Understanding Microsoft

Part 38. Poison Ivy

When someone has an allergic reaction to poison ivy, the resultant skin rash can be very aggravating and frustrating. The itch can be so nerve-wracking that scratching the skin happens subconsciously, while the victim is concentrating on doing something else. Therefore, the act of scratching spreads the rash to an ever-larger portion of skin. The infection can even adhere to clothing and spread to other people.

There are other things in life that are made worse by "rash" attempts to find a quick relief from pain. Among them is the quick-fix mentality that is commonplace in today's business world, especially when it comes to computer problems. When Microsoft products are involved, the urge to scratch is often unbearable, and especially when Microsoft itself offers a steady supply of scratching aids -- bug fixes, so-called "upgrades," new product versions, companion products, and demonstration versions of extra products.

Often the affliction starts with something small, like a patch of users performing a specific task. However, their file formats are not readable by other computer programs, so the company buys more Windows machines to connect these people to their co-workers. Scratch, scratch. Then a new version of a software package arrives, and it gets passed around the office. Sometimes this means that a vital program that used to work suddenly doesn't work any more. Quickly, a large batch of "upgrades" is performed at once, to get everyone on the same version level. Scratch, scratch scratch.

Of course, the news leaks out that so-and-so's group got all new software packages, so another workgroup demands the same thing. Scratch, scratch. Suddenly some of their programs don't work right, so they have to be replaced by Microsoft applications. Scratch, scratch, scratch scratch scratch. Now the wound is bleeding a little. The people in the first group have to change their applications also, so that compatibility is maintained. Scratch-scratch-scratch. A supplier the company regularly does business with has converted to a particular Windows application that requires a special file format, so some of the machines have to be "upgraded" to support this change. Scratch scratch scratch scratch scratch. And so it goes.

Unlike most poison ivy sufferers, however, the business world seems intent on scratching their skin raw. They do not apply soothing solutions with medicating qualities -- like IBM, Novell, or Unix products -- but stubbornly continue to claw at their bleeding wounds. Like some kind of mindless beasts, unable to endure the momentary itch and unwilling to accept medical treatment, the business managers scratch their companies raw by requiring employees to put in unpaid overtime to attempt to fix problems, as well as hiring helpers to patch things up momentarily, and spending ever-increasing amounts of money on Microsoft technical support and version changes.

The surviving companies will find out too late that like poison ivy, uncured Windows problems also leave scars on their victims.

Most recent revision: February 27, 1998
Copyright © 1998, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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