A Glass of Ice Water

Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs

‘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.


  1. You have been missed! I don’t have your computer woes, as I’m so computer illiterate that I simply turn it on when I buy it and let it go. It only goes off when the power goes off, and I have never (since my 1st computer in 1985) had an ounce of trouble! Very enjoyable posting!

    1. That is comforting to learn. The obsession with the innards of computers is a hangover from the jobless days. Usually, they don’t give you trouble if you don’t molest them. That said, Windows can test your patience. Thanks for likiing, Bruce!

  2. Hi US, Sorry about your computer trouble. If I had more computer knowledge, I would dump Windows for a FOSS system too.

  3. Hahaha! So, a fellow-victim of Windows 8 🙂 I am still to succumb to the lure of 8.1 and NOW I think I won’t 🙂

    1. My other laptop is running 8.1 like breeze. Still, 9.0 is around the corner, supposedly more complete. Switch to Linux.

  4. Don’t know about Linux, but apple products hate me. My ‘uncrashable’ Mac crashed on me TWICE, taking all my data, pictures and music TWICE and soon after, my iphone did a faulty restore and deleted my back up as well, before it decided to conk out. Apple wanted half a fortune just to give me a replacement phone, which was refurbished.
    I’m now a windows(8) person, at least things are cheaper if they crash on you.

    1. Of course that can happen, Chaitanya. Even God seems to have bugs in his system. What else explains the wars, the hatred, the Taliban, a 9/11, a Taj attack and so on and so forth? The Mac OS remains a robust system, as is Linux, except that the latter is free as air.

  5. Oh my, I have no idea what Linux is or how to use it, but I do love my Mac! Sorry you’ve had such troubles with Windows 8. Everyone seems to hate it.

    1. At the same time, everyone keeps switching to Windows x, y and z in search of the oasis that just isn’t there. Mac OS is great if you can afford it, Kris —at least they know their software.

  6. These Windows people will keep torturing us with newer and newer versions. I hope my company does not decide to go for Windows 8.0. Enjoyed your description of your travails in your usual rich language.

    1. If the past is any indicator, it won’t be long before Microsoft discontinues support to pre-8 versions. Thank you for admiring my feeble pen.

  7. uma, your language is so poignant and poetic I almost forgot I was reading about something so dull as computers. I have to admit my windows 7 is something of a disaster. But the more it fizzles and misfires, the less attached I am to it, and the freer and happier I feel.

    1. Marty, I envy your sang-froid about irritants of life. If Windows 7 is a disaster, 8 is a cataclysm. However, even that shouldn’t ruffle your fine feathers.

  8. Alas US, I sympathize completely. Windows mmmmm…..another change? Heaven forbid!

    Such trials & tribulations…but explaining your absence from the blogging world of late(?)

    1. Ian, causing frequent tremors is the lifeblood of corporations like Microsoft. As for the explanation, it is more of a reprimand to myself than an excuse for the fruitless period.

  9. I am not a big Linux fan so Windows work for me well . Btw I am laughing nonstop at your expense.

  10. Very funny, Uma. I have never been a fan of Microsoft or Windows. If they were in the ladder business, three steps would go vertical, six would go horizontal and from there you’d have to press a button and wait for a helicopter to drop a harness to take you the rest of the way.

    1. Except that the chopper would work only in the next version! But that is a stunning example you have come up, John. What defies all logic, however, is their vicious grip over computer systems all over the world.

  11. Windows 8 is the product of the devil. That is all I can say without breaking down into my own tale of woe. Glad you survived the ordeal.

    1. Janene, I can very well imagine the quagmire Windows might have dragged you in. The bummer is we pay them to get us into this fix.

  12. Right now I’m not suffering any laptop woes, though I have in the past, but I didn’t write about them as well as you did. Usually–and I say this quietly so my daughter doesn’t hear me–when you have daughters, they can play with a laptop and figure out the glitches and correct them. And the, if you still don’t like or trust the laptop, your daughter will merrily take it off your hands!

