September 9, 2005
So my computer got ‘upgraded’, which is a technical term meaning ‘stuffed with a lot of unnecessary new bells and whistles that make it more complicated and harder to use’, and now I need a new screensaver. Why is it that everything in computers gets upgraded about every twenty minutes but we’ve been stuck with the same screensavers for ten years? The choices are a corporate logo, pipes, stars, or the marquee. Marquees are really annoying, especially when people have long messages that creep along at about two inches an hour so you spend twenty minutes staring at somebody’s screen just to see that their marquee says, "I’m away from my desk right now but will come back when I feel like it." That’s always a comforting thing to see when you come into an emergency room.
Oh yeah, there are also "beziers". What the heck is a bezier? Apparently it’s a dancing line, but it sounds more like a Victorian undergarment. Remember the old days when elevators were operated by guys who wore uniforms with brass buttons and miniature ottomans on their heads? They’d call out what was on each floor: "First floor: housewares, antiques, lamps, Second floor: Tim Curry in a green hospital gown, Third Floor: corsets, jodhpurs, and beziers." Do you remember those days? Me neither. It was before elevators were upgraded. That was back when ‘upgraded’ meant ‘made easier to use and more efficient so some poor schlub with an ottoman on his head gets put out of a job’. But I digress. For the longest time I had a screensaver that was made by the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence folks. It was a groovy idea. It downloaded information from radio telescopes and, when your screensaver was running, scanned it looking for aliens saying, "Can I borrow a cup of sugar?" Remember the old days when a new family would move in next door and your mom would go and ask to borrow a cup of sugar, which was code for "Would you like to sit around drinking screwdrivers for five hours and complaining about your husband?" Do you remember those days? Me neither.
But I digress. I know the chances of the program actually finding anything are about a billion times greater than the chances of four pat royal flushes on a single deal, but it made me feel good. I was helping the SETI program, harnessing the power of apathy, which is the most common element in the universe after hydrogen and stupidity. But I digress. I was going to reinstall the SETI screensaver, but, as you might have guessed, they upgraded it to the point that it’s now functionally useless. Where I used to get a complex looking screen of shifting colors as a broad spectrum of wavelengths was scanned that was a great conversation piece, now I get this message: "Unable to connect. Will retry in 278 hours, thirty-seven minutes, and forty-three seconds." It’s worse than a marquee. Fortunately I’ve found a way to create my own screensaver using pictures I choose. It’s simple and straightforward. And it doesn’t take very long, so I’d better hurry up and do it before the next upgrade.