‘It’s like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell.’ ~Steve Jobs, about iTunes on Windows computers.
Perhaps you missed me in my period of quiet, or shall I say disquiet? Allow me to explain, though I may be rusty from disuse.
I am a Linux bird — all right, a crow— not just because it can trounce Windows, with a hand tied to its torso, and probably a foot too, but chiefly because it doesn’t burn a new hole in the sieve I have for a wallet. Post hoc, you may find it convenient to conjure the image of an incorrigible freeloader, an insatiate El Cheapo, although I hope you don’t.
It all began circa 2010, when I bought a laptop on a momentary spur —one of those impulses that surge in my veins with a thumping roll of tribal drumbeats, whenever I am faced with electronic gadgetry. Nothing wrong with that, except the pointless irritant of my financial coma; you can’t make a dead man any deader, can you?
This laptop came with an airy brain, thanks to the Windows, and I intend the pun, but it meant my daughters could carry it wherever they wanted and learn the menus of the Microsoft OS so that they don’t flunk their unit test on computers, designed after the epic programme, and leave my Linux desktop to its own device drivers. It was preloaded with Windows 7’s ‘Home’ version of some sort. I suspect what they meant by that tag was obviously a slacker, whiling away time in a darkened log cabin, as against a higher consciousness, say like the busybodies moving up and down in transparent, capsule lifts in glass and chrome towers. It suited me fine, I hate everything hyper or ultimate, windows or otherwise.
Oh yes, you can say the grapes are sour. Incidentally, all grapes are sour before they turn sugary and honeyed. That said, it is a clear case of imagination gone Sahara. I mean, even if the bard said what’s in a name, have a look at these monikers: Gutsy Gibbon, Hardy Heron, Intrepid Ibex, Jaunty Jackalope, Karmic Koala, Lucid Lynx, Maverick Meerkat, Precise Pangolin, Raring Ringtail, Saucy Salamander… And as if they weren’t exotic enough, we have had Oneiric Ocelot and Quantal Quetzal too. No, they are not creatures from Rowling’s new saga that she is allegedly penning down furiously. Nor are they characters from the latest instalment of Star Wars. They are all simply the names of a powerful ecosystem: the successive versions of Ubuntu Linux. And yes, they deliver, and they don’t cost a dime at the same time, unless you have an angel’s heart and decide to donate to the community. On the flip side, it is said that Microsoft is a charitable house; its founder has pledged his redoubtable coffers to the poor, so that whenever you loosen the strings of your fat purse to buy from the company, you are actually feeding many a hungry mouth. But then, I digress.
Over the next few months, I found what it was like to be jogging in leg shackles, or scaling a hill in handcuffs, fiddling around with Windows. So, both I and the machine ignored each other for a good length of time till it became impossible to dodge the barbs of my home-keeper casually aimed at us every now and then. We were forced to coexist and cohabitate, and I tried harder and harder to make it worthwhile. A couple of years later, sometime during the onset of monsoons and on a day when I was roughed up by a sudden downpour in my favourite necktie and wingtips and was feeling suicidal, I fell for yet another trumpery from Microsoft: I bought Windows 8.
It was offered cheap, and I perked up to the promise of rehashing everything computer into tactile tiles. Perhaps, in my older years, I figured, as the dwindling banks of memories pant to keep up with the information overload, and the favourite command line mantras of yesteryears play hide and seek with my synapses, I may find salvation in squares and rectangles rather than strings of uncouth code. How was I flummoxed when my laptop turned into a phone with a bloated ego, minus the facility to dial it up! Every time I switched it on I’d be swamped by trains reeling away to the left or right like underground railway; some even moved up and down. The bummer was that only one of the flying boxes could do the trick and fix a proper desktop for me. Gone were too, the start, stop, sleep and shutdown buttons. Stricken by a permanent vertigo, I yearned for the rock solid feel of a fixed workstation, or better still, the blank unmoving stare of a terminal. It was too late for a retreat at this point: Brundle was fused with the Fly at molecular-genetic level.
I began avoiding the laptop as if it were an insistent transvestite on a traffic joint. The kids abandoned it too, as their school was yet to model their quizzes on the new circus. I don’t exactly remember when but one of these days, the poor thing went the way of all silicon. And all was quiet for a while, till I returned home one weekend with a bag bulging with components of a new desktop PC. ‘I just couldn’t let the hard-earned money go down the drain with that machine!’ This is what I told my family, meaning I intended to invoke the bereaved license of Windows 8 into a new system.
There was a minor heartbreak when the Microsoft servers kept refusing to activate the soul of the departed laptop for days on end since it was earlier used in a different hardware. Praised be the Philanthropic Spirit of Richmond that they were kind enough to appreciate my angst and resolve the matter over telephone. And I did relish the installation this time around, the fading in and out of colours, the mutating pastel blue into purple, the purple into lemon green, and on and on it went till the machine sprang to life. Had I fallen in love with a Windows system, after all? I guess I rejoiced too early.
After ‘8’ was up and running, the new desktop was updated to ‘8.1’ in an all-night downloading spree, prompted by the Microsoft Store. However, immediately after the last lines of the opera were sung by the daybreak, things fell apart and vanished in a bottomless abyss. The first to go was the wireless connectivity, followed by the failure of the wired module. Then I found media files did not play off the bat. Other programmes that had functioned happily before the uptick, started acting weird. I tried to disable, uninstall and reinstall the current drivers, rolling back to 8, rolling forth to 8.1. I scoured the support pages of the all concerned, Intel, Gigabyte, Belkin, TP-Link and the elk, but couldn’t break the impossible jinx. I returned to the task night after night: my honour was at stake in the eyes of my family and my own. Where was my glass of ice water in hell?
Not that I was not able to fix the system to a usable state eventually, I managed somehow to revert to Windows 8. But I popped in a CD of mint fresh Linux distribution a few hours ago and we’ve been blazing away to Solaria ever since.