Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Could I have this without the "user friendly"

My laptop is on the fritz and I was drug, kicking and screaming to Windows 7. Before I subjected my trusty laptop, repository of all knowledge of my life to repair people and an OS upgrade, I decided to backup my data to a DVD "just to be safe." In my day, this was a simple process -- "Backup C: A:" A bit frightening the first time, but... Now it took endless searching and numerous "You are not connected to the Internet" (of course I am not connected, my network adapter is fried) messages before I gave up on backup and just copied essential files to a DVD. When I mentioned this to the nice guy at the computer store, he seemed mystified as to why I would back up to a DVD and not to my second hard drive. I decided he thought these computers were bullet-proof. Then I was at another store looking for an alternative to the built-in wireless adapter. "But your laptop is more than two years old," he said, "surely you just want a new computer." He proceeded to tell me all the dreadful things to expect of my aging laptop. By the time he was done, I had absolutely no idea why the guy at the other place didn't comprehend the need for a complete back up not connected with the physical computer.
Our first computer lived a healthy 6 years. Frankly, we couldn't get a larger hard drive for it and we were finding that 5Mb was not enough for our needs. Our second lasted a similar time before we found we needed a 3.5" drive and there was no way to install one in the box. Its replacement is still in the basement, in case we need anything off the thousands of 3.5" floppies we have carefully stored away.
We live in a throw away society where user-friendly is so user-complicated we have to throw away good hardware because it is too user-friendly to keep it safe and working.
I think all this "user-friendly" stuff applies to far more than computers. I think we have come to depend on others to form our opinions for us instead of putting in the time and energy to form our opinions on facts rather than others' opinions. We saw this a year ago with health care when every fifth email I got was someone telling me what I should think about health care based on what someone told them. When I had the audacity to suggest that what was contained in the emails was less than accurate, the senders were offended, even when I gave them specific lines in the actual legislation so they would have complete information. Now we have people telling us that our current President got us into Afghanistan and people believe it despite that we were all alive to know that the President when we entered Afghanistan was George W. Bush and that the President in office when were sidetracked from Afghanistan to Iraq was named George W. Bush.
I can't even begin to understand those who, despite all the assurances from officials (including Republicans) in Hawaii that our President was born there, persist in believing someone who told them he was born in Kenya.
We've come so much to rely on "user-friendly" that we accept misinformation, mistaken information and pure lies rather than rely on our own resources, brains and (yipes) facts. We live in a time when it is too difficult to type "backup C: A:" and rely on some company which may have taken away our ability to backup our own data where we want to backup our data. At the risk of being called a Luddite (look it up, I am not going to be user-friendly with you), I think it is time we take back a bit of control over our information flow.

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