Category Archives: What’s Wrong with Computers

Computer Desiderata

I’ve struggled with computers since before Windows came on the market. I used a Trash 80 in school, and my family’s first home computer was a clunky beast with an amber screen and large disk ports with a latch that snapped shut. I recall with horror an early Windows advertisement that touted the virtues of Tinylimp’s (the computer company out of Redmond, WA, naturally) product. The claim was that one click of the mouse could accomplish what took twenty keystrokes. The fact that I type about sixty words a minute on a slow day and the fact that a command line doesn’t argue with me apparently didn’t matter to the marketplace, alas.

The point here is that I’ve watched computers and software go from a novelty for most people to an integral part of life, and I have some items that I’d like to see improved:

1. Instant on. I admit that I’m not a patient person. Militant meditators needn’t try to reform me. I won’t, and you can’t make me. But really, is there a good reason why I can let the dog out, use the toilet, read War and Peace and do a load of dishes while my computer boots up?

2. Install and modify without reboot. If item number one could be corrected, this wouldn’t be such a problem, but is there no way for the machine to accept that something new has been added without having to go through the bother? If not, is there a way that I can decide when I want to reboot? That annoying message that pops up time and again to demand that I obey makes me want to rearrange the wiring with heavy tools.

3. A What’s On panel. The idea here is simple to explain. Give me a button on the keyboard. When I press said button, a window comes up that shows me everything currently running on my computer. The labels will be in English, not in Nerd. A right click on a listed item will bring up a menu. Therein will be found options to display what the program is and what it does, a means of suspending operation of the program, and a means of turning off the program altogether. Putting one program to an end will not disrupt the operation of the rest of the computer. The button that I mentioned will have priority over everything else in the computer. I have no idea how hard such a thing would be to program, and I don’t care. That’s why software people get paid the big bucks.

4. Help menus in English, not Nerd. (Of course, substitute your own native language here, if it’s not English.) Does anyone find Microsoft help windows to be of the slightest use? Neither do I. Someone should note that I never find the help that I’m looking for in a help menu. This should be corrected. I admit that I often want odd things–turning off autocorrect, turning off suggestions, turning off other annoyances–but if something is possible to do, a manual in a human language should exist to explain it, and that manual should come with the machine. Yes, I know that stores are filled with computer books, but do I really need something the size of the New York City telephone directory to let me know how to turn off the grammar checker in Word?

5. Easy disability. Here’s an example of what I mean. I hate tabs in web browsers. Don’t ask me why. I just do. To show you that my vitriol isn’t solely directed at Tinylimp, when I’m using Firefox, I often right click on a link and then move down the menu to the “open in a new window” option. The problem is that “open in a new tab” is right above the one that I want, and sometimes, I get the wrong thing. This annoys me. I want to remove the tab option from the menu. Thus, there should be a way to remove that option or function or widget or what-have-you. I’m not even insisting on deleting it. I just want to put it into a box that is somewhere in the computer’s basement. There are many things in many programs like this. They just clutter up the process.

6. Dedicated memory. This is already the case with video memory, no? Why aren’t there dedicated memory chips that only run web browsers? Why not dedicated chips for other memory hogs? Those can take from the general memory pool when needed, but otherwise this would unclog the system.

7. Priority. Why is it that when several programs are running at once, they bicker with each other and make the whole system crash? There should be a clear priority of programs that tells each one which one gets to complete its business first and so forth. In line with my What’s On panel, a user should be able to set priorities, at least to some degree. In no case should starting one program cause the whole system to freeze up.

8. Rescue boxes. There should be another piece of dedicated memory that keeps a copy of documents and so forth being worked on that then gets cleared out every time the user hits “save.” This memory should have batteries of its own and should not be troubled just because the rest of the computer crashes.

Now for something harder:

9. Logic. Computers should operate logically. Directories should be organized according to a plan, rather than a haphazard jumble. Files should be named according to what they are, not things like gobbledyaljafj!@5.ubx. I don’t give the slightest damn about proprietary whatever. A media player should run every video, sound file, and so forth out there. A text document should look like a text document on any word processing program, even if the special features don’t align.

And especially:

10. Privacy. My computer is mine. It doesn’t belong to any software company, nor does it belong to any company whose website I visit. Another part of the What’s On panel should tell me everything that’s peering into my computer and offer me the opportunity to turn it away–again, without having to search the Internet for what 14357alkasgflkj145.niv might be.

Some of these may already be readily available. I suspect that if I’m willing or able to pay for them, even more exist. One of these days, I’ll learn how to use Linux, if that’s more in line with my desires. But why aren’t these items already built into our personal computers? If I knew, I’d likely be richer than I am now.

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How Much Does Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Weigh?

Whenever the tech groupies slaver over some new device coming out, I always have to ask why it is that my coffee maker and other such devices need a computer chip.  It appears that absurdity has no end, however.  Have a look at this latest:

http://www.withings.com/en/bodyscale

These people actually think that having your bathroom scale talk to your Twitter, Facebook, and blog accounts for you is a good idea.  Your scale can now send you e-mail.  It can tell you what you weigh in kilograms, pounds, or stones and can graph the same over time.  It can recognize different members of your family.  The bloody-minded dingus can even send your information to your on-line medical records–protected by a password, if that gives you any comfort.

Excuse me for a moment while I explode with curses. . .

I admit that I’m a Luddite.  I also pay little attention to my daily weight, figuring that as long as I eat something, I shan’t shrivel away to nothing.  If I wanted a scale in my bathroom to determine how much extra weight my wallet, notepad, carry gun, spare magazine, pocket knife, and other such bric-a-brac add, I’ll have one with a simple spinning dial connected to a spring.  (I do admit that having a scale that gives its readings in stones appeals to me, but this isn’t worth it.)

Those of you who want one of these ridiculous gadgets can have one for $159.00.  But if you’re that silly, just send me the money, and I’ll tell you that you’re healthy, happy, and beautiful.  I’ll even write that on your Facebook wall, if you so desire.

Google: Don’t Be Evil!

Let us for a moment gather together to mourn what Google used to be.  It was a beautiful search engine.  It gave abundant results without clutter.  It didn’t pretend to be all knowing; in other words, it didn’t try to tell me what I wanted to find.  It was clean, simple, and powerful.

Alas for the good old days.  Now what do we have?  Side bars, suggestions, Google Instant, and all manner of other annoyances that have made Google seem more and more like the junk that comes out of that nuisance-mongering company in Redmond, WA.  I shouldn’t have to spend my time searching for ways to turn off all of the crap that Google keeps adding to its search engine.  I just want the basic tool that Google used to be.

If you have suggestions as to what I can do, I’ll be grateful, but do understand that most of what I have seen so far won’t work for me.  I use Firefox as my browser, and I’ve set it to delete cookies after each session.  Saving my preferences would require me not to have that done.  I’m not going to sacrifice privacy just to accomodate Google.  Nor do I want to make some form of Google my homepage.  I have a blank homepage because I don’t want my computer to tell me where to go.  That’s my decision, thank you.

In other words, I’ve read the suggestions on-line about how to turn off the add-ons, but nothing I’ve seen suits what I want.  The trouble here is exactly what is wrong with Microsoft.  A bunch of busybodies get together to figure out who I am and what I want and then dump it on me, after having driven out the competition.  What they can’t accept is that I want control over my computer.  I want to select the tools that I use; I don’t want the machine to make suggestions to me, and above all, I want a computer that is obedient to me.

My message to Google is simple.  Follow your unofficial motto:  Don’t be evil.  To put things in other words, words that I recognize as insulting, Google, stop trying to be like Microsoft.