Friday, June 20, 2008

Computer engineer

Superficially, my friend Thierry—resident of a nearby Drôme village—doesn't talk like a computer engineer, and certain observers might consider that he doesn't really look like such an individual... if indeed it might be said that computer engineers have a generic look.

How in fact does Thierry talk? Well, if you happen to have been wading for the last few months in the smelly and swampy meanders of broken-down computing systems of the Microsoft variety, then it's quite likely that Thierry speaks a language in which you'll recognize immediately certain references. Unfortunately, as a Macintosh user, I don't have the fortune of knowing intimately this murky world. So, I don't necessarily understand a lot of what Thierry has to say. But I love to hear him talking endlessly and smilingly about all this shit, which he seems to appreciate in a masterly fashion.

At a professional level, Thierry's undeniable success stems no doubt from the sad fact that all kinds of individuals and firms have encountered huge nasty problems through having invested in Microsoft... in the same way that their predecessors used to sell their business souls to IBM. Thierry has the knack of being able to extract victims, more or less, from their shitty swamps. Consequently, he earns a nice living, and leads a pleasant life as a reputed expert.

For me, it's always amusing to ask Thierry what he thinks about the Macintosh phenomenon. Naturally, he has nothing but sarcasm for the Apple computing universe, in which things don't necessarily and systematically go wrong. Thierry prefers to gravitate in an environment in which computing is an enormously shitty affair. Indeed, if the computing world were like Apple, Thierry would no longer be considered by his prestigious clients (including a nearby commune, for example) as a brilliant savior. Worse still, he might even be out of work.


  1. [...] if indeed it might be said that computer engineers have a generic look.

    Come on, William, everybody knows that computer engineers are supposed to have a generic look. Just watch these wonderful Apple ads! But I must say that - to me - Thierry looks more like a Linux/Unix engineer than a Crosoft one.

    Naturally, he has nothing but sarcasm for the Apple computing universe [...]

    I'm afraid, I fully agree with him.

    He seems to be a nice bloke!

  2. Some precision:

    I don't say that things "systematically go wrong" in an Apple universe. In fact they don't. It is just the logic I don't understand.


    Once upon a time... to cut a long story short, I worked for two month in a publishing house. Of course everybody uses a Mac in this environment. The problem is that they don't understand how their computer works. People I was in touch with understood that I like computers, so one day a woman asked me how to burn a CD on her Mac. I told her that I never understood how a Mac "thinks", but on my PC, I use a software for burning CDs. She told me that it seems to be possible on a Mac to drag the file you want to burn to the bin and it will be burned. I was a bit sceptical with the procedure, but told her to go ahead - there was no risk, since she had the original disc in her hands.

    So she did and it worked!

    The problem is that this idea - drag a file to the bin in order to burn it - would have never crossed my mind! When I put something in the bin, usually it is because I want to throw it away (real bin or virtual one). I suppose there is some incompatibility between the way of my thinking and Mac's way to deal with input - people say that Mac is supposed to be "intuition"... PC "logic"...

    As far as I'm concerned, I think that computers are shitty (no matter which OS one uses). My point of view: if you are a basic user who just wants to put his holidays photos online (or just on the computer, in order to send them to family/friends) buy a Mac. If your life is organised around a computer (work, leisure) buy something else.

    I would like you - as an Mac expert - to convince me that I'm wrong.

  3. Maybe my decription of Thierry's world is slightly caricatural, but I don't think I've totally invented the complicated computing environment of this most likable fellow, whom I've known ever since my arrival in the Dauphiné in 1994. I should have pointed out that, to a large extent, Thierry works with customers who use servers and local networking, rather than with individuals like us who use their machine as a creativity tool. I've always had the impression that Thierry's computing word is terribly complicated and messy... but this might simply indicate my own ignorance. At present, he's apparently working a lot with the complex concept known as RAID [use Google to see the meaning of this term], which consists of replicating data among several disk drives. At a more down-to-earth level, Thierry is called upon to "fix" new Vista-intalled PCs in such a way that they work with an older operating system. Personally, I don't blame Thierry for steering clear of the Macintosh planet, because that's clearly not where his business interests are located.

    In your comments, Corina, you evoke the interesting debate about the alleged superiority of one kind of machine with respect to the others. In the final analysis, each person seems to be more or less content to carry on using the machine to which he or she has become accustomed. That's a variation on a statement made long ago by Jean-Louis Gassée: "The best word processor in the world is the one you're most accustomed to using."

  4. Very good quotation.

    I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I talked about the "superiority of one kind of machine with respect to the others." This was not my purpose. I spent 7 years with XP - two desktops, one laptop. Of course, I had troubles with this OS, but it was a sort of love affair between me and XP. As you probably remember, my honeymoon with Crosoft is over. I won't buy a Vista, neither a Seven. And I'm afraid I won't buy a Mac either. I'm just a bit lost. Imagining that my computer will "die" one day is a very painful idea...

  5. Corina: I would conclude, from everything you've said about your present feelings in the computer domain, that you're surely ready for Linux. If you happened to be down in my corner of the world, I would put you in contact immediately with the famous Thierry, because he actually builds PCs. I forgot to mention the fact that the guy's an absolute wizard... and one of the brightest individuals I've met since arriving in the Dauphiné. Besides, he would set you up with exactly the Linux system you need. I told him that I had heard that Red Hat [my former supplier] didn't seem to want to work with private customers, and Thierry assured me that there are several excellent suppliers... such as the Ubuntu distribution of Gnu Linux, for example.

  6. Thank you for your offer. I have a CD Ubuntu 8.04 I might install on my old computer this summer. We'll see.

  7. Corina: You may have already seen this interesting article that compares Ubuntu Linux and Windows Vista.