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Upgrade translates 'expensive'

October 17, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

Before I begin, I have a correction to last week's column, in which I referred to my betrothed as a PIN Number in High Heels. What I meant to say was that before we go to war with Iraq we need to be certain that we have considered all angles.

I regret the error.

Oh boy, do I regret it. But I've been surly on the issue of jack ever since we had to go out and buy an expensive new computer. I blame Hood College and Bill Gates.

I had certainly got a lot of miles out of my own computer, which is a Macintosh. I'm not saying that it was old, but several patents on the machine were still held by the estate of Eli Whitney.

For a simple man such as myself, whose only needs from a computer are word processing and downloading pornography, it was just fine. To me, everything else that is computer-related - from playing those games where you try to fly a dragon over a spider for some reason to the architectural programs that let you design a three-story doghouse - is just gimmickry.

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So for seven years I'd been safe from the long arm of Microsoft and all the happier for it. The problem began when Andrea decided to enroll at Hood for her master's degree in humanities, which is a useful discipline because it lumps all the world's impractical knowledge into one tidy package. Get humanities out of the way and you can be pretty sure that everything else you learn in life from there on out is bound to do you some good.

As for why she went back to school, I assume she did this to try to "level the playing field" in her daily dealings with such a learned individual as myself. As she reviewed potential courses she asked, "What do you think about Faulkner?" I shrugged. "He's OK, I guess. But the Rams need to get him the ball more."

She settled on William Faulkner, who it turns out is some kind of writer, and a guy named Toni Morrison, who I guess is a writer, too, although I'd never heard of him.

About two weeks later, I was balancing a bowl of chips on my chest and practicing removing them with my tongue so as to save my hands the effort when she walks in and asks if she can use the computer to write her first paper.

"Do I have to do anything?" I asked.

"No," she said.

"Then by all means, go right ahead."

Course, that didn't last, since it was only about 10 minutes until my Steve Jobs-like computer knowledge was called upon.

It seems that students enrolled in this Faulkner/Morrison atrocity have to swap papers "posted" on an "electronic bulletin board" by filing "attachments" of "Word documents."

All this left me rather "confused."

And I wasn't the only one, since the computer was confused, too. Apparently out of 25 students, 24 have PC/Windows/Microsoft apparati, while one (us) had a Mac. And without proper - i.e. expensive - software, Macs can't read Windows papers and Windows can't read Mac papers.

This was all starting to sound to me like a bad Dr. Seuss poem, and my mood wasn't bolstered by the helpful messages that kept popping up telling us stuff like "File could not be opened because parse module could not be located allowing document to be parsed."

I said "Parse this," plus a lot of other things, too, that the editor would probably and unfairly not let me repeat here. Worse, even being in the same neighborhood with Windows caused my Mac to adopt some bad Windows habits, meaning of course that it began to crash. Then the entire word processing program disappeared and icons began vanishing from the screen and I was getting truly annoyed.

Andrea's paper had to be posted by midnight and it was already 3 p.m. After evaluating a number of options, we finally decided that the best plan was to run out and replace the aging Mac with a new PC.

And that's when, as they say in the military, the situation deteriorated.

I'll have to finish this rant next time out, but in case you are leaving for Brazil and will not see any future Herald-Mails, I will give you the long and short of it:

We lost out.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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