I have a laptop with Windows 7 on it. Not a day goes by without Microsoft bombarding it with multiple updates for the OS and other software. These consist of patches to cover yawning security holes, and various tweaks to help underperforming code lift its game. Once the updates have been installed, a dialogue box gets in my face, demanding that I restart the laptop or else. So I do. Then I nervously wait to see whether the laptop still works properly, since the updates are a lot like liver transplants: sometimes they take, and sometimes they don’t. If they don’t, I have to restore the system to its last fully functioning state before the updates came along and buggered up everything.
Microsoft has such a vast monopoly on the computer chip and software markets that unless you go completely Apple you’re forced to put up with its Keystone Cops approach to software design. Sure there are free open source alternatives to Microsoft software out there, but they’re often fraught with compatibility issues and have so steep a learning curve that you need your own oxygen supply and Sherpa guide to get up and over it. The sad truth is Microsoft has backed us into a corner and there’s not all that much we can do about it except grin and bear more updates.
Notwithstanding, we really ought to be grateful that Microsoft confines its monopolization to the personal computer world, for could you imagine how disastrous life would be if it designed every consumer product?
You’re driving down a winding mountain road in your brand new Microsoft sports car when you receive an urgent update that will fix a flaw in its braking system, which you learn works only on straight stretches of road and only when the vehicle is ascending a hill. Naturally you’re in a hurry to apply the update, just as soon as your corpse finishes charbroiling in a fiery wreck at the base of a 1000-foot cliff.
Your Microsoft 60″ plasma TV has been acting ornery since the company despatched its last security update. It only lets you watch commercials and generates so much static electricity that every time you step near it you get a wedgie. After you install the latest update, which is supposed to correct all of the problems created by the previous update, you cop the following message: “This Microsoft television is not genuine. And next time buy the 70″ model, cheapskate.”
Intel Cardio Chip
A critical security patch to plug a hole that could make your Microsoft pacemaker vulnerable to hack attacks causes your body to function so erratically that you can’t go to the toilet unless you’re running backwards or eat unless you’re asleep. You contact Microsoft tech support for urgent assistance, and Bill Gates hurries around to give you a vaccine injection.
Windows over the World
During your Microsoft Airways flight, you make the alarming discovery that using Excel’s if function on your laptop causes the plane to spin into a nosedive, while spell-checking a Word document kindles flames in the starboard engine. If that wasn’t bad enough, a security update that inadvertently turned all of the airline’s food fresh and tasty was overwritten by another update, which restored it to its normal state.
The Update to End All Updates
It had to happen. Microsoft got the bomb. All of them. Yep, that’s right. Every thermonuclear missile on the planet became a Microsoft thermonuclear missile—or Parking Lot Ultimate Edition as they were trademarked. But when a mass upgrade to a new operating system went horribly awry, well, you can guess the rest. Now Microsoft’s software design team comprises a toothless old miner and his burrow, Josiah, who are busy working on security patches to fix a nuclear winter and roving bands of cannibal mutants.