Friday, May 19, 2017


      OK, it’s 2014 and I’m banging away on my Dell computer. I’m knocking out sentences and paragraphs in WORD and I’m surfing the net, jumping from one news-oriented site to another while listening to music courtesy of YouTube. And while I’ve yet to access one percent of my Dell’s capacity, I’m perfectly content, just like most other Windows-XP users. How many? At the time, I didn’t know and couldn’t have cared less.

      Anyway, although my knowledge of computers and computing is roughly equal to that of my pet goldfish, I do know that other versions of Windows have come and gone over the years, including the hated Vista and Windows 8.1. I’ve ignored these “advances in computing technology” because my computer is already doing everything I want it to do, and doing it rather fast.

      Bottom line, I’m happy and don’t intend to change my operating system. But then I receive a notice from Microsoft. On April 8, 2014, the company will officially abandon Windows-XP. The updates I’ve been installing for the past ten years will no longer come my way.

      I’m tempted, like many, to raise a middle finger to Microsoft. I’m tempted to go bravely forward with ignorance as my shield. And I would if my son wasn’t an engineer who works at Google. Given the connection, due diligence requires that I take Microsoft’s notice to an expert. Thus, when next I speak to Ethan, I mention the notice.

      Ethan makes it very clear. Without Microsoft’s support, without those updates, my computer will suffer in two ways. Small bugs will not be addressed and thus accumulate. Malware patches will not be issued and my computer, sooner or later, will become infected. This is Microsoft’s way of implementing its basic strategy, he explains. Unless Windows’ users purchase new versions of the operating system from time to time, Microsoft cannot survive. That’s why the company forces computer manufacturers to install only the latest version of Windows, no matter how popular older versions are, or how unpopular (think Windows Vista) the latest edition. Once the newer versions reach a critical mass, Microsoft can abandon the oldest version still supported, forcing innocents like myself to pay for an upgrade.

      Now, you might argue that a business plan is a business plan. Microsoft, after all, never guaranteed to eternally support Windows XP. Besides, the whole deal was laid out on page 2,137 of the terms-of-service agreement you checked off when you registered your computer with Microsoft. So, stop whining and pony up.

      I ponied, much to my relief when the Wannacry ransomware hit computers still running Windows XP. Thank-you, my son.

       Millions of others, however…. The online mag, Redmond, estimates the number of XP users who clung to their outdated operating systems to be 250 million. That’s users, folks, not computers.

      Why did all these people stick with XP? The main reason, obviously, is that XP did whatever they needed their computers to do, from browse chat rooms to run hospitals. For this group, Microsoft’s newer versions weren’t better, and Microsoft had to know that.

      In an earlier rant, I decried the Supreme Court’s conferring personhood on corporations. If corporations are persons, I believe, they’re surely psychopaths, what with the fiduciary obligation to the shareholders overriding every other concern. So, if Microsoft were to compromise their business model by again supporting Windows XP, say once they realized that 250 million people still relied on it, the company would leave itself open to shareholder lawsuits. Couldn’t let that happen, right? And think about poor Billy Gates. The man can hardly be satisfied with his 86 billion, not with the likes of Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffet climbing up his back. And what about those damn Koch brothers? Add their billions together and the Koch family’s bottom line easily eclipses the fortune assembled by Gates. Ditto for the Waltons of Walmart?

     No, it’s upwards and onwards. It’s the sky’s the limit. It’s the American Dream. It’s the crash of a million computers. It’s that asshole who didn’t get his open-heart surgery because the operating room was inoperable. It’s power, power, power, right up until the day you die.

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