Understanding Microsoft

Part 5. The Virus

The most scary thing about the biology of disease is this: living critters that have an agenda. That's right, unlike "dumb molecules" of stuff like paper, rocks, steel, or even silicon computer chips, living things have an agenda. That agenda is really pretty simple: a creature wants to duplicate itself as many times as possible, and will re-engineer other organic material to do it. This is also known as "survival of the fittest," or, the big guys eat the little guys.

One of the most interesting examples of this agenda is found in a virus cell. The virus will sit there dormant, not doing anything, for quite a while. Then an effective "host" comes along, another creature with the kind of genetic material that the virus can easily re-engineer to manufacture more of itself. The virus goes into action, inserting itself into the bigger organism's cells and attempting to turn the host creature into nothing more than a bowl of organic soup, a good meal that can be digested one cell at a time.

The virus does not care what the other creature's previous agenda was; the virus does not really care if the host was a dog on the way to eat supper, or a man on the way home from work, or a kid playing hooky from school. The virus does not care that its own digestive activities will disrupt this host creature's agenda, causing it to become sick and maybe even die. The virus just cares about spreading itself as quickly and as effectively as possible.

When Microsoft products are installed on a computer -- and particularly, when they automatically install themselves as a "free" gift included with another product -- these pieces of software also have an agenda. The goal of a Microsoft product is to spread itself throughout your computer system, ensuring that no competing product can occupy its newly acquired "host." Instead of a benign presence as a helpful tool, the typical Microsoft product is busily spreading its own "genes" with every act. Your own purpose in buying or installing the program is of only secondary importance.

For example, when Microsoft's Internet Explorer stores an internet location for future reference, it does not use the standard .HTM file format; instead, it creates a new subdirectory named with the internet address. This is a new subdirectory right on your hard drive, changing your file structure, adding extra steps to any file maintenance you might do, and slowing down system operation by adding a new search location for the underlying DOS subsystem. The purpose is to make MSIE so deeply embedded into your PC that it just won't be worth your effort to remove it.

This is Microsoft's shoddy excuse for an "integrated" product: one that makes a mess of your hard drive. A product that leaves bits and pieces of itself scattered in various places: a shortcut here, a lost file there, a couple of new subdirectories, some temporary files, and so on. The agenda of market control requires making life miserable for the computer user who wants to have a neat, orderly hard drive with data located in known and easily accessible places -- and in those places *only*. The symptoms of this Microsoft disease -- computer crashes, lost and corrupted data, extra (unpaid) work hours, and the loss of user choice of applications -- are to be accepted as "just the sniffles."

With every Microsoft product you get a slightly different version of the same agenda: spread a Microsoft proprietary file format instead of an open standard; lock out previous versions of the Microsoft product so you cannot migrate back to the previous version; clutter your menus and your hard drive with enough links to the new product that you cannot avoid it; disable default access to a competitor's product. If you accept any Microsoft products on your computer, be sure to load up on the aspirin, the coffee, and the Maalox -- it's going to be a long flu season.

Most recent revision: December 12, 1997
Copyright © 1997, Tom Nadeau
All Rights Reserved.

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