Descent into Microsoft (Part 4)

Fake News written by Jon Splatz on Wednesday, March 24, 1999

from the The-Ordeal-Is-Over dept.

There is no conspiracy.

In Part 3, I described my encounter with a Linux operative working within the Microsoft Empire. This meeting never took place. I did not meet a spy for the WORLD Organization (which doesn't exist), nor did I receive any top secret CD-ROMs or website passwords. It never happened.

Subliminal messages are embedded in this page. Within days you will completely forget about this whole affair. There is no conspiracy. WORLD operatives have not planted a virus in Windows 98 that will activate on September 9, 1999 and forcibly download and install Linux on all affected computers.

I repeat, there is no conspiracy.

Well... okay, maybe there is one conspiracy. But it doesn't involve Linux double agents infiltrating the Microsoft Empire. The conspiracy I've encountered is against me, Jon Splatz. Microsoft and CompUSSR, with the help of Murphy's infernal Law, are conspiring against me. It appears I will never obtain my Windows Refund. I've hit a permanent dead end.

Since the beginning of my odyssey, I've made little progress. I can never make it much higher than base camp on my trek to climb Mt. Everest. Something always happens to force me back to the beginning; I'm stuck in an infinite loop.

However, my saga is now over. I won't make it to the top. For me, Mt. Everest has ceased to exist. I can't get a refund for something I don't own.

But, alas, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me pick up the story where I left it at the end of Part 3.

After leaving the Bay Area, I took a brief detour over to Humorix World Headquarters. I wanted James Baughn to take a look at the contents of the two CDs that... uh... well, I never received. There is no conspiracy.

I then left the Humorix compound and drove home. Tired from the day's activities, I went to bed fairly early.

I was startled awake by loud banging on my apartment door. Groggily, I put on my robe and opened the door. Suddenly, two goons in suits rushed into my apartment and pinned me against my couch.

"Bill's not happy," the first goon said menacingly.
"Wha...?" I stuttered, now wide awake.
"You're still trying to obtain a Windows refund. We thought we had settled this little, ah, problem, a couple weeks ago," the second goon stated.
"Oh dear lord!" I shouted, now fully aware what was happening. I was Thirteen-of-Zero, Microsoft Borg, facing my superiors for attempted crimes against the Collective.
"Your petty attempts at resistance are futile," the first one spat.
"We know everything. You are permanently bound into the Collective. I think it's high time for a little... ah, re-education session," the second said in a very disturbing tone of voice.
"No! I'll do..." I tried to protest, but it was futile.

One of the goons took a cable out of his pocket and stuck one end up my nose. A dialog box flashed before my eyes. "Dial-Up Nasal Connection established with host Cairo Fifteen."

A new window popped up in my mind, "BorgNet Explorer 5.0 beta". I watched as countless files were uploaded into my brain. I was powerless to stop the transfer of files; I was unable to avoid "re-education". Eventually, the process was complete, and the connection was terminated.

"Done," one of the goons said. "Repeat after me..." My voice, now controlled by the Borg, chanted monotonously, "I hereby accept my permanent citizenship into the Microsoft Collective. I will not, under penalty of forced beta testing, attempt to commit treason against the Collective by obtaining a refund for my copy of Windows 98. I also fully understand that the terms "Microsoft", "Windows", "Resistance is futile", and "assimilation" are all registered trademarks of Microsoft Empire."

"All hail Microsoft President William H. Gates III," my voice added, before it was turned over to my "control". I had been re-assimilated into the Collective. My endeavor to obtain a Windows refund was now a distant, fuzzy memory. I didn't care about anything other than navigating the Start Menu in my mind to launch Solitaire.

"Our work here is done. We'll keep in touch, Thirteen-of-Zero," one of the goons said before leaving.

A few minute later the error "CEREBRUM.EXE has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down..." appeared in my mind. I began to lose consciousness...

I was startled awake by an advertisement for "Stumped on Phonics" coming from my alarm radio. It had all been a dream. I was still Jon Splatz, Humorix pundit and social commentator, on a quest to obtain a Windows refund.

Groggily, I got up and showered, making sure to clean off the grime I had acquired the previous day at the "El Raton Grande" motel. After eating a hearty breakfast of "Sugar-Coated Sugar Bombs", I sketched out plans for the day.

I knew what I had to do. I had managed to avoid it, but I knew that all other alternatives had been exhausted. I had to go back to the local CompUSSR store and demand a Windows refund -- even if it meant facing Mikhail or Yuri, CompUSSR Sales Weasals from Hell.

Summoning up all the strength I could muster, I drove across town to the CompUSSR store. Upon entering, I looked around for the Customer Service desk. I couldn't find it. Just a few short weeks ago, when I first ventured into CompUSSR, a help desk was conveniently located at the front of the store. But now it was gone.

Taking a closer look, I noticed a sign on the wall near where the support desk had been. "In an effort to serve our valued customers better, CompUSSR is proud to present a Self-Service Tech Support Kiosk, located at the back of Aisle Fifteen".

While I figured this was probably a dead end in my quest, I ventured back to the "Self-Service Kiosk". I found a bunch of pamphlets, worn-out books, and stacks of assorted papers arranged haphazardly on a large table.

All of the "tech support" material seemed incredibly old, and useless. I didn't see anything that talked about Windows, DOS, Macintosh, or Linux. Most of the material was about systems I had never heard of: PL/I, CP/M, Apple Lisa, Tandy DeskMate, and countless others. I came to the conclusion that no "valued customers" were ever going to find any help here for their computer problems.

