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November 2002

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Winstock 2003 and why I won't be going

By Thomas Klein © November 2002

I'm really looking forward to Warpstock Europe in Arnhem. Not just because of all those great guys that I haven't seen for the last twelve months, but also because there'll be so much to see, to listen to and to learn.

Recently, while I was planning my trip and enjoying to imagine all the things they'll present me with, a cute question came to my mind:

Why is there no "WinStock" ?

Okay, this will certainly make many of you say "Of course there is! It takes place every year at Hannover, Germany and it's called CeBit!" ;) ...but what I'm thinking of is an event held BY users and FOR users. While figuring out the possible reasons for the lack of such an event, the next question was ready to pop up in my subconscience:

If there would be a Winstock - what would it be like?

Most probably, there would be a Symantec booth, a Microsoft booth and maybe even an IBM booth, but there surely would be all the well known conformists and free-riders of IT, with PC magazines at their top. At the entrance, one might surely encounter a bunch of blond student girls all wearing the same unified short, tight tops and pale blue baseball caps, giving away AOL-CD's for free.

Who would be going there?
The usual "hunters and collectors": People who are loading tons of whatsoever stuff on their machines, boring us with stories of incredibly great software they just discovered - although they never really use any of it, not to mention the fact that they never ever registered any piece of shareware but prefer to spend days of work to get around the registration routine. But that isn't a real problem anyway, as you'll see those folks re-installing their Windows every two weeks, because they still don't understand that you can't simply delete those "strange VXD files" in your system directory only to get 40 megs more storage space to install an AOL CD (because of the free hours that come with it).

Virus programmers would get an entire hall of their own, divided into sections for programmers of Outlook worms, malicious office macros and DUN-deviation dialers. There, IT-dyslexics up to age 16 would be offered workshops on the usage of Virus construction kits and basic knowledge for "creating your own DOS attack; part 1: What is TCP/IP?".

Some enthusiastic people would hold presentations on how to use Office XP to create websites with Frontpage extensions that use PowerPoint-embedded OLE objects to make a tooltip show up with the according address-book entry once the mouse pointer moves over it in your latest IE. Unfortunately, they rely on ugly, unreadable copies of the presentation manual: There's no beamer session, because although the TV-out interface of the notebook with WindowsME (surprisingly!) seems to work, no one has a slightest idea, what to do about that scrolling image that comes out of it.

User groups would be presenting new methods of creating self-installable images of an installed Windows for the purpose of building disaster recovery CDs in case Windoze once again crashed itself to complete disfunction. Demonstration of the "crashing windoze" part works just fine, but during the preparation of the "recovery" part, they found out that the CD wasn't made bootable. Well, minor glitch. On second try, everything works just as planned except for the fact that Windows can't be started due to some strange registry corruption.

In the lobby, one could listen to elder and more experienced programmers who already did really great shareware board games in 16 colors using Visual Basic 1.0, talking to a group of teenage, spot-faced PC dummies, explaining to them, that there indeed is a way of having more than one partition on a hard disk. Although he can't quite answer the question "what for?", he knows that it requires you to have the latest Partition Magic at hand... which is no problem at all, as he knows someone who has a cracked copy of it.

And of course there would be: Those well-known, always appreciated (and always the same) "100 tips and tricks for Windows [pick-a-version-here]", followed by the session named "50 undocumented functions of Windows" (sponsored by PC world magazine) and finally "How to tweak Dial-Up to increase throughput by almost 3%", sponsored by German Telecom, who - by the way - is selling DSL subscriptions at the doorway.

So now that we know what would be going on there, let's get back to the first question: Why is there no European user conference for Windows? Don't come up with the reason of lack of room for those millions of visitors! It's simply because (I believe), no one really feels like being a "Windows user" or is able to identify with the product (heck - how are they supposed to? There's no time to build a relationship as there's a "new" one coming out every two years...).

Most "windows users" actually only want to either surf, mail or play. Others need to cope with "company policy" that requires them to be faced with it for being the most convenient way of messing with MS Office documents. Some folks might just have found it unexpectedly on their new machine when turning it on the first time after returning from WalMart, while others simply got a copy of it from a friend of theirs, promising a solution to all problems caused by using the old 'latest' version.

Windows conference? Nah, thanks. That'll just make me encounter those poor guys that you might find hanging around in bars at night, complaining about Windows while next morning, they rush to get the latest PC Mag to read about the latest rumours on Windows[*]'s successor, check out the dialer-warner software that was awarded "winner of the ultimate shootout" in some ridiculous test and to learn about the newest undocumented entries in Win's registry that can be used to tweak DSL throughput by up to 5%.


Other links referenced:
  Warpstock Europe -

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