Um, where's the sense in THAT?

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I receive hundreds of emails each week regarding what I say in this forum. Some are too stupid to discuss. Most are sincere, aimed at conveying other points of view. Still, others ask for technical advice that I may or may not be able to give. Here are a few of them from the past couple of months.


            I received one last Thursday from Tom B. He’s been using computers at home for about 4-years. He does mostly word processing. He uses email and accesses the Internet on a regular basis. His email client is Outlook Express and his Internet browser is Internet Explorer. Early on, someone introduced him to a word processing program called Yeah Write. He wanted to know if he’d be better off switching to MSWord 2007.


            Tom, what makes you think that I’m an expert in this stuff? I’m not. I do know, however, that I can’t tell you if you’d be better off without knowing how many features of MSWord you would use. Based on our emails, it looks like you would use only about 40% of Word’s features, which is typical for 60% to 70% of the people who use MSWord.


            Based on what I could find out about Yeah Write, all of the features he wants are available, as long as he does not need to insert a graphic. Graphic support does not seem to be available with the free version. I didn’t try the $29 full version. According to Tom, he’d insert graphics if he could. So, finding one that supports this feature is a smart move. However, is it necessary to move to something as sophisticated and expensive as MSWord 2007?


            There are many practical and less expensive alternatives. A few of them are complete office suites and they’re free. First, however, he needs to do some simple arithmetic before spending his hard-earned money. People rarely do this BEFORE buying software. So, let’s look at an analysis.


            I’ll use CompUSA’s standard retail price for a standalone version of MSWord 2007, which is $229.99 for a new installation or $109.99 for an upgrade from a qualified product. Tom does not qualify for an upgrade price.


            If he spends $299.99 for a software program and uses only 40% of its features, he’s effectively paid $750 for that software. It sounds astonishing and it is. However, it’s still true. Mathematically, it boils down to a simple yield problem. You derive a 40% feature usage out of 100% available. Divide the price you pay by the 40%. It’s as simple as that.


            MSWord is a good and powerful word processing program. If you NEED most of the features of MSWord 2007 then it is worth every penny of the $299.99 you will pay. I’m defining “most” as using 93% of the available features. Do the arithmetic again and see the difference.


            Fortunately, for Microsoft Corporation, a large number of consumers never analyze the difference between actual cash outlay and “effective” price paid. If they did, fewer people would be using MSWord or, for that matter, the MS Office Suite, simply because they’re expensive overkill: like using nuclear weapons to dispel an unruly crowd.


            On the other hand, if you’d rather ignore an actual cash outlay versus effective price paid analysis, you certainly have the right to do so. For many people, ignorance is not merely bliss; it comprises the “kiss” and “lubricant” that seem to elevate an old-fashioned painful screwing to a perceived love making session.


            I found 17-alternatives to MSWord on the Internet. They’re all free. My two choices are Thinkfree Office and Google Docs & Spreadsheets. They are both web-based. They both have 80% of MSWord’s features. They both convert to and from the DOC and DOCX format. You can’t beat the price and usability. And, neither kisses nor lubricants are necessary! On the other hand, if you enjoy that sort of pain…


            Another reader, Ellen, read one of my columns a few months ago in which I criticized the Bush administration’s “War on terror” as a logical reason for invading Iraq. She asked, “How could so many of us have been, initially, convinced to do this?” This was a great question.


            I’m not a pacifist. There are legitimate reasons for going to war. The Bush administration probably believed with every fiber of its collective being that Iraq posed a real and present danger to the United States of America. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. However, I’ve become more convinced with each day that I was wrong.


            “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” This quote didn’t come from some left-leaning liberal American. It came from Herman Goering of German Nazi fame.


            I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Terrorism is a tactic, not a country. Invading another country does nothing to eliminate it. While there may have been some legitimate reasons for invading Iraq, using the mantra, “We’ll fight the terrorist over there so we won’t have to fight them over here,” was a patronizing thing to do. Terrorists reside all over the world, not to mention the fact that many have been here for decades—some were born here. Terrorists are people who hate passionately because doing so gives meaning to their grossly empty and miserable lives.


            Another reader, Bill Noma, took exception with the way I constantly criticized Reverend Pat Robertson AND the late Reverend Jerry Falwell. He told me that I should be ashamed of myself for disparaging two of the “most sincere, well-intentioned, and moral men of the cloth we’ve ever known.”


            Bill, I met Jerry Falwell in Virginia. I even had the chance to speak with him. In person, he impressed me as everything you’ve described, a very likeable person. Of course, we can’t overlook the fact that likeability depends on perspective. Considering perspective, Archie Bunker was also “sincere, well-intentioned, and moral.” At any rate, neither Falwell nor Robertson ever missed an opportunity to show both insensitivity and stupidity.


            Falwell declared many things to be moral facts. I disagreed with many of them. As a public persona, I disliked him immensely. The same goes for Robertson. There is no law against disliking people. If I dislike certain people, I am a firm believer in knocking them hard while they are alive. Apparently, once they’re dead, we have to speak well of them. I refuse to do that.


            Finally, 18-year-old Dave emailed me asking whom I would vote for in 2008. He wanted to know which of the candidates, out of the current crop in both parties, I think is the most truthful.


            I’m flattered, Dave. But, it’s too early to pick a candidate for United States President. I could be dead by the election of 2008. Regardless, though, I’ve become quite skeptical regarding the political format in this country. Truthfulness is nothing more than a vocabulary word in politics. I’ve witnessed an alarming trend over the past twenty years. Convenience has become the imperative and truth has become an option. While truth can be a mighty weapon, I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that we’re not allowed to take weapons into government buildings.


            That’s it for this week. Stay tuned for more stuff and ramblings next week. I’ve built a pile of stupid stuff to write about. But, newer and stupider stuff happens at the blink of an eye. For example, we’re holding a school-tax referendum vote on June 4th, here in the Brandywine School District. It’s become controversial and heated. A caller to a radio talk show asked the district superintendent, “Why is are kids getting stupider?” See what I mean?


            I’ll be back. There’s simply no way I can let this sort of thing pass!


Joseph Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. Copyright laws apply to all material on this site. Send your comments. Just click here.

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