30 June 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


We Interrupt this Computer

I can be so naive.  I got this incredible offer from Dell computers about a month ago.  It was for a computer and a monitor for little more than the price of the computer (or the monitor) alone.  The monitor included in the package was a 20.1 inch LCD, with a resolution of 1600 by 1200.  As it happens, I already had a computer with two monitors with this resolution, but they were older monitors with wide bezels.  Setting them up next to each other as I like to do gave me effectively a single screen of 3200 by 1200, but with the equivalent of a giant pillar in the middle.  These new monitors on offer from Dell had much narrower bezels.  <Thought balloon>I could take advantage of the Dell deal on two computers and monitors, give my two old monitors individually to people at work with smaller ones, and sell the two new computers.</Thought balloon>

Turning balloons into deeds, I ordered two of the systems.  I connected the two new monitors, luxuriated in their narrow-bezeled refulgence, devolved my two older monitors

Excuse me.  A message just popped up to tell me that power surges from a thunderstorm can damage or destroy my computer and to take action to protect my computer.  I'm being asked if I want "More details..." or to not see the message again.  I think I've heard of thunderstorms, so I'll pass on this one.  

upon their grateful recipients, and should have stopped there.  I can be so naive.  Despite the minimal cost of the new computers, I realized that they were at least twice as fast as anything I was already using, and stupidly decided to try one out.

Has this ever happened to you? 

You go to an appliance store in search of a new refrigerator, select one, and have it delivered to your home.  Upon removing the box, you find a sheet of paper with icons that direct you to either make sure it's right side up and to plug it into an outlet, or perhaps show you how to

Excuse me.  A web service update is being installed and I'm being asked if I'd like to "Restart now..." or "Continue what I was doing"  (Oddly, there is an ellipsis after "now" but not after "doing.")  I'll "Continue what I was doing" if that's OK with the computer. 

make a soapbox racer with the discarded box.  (I'm not good with icons too much brain taken up with learning to read, I guess.)  After getting it set up, you open the freezer door and a pantograph arm pops out with a note asking if you'd like to subscribe to White Goods Times.  You check the "No" box with a pen that is suddenly extruded from the icemaker opening in the door, and the arm withdraws.  How odd was that!  As you're about to put the Nutella and peanut butter in the refrigerator, a message suddenly blares from the open door:  "NOTICE!  The Shelves in this Refrigerator have been installed incorrectly.  Please call our toll-free number and we will give you instructions on rearranging them.  If you don't do this immediately your Nutella and possibly your peanut butter will be in danger." 

But you're making progress - after rearranging the shelves the light finally comes on and the fridge seems to be getting colder.

If Only The Dell Computer Were that Simple

I can deal with pantograph arms.  But the computer is more subtle.  Every time I power it up there's another trial offer, "free" service, or other delight waiting for me.  Competing for attention with them is the fact that there are 27 high priority Microsoft Windows XP updates that must be installed right away, which require multiple reboots, which, of course trigger more reminders about how much I'll love Quickbooks or AOL or McAfee (which won't leave me alone) or Music Match or Word Perfect Office or or or or or...


Now that I think of it, I bought this stupid computer because I wanted the monitor.  Using the computer was an afterthought.  But if I mysteriously actually wanted a computer that I could use, I would be very cranky indeed at Dell, who could easily have made a "disk image" that had a fully upgraded version of Windows XP ready to go, and a small, tasteful, dialog with two check boxes: 

Pester me mercilessly with special offers    Leave me alone to get some work done

but instead made the process of starting up a new computer take hours instead of a minute or so. 

Do you suppose that the vendors of these supernumerary programs and services are paying Dell to waste my disk space and my time?  Is that how Dell can give away the computer if you buy the monitor (or, to be sure, vice versa).  I wonder what bizarre surprise awaits within the monitor!  Maybe it's watching me and waiting for me to open the peanut butter so it can offer to sell me a different brand.  Sometimes I'm so naive!

Richard Factor