My, my. The "Windows: Unsafe at any speed?" post last week certainly raised a few hackles -- thanks in part to a totally unexpected appearance on the New York Times Web site. (Hello New Yawkers, and welcome to Geek Street USA.)
I haven't gotten this violent a reaction since I suggested the Creation Museum add exhibits for the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. (Oops, I did it again.) All I need to do now is mention Scientology and I'll hit the trifecta.
Here's the tally so far, based on exit polls.
-- 24 readers think I should stop hating on Windows, dude.
-- 36 Cringesters say the Mac OS is the one right and true way (praise be Saint Steven of Cupertino, maker of all that is holy).
-- 37 are screaming "Linux! Linux! Linux!" while wearing penguin costumes. Many of them also vote for the Mac.
-- 3 are still clinging to OS/2, amazingly enough. I understand they're also holding onto their rotary phones, just in case.
-- 2 highly vaporous individuals voted for some form of cloud computing.
-- 1 person opted for an Etch-A-Sketch.
Meanwhile, over in no-mans-land....
-- 18 voters are seriously ticked off about my comparing the McCain campaign to a broken-down jalopy.
-- 11 think the McCain whiners should get a life, or maybe a new candidate.
[Note: These votes were counted by hand, no optical scanning machines were used, and all hanging chads were collected and mailed to Katherine Harris.]
Now for a not entirely random sampling from the hundreds of comments and e-mails I've received. This first comes from someone known only as "The General," and judging by how he writes I'm guessing he's expecting me to salute.
Blaming Microsoft for security flaws is like blaming the guy behind the counter at the convenience store for getting robbed. He knows he's a target, and he does the best he can to prevent it. I guess they're teaching journalism majors that you can't sell newspapers without a lazy, uninformed populist message. It's certainly easier to repeat what the loud people say. Maybe the circulation numbers will shock you out of it someday.
I like the convenience-store analogy. But when a 7-Eleven gets robbed, everyone who shops there doesn't end up getting his wallet lifted. When there's a critical Windows flaw like the one they patched last week, everyone is vulnerable. We need more than security cameras here, bub.
On the other hand, using Microsoft products is a lot like eating a microwaved burrito. It probably won't kill you, but you don't hear many people boasting about how great it tastes. Certainly not in Cringeville, where the Mac OS and various flavors of Linux own the hearts and minds of most.
Commenter Sean rejects the convenience store metaphor for fast food:
Macs and 'nix are more secure, shown time and again. Not perfect, but better. Why isn't it a news story? For the same reason that the news doesn't report other non-news. When's the last time you saw a documentary on the guy who's 80 years old and living a quiet life eating a balanced diet? Never. But turn on Discovery Health and you'll see the special on the 28 year old, 400-lb guy that subsists on fried food and McDonalds.
Would you like to supersize the fries with your Windows Vista Ultimate Business Edition? How about a big tub of Coke?
Like many Cringesters who found me via the Times, D. D. is all Mac all the time:
Just after all these years being a Windows user since DOS days, bought a Macbook. You must try it and see why so many people love it. The thing just plain works beautifully.
B. B., who votes for OSX or Linux, depending on the platform, adds this somewhat hopeful conclusion:
It's been a long haul, but it seems like the general public is finally starting to realize that reboot as a troubleshooting technique, extensive user education (don't click on X, don't open Y, watch out for Z), and ugly additional layers of security (anti-virus, anti-malware, intrusion detection, multiple layers of firewalls, periodic reinstalls etc) aren't necessary for a modern computing environment.
The rest of my faithful readers ask a simple question: If not Windows, then what? Unfortunately, the answer isn't so simple. It's relatively easy to trade in your old clunker for a sleek new roadster. It's not so easy if you've got an entire fleet of them.
As reader G. T. notes:
It seems like the computer world is in the same position with MS/OS as the physical world is in regard to oil. It will take a significant effort, expense and inconvenience to switch to an alternative.
Unless of course you believe global warming is a myth, drilling is the answer, and exhaust fumes are good for your lungs. In which case we're all just peachy. But if so, you've probably stopped reading by now.
Finally, some Cringesters have asked me to make an Obama joke to keep things even. I've been wracking my brain, but so far I got nothing. Even the Lettermen-Leno-Stewart crowd has a hard time making Obama funny. Let's face it, the man is boring. He doesn't kill and clean his own food, own 11 houses, or whiten his teeth with industrial solvents.
So I'm going to steal this joke from Craig Kenworthy, a listener to Minnesota Public Radio (who, strangely, lives in Montana):
Q: How many Obamas does it take to change a light bulb?
A. Only one, but it has to be a change the light bulb can believe in.
My thanks to all the Cringesters (new, old, and ticked off) who wrote in. Sorry I couldn't quote more of your responses.
So, now what are you mad about? E-mail me here: firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm sure most of you will keep it polite, but I'm wearing asbestos boxers just in case.
This story, "Windows: Unsafe at Any Speed, Part Deux" was originally published by InfoWorld.