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Fred's Views

Pet Peeves

Everybody has his or her own "pet peeves". These are the often little things that drive us nuts out of all proportion to their actual nuisance value. One man's peeve might be another man's brilliant idea or yet another man's most valuable asset. Thus, armed with the knowledge that some of you will think my idea of a peeve is totally off base, here goes my "Top Ten List of Pet Peeves". As you might expect, coming up with ten peevish items wasn't all that hard, but ranking them, that's hard.

  1. Memory Doubling: When we bought our first computer over twenty years ago, it came with an incredible 16,000 bytes of RAM (memory). I am currently typing on a computer with 192 Megabytes of memory, and that's fast becoming "barely enough". On the positive side, I would probably pay less (in today's dollars) for a 128 megabyte upgrade than I would have paid (in 1982 dollars) for a 16K upgrade. But my peeve is why? Why is it, that if I want to improve my computer's performance, I have to double or quadruple its memory? Why wouldn't just a megabyte or two do the job? After all, if the computer does okay now, wouldn't an extra megabyte or two make it perform noticeably better? Makes sense to me, but it just doesn't seem to work that way. Old Windows 3.1x worked just fine on 4 megabytes (well, as fine as any version prior to "XP" seemed to work). Even Windows 95 would run on four megabytes. Now, XP won't even consider installing in less than 32 megabytes (or is it higher?) Does XP really need all the extra memory because this version has that much more to it? Or have the programmers just gotten lazy and not bothered to remove extraneous code or to apply any memory-saving techniques? If the code is unnecessarily bloated, doesn't that also unnecessarily slow down execution and reduce stability? I don't have any answer, I just don't understand why I have to double my memory to have any significant improvement!
  2. Considerate Motorists: "What!" I hear you saying, "Why would anyone get peeved at a considerate motorist?" At first sight it seems almost as crazy as having to double your memory (see above). But wait, I haven't gone completely 'round the bend. In my area of the world, the main "drag" in shopping malls runs between the main parking area and the store entrance. I don't really understand why that is, but, again, it is. Pedestrians, I suppose, have the right of way, but a little common sense would be, oh, so nice! If I see a pedestrian crossing, I, of course, stop and let him by. But it angers me when someone just starts walking out, often without even looking. Many times, I'm the only car in sight. If he'd stop for just a second, he'd be much safer, and I'd be out of his way. But no, I have to apply my brakes and wait for him to take his sweet time to "get to the other side". There are times, when, of course, you want to make sure the pedestrian has the right of way: having little kids in tow or fighting through torrential rains or a snowstorm. But in general, it would be so nice if the pedestrian would think of the motorist once in a while as well. Okay, I've finally parked my car. Now I'm the pedestrian. First of all, I never (I hope) cross a "street" without first checking for traffic. If I see that there's just one or two cars, I wait for them to pass. It makes sense to me to wait a second or two and not have to worry about whether he's going to stop or not or hold him up needlessly. I even often walk parallel to the "street" so the driver won't know I'm really going to cross the "street". All too often the driver stops anyway. I wave him on. He waves me on. By the time we decide who's moving and who isn't, He could have been parked, and I could have been in the store already! Use courtesy with common sense. If I'm not making a motion towards crossing, don't stop. If you're the only car in sight, don't stop. You'll save both of us time and aggravation. That's real courtesy!
  3. "Reality" Shows: I will admit up front that I have never sat through a complete episode of any "Reality" show. I've seen a few bits of Survivor, including the bit where the fellow fell in the fire, and I've seen a few minutes of The Weakest Link, if that counts as a "Reality" show. I have watched several episodes of Who Wants to be a Millionaire but I don't consider that a reality show. It's just a very, very, very slow show! I confess, I don't get it! I don't understand why a show like Survivor and "Reality" would be in the same sentence! The "contestants" certainly aren't "realistic", if you mean by "realistic" that they are representative of the general population, and the situation certainly isn't "realistic". What's the point of it all? Why do people seem to enjoy these shows? I've no idea. Fear Factor is in a league of its own (although The Chair and The Chamber may come close). Why anyone would subject themselves to such senseless and meaningless activities is beyond me. And why would anyone want to watch it! Give me "unrealistic" sitcoms and police dramas any day.
  4. All-Way Stops: Here's another one many of you will simply not believe. How could anyone be against "All-way Stops"? Perhaps, if I had to cross or turn left unto a busy street, I'd appreciate All-way Stops. The fact is, however, about 90% of the time (or higher) I encounter a Four-Way Stop with no one else in sight, and certainly not anyone having problems with traffic. Admittedly, I don't often travel by any such stops during rush hour, but I remain convinced that, if an intersection needs All-Way Stops, it should have a traffic light. There are some very intelligent traffic lights. There's the kind that only changes when a car approaches the red light. (Inevitably, of course, there has been no on-coming traffic until just before it changes.) There's the long light/short light type and the short light/short light type. I travel through a "short/short" traffic light (at least that's what it is most of the time), and I really appreciate it. Both streets are not packed with traffic, and both street have, at least at rush hour, about an equal amount of traffic. Just enough to make a stop sign dangerous, but, fortunately, too much to make an All-Way Stop system sellable. When the "short/short" is working, I rarely have to wait longer than I would have for the old stop sign. Admittedly, travelers on the other street are waiting more, although I think the trade-off in safety is worth it. My point is, if the road conditions demand something more than a normal stop sign on one street, go to traffic lights. Don't think that All-Way Stops are going to solve the problem. They only make the problem worse.

