Shattered Windows





As one YouTube commenter said, “That is hands down the best villain name ever.”

They say the devil speaks in half-truths. All comic book and movie villains have some sort of half-truth upon which they base their empires… upon which they justify their despicable actions.

In the movie The Fifth Element, Mr. Zorg’s misconception is that broken windows, once fixed, somehow benefit society. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Oh yeah! I break a window, someone comes out to fix it, I pay him, and the economy moves forward!” So, why don’t we all just spend our days smashing each other’s windows? Because we quite literally have better things to do. French philosopher Frederic Bastiat explains it quite well in his “Parable of the broken window,” seen here on Wikipedia. Surely the glazier benefits, but at what opportunity cost?

A toxic waterfall

The computer industry is run by an army of Zorgs…

Imagine your house windows shattering themselves once every few years, and being baffled at a world that praises the glass repairman and doesn’t ask questions. According to this get rich quick website, computer repair is a $40 billion industry. Here’s why:

  • Some guys out there are honest technicians who want what’s best for their customers. A computer repair industry is necessary, because sometimes things do break.
  • Then you’ve got your amateur “computer guy” – we all know the type. He’s your aunt’s uncle’s cousin’s pastor’s goldfish’s dog’s neighbor. He runs virus scans, defrags, and installs destructive registry cleaning software, thinking that’s all still relevant: “Sorry, I couldn’t figure it out. That’ll be $100.”
  • The same thing goes for the Big Box stores, except they erase your data.
  • Some sharks encourage useless scans and updates, sometimes through yearly contracts. It’s a roll of the dice as to whether these guys are competent, and they might charge a mint.
  • Beyond all this, there’s a whole other industry – outsourced tech support for large organizations. Some of them love fixing recurring problems, because it means a lot of call volume.

These guys praise the Personal Computer and its extremely unreliable nature. As one acquaintance put it, “I’m grateful for Microsoft; they’re my bread and butter!” Many of these guys fall victim to the bread and butter routine.

Bottom line: They’re thankful for products that destroy themselves, for products that succumb easily to security threats.

Pretty Graph

Let’s step  back a moment and boil down what I do:

components of computer repairA: The first part is similar to that of an auto mechanic – some parts in your computer may die at random. With exception of hard drives and hinges, there’s no mechanical motion, so it’s hard to predict.

B: Oftentimes a complex software product (especially Microsoft Windows and Office, and on occasion Mac OSX) destroys itself. Few know or ask why. In such cases, I rescue the user’s documents & photos, and reinstall the OS.

C: Turtlenecks,  soy lattes, a goatee and a convertible… these are a few of my favorite things. I spend some winter evenings teaching adult continuing education courses. I also spend some mornings consulting for small businesses, making recommendations on what software, hardware, systems, or platforms, to implement. Being paid to give my opinion is indescribably awesome.

D: Many “IT Guys” spend time virus scans or adding patches and updates to people’s machines. They participate in the “Security Circus” – the idea that constant tar and pitch needs to be added to computer systems to keep them safe from mythological “hackers.” I replace this component with recommending/implementing software that’s much more robust.

My Suggestions

I’ve got a problem with B and D. First off, an operating system shouldn’t destroy itself. Even if it did, ideally the user’s home folders would be stored (by design, not by some hackjob Acer “Data Partition” that nobody uses) on another drive. Next, automated data backup is horrendously complex and confusing. Stay tuned for an article ranting about that.

Again, instead of participating in security paranoia, I replace unreliable technology (domains, POP email, overkill servers) with streamlined, robust, safer solutions. My goal is not to keep patching the same preventable holes – it’s to make you safer.

Aren’t I hurting my own wallet? Not at all, Mr. Zorg. First off, my happy customers talk. Secondly, I personally would much rather spend my time doing something important, such as solving world hunger.

Finally, I pose this dystopic scenario to you: Imagine if my industry began single-party third-party payer insurance services! You’d have half-wit computer guys walking around upgrading every single part in a customer’s computer, pointing and shooting needlessly, figuring “oh well, someone else is paying for it!” and people would allow them to fire away. The corruption would skyrocket, and we’d all pay. Food for thought.

Mi Futuro

What I know that no computer repair shop knows is this: Once Windows 8 forces Microsoft to become a niche company, people will migrate onto tablets, smartphones, and Mac and Linux desktops. Most of the traditional PC repair shops will fail to adapt, and go under. The future of my job contains more consulting (soy lattes) and MANY more man-hours performing password recoveries for people who didn’t realize how their entire digital lives are COMPLETELY dependent on those passwords they forgot.

We’ll see you next time on Teknosophy.

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