Punchinello’s Chronicles

March 24, 2010

The Microsoft Method of Government

You’ve probably run into people who live and breathe computer technology. They’re usually called “geeks,” and they’re entirely lost in the world of hardware, software, Star Trek and operating systems. You’ve maybe run into people like that who live and breathe politics. More often than not, those people are called “wonks.” The idea here is that some people are really, really into areas of human knowledge that most people don’t understand.

Arthur C. Clarke once said that any technology sufficiently advanced would appear to be magic. Just so, many people don’t really understand how computers work. They buy one, it comes pre-installed with a lot of stuff, they turn it on and they hope it works. Most people end up relying on geeks to help them figure out what went wrong when the computer stops. They don’t really have a clue what those technology people are doing, it’s probably just magic.

However; when it comes to politics, everyone seems to think they understand what’s going on. Everyone has their idea of what’s happening in Washington, and everyone seems to understand what’s going on with the healthcare reform bill that congress just passed on Sunday evening. They don’t feel it’s necessary to examine the details. In fact, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told us that we’ll have to wait until the bill is passed to even know what’s written into law!

Among the many things technology geeks understand is Microsoft, the software giant who brought us the Windows operating environment. Those technology masters know that Microsoft never releases a working version of Windows. Not once has Microsoft ever produced a bug-free, fully functional version. Instead, they push a version to market knowing that it’s filled with problems, filled with bugs, won’t work, crashes and burns, and routinely fails to work with existing attached devices.

Why would a company do that, you might wonder?

The prevailing theory is that Microsoft doesn’t know how to produce a bug-free version of Windows. It’s because most of the way-back-when original coding was created by someone else. Xerox created the mouse and “window” concept, and Apple Computers turned it into something everyday people can use. IBM created the underlying code for OS/2 (Operating System 2) back when IBM and Microsoft had a deal.

Microsoft would create the “user interface,” and IBM would create the actual program code. Microsoft rushed to market, accused of stealing the IBM code, and figured they’d sort out the legal ramifications later. From Windows 2.0 until Windows 7, Microsoft has routinely released garbage, hoping to sort it all out later. The mystery is how Windows dominates the overall market to such a drastic amount.

It’s no surprise to political geeks, the “wonks” mentioned above, that the federal government is doing exactly the same thing. Nobody in congress creates anything that builds wealth. No politician creates anything of lasting value other than laws and regulations restricting growth and development. Today, most politicians have never run a business, never paid a paycheck, never balanced a budget and never done anything helpful to the growth of the United States. Even so, those politicians have rushed into production Obamacare 1.0.

People were shocked and amazed when they discovered that Windows Me (Millennium Edition, in honor of year 2000) was incapable of being fixed when it broke. Why? Mostly because Microsoft decided that ordinary computer owners and users were too stupid and ignorant to figure out how to fix anything that went wrong. Therefore, the company removed all the repair tools and access to the underlying system. Even the geeks couldn’t get into a broken system.

In fact, Windows Me was an “in-between” hybrid that was supposed to force everyone away from the old DOS-type Windows 98 and move them all into Window NT (the New technology, first introduced a decade earlier). Since this “new” version of NT wasn’t ready yet, Microsoft rushed to market with Me and made lots and lots of money.

So too, congress assumes that most people are too stupid to care for themselves, too stupid to make important decisions, and too stupid to understand how to dress themselves. Therefore, congress must pass laws to create caretakers who will make those decisions for us. How are the people who will run those organizations different for “regular” people? If ALL people are too stupid to take care of themselves, then what makes the people making the decisions different? Fluoride in the water or something? Being voted for?

The technology geeks ignored Windows Me entirely, but millions of other people were forced to deal with it. They bought a new computer already installed with Windows Me, having it jammed down their throats. They didn’t know how bad the system was until a few years later. By then, so many machines had failed that even the average person knew to avoid Windows Me. Microsoft fixed all the bugs, slapped a new name on the hybrid, and released what they now called Windows 2000.

