Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Different Flavor

“Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” Gene Fowler

Way back in time, when dinosaurs walked the earth, Walter Cronkite gave the nightly news, and gas was thirty-five cents a gallon we used to type on a typewriter.

Now I know some of you have never seen one or if you have it was one of the early word processors and it did all sorts of nifty, neat and cool things, but way back then it just sat and typed.

Of course you had to do all sorts of arcane rituals, rolling in sheets of paper, if you wanted copies you had to put carbon paper between the sheets and try to get the roller to pull them through without separating the paper from the carbon.

Assuming you managed to get the paper on the roller then you had to remember to do a carriage return at the end of every line, if you set the margins properly so that the end of page warning would ring.

If you did all of that the there was the usual problem, getting the keyboard to type in what you want instead of what you type. (That’s still a problem for me).

It is amazing all of those pre-computer books got written at all.

Now some writers dictated and had a professional typist do the margin setting, or some poor beleaguered secretary. Every pre-computer writer wanted to be successful enough to hire a private secretary, some one who could type ninety words a minute with less than 5% mistakes and do it all day for weeks at an end. That would be real success.

It seldom happened. Most writers had to do the dirty work themselves and they struggled with all of the mechanics and the rituals like the sorcerer’s apprentice.

The truly Black Arts, grammar and spelling were the province of black practitioners and never done by folks who care anything for their own immortal souls. There is nothing as terrifying to a pre-tech person as the dream of a spelling bee with everyone watching and you there against the blackboard like a spy awaiting the final shot while the warden, teacher paced and called out words no human could possibly spell like quiet. (You know the terrible trio, quiet, quite, quit?) If you were really traumatized this dream came in the advanced Technicolor version, all of the previous elements except this time you were standing there naked. The shakes and sweats were awful.

Then along came the Boys of Cyber and all was well. Sure, the first computers used a language so bizarre and complex that it wasn’t worth learning it just to get out of spelling. Better to fake a stomach ache and spend an hour in the nurse’s office. No ianythings to cup in the palm of your hand while you surreptitiously peeked using your opposable thumb to Google the answer.

So now we have coffee makers which are smarter than the average fifth grader and phones so complex that a NASA engineer would take three years and an advanced computer course to dial the Cape and ieverythings which sing and dance and come in pads, so long as they are genuine Microsnotty and not an evil, dark side, Valdemort Korean Samsung copy.

Which brings me to the subject of this little post, Microsleazy; you are aware that Microgrubby is going to stop supporting Windows XP in less than two years?

Who cares?

You do if you are a typical home user. Windows XP is still installed on a third of all computers and all of those computers are going to have to do something before April 8. 2014. That’s when Microvillian will turn off the lights for XP.

So what I heard you say. A whole bunch of what, that’s what. You won’t get any patches for what is even at the most generous a leaky operating system, you won’t have any program updates, you won’t get the new software from third party vendors to run on XP, you will be a target for every nasty little hacker and virus writer in the whole ether and MicroIndifferent does not care.

In fact they care so little about you and the work that you do on your computer that they write their new OS, that’s operating systems, so that they cannot run on older equipment making sure you not only have to buy new software from them, but you have to go buy new hardware from Intel and their buddies.

So even if you want to use the machine you have become so friendly with over the last few years, you can’t. They’ll tell you that you’ll benefit from all of their new bells and whistles, that things will be so much faster and easier and that you’ll be more productive…

Will you? I wonder. I do a lot on my computer. I like computers and I have spent a lot of time with my Windows box and am pretty comfortable with crawling around in the innards. But the truth is I do not need nor use anything Microflabby has come up with in the last four system changes.

I know heresy. But that is the truth. I do all of the usual stuff, I write, check email, play music, make CDs and DVDs and fiddle with my photographs, but I do not do all of the other stuff, which costs a bunch of money and doesn’t do anything for me and so I’m not burning with a white-hot passion for the new stuff, in fact I’m indifferent.

So what am I going to do?

This is a two parter so take your time and read all of it before you move on to that cat video on YouTube.

You do remember me urging you not to blow your Christmas loot on a shiny new igizmo? That’s right I said, buy a cheap, older laptop and you’ll get more use from it and be able to do more stuff and you’ll have a bunch more money in your pockets. And that’s true.

So if you did that no I can tell you something else you should do. Download Ubuntu

Ubuntu is an operating system based on Linux and it is free and this distribution is so easy that you may just be able to install it and not even notice that Windows is gone.

Now I would never suggest you do this to a mission critical machine until you have thought it over long and hard, but if you bought that laptop there is no reason not to install it there. If you didn’t maybe now you will think about buying a cheap used laptop and installing Ubuntu on it so that when Microblind pulls the plug you will have lost of experience and can install it on your mission critical computer cause you know all about how to use it.

And yes, I have done it thank you. I did about three weeks ago and have everything working to my satisfaction, except Skype. If you Skype you know what that is and if you don’t you probably don’t care that I haven’t got it working.

Here is the thing; I have almost eighteen months to work with Ubuntu before I have to make a decision about my desktop. By then I should know if a FREE operating system with no virus problems and updates every six months and a new FREE version every two years can do the job for me.

So when the lights go out on XP I might just not care at all.

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