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Archive for March, 2011

Windows 7

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My mother’s six year old Dell PC died recently. She has been using a desktop PC for years but she is still one of those unintuitive users that so many of her generation tend to be. When she learns something new on her computer, she prefers a very “step-by-step” algorithmic approach without much understanding of what she is doing to accomplish her goal. All she wants to know is “click in this box, type this, hit OK, press Escape, etc.” That kind of approach to learning does not lend itself to generalization at all, so when she wants to do something similar in another application, we have to start all over. ¬†Often when she asks me to show her how to do something, she will grab a pencil to take down verbatim instructions. I love to tell her, “Stop! Don’t write anything down … just think about what we are trying to do, and the actual steps become superfluous to the process!” OK, I don’t really say that, but its close to what I am thinking.

About six years ago, I converted from being a very dedicated long time DOS – Windows – PC user to a Mac person. There are tons of reasons why I think that Apple’s OS X is superior to Windows and now I can’t ever imagine going back. I tried to evangelize my mother a few years ago when she wanted to try a laptop. I convinced her to get a MacBook. The amount of “fixing” things I had to do for her went way down. I wasn’t having to uninstall intrusive browser toolbars that she didn’t mean to install. I didn’t have to keep her anti-virus and her security software up to date. I guess it didn’t “take” though. Much of her failure to love her MacBook was not a lack of appreciation for the well constructed hardware and the OS, but her difficulties with the relatively small screen, the trackpad, and the differences with a dedicated keyboard. When my sister needed a new laptop, Mom gave her the MacBook.

As I have drifted ever further away from Windows, I have become less and less able to help her with issues that come up.Her machine was still running Windows XP and I knew that pretty well, but I really didn’t have much motivation to keep up with any of the newer Windows software packages that were coming out. I certainly didn’t want any part of using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. I did mange to get her to use Firefox as her browser, but over the last couple of years I was not as actively involved in maintaining and tweaking her machine as I had before. So when the motherboard died on her trusted desktop, she was ready to buy a new machine.

I saw the opportunity to standardize the family! She asked for recommendation as always and I told her that I couldn’t in good conscience suggest she go cheap with a PC box, when she could get a beautiful iMac though the cost (at least upfront) would be quite a bit more. She always trusts my advice, and I thought I had her sold. But then she talked to a fellow teacher at the Community College where she works who recommended another Windows machine. She said “Paul” told her that’s what she needed. I suggested she get Paul to come and set it up for her. But knowing I needed to get what she wanted or she wouldn’t be comfortable, I picked her up an eMachine box at Best Buy. About $383 with tax for the box, mouse and keyboard. She is keeping her old flat screen monitor. We got the machine plugged . in. Power cord from the box, the monitor and the speakers. Video cable to the monitor. Speaker cables, mouse and keyboard. Of course the ethernet cable to her router. You could get lost in all of that stuff. The images of a beautiful large screen iMac with its single power cord and ethernet in came to my mind. Wireless keyboard and mouse, and cables are virtually a thing of the past.

Of course the beast ran Windows 7 Home Premium. As opposed to Windows 7 Starter. Or Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate. Or the Windows 7 Home Basic which apparently is only available in “emerging markets.” That’s one of my first grumbles about Microsoft’s flagship. Do they really need to market 7 versions of the thing? Maybe that’s why they call it Windows 7. Because I recall Windows 1.0, Windows 2.0, Windows 3.0, Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11 for workgroups, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows XP, and finally Windows Vista and I am not at all sure how they got to 7 after all of that.

When we booted up for the first time we immediately began getting bombarded with messages from all of the conveniently pre- installed packages. Norton Security warned that if we didn’t subscribe immediately, an exiled Nigerian ruler would take over our machine remotely and begin massive regular deductions from her checking account. Adobe wanted her to upgrade her reader. A half dozen programs insisted that they were worthy of automatic start-up at boot time. Explorer already had extraneous handy “toolbars” installed. In the past, I probably would have tried to clean this mess up. But maybe I am the one stuck in the past. Maybe I am the one who is odd for thinking that only the software I explicitly install should have a place on my harddrive. Maybe everyone needs to have 25% of their CPU cycles being taken up by software they don’t even realize is running. I ended up just making sure that she could reach the internet, and told her happily, “here you go!” And I think she was actually pretty satisfied.

I just know as I write this post on my MacBook Pro, I am a lot happier!

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