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Microsoft and Friends Make Money on Your Ignorance

Microsoft and the companies that sell Windows maintenance products make money on your ignorance. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Generally speaking (and for the purposes of this rant), the average computer user most likely fits into one of three categories: 1. Novice users - ”Timidius Clickitus” - These are the users

who use computers for limited tasks which are usually work related.
Vacations typically involve a complete break from email and the
like. Most likely to be found begrudgingly anthropomorphizing the
computer into an arch enemy, "Technology hates me..."
  1. Comfortable users - ”Digitalium Vulgaris” - Mostly under 30, this category encompasses those users who are relatively at ease with technology. Even though society (and their grandparents) keep telling them that they’re “so good with this sort of thing”, they have little idea what they’re actually doing. If you squeeze Facebook/MySpace/YouTube, these users drip out. Most likely to be found saving everything to the desktop, being amazed by keyboard shortcuts and confused by Wikipedia’s edit links.
  2. Power/Expert users - ”Snotnosi Smartypantsicum” - This group has an eclectic mix of Windows sysadmins, programmers and hardcore gamers who have more “power” tools and tweaks installed than a NASCAR racer. They constantly experiment with altering the behavior or aesthetic of their desktops in search of the “One True Workflow (TM)” which they will then tout over the inefficient lives of their friends and family. Most likely to be seen getting excited over Windows Updates and oogling over the amount of lipgloss applied to the Vista graphics. Note: these users are not-too-distant cousins of the automobile fanatics who believe a spoiler will make their cars go faster

Now, please be aware that I am being somewhat hyperbolic as I make these sweeping generalizations and that I do it for a reason. Microsoft and tech support companies count on the users of these three categories needing (at least) help from the categories above them. Even the most experienced users, because Windows is proprietary software, have no real idea how things work underneath and can only move things around hoping that what worked before will work again. This general lack of education has created legions of cargo cult users who don’t know what they’re really doing. For confirmation, one need only look to the entire niche market of “system imaging” applications which are programs designed specifically to create working snapshots of Windows installations which can simply be copied onto hard disks, avoiding the lengthy install process. While this is legitimately useful for installing custom Windows environments when organizations acquire new machines, it’s also used as a form of “workstation triage”. Back when I was in high school, the service techs would spend no more than 15-20 minutes poking about with a given computer before they would just decide to wipe the disks and re-image the machine. That’s right: without specific knowledge of the nature and inner workings of the system, it’s easier to give up than it is to resolve the issue. The end result is that people get annoyed and upset when they have to call one tech support agent after another only to be told that they need to send their computers in to be re-imaged anyway. So, in this ever-worsening world of enforced ignorance and stunning aggravation, who enters the scene to deliver the struggling masses? Microsoft. That’s right! The company that deliberately withholds critical information (calling it a “proprietary trade secret”) is the same company that brings in the big boys of personal computing to mop up the mess with your hard earned dollars. The only catch is that you have to pay for the help. You pay for new versions of software which usually contain little more than bug and security fixes. Then, because of the poor quality of the software, you pay other companies for anti-virus products, personal firewalls, spyware removal tools and pop-up blockers. An entire market has been created to fix Windows’ flaws with more software. Beyond that, if somehting goes wrong, you pay the waiting armies of “certified professionals”, such as the Geek Squad, to rescue your computer from the clutches of “EVIL HACKERS” and the fictitious horde of internet assailants who, after stealing your vacation photos, have nothing better to do. How much does all this cost? Adding the $99 for a the Windows Vista Home Basic (yes, basic!) upgrade pack to the >$130 price tag of Norton 360 All-In-One Security with a 2yr subscription adds up to over $230. Then if you pay the $249 for Geek Squad to come to your house and upgrade it you might as well take advantage of the discount you get by having two jobs performed at the same time and have them install Norton for you…another $59. All in all, you end up paying over $440 before taxes. Sound like a lot to you? Yeah…same here. It just bothers me a whole bunch when good people pay for bad products. Learn to use Linux. —- END RANT —-

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