely new piece of software, at least investigate the open source alternatives out there! Stop being voluntary prisoners of a rapacious corporate behemoth whose idea of innovation is to create new, proprietary file formats designed to separate you from your money, not to help you get things done.
And thus endeth tonight's sermon.
Next time! 60 per cent less gloating! Young Geoffrey promises!