The Yellow Shield of %@#*^&!!

If you use Windows (in other words, if you use a PC rather than a Mac), chances are this has happened to you.

You sit down at your computer, you start to work on a document or sort through your email, and suddenly your machine slows to a crawl. Your documents won’t open, or they take ten minutes to open. You can’t click on emails to open them, or reply to them. You can’t do a Google search, you can’t browse through the morning paper, you can’t …do.. anything.

Oh yes.

Puzzled, you click and click and click on your screen, but get either the little “hourglass” icon that tells you “Dude, you’re beating a dead horse,” or the little grey window that tells you “This program is not responding: would you like to douse your scalp in molasses or stick a parsnip in your ear? Yes?”

Restarting your computer does nothing. Ditto, smashing the keyboard with your fists. Kicking the unit across the room only bruises your foot & scares the pets.

Then, just as your blood pressure is really heading into the red zone, you see it. Squatting like a cockroach in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, the no-man’s land known as the “System Tray,” is the infamous, über-evil Yellow Shield of %@#*^&!!.

And as all PC users know, this signals that you, yes you, lucky, lucky you, are going to spend between 15 and 90 fun-filled minutes in miserable servitude to Bill Gates as you prod your machine through the latest Windows Update.

It's all about me, suckah.

For those of you not in the know, a Windows update “provides critical updates, security fixes, software downloads, and Microsoft Windows Hardware Quality Lab (WHQL)… blah blah blah…”. Whatever. For all intents and purposes, the Windows Update turns your computer into a really expensive paperweight — and it’s up to you to fix it.

This morning (for these updates almost always happen on a Tuesday, or “Patch Tuesday,” as it’s known in Windows Update-speak) I spent over 90 minutes installing updates. I restarted my computer not once, not twice, but FIVE times. In between, I showered, had breakfast, raised a few children, started a chain of grocery stores, solved world hunger….

Each time, I stumped back to my desk, scowling darkly, to restart the machine (hoping against hope that maybe, just maybe, this time I would be able to, please oh please, open emails from my boss or work on the document I need to submit in a couple of days). But no. Once again, there would be another Yellow Shield of %@#*^&!! sitting in the system tray, all but grinning at me. And the process would begin anew: click on Shield, click “OK” to install bloody update, wait for update to install, click “OK” to restart computer again….

As an added bonus, if you are unlucky enough to be in another room or on the phone with a client (as has happened to me twice) the update simply starts installing itself. And then, cleverly sensing that you are away, it shuts down your computer and restarts it automatically! What a big help this is, right? Wrong — if you have a document open (say, Chapter 14 of the Finance textbook that you’ve been working on for two hours), all the changes you made will be lost when your computer quits.

(Yes, of course you’re supposed to hit “Save” every time you make a change. Of course you are. But if Microsoft is clever enough to design a program that not only installs itself on your computer but restarts your machine without you, why in God’s name can it not design an Autosave function that preserves your documents while it does all this? I’m just asking.)

Oh, I'll update you, all right....

At any rate, I finally gave up and have come into work to get a rest from Bill Gates and his evil Yellow Shield of %@#*^&!!. Here, our computers are networked and presumably all updates are done automatically, at night, under cover of darkness, by tiny little hobbits in tutus who come to your desk with a bag of hammers and knock everything into place. Maybe I can get them to go to my house. I’ll call Bill and ask. But he’s probably having them killed as I write this.

Anyway, I’m sure my blood pressure will return to normal sometime this afternoon. Although all bets are off for when I return home this evening, as it will still officially be “Patch Tuesday.”

Never send a human to do a hobbit's job.

I’ll keep you posted, and let you know where to send flowers & candy (or bail).

As my final word on the subject, I will now cut-and-paste here an old but good item called “If Microsoft Built Cars.” It pretty much says it all.

Smiter out.

If Microsoft Built Cars

If GM had developed their technology like Microsoft does, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

1. For no reason whatsoever your car would crash twice a day.

2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to buy a new car.

3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on.

4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn, would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.

5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought “Car95” or “CarNT.” But then you would have to buy more seats.

6. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, reliable, five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would only run on five per cent of the roads.

7. The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single “general car default” warning light.

8. New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.

9. The airbag system would say “Are you sure?” before going off.

10. Occasionally for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key, and grab hold of the radio antenna.

11. GM would require all car buyers to also purchase a deluxe set of Rand McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither need them nor want them. Attempting to delete this option would immediately cause the car’s performance to diminish by 50% or more. Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice Department.

12. Every time GM introduced a new model car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.

13. You’d press the “start” button to shut off the engine.

Your update is ready to install!

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