Sunday, April 15, 2007

Introduction to the Blog of Deathware

How the Flip Durbin Microsoft Deathware Blog Began

I have been a professional technical writer for over 25 years, 18 years as a freelancer.

I document hardware and software computer products.

I am a good technical writer. I write well-organized succint manuals in which you can actually find what you need to know and can understand the descriptions and instructions. I suppose you will have to take that on faith. Most manuals belong in the Marianna Trench.

Whether it is a software product or a hardware product with supporting software, there is always software to be documented. And all that software has to run on the operating system everybody uses. And that would be:

Microsoft Windows.

Doesn't matter which one it is, which is the most recent odor, your Windows 2K/Me/NT/XP/Yadda Yadda.

For years I have grappled with, fought, struggled, endured, cursed, grappled, suffered. You probably know exactly what I mean; but you probably don't dwell on it. You just deal with it. Me too. Usually.

And then recently my computer was attacked by a computer virus, the “Spydawn” virus, aka virusburst, and, when no program available could eliminate it, I decided to begin finally to record my frustrations with this pile of horrorware.

I shall not limit myself only to Microsoft’s pukeware. Because they are merely the standard to which all crappy software must lower itself. Pretty much everything that runs on a Windows PC is evilware. Productivity genocide.

And so, recently, perhaps mostly as therapy, I began to record my experiences with Microsoft, its operating systems, its software, and all the software that we use on this silly box called a Microsoft Windows PC.

But for now, this is my first entry in what I like to call:

Flip Durbin’s Microsoft Deathware Diary and Indispensable Blog of Unlimited Application Agony

Introduction to the above:

Recently a guy sent me a link to a video file, an interview with a scientist. But to view it, I had to download RealAtlernative Player, an alternative to the system-kidnapping RealPlayer.

I watched a few minutes after downloading RealAtlernative Player. Almost unimaginably, it appears that RealAtlernative Player is more aggressively system-hijacking than Real Player, and THAT is tough to beat.

I will never, ever install anything named Real ever again, just as I shall never shop in a store that has the word “Warehouse” or “Depot” in its name.

I’ll just have to get by somehow without viewing video that requires this puddle of hyena filth.

While uninstalling RealAtlernative Player, I discovered that I had Real Player on here, and it, also, didn’t work at all. I uninstalled both. I then figured while I was at it I should install the latest Zonealarm update. That also destroyed all internet access to my e-mail, although somehow Internet Explorer seemed able to sidle through ZA’s Byzantine tangle of whoreware. So I uninstalled it and rebooted and re-installed the older version and rebooted and it immediately reminded me that there was a program update available and asked me to download it and I said no, and checked the box that let it only remind me only once a month instead of every half hour.

You know, if I had a million damn dollars, I would defenestrate this whole goddam computer, box, monitor, disks and all. I’d go to the Bahamas and be drunk all the time on frozen drinks with umbrellas in them and never, ever look at another one of these teetering little testaments to the staggering sheepish stupidity of my fellow man.

I think that what happens is that people start an application and try to do something. As they have been doing for many years. And when you type a character or click on a menu item or title bar or whatever, and the pathetic little interface cringes and fails, and a dialog box comes up that says that this or the other cannot do whatever you wanted to, well, people forget. It’s a way people have to keep as sane as they can. So they ignore everything that happens that is stupid and accept that that is just the way things are. It is what it is!

I’d like to do a psychological test. Bring in a camera into somebody’s office cube or home office, and videotape everything they do or try to do. Because when I click on something, there is 50% chance that it will explode, and a dialog box will come with an some cryptic error message such as “Error 10768 Disk Image Link Not Found” and I click OK and another dialog will come up and ask me if I want to report the bug to Microsoft. (When I click Do Not Send that dialog goes away and then another comes up and says “Unexpected Program Termination, click OK to continue.” Why does it make me click OK to continue? It is the only option. Then I click OK and the same dialog comes up again, sometimes two more times. Send Error Report? Of course I would like to contribute to the destruction of more of my time. )

But people become inured. They no longer notice how much time they spend working around the bugs. They no longer perceive the number of times something takes a ridiculous amount of time to start an application, or save a file, or any damned thing. No longer even notice how many times an action results in some ludicrous result, some inexplicable error message.

