That's what bumpers are for

Written by Chris Caines

November 14, 2006 // 5 p.m.

I was driving to the pub with three of my mates and I saw a space which I was pretty confident I could manoeuvre my 'sporty' (read: diesel 90BHP) Hot Hatch into. As I'm an excellent parallel parker, I slid in without a hitch and gently bounced off the bumper of the car behind to make sure I had the maximum amount of room to straighten up in. One of my friends said "Whoops!!" and laughed like I'd done something wrong, to which I replied "Ah, that's what bumpers are for eh?". We all went on to have a good night and in the morning when I went to collect it (bit-tech.net says, "don't drink and drive kids!") I'd forgotten exactly where I parked my car anyway.


"...how many of you know the difference between Wheel Offsets and PCD's? And I bet those who do don't bitch at Volvo for making cars which continually come in the top five safest cars year after year."

For those of you not familiar with "Mark I" versions of car models; there was a time when our cars didn't have to have seatbelts (or their use wasn't enforced), air bags were a euphemism for breasts, ABS were something body builders had and as for parking sensors, well that's where your bumpers came in. Secondly, all you had to keep your car secure was a lock and an ignition key. None of this Thatcham Approved Alarm malarkey, remote central locking with immobiliser or GPS based tracking.

Then a startling revelation was made as the speeds got higher - the roads got busier and drivers got more complacent. People kept having accidents or having their cars stolen. What was even more of a revelation was that the average guy on the street put the blame firmly in the hands of the car manufacturers. WHY does my car not stop on a penny? WHY can someone unlock it with a coat hanger? WHY can I not drive at 80 miles an hour, round a roundabout in the wet whilst eating a Ginsters Pasty?

So, as I sat down to my fresh install of Windows Vista RC2 and was greeted by the big, bubbly, friendly, soft-play version of Windows it was obvious that the aim these days is to build an operating system with bumpers. In this case, bumpers, air bags, ABS... you name it. With the release of Internet Explorer 7.0 and Windows Vista, Microsoft has finally succumbed to the mentality that 'people are stupid' and designed an operating system which accepts the fact that trying to tell people that they need to learn about security is pointless and just to let them sit in ignorant bliss whilst their computer busts its ass keeping them alive.

Sure, there's a slight difference here in the fact that most car manufacturers don't release cars with faults in them which might actively allow a thief to bypass your locking mechanism and steal your car; however, you can't deny that it was easier to nick a car even as recently as 5 years ago than it is now.

One of the first things I've noticed in Vista is the 'dumbing down' of almost every area of the operating system. Even simple changes like removing the "My" prefix on everything so that it's just 'Pictures' or 'Computer' help overcome that psychological barrier for people. You just KNOW more than one person has said "Well, what if it's not MY pictures on there, but some I got from someone else?"

This is, of course, a good thing. Ok, ok. Get off my back for a second you seasoned techies. It ain't just you guys who buy computers any more, they actually sell these things to Joe Public! Besides, I'm techie and I don't know one end of a car from another, I just want to get in the thing and press go to get to my destination. If it breaks, I can do a few basic tasks like add petrol, change the tyre, that kinda thing - but otherwise I call someone out. Sure you might feel put out by the fact that Microsoft is making an operating system for everyone, but how many of you know the difference between Wheel Offsets and PCD's? And I bet those who do don't bitch at Volvo for making cars which continually come in the top five safest cars year after year.
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True, Microsoft isn't going to be hailed as the Volvo of operating systems in terms of safety. Half the reason Vista exists is because it's just become too much hassle to keep patching Windows XP (You got me, I made that up... But we're all thinking it). However, it's not like they haven't made those patches easily available and the majority of compromised systems are due to people not taking the time to just listen to the OS telling them to do things. Well, this time round all they're doing is going "Right, you win.. we'll spoon feed you your operating system and you won't have to worry!" Is it truly any different to "You're gonna drive too fast or under/over steer in the wet, so we'll get the car to think for you"?

"Truth be told I've often seen Apple products as the "Nissan Skyline" of the computing world. Looks good, easy to drive and if you screw up doing something you shouldn't, you'll probably be ok."

All I get in the ear from the bit-tech crew is Apple this and Mac that. Sure, I joke and I jest and I've had my share of questioning the sexuality of certain staff members when given the choice of a big strong manly Windows machine, or the sleek, curvy, arty 'As used by hairdressers' sheen on a Mac. Truth be told, I've often seen Apple products as the "Nissan Skyline" of the computing world - looks good, easy to drive and if you screw up doing something you shouldn't, you'll probably be ok. No-one is going to begrudge car manufacturers for identifying both the faults in their technology and more importantly, the faults in their drivers; Vista is simply buying into that mentality. Sure it looks and feels like OSX, duh. Big deal... first, cars were curvy, then they were boxy, then they were curvy again, then they were angular. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and I'd rather have an OS my Gran could use than one which is clumsy and awkward just so that people didn't bitch about the fact they 'nicked something from Apple yet again'.

It happened with Windows 95, it happened with Windows XP and it's happening again with Windows Vista. MS is making an OS for the people and not for the techno-superior gang, who are becoming a shrinking minority. I consider myself a good driver, but not half as good if you removed the things the car takes literally out of my hands. Put me in a Caterham 7 on a track-day in the rain and I'll be shrieking like an elderly relative using Windows 95 with no firewall.

Still, much as I love my driving metaphors, having different models is going a tad far in this writers opinion. I wonder if I can de-badge my copy of Home Basic and make everyone think it's Ultimate? I mean, they'd only find out when I got burnt off at the lights...
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