The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

There have been very amusing discussions of the improbability of things that happen in the movies actually happening—the ability of the hero or heroine to find a parking space exactly where he or she needs one, being a common one. In fact, I think that some were recently published on Slaw.

I am now seeing movies and television programmes in which software works flawlessly—the most recent programme that I saw was a (fictional) English TV series on MI-5 in which the good guys defeated a nefarious plot to take down the British Internet by first copying information in the Russian embassy on to a CD Rom and then using this information to send some kind of really serious virus to cripple a Russian submarine doing nasty things to an undersea cable.

The wholly incredible thing about the programme and the successful denouement was the fact that there were no software glitches. Perhaps the members of Slaw do not share my bitter experiences with all things computer related, but that MI-5 could do all that it did (and in less than 30 minutes!) is so unimaginable as to make the usual required suspension of disbelief wholly inconsequential. It’s easier to believe in the Red Queen, Lord Voldemort or the Tooth Fairy than that software, particularly in a pinch, will work well.

I have my computer regularly serviced and given tlc by professionals and keep my protective software up-to-date, but there is not an instance when I use my computer that some programme does not misbehave; it’s usually Windows but Word is a close second. Attempts by me to download upgrades always fail on the first attempt. I feel like Joe Btfsplk—the little man who walked around under a rain cloud—if something will go wrong, it will go wrong with me. Against my better judgment, last week I accepted Microsoft’s offer to install some “new and improved” version of Explorer. Did it work? Of course it didn’t and, had the download worked, I’m sure that it would only have made things worse. I have been wholly unable to download Adobe Flash Player; it simply doesn’t work (even after I had had my computer professionally tuned up).

Am I alone in having endless problems with software? I would be greatly comforted if others had similar problems or knew of a reliable exorcist.


  1. Well, Angela, the best exorcist I can recommend is an Apple computer. The operating system does not crash. Installation of programs is drag and drop. And the number of times any given application will itself fail is very small. Mac evangelists — okay, fanboys — are so keen, by and large, that you could probably borrow a machine from one of them to test it out.

  2. I was going to say the same thing, that I am so glad to be working with a Mac now. Not only does it all seem more stable, I love that it starts up and closes down so much faster.

  3. When I started my web site I decided I simply couldn’t deal with the constant PC problems that plagued me (in a quite similar manner to the frustrating experiences you detail above). So I bought a Mac. It’s not perfect, and occasionally it has locked up and crashed, or I’ve had a problem or 2 with downloading, but all in all, it’s dramatically better, much faster, and has very few problems. Best of all, I never noticed before just how long it takes to turn a PC on or off. My Mac turns on and connects to the Internet in less than 40 seconds, which is quite a nice way to start the day.

  4. Alas, a Mac is unavailable to me since I have to use at least one crucially important programme both at home and at the office; I carry it backwards and forwards in a USB drive. I have tried, but it does not run on a Mac.

    I still need an exorcist!

  5. I’m intrigued, Angela: What is the application that you must use? I ask because it should be possible to find something comparable in the Mac arena.

    Oh, and I should add that it’s possible to run Windows on a Mac machine, so you could do most of your work in a Mac environment and only the smaller (?) portion in the Windows environment on the same machine.

  6. Angela,you may be having problems with Windows Vista and I am having problems with that too on my new home PC. Adobe Flash was just removed from my computer so I had to download Mozilla Firefox and then install Flash with Mozilla and it only works with Mozilla. I think my computer needs to be serviced (it’s not even a year old), where do you take yours ?

  7. I must be the only person in the world running Vista trouble free for almost 2 years. Granted I live in the cloud, and MS Word can’t crash if you rarely use it.

    My best advice is purchase a new computer. Some PCs are just buggy frankly. For the number of hours we invest, along with tinkering time, most of us would be better off starting fresh when things aren’t working nicely.

    And switch to Firefox. You’ll never go back.

  8. Isabelle, I’m using Windows XP. Most of the maintenance of my computer is done by an IT person who in his day job works for a large corporation. I may, indeed, have to get a new computer though I shall try Mozilla before I take that step. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.

  9. While I think that I was successful in downloading Mozilla (it took three tries), I was again wholly unsuccessful in installing Adobe Flash Player; nothing happened. Once I installed Firefox, I found that I had lost all my “favourites” and had to join or register with Google before I could even start re-building them. As always, I was asked completely unintelligible questions, the answers to which I could only guess. If this is a “friendly” programme, I want nothing to do with it.