Castles in the Sand
March 1998

Having just started a new job at a PC wholesale shop, I've already noticed a few things about this place compared to my last job. For example, despite the fact that these folks are WAY ahead of other PC assemblers in terms of smarts, they somehow find a way to waste an entire day fixing Windows problems, just like the other shops I've worked with or worked for. In other words, there is something strange about Windows operating systems in general: your degree of success or failure with them has a lot less to do with intellect and a whole lot more to do with "luck" or at least a simple set of requirements.

It all reminds me of a bunch of kids out on a beach building sandcastles. No matter how elegant and well-constructed a mansion they come up with, sooner or later, one by one, they all go down with the tides. Windows95 seems to be even worse -- it's like trying to build a sand castle during a driving rainstorm. Plug and "Pray" is now a ubiquitous joke among the techies throughout the PC business. One too many applications loaded, and the whole thing fizzles like a washout at the beach. Add in a hard-drive doubler or a special partitioning driver like Disk Manager, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

There's a certain mindlessness to it all. I really was under the impression over the last year or two that as I learned more about Windows95 and WindowsNT, I would gradually come to respect these systems, or at least become expert at getting them to work reliably. Instead, every month brings new bugs that I've never seen before, and every "OSR" release brings new hassles that upset well-grooved routines of installation and testing. No matter how well-trained and experienced you are, there are many times when 3 or 4 consecutive driver reloads, or 2 or 3 format-and-reinstall cycles, are the only fixes that even work temporarily, even with WindowsNT. Deep thought and intense concentration only fatigue the mind and frustrate the soul.

Those of us who use OS/2 exclusively and wonder what we're "missing out on" need not worry. Aside from some great Windows-only applications, there is *nothing* worth seeing on the other side of the fence. Each little Windows "castle" of data, no matter how impressive in appearance, sooner or later washes out to sea. Once we get the applications issue licked -- by Win32os2, by Java, or just by great developers keeping at it -- our castle will not only stay standing, but be well-stocked also.

Most recent revision: March 21, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.