Windows 2000 was actually Windows NT, which nobody much understood or used. But NT was Microsoft’s original vision of Windows, back when IBM was working on OS/2. While IBM never became known for an operating system, Microsoft had sold (and made money from) Windows 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 98SE, Windows Me and finally, Windows NT. Now, doing it all over again, they slapped Windows 2000 over old technology, and made more money.

The next step was to make even more money. Microsoft announced an entirely “new” concept, one that would fix everything, bring Heaven to Earth, and generally provide a solid work platform that wouldn’t ever again fail. It would be there soon. How soon? Don’t worry about it…soon!

Windows XP also was filled with holes, security problems and bugs. But it ran so much better than Windows Me, most people (including the geeks) decided to bite the bullet and deal with the “upgrade.” Microsoft rapidly released all sorts of bug fixes, security patches and interim upgrades. Then came Windows Vista, the trumpeted masterpiece of computing technology.

We know what happened with Vista, so Microsoft almost immediately released the bug fix to that, calling it Windows 7. And on and on it goes. Why? How come Microsoft gets away with this nonsense? It’s because the details of computers and their programming are so complex, only someone willing to devote their lives to studying those details can unravel everything.

But why don’t people use MacIntosh computers? They don’t have those kinds of problems, they run more easily, and there aren’t all the ongoing problems associated with Windows. Mostly it’s because of original problems Apple created for itself by demanding licenses for much of their long-ago systems. They lost market share, Microsoft took market share and the rest is history. Until the present, when the Open Source community is finally making inroads into that market.

The federal government and politicians in general, all understand this kind of chicanery. Release something just to have it “out there.” If it doesn’t work, so what? We’ll fix it later. We’ll deal with the crisis when it comes, and hopefully we’ll be out of office by then, anyway.

Exactly so, congress has released Social Security, then Medicare. Both of those “bug fixes” came out generations ago, theoretically to offer a Utopia of life in America. Both programs are fundamentally responsible for bankrupting the US Treasury. Here’s a great way to visualize just how much money is already vanishing into Social Security (actually IOUs) and Medicare:

Over the past 60 years, those two programs alone have caught up with us and we’re broke. The health, insurance and medicine industry represents 1/6th of our entire economy, and now “reform” hands over much of that to the federal government. It’s no different than the major market share being dominated by Microsoft Windows running on whomever’s computer hardware. Now that you’re used to Windows, do YOU think you’d like to abandon it in favor of a much better system?

There’s no question that whatever is in this newly passed legislation, it won’t work. It’ll be filled with bugs, what with more than 150 new bureaucracies, regulatory commissions, committees and whatnot having their piece of the action. There are laws telling us what we can do, what we can’t do, but they won’t work the way they were intended. Someone will have to write patches, bug fixes, temporary fixes and workarounds.

Another term used in computer-talk is “spaghetti code.” It’s where a program has a problem and someone inserts a fix to that problem using a “Go To” command. The computer reaches the problem, leaves off where it stands, goes to some distant section of new code, executes the fix, and “hopefully” returns to where it began. With time, countless fixes and repairs, hundreds of millions of lines of code become so convoluted, nobody can understand them anymore.

Many of us are trapped in Microsoft World because it took so long to learn what we now know, we can’t summon the energy to do it all again with some other type of computer. Even though the other types of computers likely would take a fraction of the time to learn. We don’t have the money, time, or energy to even want to walk away from the nightmare.

Many of us will likely end up in the same trap with Health Care Reform, circa 2010. As the middle class disappears, our money becomes less and less valuable, jobs disappear and go overseas. Already, we can’t buy much of what our parents could easily afford. We’ll get frustrated. We’ll get depressed. We’ll get tired. And that’s exactly what congress hopes will happen.

Microsoft continues to dominate the world of computer operating systems. But Linux (Open Source) and the Mac OS are getting a whole lot more attention lately. I would suggest that the Tea Party is like Linux, to draw the analogy. You can buy any computer you want, just so long as it runs Windows. You can have any health insurance plan you want, just so long as it’s run by the federal government. It’s gonna be great, just you wait and see!

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