The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

Paul at Wizbang! provides a good example of why I’ve become a Mac user. The fact is that the simple task of playing a DVD in Windows is a major headache. For the price of a Windows XP license, one would think that including a DVD decoder wouldn’t be such a strain as to force users to once again pony up more cash to buy a third-party product that may or may not work.

Compare that to the Mac, where the steps involved are:

  1. Insert DVD
  2. Watch DVD

That strikes me as a much more reasonable procedure than the Windows way of doing things.

Which leads me to the same point I’ve made before about the psychology of Windows users – why do people accept things like this? At the risk of using a rather extreme metaphor, Windows users are becoming like the wife of a cad – sure, he’s off schtupping every secretary and stewardess from Keokuk to Kuala Lumpur, but what would one do without him? Well, actually have a computing partner that respects you, for instance.

The fact is that keeping a computer clean of spyware and adware involves running a whole host of programs, making sure your anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall are all up to date, and watching every program like a hawk. Part of it is pure stupidity – downloading Kazaa is the equivalent of saying “Condom? Who needs a condom?! Besides, when am I ever going to be in Haiti again?” However, part of it is just plain bad design. Having an ordinary user running around with full root/system administrator privileges is just asking for trouble. Apple doesn’t do this – Microsoft does. You can’t completely make up entirely for idiotic users, but you can create a system that makes it far less likely for some rogue program to trash everything.

And don’t even get me started on the numerous ways that Windows programs can lead to the execution of arbitrary code without the user doing anything. That kind of thing is absolutely inexcusable. To their credit, Microsoft is trying, but at the point where networks are getting clogged with viruses and crapware and many people never keep their systems updated, the damage has already been done. Assuming, of course, that there isn’t some other nastier vulnerability waiting out there. Just look at all the people who downloaded Windows XP Service Pack 2 – they’re only marginally more secure and new holes are being uncovered all the time. Microsoft’s commitment to security is as tenous as Ted Kennedy’s commitment to sobriety, and about as effective.

It’s become the soft bigotry of low expectations – people expect that computers are hard to use, inflexible, frustrating, and insecure, and sure enough Windows meets those expectations with gusto. One wonders how much of this people will take – when enough people start finding that some obscure hole in Windows has leaked their credit card data to the Internet and they now have been charged with purchasing $10,000 worth of Belorussian midget porn, will that make a difference? Sadly, it might not.

4 thoughts on “The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

  1. Well, PC’s still have some advantages. You can get a brand new PC desktop system with all the bells and whistles for under $1000, while getting a similiarly-equipped Mac would cost twice as much. In addition, if you’re a gamer, PC’s still have a much better selection (and for FPS and online games, it’s no contest).

    Though in my case, I’d say a Mac would be a better choice for me- that is, if I had any money to spend on a new machine. And boy do I ever hate their hockey-puck, one-button mice (have they replaced those yet)- one of the features that always confuses me when I use a mac is the lack of a right mouse button, so I’d have to get used to that too…

  2. Macs still only have one mouse button, although any USB mouse works just fine out of the box. It’s a little disconcerting at first, although I find that on my iBook control clicking is actually a bit easier after a while.

    Kelli: Thanks for the compliments! Another site to the blogroll!

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