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January 7, 2004

Head.... Full

Posted by Mike on January 7, 2004 1:14 PM

The last few days have been a gray, twilight struggle with some sort of sinus thing that's reduced me from a figure of anti-pain-relief rectitude to a sniveling, whining, Tylenol-popping crybaby. I still hate it when people call painkillers "medicine," but I'd call pseudephedrine "mama" and dance around with sparklers in an Uncle Sam hat if it would make the gum-throbbing, green-phlegmy, groan-when-I-sit-or-stand unhappiness go away.

But in the meantime, the world continues to turn and with the snowstorm that's managed to paralyze Portland for two days straight, I'm stuck in the house, pacing around like a caged animal when I'm not hiding under the blankets, praying for a purging fever. Oh, that and also hating software.

My hatred of software is only fanned when I get on IM with Ed, who will happily and smilingly change operating systems the way the rest of us change socks. But it's like all software is one of those beds where you can key in a "sleep number," only not all numbers are available, and every time you think you've found a sweet spot, someone comes along and changes it, so what used to be comfortable and familiar is now lumpy and irritating.

There are a few exceptions here and there. Plain text editors like Emacs and BBEdit never seem to disappoint much. Emacs suffers less from poor design than it does a belligerent and hostile user community with hypnotic compulsions against explaining how anything works. They could tell you, but they'd have to chew their own tongues in half and jump out a window trying. Long before they get to that point, they'll just tell you to use Notepad and run away laughing, spraying milk from their noses.

But then there's stuff like Trillian.

I spend a lot of time on IM for both work and personal stuff, and I have contacts on Yahoo, AIM, and MSN Messenger. I hate running more than one IM client. So I picked up the free version of Trillian, a multi-protocol client, which is pretty slick. They're putting the freebie version out there as an inducement to step up to the better supported and more featurful full version. After using Trillian "lite" for over a year, I decided to pay the dough for the full version. I was reminded, in the midst of the ordering process, that they don't do refunds, because if Trillian Lite isn't up to your standards, you shouldn't bother paying for the full version. Great. I remember the smug sense of well-being I had when I keyed in my credit card number. That smug sense of well-being disappeared in a cloud of smoke about fifteen minutes later when I realized that the full version of Trillian is a crashy, mean-spirited app that periodically continues to tell the world you're still logged on and available but quietly discards any incoming messages. Or rather, the "stable" version is crashy and mean-spirited, while the "unstable" beta you can download gets rid of the crashes and replaces them with the message discarding.

Word processors?

If I wanted a large, slobbering dog that brought me my slippers under any circumstances (including times when I needed my galoshes), I'd go down to the pound and adopt one.

Finally, and thanks to the massive time I'm spending under Windows lately, there's the terrorware I've installed from McAfee. It's supposed to stop viruses, but when it isn't given a chance to intercept and halt a mail message without a subject (I have one correspondent who hates subject lines), it settles for periodically flashing a panic-red sign in the corner of the screen that looks for all the world like it must surely mean "YOU ARE UNDER ATTACK! PULL THE PLUG NOW! AWAIT THE ARRIVAL OF THE AUTHORITIES!" but really just says something like "Didja know that there's a virus called FlimFlam.99? Well, there is. And it's gunning for you. But you don't have it. Yet." When I walk out of the house, it's with the awareness that we're under an orange terror alert. McAfee is very thoughtful to keep me in a similarly aroused state of fear and uncertainty even while at home.

But just when I'm down at the deepest pits of anguish over how bad it all is, I can turn to OSNews, where a firm belief in the eventual perfectibility of all things reigns supreme. The site's editor is irrepressible. A goddess. Unflappable in her willingness to calmly accept a review copy of server software and complain about how funny the default fonts look. Were she a samurai, she would glow with the knowledge that even if her head were separated from her neck, she would finish cropping a proposed mockup of a file dialog.