Bill Bless You

Fictional Story written by Daniel Novotny on Wednesday, February 11, 2004

from the at-least-i-hope-this-is-fictional dept.

I made a mistake. Again. My little heart aches. I humbly bow in front of The System, which simply announces:

The program performed an illegal operation and will be terminated.

Oh, such pain over an unfinished work. Oh, such sorrow. But it has to be this way. Reconciled with the fate, I shuffle through the muddy alleys to confession. Users, living in muddy slums, see my robe of a novice and step out of my way. "The servant of Lord Bill! Crashproofness to his soul!"

Only one old fellow stands alone in the corner. He frowns. Maybe an Appler...? No..., the Inquisition burned all Applers at the stake long ago.

"I have sinned, Father Paul."

"Your system crashed, son?"

The Cathedral is marvelous: the clouds during the start, the beautiful blue windows that you can open, close, minimize, maximize... There are pictures of saints maximized in the windows: Saint Jack, who died from hunger humbly waiting for the start of Windows, Saint Tom, fetching the page from http://www.microsoft.com/ until he reached Ecstasy...

"What is your advice, Father? How should I prevent the Blue Death, plaguing me day and night?"

"Repentance, prayers, Reinstallation!"

"Holy Reinstallation? Again, Father? Spare this unworthy son the worst!"

"You know, son, what Bill has said: only Windows you may have. Or do you want to resist the Holy Authority of Tech Support?"

"I would never dare such!"

"Well, son. Play Solitaire for ten times and Minesweeper for fifteen times, and your soul will be cleansed. No more crashes!"

I kiss the ring of the holy man and I am released to the eternally muddy streets of the town.

The next morning, my neighbor woke me. "Blue Death, lad! Blue Death in my house? What have I done?"

"I am a mere novice. Go to the Cathedral of Tech Support, only through Bill can you achieve enlightenment." I gave her the best advice I knew.

"I heard some magical formulas against system crashes, from the herbalist."

"Which ones?" I became interested.

The black magic -- editing of the Holy Registry --- was forbidden by the Priests of Tech Support.

"Ummm... if you run Paint three times, Notepad two times, and Minesweeper once, and then recite 'Cables Disks Trash - Windows Don't Crash', the Illegal Operations won't appear."

I wanted to tell her it's just an old wives' tale, but I decided to say nothing. What if it were true? With the Holy System, one never knows...

Zdenek, a colleague novice, knocked at the door. "Heil Bill. They eliminated another sect. Would you like to take a look?"

"Heil Bill. Okay, brother, we'll go."

The mob, as always, stepped back when they saw our robes. There were a lot of people there this time. I heard voices from the crowd: "The Apocalypse! The DOS monster is returning! The forces of the Command Line are coming back!"

I didn't know what the Command Line was, but it had to be something truly evil. When a colleague, Kamil, mentioned it in the seminary, he got a whole month of the temple jail, strict asceticism, and he was banned from playing computer games.

The muddy tents where the mob gathered were burned. Bill gave, Bill took. The sectists paid for their heresy with their lives. But then I caught a small glimpse of white light in the ashes. A little piece of paper, with "/usr/bin/perl" on it. I remembered the hieroglyphs, crumbled the paper, and swallowed it. Some magic, for sure.

The next day I go to confession. I had made mistakes, as the Blue Death had visited me again. I walk through the crowd towards the Temple. "Servant of Lord Bill, crashproofness to his soul!" The frowning old man was more friendly now. Still sad, but looking at me like he is waiting for something.

"/usr/bin/perl", I whisper to him.

"So you too..." a smile blossomed over the old man's face. The bailiffs appeared. I turned my attention back to the old man, but he had vanished.

"I made a mistake, Father."

"You weren't running Internet Explorer, MP3 player, and ICQ at the same time, were you, Billless sinner?"

"No, Father. Regardless, the Blue Death visited me."

"That's not all, son, is it?" The piercing eyes of the priest found the uncertainity in my gaze.

"I saw..."

"WHAT, by Control Panels, WHAT?"

"I saw... no..."

"Confess to your shepherd, son."

"That... that sect, yesterday."

"They are the bytes and to the bytes they turned, son."