    1. Marylin, my daughters excel in pulling systems apart by stretching them beyond their capabilities and Windows is no match to them. That last bit is common though —they too are forever ready to takeover!

  13. That was hilariously described Uma. Thankfully I am still on Windows 7 and trudging along fine and didnt fall for all the tiles and squares hoopla. I wonder what is it about linux which makes people fall hook ,line and sinker for it. The blue screen of death is good once in a while to attain nirvana and learn the fine art of patience by letting go of all earthly yearnings and data.. 🙂

    1. For whatever it’s worth, you have at least fine ground under your feet. The new Windows Metro interface will leave you giddy and panting, scrambling for buttons that you have been taking for granted all this while. Keep backups is all I can say to you, friend!

  14. Umahankar, happy to see you posting again! “A clear case of imagination gone Sahara,” is an excellent way to describe those colorful Linux versions.

    I can really relate to your experience. Win 8 came loaded on the new laptop I got for Christmas and has been driving me batty even since! Didn’t help when I upgraded to 8.1 either. I rarely use the Win 8 view on my computer if I can help it; I use the “desktop view” when I can which behaves more like Win 7. But I cannot use that “desktop view” with iTunes and sometimes cannot use it with photos either, and then I run into trouble. One thing I cannot understand is why Microsoft designed Win 8 with no “close” button. Why?! I’ve been “stuck” in Win 8 so many times with no way out that I felt rather like Alice in Wonderland falling down a rabbit hole!

    That Steve Jobs quote at the beginning on iTunes on Windows computers is so true. A few weeks ago, when I tried to install iTunes on my new computer, it wreaked havoc on my entire system and for a few days, IE shut down entirely. Then mysteriously, one morning, it self-corrected and IE worked again. But once everything began working right again on my computer, I was afraid to even click-on the iTunes button on my desktop for fear of a calamity LOL!

    1. Madilyn, I can very well imagine your predicament. If it is any consolation, know that Mr Bill Gates spent an entire day trying to install Windows 8.1, sometime in February this year, on his machine without much success. It is reported Mr Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, was at his side to help him all along, but in vain. It is not known, however, what system he is running on his computer now —It’s probably OS X. 🙂

  15. Umashanker ji

    Loved reading a subject as boring as technology in so lucid a language —I find my self unable to comment on a post dealing with such hi tech matters but yes one problem that I face with windows 8 is its start menu —–so complicated. Thanks for this post at least I found so many others who are not very happy with windows 8 I am not the only one


    1. Rajni, As boring as technology may sound, it is impossible to remain untouched by it.
      The Metro interface for Windows was a bad idea. Mercifully, Windows 9 may return the Start and Shutdown button in their full glory; they are partially back in 8.1. The bad news is, you will have to shell out your hard earned money again. So I couldn’t hep cribbing about it.

      Thanks for your kind words.

  16. Windows updates have always been horrible, all the drivers no longer work, as wells as most of the installed programs. I really think selling updates is the ultimate disservice Microsoft does to themselves. I don’t blame you for switching to Linex.

  17. What a story! A nightmare. My daughter used to have Windows 8… There are no words to express my disgust about this monster version. I happily jumped from XP which I had like forever to Windows 7, and I am still going strong since 2009, just change Hard Drives when they are about to die. Windows 10 is OK though. Guess it will be my next jump. Thank you for sharing, Uma. Hope all is well.

    1. I believe it’s an established, and perhaps trusted, cycle Microsoft has been following for a while: after each well-settled version they fly off the handle and unleash a torrid follow up release upon the users. Typically, it will be a smoking green matrix of hastily written code that refuses to behave like a spoilt toddler who will roll on the footpath and tear his own clothes to blackmail you into submission, and it is not till the next version is released there is a semblance of sanity restored to your computer.

      I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the concern shown to my well being. I’ll be back!

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