Berlin Wall, Legal Agreements, Alea iacta est

I spent most of this weekend upgrading my wife’s PC. She now has a work environment that has two screens; quite nice.


I chose to do a full install of the operating system as well as reformat the drive. I didn’t want any remnants impacting the new installation.

Some characteristics of the upgrade:

  • Installed Windows XP SP1
  • Downloaded 22 Drivers from the PC manufacturer’s site + associated installation instructions
  • Downloaded SP2 upgrade for Windows
  • Downloaded 108 Windows updates, including the upgrade to IE 7
  • Downloaded Anti-virus software and Firewall
  • Downloaded 17 updates for Anti-virus software
  • Downloaded Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash
  • Ran 19 setup programmes
  • Accepted the terms of 49 legal agreements (terms and conditions)

The Terms and Conditions were generally asked for: (1) before downloading software (2) when running setup programmes (3) on first execution of the software. For any single component accepting the terms could be asked for several time.

The burden of this legal commitment I undertook caused me to reflect on some signage I had seen at a conference I recently attended:


I believe the intent of the message was to suggest that mainframes are extremely heavy and bureaucratic environments. While this may be true, if one interprets bureaucratic as a “series of steps that one completes by just going through the motions…” I will tell you that well before the 49th legal agreement I was pressing the accept button without reading the material.

I am willing to accept the need to protect intellectual property, but the weight of the legal acceptance is extreme to the point of being a customer dissatisfier, at least for me. I can only be left with the impression that these vendors have no trust in their customers. These agreements are for the vendor’s benefit, not that of the customer.

Coupled with the technical challenges faced in the upgrade I certainly felt the burden of this task and wondered whether this was a future Berlin Wall from whence one might sense some freedom?

There are alternatives available for each component of the Microsoft environment (Linux, Open Office, FireFox, Thunderbird, etc.) so the tipping point, where the big cut-over takes place, is in view. In my mind what is keeping us from crossing over is the momentum that comes with a wide install base; it’s just difficult for people to move off.

In the “Day of The Condor” the hit man explains to the Robert Redford character, “…it will happen like this…” To traverse the tipping point the legacy and the new tooling need to live together in harmony. Many of the pieces to do this are in place or on the horizon. It’s not just one thing, it’s several. But we will likely only recognize that last piece as the one that did it; that let us cross the Rubicon . May be that piece is virtualization in it’s many forms.

Alea iacta est: the die is cast, we are approaching the end of the old Republic.


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