Thursday, May 5 2005
Most computer users are babes in the woods and just do what they're told by the people whom they pay for computer-related services. This applies to what I tell them, which usually works in their favor. Unfortunately, it also applies to things advocated by the corporate interests who see the personal computer as a lucrative beachhead into a consumer's lifestyle. We all know the example of Microsoft, which views its control of the most popular operating system as the means to fundamental taxing hegemony over all of capitalism. Then there's AOL, that, despite the ever-shrinking justification for it in the market, continues to assert itself as something akin to an entire opeating system.
But even more insidious and destructive in its own way is the approach of Earthlink, with their unncessary "TotalAccess" package. TotalAccess is Earthlink's attempt to be as much like AOL as possible, complete with a integration bar, proprietary skins, and what appears to be a proprietary email client. I consider it insidious because it is installed by default by every Earthlink subscriber, though (since none of the Earthlink services are proprietary) none of it is necessary. All one really needs to do after subscribing to Earthlink is to configure an email client with a few little bits of information and (if you're on dialup) set up the dialer, and then you're done. But since Earthlink sends a TotalAccess CD to all new subscribers, they tend to install it and live out their internet lives within Earthlink's ersatz proprietary universe. Then when Earthlink sends a new CD claiming to contain an "upgrade," they'll install that too, even if nothing is wrong with the existing setup. This causes all sorts of confusion and data loss, and I've seen it firsthand. I know, for example, that older versions of TotalAccess on Windows machines kept the mail files, web bookmarks, and other settings in a folder within the Program Files directory (a serious violation of Windows standards). Later versions suddenly started storing the mail and bookmarks in a different location, possibly without ever importing the data from the old location. Consequently, the poor user, for whom all these things are lost in the fog of magical thinking, is puzzled to discover that the old Earthlink icon gives him access to his old email while the new Earthlink icon gives him access only to the new stuff.
Meanwhile, all users are told that they should back up their data religiously. But many programs have been designed in such a way that backup of their data is completely impossible unless the user is a very experienced hacker. The Earthlink TotalAccess email program is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Nowhere in its configuration screens does it tell you where it is storing its data, so you're forced to hunt for it in the file system manually. But if you're on a Windows XP machine, your search will probably be thwarted by a default setting that forces the search engine to ignore invisible files and folders. So you end up not backing up your email and then losing it all when the hard drive inevitably fails. (I should mention at this point that Outlook and Outlook Express also store their email inside an invisible directory, although at least it's possible to see the path of where it is being stored in the options menu.)
I had a client today who was caught in a serious Earthlink trap. An upgrade I'd recommended from Windows ME to Windows XP (yes, that's a real upgrade) had failed to find and import his old Earthlink email and so I found myself wandering in vain through his file system trying to find it. In the end I found myself sheepishly giving up and taking home a pile of mysterious files to see if any of them contained his email. [As information for anyone coming here from a Google search: Earthlink email files are stored in the plaintext .MSF format, which few programs seem willing to import.]
This evening our friend Katie came over for dinner and Gretchen made one of her unbelievably delicious homemade pizzas, the kind with the vegetarian sausage and sun-dried tomatoes. She also made green beans using a special frying method originated for use in preparing asparagus. Katie and I were sitting there at the dining room table as Gretchen pulled the pizza out of the oven and carried it towards us. As the pyrex pan hovered momentarily in the air above table before beginning its slow descent down to a waiting trivet when it suddenly and mysteriously exploded, dropping the pizza crust face down into its disembowelled entrails which snaked, in turn, around shards of glass. What a disaster!
But we didn't immediately know the scope of the disaster. At that point it still seemed like we were each respectively having a bad dream and might soon wake up. When that didn't happen, our atheist minds briefly considered the possibility that this had been divine intervention but then used it instead as yet more evidence that there is no god.
We hoped to just extract the big shards of glass out of the yumminess and do our best to enjoy the mangled entree. But as we plucked at juicy morsels of fake sausage, we began to discover tiny flakes of glass had rained down all over the table. We couldn't eat anything without risking gastro-intestinal injury. And risk it we did, for a brief spate of picking, just so that pizza wouldn't go completely to waste. But in the end we had to throw over 99 percent of it into the trash (along with the green beans that had been nearby). Otherwise the dogs could have gotten to it.
In hopes of salvaging what we could of the evening, we headed down to the Hurley Mountain Inn for pizza and fries. On the way, WKZE played a string of appropriately sad songs about loss. It was a simple matter for Gretchen to change the word "man" to "pizza" as she sang along with some unknown soul diva.
In other news, it being Cinco de Mayo (05-05-05), today is the fourth anniversary of the day Gretchen and I became engaged on the beach in Venice, California. The years just keep rolling by.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next