What I Did On My 
Christmas Vacation

Peter Merkl

© Copyright 2009 by Peter Merkl


Why can‘t we all be Microsoft people? Marching as one behind Bill Gates toward a glorious MS Vista.

The splintering into tribes began the second Bill Gates and the MS people clapped eyes on their high schools’ proto-computers and fell get-a-room in love with their crashing, clunky ways, spending all their free time cooing over them. The rest of us despised our schools’ univacs and spent our free time in slack jawed contemplation of Starsky & Hutch reruns. They went on to create a virtual world at whose screens we now stare in slack jawed confusion.

The two tribes try to avoid each other - the chasm of knowledge that separates us, vast, the possibility of meaningful dialogue, slim. So, MS operates like Starsky & Hutch people don’t exist, while we pray one day MS will go the way of Pong and the Commodore 64. But this Christmas there was something in the air about college students needing iPods, so off to Best Buy I went.

Twenty-something salesperson assures me a MS Zune MP3 player will work better with my 6 year old PC than an iPod: Zune software will automatically, magically gather all my kids’ music, including hundreds of dollars worth of Napster songs, and stick it in the Zune. Purchase two 4GB Zunes. A week later, exchange for two 8GB Zunes: We live once.

Give to kids Christmas morning. They show little interest.

Over next several days, spend thousands of miserable hours trying everything I can think of to put Napster tunes on Zunes.

When all hope is gone, call Zune customer service. Red hot dagger of despair pierces my brain when very kind, almost courtly, woman answers as I immediately realize we’re separated by two languages: American and Geekese.

Friend suggests ancient PC is problem.

Buy new PC.

Online purchase of special cable so “Windows Easy Transfer” program can put old PC’s information on new PC. Arrive at Best Buy to find that easy pick-up line for online purchases is also the mile long return line. Take my place among the sullen and angry.

Spend thousands of miserable hours trying everything I can think of to get information to transfer.

When all hope is gone, call transfer cable company customer service. Sounds exactly like Zune woman. She asks if I remembered to install the software CD that came with my cable. An unbidden fusillade of invective hurtles around in my head, but I calmly answer, “Yes.” There must have been an odd note in my voice, however, because she quickly hung up after telling me there was a flaw in the software and I needed to return the cable and get a new CD.

For second time that day, I wait in endless Best Buy return line. When I finally get to front of line, clerk directs me to find a new cable on the shelves and gestures offhandedly in the direction of the entire city block size store to aid my quest. Hijinks ensue. Eventually find cable and cut into front of return line to make exchange: indescribable tumult.

After many more hours of floundering, information transfers to new PC for no apparent reason.

After many more hours of floundering, Napster tunes finally transfer to MS media player, for no apparent reason. Punch line: MS Media player is not compatible with MS Zune. This was a level of secret handshake/decoder ring/nerdlore I’d never dreamed existed. How do these loonies stay in business? Certain now that all effort wasted, but feel somehow…free.

Return Zunes

In all the endless hours spent trying to get all that MS stuff to work, I kept thinking about my high school’s wretched computer and how the same 3 or 4 guys were always hanging around it. The only time I ever went near it was to complete an assignment to write a simple program. Naturally, I couldn’t get it to work. Then those guys descended: glad to help, enjoying each failure, telling inside jokes, puzzling contentedly over the never ending stream of possible solutions, happy.

And that’s exactly what my hours in Microsoftland were like: wandering down thousands of rabbit trails doggedly searching for the ever wily solution. Bliss for Mr. Gates and his tribe; sheer hell for the rest of us.

Next year I’m buying the kids Starsky & Hutch DVD‘s.

Love that Huggy Bear

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