Installing software

Installing windows 98 on my machine was a recurring task back in my early computing days. On average I would reinstall it at least twice a month. But then we got the internet. That number exploded.

It was ok at the time to do so because the computer was mostly used as a toy. I would spend all day installing software for no purpose. When the installation was complete, I'd use the application a few times then delete it. We only had 2 gigabytes of storage. was my go to website. I would fire it up on Internet Explorer and download whatever that was available. I'm surprised how I never got viruses from that website. I downloaded drawing applications, Microsoft Office clones, programming tools, mIRC, games, and much more.

The more I downloaded the slower my machine became. Even after I deleted their folders inside c:\Program Files the computer was still slow. So every time my father found me in the computer he would say "don't forget to reinstall Office, last time you forgot". He used Word for work and made sure he saved everything in his floppy disks.

Every time I slid in the windows 98 CD I made sure to check the box to format the hard drive. And off it went. It took around 58 minutes to reinstall windows. Right after I would add all the office applications. Then I would click on shutdown. When the screen that showed "you can now safely turn off the computer" appeared, I'd turn on the scanner, insert Ulead Photo Editor CD in the drive then restart. Through trial and error I figured it is the only way to get the scanner driver to install correctly.

I spent more time installing stuff on this machine then I spent using it. There was something that was happening in the background that wasn't too obvious. Every time things went wrong on the computer, I would wipe it off. Making the computer forget it ever happened. But in my head that experience remained.

I realized that simply deleting the folder in Program Files wasn't enough. I learned about Add and Remove Programs in the control panel in the process. In other words, I amended the remove applications program in my head. I patched it, call it a service pack update so to speak.

The advantage of the computer is that, all it takes for it to learn something new is installing a new software. For us, it's a process of trial and error, and we learn in a slow manner. Our advantage is that once we do, not only we learn the right way of doing things, we also learn the wrong way of doing it.

It took me a while to convince a friend that deleting the folder under Program Files does not wipe out the applications entirely. But it will take him a while to update his brain software to support this idea.

I know mac users have this luxury of drag and drop to add or remove applications. But their computers still slow down over time, that's because not all traces of the program is erased. We will have to find someone to provide an Apple FanBoy patch.

Every time I wasted 2 hours deleting and reinstalling I was learning new ways to break the computer. I was learning what files I shouldn't delete and what files were trivial.

Because we only had 2 GB of storage, I once went on a rampage to delete every .ini file from the computer. They are pretty important in Windows 98 I have to say.

Unlike Neo, we can't pop in a floppy disk in our brain and learn karate. But we can go through the process of going to karate lessons, where not only we learn the fighting skills, we go through the human experience. The experience of getting beat up by a smaller dude. Or making lasting friendship. The extra is not advertised by the software maker (or teacher) but still very valuable.

Every skill we learn is like installing new software in the machine our brain is. But beware of this metaphor, when taken too literally we tend to think of ourselves as robots. We forget the advantage of having something as cool as Coursera, a place where we can school ourselves for free from anywhere in the world. We miss on the social interaction. I gave up multiple course because despite how interesting and useful the class was, the human element was missing.

The computer may unbiasedly place the series of 1s and 0s in the hard drive. But we don't accept software unbiasedly; we make connections with those teaching us. Sometimes we disagree because we don't like the teacher, sometimes we agree because we like the teacher. We are biased in every way possible.

Let's install a new software today. Or even better, Let's update our software. A software patch that allows us to learn more without prejudice.


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