"There was... a piece of paper... I didn't want to look at it, really..." I was shivering all over.

"What was on that paper? I adjure you with the Installation, the Reinstallation, and the Backup..."

"There was... /usr/bin/perl there."

The eyes of Father Paul widened. "WHAT?"

"/usr/bin/perl, Father..."

The cell was cold and bare. The executioner with the cat o' nine tails was prepared. The Bishop and Father Paul were standing above me. "You never saw such a paper. Repeat after me."

"I never saw such a paper."

"Hmmmm, it doesn't sound too convincing," the bishop objected. "Nine lashes."

Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."
Swish! "Windows Gracias."

After the punishment I went home, fully cleansed now. But I started to doubt. The permanent crashes? Does it have to be this way? If Lord Bill is omnipotent, why are the sects here? What did that secret cipher mean? Who was that old man?

"Searching, young man, searching? The DOS wisdom of the Command Line is still here. Never dulled. Pure."

"Go away, you old witch!" I shot back. I go home and find that all my Word documents have scrambled formatting. Maybe I sinned. Or perhaps not? The worm of doubt is biting at my mind.

The morning comes and I shuffle through the crowd again. "You can safely switch off your computer now!" The hags are chanting their litanies. The old man is here again. "You were beaten, lad?"

I quickly ask, "What is the Command Line?"

"Oh, so you know this too! It's the place where you enter the commands for the system in pure text form. By all the bits and bytes, he's ripening for Peng..." Noise. The cavalry. The knights of the Order of Big Excel rode across the town square. The old man vanished again. Sigh.

In the seminary. We are learning the Excel tables. I don't dare ask the priest, but brother Mirek knows a lot.

"Mirek, what is 'pure text'?"

Mirek went pale. "Only the text in MS Word is really pure, my friend."

"What version of Word?" Kamil asked. "There are rumours going around in town, about Pure Text and Open Formats."

Open Formats! Another stone to the mosaic. But what's the relation to "Pure Text" and "/usr/bin/perl"?

Just a few days ago I would have said, "Bill knows". I have doubts now. Is there only One System? Only one Bill? Only Windows?

"Lad, when I was young, everything was easier. No glaring Windows, only text commands. It didn't crash," the herbalist laments.

"But all our faith is based on the concept of the Fall and Cleansing!" I snapped back. "Or... maybe... Open formats?"

"Oh, my lad, it's been so long I last heard that... I forgot what it means... Forgive the forgetfulness of an old woman, I should buy some more RAM..."

The old man was at the market. He was hiding in the crowd, but once he spotted me, he came closer joyfully. "Lad, by all the sources and debuggers, they haven't gotten you yet? You're still alive?"

"Yes, old man."

"The system doesn't have to crash. More accurately, it's here to ensure the programs don't crash!"

This was the exact opposite of what we were learning in the seminary. I blushed. Such blasphemy!

"The guards will be here in a moment, so I'll give you one advice; follow..."

Roar. The dragon, MS Office, the pet of Lord Bill, flew over the Town. The crowd became anxious, the people held high their amulets of protection against Applers. The old man vanished.

In the seminary, we found that we are one fewer. Brother Mirek, the smartest one. "That sinner ran regedit.exe. He disgraced the Holy Registry with the products of his sick brain. During his torture, he even confessed to installing Illegal software."

"HE COPIED SOFTWARE?" we all asked at once. Oh, Start Menu, protect us. The bishop continued, "and we found a book about Disassembling and Cracking in his dorm." Libri prohibiti! Black teaching! I drew the sign of the Window on my chest.

"Recant your dark teachings!" The bishop roared. Whom do I see on the stake? It's that secretive old man who whispered his wisdoms to me!

"I won't recant! People, open your eyes! Bill is just sucking money out of you! By C, by Assembler, by Perl, X-Windows and Shell, don't be like sheep!" He just spotted me. I saw the sparkle of sympathy in his eyes. "Whoever has doubts is right! Don't use Word! Don't use closed document formats! Seek the Penguin! Penguiiii..."

The blazing fire burned the body of the sinner. I have a lot of questions in my head. I will seek. I will put together the shards and maybe everything will be different.

"Phooey, heretic!" An old hag spit into the fire.

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