While researching a Windows update for potential problems, I stumbled upon a forum post that I was unusually amused by. This wasn’t a typical case of internet savagery or the ravings of an inebriated internet troll. This was the kind of prose that belies deeper misunderstandings than what is first seen.
The backstory: A forum user posts a quick question asking how he can fix a certain update’s inability to install. Not an uncommon issue. Many Windows updates hang on installation and need some cajoling. Another forum user offers a quick link to a possible workaround. And then the fun begins. A third user kicks the door down, stomps into the thread and sets his coffee cup on the CAPS LOCK key. What follows is some notable misunderstandings of the basic capacities of operating systems and computer science in general. I’ll let you discover the post in its full glory if you so choose, but here are a few of the highlights.
As usual Microsoft has DONE nothng to provide a CANNOT FAIL fix for this error. […] When is MS going wise up and start writing ALL update in NO FAIL MACHINE CODE. If a Virus can overrule Microsoft then Microsoft can surly write an UPDATE THAT CANNOT BE STOPPED OR FAIL the same way viruses are written. […]
Certainly, Microsoft has some issues with their update system and smoothly recovering from failed updates is a bit of a pain, especially for someone who is just a casual computer user. Furthermore, I do not mean to completely marginalize the frustration that anyone, particularly this user, has felt concerning a Microsoft product. However, what strikes me is the misunderstanding that 1) Viruses cannot fail to install (and are more reliable than a major operating system) and 2) That it’s possible to make a “no fail system” of any kind, especially for one of the largest collections of code on the planet.
Perhaps it’s just a failure of the computer industry to communicate how things really are. Perhaps it’s the problem of so much emphasis being placed on user friendliness that when something inevitably goes awry, people are shocked at the complexity involved to recover from the error. Or perhaps it’s truly an oversight on the part of the vendor who hasn’t performed the necessary actions to make their software stretch the possibilities and make the difficult seem easy.
Before I veer off into too much speculation and philosophizing, let’s make a simple goal for ourselves as technology workers: Educate someone near you in the topic of computers. They don’t have to be taught subnetting, object oriented programming or ITIL. Just let them know a bit more about computers and their operation. Teach them safe browsing. Talk to them about complexities using basic analogies. Show them how to not be intimidated by their PC, but make them understand its limitations. Leave them better than when you found them.
Together we can lessen the abuse of caps lock on the internet and, more importantly, lessen someone’s frustration with the ubiquitous personal computer.