By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers
Techno for June 6, 1999
Are you fed up yet wth the dumb questions your PC asks you?
How about the way it changes from Standard Time to Daylight Time and back? It's got a clock that keeps time a lot better than you and I do, yet it says "Windows has changed your time settings. Is this OK?"
Of course it's OK! What a dumb question. My microwave oven doesn't pop open a window that says, "The timer is about to ring. I'd like to turn myself off so I won't burn the bacon, if that's OK with you." If something is supposed to work automatically, it should work automatically.
What about the question you get when you want to shut down the computer? You click the Start button and then click "Shut Down" and then click "Shut Down" again. (Yes, twice. Try it out if you think I'm exaggerating.) Is this dumb or what?
So after all this, what does your PC ask? "Are you sure you want to shut down Windows?" Get real! When's the last time your car asked you if you were sure you wanted to put the brakes on? Would I have gone to all this trouble if I DIDN'T want to shut down the PC?
And what do you think of the way your PC behaves after finding a boo-boo on bootup?
"Your friendly neighborhood computer has found 345 billion thingies of something or other that are totally cluttering up your defenseless hard drive," it says, or something close to that. (Don't quote me.) "These are surely just taking up space, but there's the slightest possible chance that a rocket scientist high on caffeine might be able to figure out what to do with all this junk." (Or something like that.)
It gets better:
"Is your conscience clear? Do you want to save this dreck or get rid of it?"
So you choose to get rid of it, and even THAT decision isn't good enough for the PC.
"Do you want to create an UNDO?"
You try to resist the temptation—imagine, an UNDO for all of life's big and little foibles!—and you finally succumb. YES! UNDO!!
Of course, what you might be undoing is anybody's guess. Try making sense out of a file full of garbage some day. And, lest we forget, Windows is the only computer operating system that eats up your files whenever it wants to and then asks if you want to "undo" attempts to get rid of the damage it caused.
The correct answer, the only one that makes sense, is to say "No" to any UNDO. Why? There's nothing to UNDO. It's garbage.
Finally, the Big Kahuna of Dumb Questions: "Abort, Retry, Fail?" Sometimes the computer adds a fourth choice—as if it mattered.
When you see what message on the screen, the ONLY possible choice is "Fail." That's because of a little joke Microsoft programmed into DOS. The message you see on your screen looks like it offers a bunch of choices, but it really doesn't. (Now you know why I've said for years that DOS is an unfinished operating system. Any other company would have either finished DOS or taken the little prank out. But not Microsoft.)
Back to the joke. The computer is telling you it can't do something that it's supposed to do. It's not telling you it would like a ham sandwich. It's already tried and failed (to access a disk, for example), and so the PC is miserable, and misery needs company, and that means it wants you to confirm how miserable life can be -- by choosing "Fail." (Technically, there are times when another choice might work, but they come up so seldom that they don't matter.)