    Of course, All-Way Stops are not intended to improve traffic flow. In fact, one of their main purposes is to impede traffic flow. And at that, they do an exceptionally good job. They are often placed on streets where drivers might tend to exceed the speed limit. Or at intersections which have a history of stupid drivers ignoring normal stop signs. I'm all in favor of improving traffic safety, if it can be done safely. When two cars reach an All-Way Stop at the same time, who goes first? The one on the right? The one moving straight ahead? The one who can get his foot moved from the brake pedal to the gas pedal first? And what if I think I got there first, but he thinks he did? The most amazing fact about All-Way Stops is that there hasn't been many more accidents because of them.

    I remain convinced that All-Way Stops are the invention of a consortium made up of gasoline interests (who love to see it wasted) and brake shoe/pad manufacturers (who love to see brakes used unnecessarily) and psychiatrists (who want to make money treating the "road rage" that all-way stops foster.
  5. Overpriced Software: There's an ad playing on Canadian radio that says something like "Buying legitimate software may cost your business a few hundred dollars, but it may save you $20,000 if you get caught with illegal copies." Now I'm all for protecting intellectual property rights - I wouldn't want someone lifting this piece and publishing it without my knowledge or without payment. But, at the same time, let's be reasonable. If a small business buys one copy of Microsoft Office XP, for example, it will set the company back several hundred dollars - easily $700 Canadian for a normal package, $400 - $500 for an upgrade. That's a lot of money for a very small company. A slightly larger company would likely need more than one copy. What will they pay for a second licence? Essentially the same amount. They might qualify for a discount, but the discount won't exceed 10%, which isn't much of a savings. So, a company who needs as few as three copies won't be spending a few hundred, they'll be spending a few thousand. Even so, if three employees spend most of their days using this software, the price was reasonable, if not exactly cheap. But what if they only use the software for an hour or so a day, or a week? It's rapidly becoming very expensive! And next year, there'll be an upgrade to buy.

    And it only gets worse for home users. Most home users don't need Office XP. Microsoft Works would probably be more than enough. And it's almost reasonably priced. But if you need Office, then you need it. Again, if you use it daily, it may be money well spent, but otherwise? Why would anyone put out hundreds of dollars for software they can legally use on only one machine, and which they may need for only a few hours a week - or month? Surely, there is a better, fairer solution. There is. Charge any reasonable price you want for the original copy of the software, but make extra licenses and upgrades affordable. An extra licence (up to, say, five) should not cost anymore than about 10% of the original price. From five to 25, perhaps, you're dealing with a fair-sized company that can afford to pay more - and which probably makes far more use of the software per copy. Over 25 and the price should again become more reasonable - you get your profits from volume. And an upgrade should never cost more than $100 no matter what the software originally cost. Most upgrades should be priced well under $100. If an upgrade offers only limited extra functionality, it should either be free, or one low fee should allow you to use it on up to five machines.

    There are lots of reasons why people use pirated software: ignorance, thrill-seeking, tight-wadiness, etc. And there's no easy cure. But one very important step that some publishers (such as Microsoft) could easily take is to make the software affordable.

Come back soon to see what my top five "Pet Peeves" are.

Copyright © 2002 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.

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