I have done another Technobile for The Guardian today. I've not written one for ages beecause of trying to get on with the Sex.com book and I feel I've been paying a high psychic price for it. It feels better to get something your chest.
Installing a beta won't always improve your life – it might just induce fresh rage against the machine
Is there anything more frightening and at the same time more pathetic than someone in an impotent techno-rage?
You know, that mad, steaming, mind-numbing fury because something that previously worked perfectly has suddenly stopped. Mixed with impotence because, despite all the voices screaming in your ears to hurl the computer through the window, you know you won't because you're dependent on this mysterious jumble of components. Impotent, too, because you know, deep down, it's your fault.
It is this inescapable self-blame that software companies feed off when they distribute “betas” of their products. Beta. An oddly reassuring name. Alpha suggests danger – alpha males – and also newness, possibly unreadiness. You're not going to muck around with that alpha software. But beta? Beta is your friend. You can trust a beta.
Until, that is, you get blase about unfinished software and grab whatever you think might be interesting. When was the last time you even bothered to read the T&Cs you loyally agree to have studied in depth? What does it matter anyway? It's not as if you're going to stop mid-install because you're unhappy with a sub-clause. Until, that is, you are reminded of the last time you foolishly trusted some unknown programmer with unfettered access to your machine's inner workings. What I didn't expect was the next time this lesson turned up to slap me on the back of the head it would come with a big, shiny Microsoft-approved face.
I installed Microsoft's Internet Explorer 7 beta. I don't know why. Perhaps it was just curiosity. Perhaps I was bored with Firefox users' smugness (it is just a browser, my friend). But considering I was running Windows XP complete with all the updates, and have been spoilt by Google's usurpation of the word “beta” to mean “new and fun”, I didn't have the slightest expectation there would be a problem. And there wasn't either – until the browser tried to do that thing browsers do and connect to the internet. Yes, it was a huge file. Yes, I had to restart the machine. Yes, it took an age, but this is Microsoft software – let's go! Nope. Nothing.
Somewhere along the line Microsoft had dilly-dallied with the basic Windows communication settings and now it just wasn't working. Everything else could access the net connection, just not Explorer. Or anything else on my entire computer that uses the Explorer engine.
And no, I don't want any advice about fixing it. And that includes System Restore. I turned that off years ago. This is just a reminder to self. No more betas. Unless there's a beta to fix the IE7 beta… I think I'll have a look.
Internet Derived Lethargic Episode (IDLE) (9 Feb 2006)
Needing therapy from retail (26 Jan 2006)
Billy Bunter computer (5 Jan 2006)
The network from hell (16 Dec 2005)
The Society for Needed Technology (10 Nov 2005)
Software companies should write programs without holes (13 Oct 2005)
There is no such thing as a free iPod (29 Sep 2005)
Technology tussle turning us into monsters (15 Sep 2005)