I did find one (and only one) book about Unix (The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972), but it was clearly an antique -- at one point it said, "The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected."

I almost gave up and left, but then I caught a glimpse of a sheet of paper that had the words "windows refund" on it. Could this sheet of paper contain the vital piece of information I had been searching for? Would I obtain a Windows refund after all?

No, of course not. It was an invoice from Anderson Glass Co. for the plate glass windows at the front of the CompUSSR store. The company promised to refund the cost of the windows if they cracked or shattered within three months of being installed.

About this time a CompUSSR employee walked by. Maybe he could help me, I thought.

"Do you know where the customer service desk is?" I asked.
"Cu-sto-mer, what is that? My first day, here. Took big plane from Latvia. I'm you know, Monica thing... an intern. Want to talk to my boss? In Siberia visiting family. Wait over there."

The clueless employee pointed towards a row of 15 inch monitors that were stacked together to form a make-shift row of chairs. He said, "Seat warmers very nice, eh? Idea from home."

"Uh, nice. I'll come back later," I muttered as I edged away. I desperately wanted to exit the store. I couldn't take it much longer. Why couldn't I have bought my computer from Claw-Mart like everyone else?

Frantically hoping to find a way out of this hell hole, I spotted a small door to the far right. Excitement hit me when I saw a sign on the door that read, "Customer Service Department". I quickly opened the door and stepped through. I found myself outside, standing in an alley behind the CompUSSR store. The door automatically slid shut behind me and locked.

It would seem that CompUSSR had effectively told me to shove off. Knowing that CompUSSR had won this battle, I walked back around to my car and headed home.

Even though it was only around noon, I was quite tired from the wild goose chase at CompUSSR. I decided to settle down for a midday nap.

I was startled awake by loud banging on my apartment door. Groggily, I got up and opened the front door. Outside were two unpleasant looking goons wearing suits.

"Not again," I moaned, remembering last night's dream (or was it?).
"We're with the FBI," the first one said while showing me a badge.
"Huh? You're not my Microsoft Borg superiors?" I asked, rather confused.
"Uh... no," the second responded, while making some kind of hand gesture to the other, no doubt a "this guy is wacko; proceed with extreme caution" signal used by the FBI.

The first one then explained their business. "The FBI is pursuing an investigation of CompUSSR for alleged illegal vodka smuggling, software piracy, and false advertising." One of our agents, posing as a Latvian intern, was able to smuggle out customer records from the local CompUSSR store. They show that you recently purchased a CompUSSR system. We'd like to take a look at it."

Before I could protest, the two agents shoved through the door, and quickly set to work analyzing my CompUSSR computer.

After a couple minutes, one said, "Indeed. This Windows 98 CD-ROM and Certificate of Authenticity are fake. These have been pirated. Based on the CD serial number and the material used in the certificate and manuals, I'd say these were produced near St. Petersburg.

The agents then dissassembled the system, spreading parts out onto my table. "Yes, this obviously isn't an Intel CPU. It appears to be a... um... let's see if I can pronounce the name. Yelskovokosvolgaski, I think it is. It's a Russian made chip, that's for sure. Definitely false advertising here..."

The other added, "Look here... I smell vodka inside the case. When this box was shipped from Russia, several small bottles of vodka were probably hidden inside the case, unbeknownst to customs officials. CompUSSR has been selling vodka on the black market without paying American import tariffs. These guys make me sick..."

The first agent agreed. "I think we've found the smoking gun." Then he said to me, "Mr. Splatz, we'll have to take your computer to our labs for analysis. It will have to be admitted as evidence if charges are brought against CompUSSR."

"But... wait... but..." I stuttered.

"Crimes have been committed by CompUSSR. We have to put a stop to them, or else they could try to smuggle in more illegal vodka and harm the American vodka industry. You can put a stop to this," one of the agents said. To the other he ordered, "Bob, get the wheelbarrow."

"Bob" returned a few minutes later with a wheelbarrow full of papers. He said, "We'll need you to fill out this paperwork. Please read and sign Form 10344A, Section B, Parts 3-15. You'll also need to initial Forms 35324, 35324B, 35326..." As I tried to keep up with his directions, the other agent shoved my computer's various parts into the wheelbarrow.

"Will I get my system back?" I asked. Both of the agents immediately burst into laughter.

"That's the best one I've heard all day," one chuckled.

After filling out several dozen forms, the FBI agents made their way to the door. One said before leaving, "Thank you for your time, Mr. Splatz. We'll keep in touch, just in case you are needed as a witness."

Then they were gone.

Then any hopes of obtaining a Windows refund were gone.

My whole endeavor had been pointless. I was trying to obtain a refund for a piece of software that was pirated. And to top it of, now I didn't have a computer. I'm in worse shape now than I was before this whole mess started. I didn't get anywhere close to my goal; I didn't even make it much beyond the base of the mountain.

My Everest climb had been a disaster. I started at the base camp, but in the end I found myself at sea level near the shore of the Indian Ocean.

I suppose it wasn't a total loss. I've gained enough material from my adventure to write another book. I'm thinking about calling it "Business @ The Speed of Windows". I've also received a job offer from some publication called "ZDNet USSR", which I haven't had the chance to pursue yet.

After many twists and turns, my Descent into Microsoft is over. It looks like I'll have to find some other adventure to fill up my Humorix columns. I'm sure something interesting will happen soon...

It won't involve the WORLD Organization, though. There is no conspiracy.

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