When I recently reinstalled all the applications I really needed, the default program settings were, of course, as they always are, reinstated. So I had to go ferret around in — perfect example of turdware — MS Word, the most widely used and almost surely the worst. I had to turn off almost everything, because the arrogant misanthropic dolts who designed and coded this wobbling bloated behemoth of committeeware always want to do all these things for me that they think are so cool. And who can remember where some of the most important setting options for turning off, for example, automatic paragraph format styles? If you don’t, the program self-generates hundreds of new styles every time you boldface or italicize or do anything to a word in the paragraph. (That setting is so buried it took an hour to find the bitch, and I had already found it a year ago. Just couldn’t remember. How intuitive is that?) It wants to check your grammar as you type. It wants to automatically number or bulletize your paragraph. It wants to set up “smart tags,” which are some sort of inexplicable crap. It wants to “autofill” and “autocorrect.”

Have you ever seen a new or casual user try to get rid of that bullet or number in front of the paragraph? Do you remember the first time you tried to get rid of it? Because it doesn’t really exist. You can’t click on it or select it. It just sits there until you spend the next hour rummaging around trying to make it STOP it, please STOP it. Please make it go away! It could take days to find the setting. (When I want to send an outline of the current manual, I cannot reduce the table of contents to indented text. It’s a “field.” I have to paste the fucker into Notepad, and then go back in and fix all the tabs and indents. I’ve had to do this maybe 50 or 100 times in the past 20 years. Because it would be so expedient to be able to send the TOC as a file that could be commented on with page numbers included so the reviewer would know how many pages each topic took up. But you can’t because that would be useful.)

Dostoevsky used to describe characters who are unable to ignore the constant deluge of sensory input that everyone else seems to brush off, the horrors and ugliness of physical contact with the insanities and frustrations that plague so many of our conscious moments, to the point where they can be driven to murder or suicide.

When I sit at a computer these days, I notice every minute wasted waiting for the piece of shit to do ANyTHing. And then, when it finally does it, it fucks it all up. Last week MS Word crashed horribly three times. Not only did it fuck up the file I was in, it fucked up the automatically created backup file (.WBK) and the style sheet by which both files were formatted. I save and back up files like a total paranoid, but nobody has the time to back up everything every hour or you would never get anything done, especially since everything I do requires me to wait, and wait, and wait, and then hope the heap of duct tape and safety pins doesn’t fly apart like the transmission on a ’67 Oldsmobile. (I finally resorted to saving the file with a Save As and reving the version in the filename on every save. It’s only 10,000 K per file.)

By the way, the examples I just gave you are only the most irritating. All day long every day most every keystroke, most every mouse movement, is fraught with peril, pregnant with impending doom. I just sit at the damned desk and shake my head and roll my eyes, smack my forehead, and wonder how many times today I will have to install and reboot and uninstall and reboot and reconfigure and reboot and download the latest update and reboot and install the latest update and reboot and then find out that the latest update has slaughtered my system and then I’ll have to uninstall and reboot and reinstall and reboot, each step of which process takes 10 or 20 minutes.

I was watching the Dr. Phil show yesterday afternoon (because Spike on Fridays runs some stupid Japanese stunt show instead of Start Trek spinoff reruns like Next Generation and Voyager — by the way, have you ever noticed that their fucking warp coil containment field and the holodeck are constantly broken, too, and the long range sensors and pretty much everything there is broken, too?). Dr. Phil had on victims of continual fits of uncontrollable rage. Dr. Phil explained that the source of this rage often has not as much to do with frustration with people and things as much as it is a function of the expectation that people will be rational and that things will work. But I can’t seem to shake that expectation. Moreover, I don’t think I expect too much. I just want the damned thing to do the most important and simple things. But they keep cramming more and more “features” into the clawed and clattering scorpionware instead of fixing all the crap that has been broken for a decade. It’s not just Word, it’s everything these toads touch that is poisoned. That’s why they still include the option of setting the first page of a “section,” whatever the hell that is supposed to be, to negative numbers. So I very often set the first page of a “section” to -1. That way it might print “1” for the page number. But of course it might not. Sometimes you have to make it page 0. I’m still of a divided mind as to which is more absurd, creating a page -1 or a page 0.

The lost productivity and the setbacks to user interface design progress that Microjizz has foisted upon industry must cost billions of dollars every year. And sometimes I think I am the only one left who is bugged by it.

Flip Durbin, April 9, 2007
(News, Weather, and Sports in the First 5 Sentences! See page –3.1416.)

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