If Computer Companies Made Cars:

If computer companies made cars, the Mac car would be clean and stylish with classic lines. The Windows car would seat 7, be all-wheel drive with variable-height suspension, have vintage '50s Cadillac fins and pneumatic gull-wing doors. The Linux car would be anything you wanted, there are a lot of models to choose from. If you weren't happy with the available Linux models, you could take the parts and make your own, for free.

The dashboard on the Windows car would look something like a jet fighter; not a modern fly-by-wire fighter but one of the old ones with masses of gages, lamps, and rows of switches. You could also browse the Windows download site and, after proving that you own a legal Windows car, download a free pair of MS-dice to hang from your mirror. The Mac dash would have a speedometer, a "service engine light" and a start button. Its mirror would be specifically designed to eliminate the possibility of hanging dice, air fresheners, or other tacky things from it. The Linux car would have any number of dashboards to choose from or, for that hardcore look, you could choose to have no dashboard at all. Linux car owners could browse fuzzydice.org and download as many dice as they want, being open-source, they're free. Despite Steve's good taste, fuzzydice.org will have free Mac car compatible dice as well.

To start the Windows car, you would either have to push the heater, clutch, and AM radio buttons simultaneously and then choose Start from the dialog box, or you could go Start - Control Panel - Engine, enable the Run check-box, and then go to the Status tab and hit the Start button, or you could open a command box and type in "Engine /Start" (you could also do that by clicking Start - Run and then typing "Engine /Start"), or you could edit the registry by browsing to HKCurrentCar-Microsoft-Car-Windows-Controls-Start and add the Dword value "IsRunning" and set it to "1". Be sure to back up the registry before doing this. To start the Mac car, you would click on the Start button. With the Linux car, after you've downloaded the components, made, and bolted on the starter, you just hot-wire the ignition.

Later, to turn the Linux engine off, you type in "qx-t0." The same thing can be accomplished in the Windows car by going Start - Engine - Turn Off and answering Yes to "Are you sure." You could also leave the Windows car running as it will stop all by itself fairly soon. With the Mac car, you merely drag the engine to the Trash, of course.

Every car has problems and computer cars would be no exception. Trouble is indicated on the Windows car when the MIL (Malfunction Indicator Lamp) turns on. On the Mac, it's the "service engine light." Linux car owners could make and install MIL functionality if they choose but most will forgo the luxury and instead prefer to browse the logs periodically.

When trouble happens, Windows car owners can browse the online help, knowledge base, and technical articles for information like: MIL status operation, changing the MIL bulb, tire rotation - MIL spec, setting MIL function codes in VB, and, maybe, if they persist, they will find a knowledge base article that says: Symptoms - the MIL indicates a fault, the fuel gage is over half-full, and the vacuum indicator is off. Cause: this is a know Windows car problem for which there is no current solution. Workaround: Open the global group policy entry: Hardware - Windows - Current - Engine Management - Windows - Specifications - Engine, and set the entry "Disable MIL Blanking" to False. Linux car owners can view the Man pages for relevant information. However, after they have paged through all the irrelevant POSIX stuff they will come to realize that only UberGeeks can understand Man page documentation. Non-UberGeeks can ask one of the many Linux forums for help but the following guidelines should be adhered to at all times: First, all requests for help must start with the refrain "Linux is Great, Linux is the one true OS, All Hail Linux." Second, never, ever, complain that only UberGeeks can understand Man pages. In fact, it would be much better to copy a random section out of a Man page (any one will do) and paste this into your plea for help as an indication that, yes, you did indeed RTFM. Third, never plead complete newbie ignorance. It is far better to say that you think you know what you're doing, and did RTFM, but there must be something wrong with your config file that you just can't see, probably because you've been up for 37 hours straight trying to get Linux running on your walkman. For Mac car owners, a trip to the owner's manual will state "The service engine light indicates that the engine should be serviced. Please have the car serviced by qualified service personnel" or some other completely useless collection of obvious yet meaningless words.

There is another operating system worth comparing, even if it is obsolete. A car made by VMS would look like a delivery van, have a dashboard that looks like the dashboards everyone is already used to, be started with an industry-standard ignition switch, turn off by turning off the ignition switch, and come preconfigured with a MIL. When this MIL turns on, a trip to the VMS car hierarchical help system would show: MIL - indicates that the engine requires service, MIL service - service is indicated through trouble codes, MIL service trouble code - Service personnel can get a list of current trouble codes by ..., MIL service trouble code listing - the following trouble codes can be indicated..., and so on. Also, a VMS car would be virtualized and 200 people could drive it at the same time, going different places, without being aware of each other. Despite this, a VMS car would never crash, ever.

Given the above analogy, why doesn't everyone use VMS? The answer is that an operating system, like a car, is built for a purpose. A car's purpose is to carry people from one place to another while an operating system's purpose is to let the user start applications. Taking the analogy further, a VMS car could only drive from the factory to the on-site accounting office, nowhere else. Mac cars would only be allowed to drive on specially-constructed iRoads; iRoads would only go places Steve Jobs thought was cool. Most Linux cars, or rather trucks, would be relegated to designated truck lanes or industrial complexes. Other Linux cars would be more like Land Rovers, capable of going just about anywhere, places other cars just can't go, all be it with some effort and discomfort on the operator's part. The Windows car would be for everyone else, everyone else adding up to 80% of the people that use cars.

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