Some questions are so knotted and convoluted as to require an entire different mindset before an answer becomes obvious. Sometimes, just to answer a question, you have to un-teach a huge string of misconceptions, one by one.
Or you could do what I did, and just lie.
The other day my boss — who is not a bad person, just a run-of-the-mill businessman with a rather entrenched world view — asked why Microsoft allowed OpenOffice.org to exist.
This is the same person who, a year ago, dumped an overburdened but otherwise perfectly useful Duron and picked up a mid-grade dual-core running Vista — instead of properly managing the original machine.
With such a disposable view of technology, I was surprised that OpenOffice.org was being discussed.
The context was a memo from a subordinate, asking if OpenOffice.org could be installed on a communal PC, which would give access to newer file formats as opposed to our aging copy of Word 2003.
Naturally my boss assumed this upstart OpenOffice.org was an illegal version of Word, and asked me the aforementioned question.
I could see the long string of misunderstanding that was going to require explanation. I suppose I could have taken the opportunity to educate, but I have a lot of other responsibilities that are waiting in line in real life, so I took a shortcut.
“They can’t,” I said. “They tried but they can’t.”
I suppose in one way that’s true. I am sure Microsoft has told any number of lies to disparage a free competitor, so in a very general sense, I suppose they’ve tried but couldn’t. In any case, it was an easier answer than the unabridged version.
After that I suggested he check their web site and look a little at the explanation of the product, in his native language, and the happy ending to the story is that we now have OpenOffice.org installed for everyone to use.
But that’s not the only mysterious event of the past week or so. A client came into our office looking quite pleased with himself the other day, and the reason was actually rather sad. To me, at least.
It turns out he was happy because he had bought an application that could sever the audio track from a YouTube video.
As a fan of classic rock and roll (the stuff that is 50 or so years old now), it is difficult to purchase some material legitimately. So he was pleased that he could at least skim YouTube for decent recordings, and save them for his own enjoyment.
I listened to his story but all I could think was, “Gee, that would take me about four minutes to do with MPlayer, and for free.” Oh well.
To be honest, few people in my office know or even care that I am a Linux proponent, in part because I try hard to separate my online presence from my real life.
All the same, my neighbor with the Celeron laptop asked for Windows to be installed again, after buying an iPhone. I helped with that, adding the caveat that after Windows was in place, I was not involved in managing it.
Two weeks later there was a request for Linux again, and this time rather than wade through all the work of setting up a system to the user’s liking, I just installed the LXDE version of Linux Mint.
And so far, there hasn’t been a peep of complaint, or that anything that needs correcting. Ubuntu was torpid, Xubuntu was sluggish, Arch was a lightning bolt that required too much configuration on my part.
But Mint in the LXDE version is apparently the cat’s meow. My neighbor is happy, which means I am too.
And one last note: The Pentium 4 machine I diagnosed years ago as needing only a $12 inverter to bring back up to full usefulness is … apparently … still being used as a doorstop.
Sad, but to the point of ridiculousness now. I spoke to the owner a day ago and again said I’d take it away for the right price, but by now, the joke is maturing, like cheese or wine. Doing something about it would just spoil it, don’t you think?