Web Informant #296, 9 August 2002:
I have a dream


Twenty-some years ago, the PC was invented and our desktops would never be the same. And now we must face the tragic fact that our desktops are still not free. Twenty years later, our lives are still sadly crippled by the manacles of frequent crashes and by numerous security problems. Twenty years we have lived on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. We are still languishing in the corners of American society and find ourselves exiles in our own technological land.

So I have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. Windows has to go from our desktops. It is time for the 'nixes (Unix, Linux and Apple's OS X) to play a more major role, and for Microsoft to get with the program and fix this broken buggy whip.

I say to you today, my readers, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of productivity. I have a dream, that all PCs will live up to their original marketing potential, and free their owners from the devils of DOS and frequent application crashes. I have a dream that one day our desktop PCs, sweltering with the heat of their overclocked CPUs, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and reliable operations.

I have a dream that one day all of my applications will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood and play nicely on my PC, no matter what version of drivers and odd video adapter is inside my computer.

I have a dream that your and my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the version of operating system running on their desktop computer, but by the content of their work output on their hard disk.

I have a dream today.

This is my hope. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day from having to reboot our computers every day, from crashed applications and inexplicable blue screens and error messages.

How I wish most of us could free ourselves from the tyranny of Windows and have a desktop operating system that didn't crash frequently, could support our legacy applications, were easy to install and wasn't a security sinkhole. Dream on.

Frequent crashes? My home PC runs Windows 2000 and works for about 7 days before it needs to be rebooted: I consider that a small victory and one that has kept me from doing any upgrades to its operating system. Others are not so lucky.

The average time between reboots that most of our desktops can run reliability is unacceptably low. On my work Macintosh, it is about 4 days, but I think this is because Lotus Notes, Internet Explorer, and Quark don't all like to play well with each other. I think if I could eliminate one of these applications I might be able to make it through the week without a reboot. Too bad my company wants me to keep running all three. Of course, if I wanted to keep with today's theme and run a 'nix, I would have to ditch Quark, which is still firmly stuck in the OS 9 era and doesn't run on OS X -- yet. I have a dream.

Support our legacy applications? Maybe we ask too much from our desktops, but being able to run all of our applications doesn't seem too stiff a requirement. That is, until you go out and start talking to people that have problems running this or that application. I have a dream.

Easy to install? When my friend totally trashed his Windows 98 machine, I thought it would be a an excellent opportunity to move him to Windows 2000, thinking that he would experience the same kind of stability that I have seen, and that 2000 would easily install and get him back on line. Dream on.

Since he was running on a relatively recent Dell, I didn't think we would have too many problems. Well, I was wrong: he is still calling around the various tech support trilogy (Dell, Microsoft and Intel), trying to mediate among the three and figure out which representative gave him the wrong advice. There were video drivers that he had to search out and download. A problem with his Linksys phoneline networking card that required him to move it from one PCI slot to another (even though it was working under Windows 98, apparently 2000 doesn't do well with Plug and Play). Problems with supporting some of his old DOS-based programs that he runs his business on (well, now would be a good time to track down the Windows versions on these). Then his printer stopped working about the same time he installed some kind of Intel applications accelerator patch that I never heard of. And on and on.

With another friend, the only way I could install Windows 2000 on their recent Dell was to first install Windows 98 and then upgrade to 2000. Go figure. It shouldn't have to be so hard; I have a dream.

Security sinkhole? In the news this week is an item that a security researcher has uncovered yet another vulnerability for Windows. This is a pretty big issue, because the problem has to do with the operating system's core messaging-passing algorithms and how applications and programs communicate with each other. Doesn't matter which version of Windows you are running, this is an issue in every version. To me, this has brought home how fragile things are with our desktop computers. I have a dream.

Maybe some day we will be able to say "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free of Windows at last!"

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David Strom
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