Computer rage

The good news (for me) is I've been doing a lot of science lately. The bad news is that I have had to use some research software written in C# that uses Microsoft's .Net framework. Said another way, I, a long time Mac user, have been forced to use the Windoz operating system. It's not just extremely painful. It's infuriating. It assumes it's smarter than I am and insists on doing what it thinks I want to or should do (like install an update and then restart while I'm in the midst of trying to figure out a dataset). I am not a violent person, but I understand completely the growing genre of YouTube videos of people blowing up their servers, or, destroying them with high powered weaponry, or, dropping them from the roof of a four story parking garage (h/t slashdot). Even those of us who are electronic device obsessives can identify with videos of computer rage like this old classic (probably staged, but so satisfying to watch):

But The Onion gets to the essence of makers of cordless phones, VCRs and all other sorts of multifunction programmable stupid pieces of shit that don't fucking work (warning: nsfw):

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You can't run it under mono, the OSS .net framework? DOn't know how supported it is in OSX, but it would at least let you run Linux instead of windows.

Which version of Windows - Vista?

If W2K or XP, then I'm surprised you find they assume more than OS X, because in general OS X makes far more aggressive assumptions and restricts choice and configurability much much more than they do. Forced reboots without the user's hitting OK are definitely not normal, although I guess your admins could have configured that.

jonm: I'm using XP Pro. Before I figured out you could turn automatic updating off this little window would pop up very couple of minutes saying it was going to update me and restart unless I told it to do it "later." Annoying enough. But if I were to walk away for 5 minutes in the middle of drawing a big lattice and didn't hit the "later" button it would restart me. Plus lots of counter intuitive interface stuff (minor example: you shut down by hitting Start). If you are used to Windows it's like a stone in your shoe. You get used to it and don't notice this kind of stuff after a while. But for a Mac user, it's like using a broken Mac OS. It engenders computer rage in me.

this little window would pop up very couple of minutes saying it was going to update me and restart unless I told it to do it "later." Annoying enough. But if I were to walk away for 5 minutes in the middle of drawing a big lattice and didn't hit the "later" button it would restart me.

There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of behavior. None. I am also a MacOS user, and MacOS gives you more control over the update schedule. My office Mac is set up to check for updates around 9 AM on Mondays--that is the time of the week I am most likely to be around (because I have to click a button to make any necessary restart happen) but not in the middle of something. It may be true that Windows operating systems need more frequent updates than once a week, but it should be possible to schedule the updates for a less inconvenient time.

Microsoft is not the only offender. Hint to Adobe: When I start one of your programs it is because I want to use it, and I want to use it NOW, not 15 minutes from now after you've decided my software has to be updated.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 21 Feb 2009 #permalink

the XP updates can't (AFAIK) be scheduled for any given time of day or week, but they can be set to not happen automatically at all. still, if you think that's annoying, do not --- i repeat, do NOT --- attempt to use Vista. unless you can afford to physically destroy whatever computer you run it on, because you WILL.

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 21 Feb 2009 #permalink

jonm: "OS X makes far more aggressive assumptions and restricts choice and configurability much much more than they do."

The difference is that the defaults on OS X work, so you don't NEED to change them.
I use Windows, OS X, and Linux on a regular basis (and also other *nix flavors occasionally). Windows is by far the most annoying of the bunch; there are a lot of things that continually annoy me there that Just Work on the Mac and that stay dealt with once I've dealt with them once on Unix. (Not that there aren't problems with the Mac, and I've had less success making changes the UI doesn't anticipate there, but the defaults work well enough that the assumptions don't *feel* aggressive or restrictive. And of course if you don't like something on Linux, you have the source, so you can just hack on it until it does what you want, unless you have other things that you need to do this year.)
(And yes, Windows is the only system I've ever seen try to reboot out from under the user.)

@Nomen - XP updates can be scheduled to happen automatically, at a time of your choice. They can also be set up to download the update files and let you choose when to install them, or it can be configured to simply notify you that updates are available and let you choose which (and when) to download and install them. Finally, you can turn automatic updating off entirely and go to the Windows update site (using Internet Exploder, of course) when you feel like it. Failing to configure auto updates so that they work for you isn't the fault of the operating system (although it may be the fault of your IT department) any more than failing to properly adjust your bicycle chain is the fault of the bike manufacturer. If you're going to use a tool, learn to use it properly; else you might cut off your fingers or poke your eye out.Why anyone would use Vista is beyond me.

janne, Ana: No. I did try running it under both Parallels and VMFusion on my Mac and neither worked (some kind of graphics issue; this is a graphics intensive program). I can run it under Bootcamp on the Mac, though and I use a Dell for this at work (runs under Vista there). The main point is I don't want to fuss around with it. I just want to use this piece of software and think about the science, not be cramped, annoyed and interrupted by the piece of shit called Windows. I have little enough time to do science as it is and what I have I want to use for science. Excuse my continued rant.

The problem is bigger than just the update-and-reboot thing in Microsoft Windows---Microsoft has constant problems with "focus stealing".

A lot of the software (not only Microsoft's, but third party products) is like my new Labrador retriever---when I'm eating dinner, she routinely shoves her head between me and my plate, because she assumes she's a higher priority than my food is. Even if the matter is important, it often screws up both processes at once (and my porkroast ends up on the floor, which might be her goal). The most common is input meant for one program going into another, and creating unexpected consequences in both.

Software should be like an aide, always waiting for you to tell it what to do, even (especially) when something important comes up.

Failing to configure auto updates so that they work for you isn't the fault of the operating system

no, but setting the default to automatic-everything and designing the UI to heavily dissuade you from changing that default in any way is the fault of the operating system. it's plain as day that the makers of this thing really want you to let their product run itself, update itself whenever, and reboot itself when it wants to. it's perfectly reasonable for most anyone who's not a windows expert to wonder if it's even safe to do otherwise. after all, the "security center" starts giving you yellow and red cards if you try to; surely, one might think, that must mean something.

If you're going to use a tool, learn to use it properly; else you might cut off your fingers or poke your eye out.

better yet, pick a good tool that's actually fit for the job you want to do. hence why i went to Linux back in 1995 and never looked back --- XP, today, is something i only touch because i have to, and because somehow people think a professional computer programmer naturally "must" be a good person to ask to fix their windoze problems...

(yet few of them ever take my suggestion of, "here, install this Ubuntu disk instead, that'll fix your windows problems right up!" seriously. odd, that...)

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 23 Feb 2009 #permalink