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The Thaddeus Gazette

Progress Happens

Progress occurs in many ways. The popular narratives tell of the man with the plan or the basement tinkerer screaming Eureka! Ow! or the benevolent tycoon stretching forth his benevolent hand and tracing above the barren earth the sign of the dollar... okay, that last one, not so much. Still, the cultural concept, at least in our culture, is of the wheel of technology turning onward, ever onward, driven by strong, clean-limbed men and women who know what they want and take it.

Back in the dreary real world, progress is a more uncertain thing, a drunkard's walk of competing pressures, now forward, now back, now sideways, now groveling in the gutter with the pig. Frequently, discovery isn't even, as Asimov put it, a "Hmm, that's funny..." moment, it's more like a "GAWDAMMIT! Oh, wait..." moment. And all too often, progress takes place once you've exhausted all other options.

I myself am only middlin' committed to evolution, for the hell of it or otherwise. I'm perfectly content with things that work, do what I need and don't fall down and bawl at uncertain intervals. I've been the unappointed evangelist of trailing edge tech since my first recycled Mac. But there comes a time, my friends, there comes a time in the affairs of a man, yes, when he must stand up and be counted, stand up and withstand the blows of fortune, withstand and overcome and surmount them, halleluia and amen, and that time came to me recently when my computer actually acquired a virus.

Oh, poor dear, I hear you sneer. Yes, I hear you. You think this website is only one-way? Heh heh. How little you know...

As a dyed in the circuitboard Mac user, I've always had a sneer of my own for those pitiful unfortunates with PCs. Viruses, trojans and worms, oh my! Oh, you. I have a Mac. Macs don't get viruses. Nyah! Well, word got around, and while it took some serious doing, somebody somewhere found a way to pwn OS X. First word I heard of it was through an old tech pal on Facebook, who posted a command line script to run to determine if you were infected. Infected? I never even met her! I ran the script, came up clean and hand-waved it away as just another exaggerated attempt to dis Macs.

I'd forgotten all about the matter three weeks later when my roommate informed me that the Internet was being blocked because we had a virus. With three PCs and two Macs in the house, I was certain where the blame lay, and I was pretty vociferous about laying it as well. How fortunate for me. I was given a sterling opportunity to improve my soul by eating delicious nutritious crow when a more complete virus scanner revealed that, yes, yes I did have a virus. Oops! Ha ha! My bad!

Having successfully extracted the net herpe from my poor innocent Mac mini and convinced Century Link not to choke us all off, I turned to the rather baroque matter of upgrading my operating system sufficiently to prevent this embarrassment from repeating itself. My browsers had already automagically shut down the vulnerable component and it would have been no effort at all to just go ahead on like that. Who cares about Java runtime? Fiddle-dee-dee! But no, I was determined to be the Correct And Up To Date cheapass user.

And that's when progress kicked in. Specifically, I discovered, much to my chagrin and I'm sure yours as well, that Apple, that shining edifice, that noble spectacle of a white-hat fortress of excellence, had rewarded its user base, those loyal, enthusiastic Mac heads, at least the portion that had so far managed to avoid swilling the koolaid of OS X 10.6, by refusing to update any of their previous versions. If you didn't want warts growing on your computer's rump, if you didn't want plaintive messages from your browser and nagging, vaguely threatening notices from your service provider, you owed to to yourself, or more correctly to the Caligula of Cupertino, to rush right out and obtain the system upbloat of the week.

I'd been avoiding the bump to Snow Leopard for a while, mostly from a morbid preoccupation with having my software continue to function. Some upgrades are incremental and just jump up response time on system chores, but others are changes in worldview that leave older applications scattered, crumpled and smoldering, across a barren virtual landscape. By all indications, 10.6 was one of the latter variety, and I just didn't have the wherewithal to replace my whole digital wardrobe just because the spring fashions came in. It's a perfectly good pair of pants! So what if it has pleats? But no-o-o, that's not what progress is about. Progress is about replacing everything that works perfectly well with new stuff that breaks for the first three releases until they get all the bugs fixed. Oh wait, that's not progress, that's profit. My mistake.

Reluctantly, tearfully, I leaped onto the upgrade merry-go-round and spun off on a couple fun-filled weeks locating slightly-less-obsolete installers and beefing away. Another of the advantages of being a retro user is that all those bleeding edge guys have already taken shots for the team and sorted out the good releases from the dreck. And then reported on forums.

Naturally, there was the usual run of incompatibilities. I was fortunate in having a new (for me) laptop to experiment on. Still, it took a considerable leap of faith to start installing on my main machine, hoping against hope that everything would Just Work. And luckily enough, it mostly did.

A week after surmounting this cybergauntlet, I awoke one sunny morn to the singing of birdies and the joyful news that Apple, bowing to untold pressure from thousands of retro users just like me, had relented and patched 10.5, just to show me, no doubt, that even when it isn't necessary, Progress Happens.

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