Christmas Eve. A gentle snow is falling. The fireplace crackles and the sweet smells of cinnamon cider and sugar cookies fill the house. The rhythmic “thump-thump-thump” of pajama-covered feet bouncing about The Tree, its branches laden with tinsel and ornaments, its base surrounded by boxes and bows. Eventually the children “run out of steam” and are tucked into bed. A calm settles over the house. But Mom and Dad still have work to do before bed, knowing that their “dreams of sugarplums” will be short-lived, as they awaken to the pouncing, wide-eyed glee of little faces that can’t stay in bed any longer.
Two Dads (we’ll call them Bill and Steve) are sharing the warm experiences described above. However, their evenings are about to become very different. Both men are preparing a special gift that will be “under the tree” (well, actually, on a desk with a big red bow around it) for the whole family in the morning. If you’re good I’ll even tell you what it is. It’s a computer. Come on, what did you expect?
Bill, thinking he’s being frugal, has purchased a “discount” Windows PC at the local “discount superstore”. Steve, after a year of enjoying using the iPod he got last Christmas, decided to get take the plunge and get an Apple iMac G5. Let’s wipe some snow off the windows and peek in on both Dads as they assemble their special gifts.
9:00 P.M. Both men, showing a bit of wild-eyed glee themselves, open the computer boxes. Bill is impressed by the thick, heavy manuals that are inside the PC box this must be a powerful computer to have such heavy manuals. He then must clear lots of space on the desk for the separate 15-inch monitor and mini-tower.
Steve lifts the 17-inch iMac out of the box and sets it on the desk. As the entire computer is inside the 1.5-inch-thick monitor enclosure, the footprint on the desktop is quite small. Steve attaches the keyboard, mouse, power cord, and cable modem, and turns on the iMac. After being guided through a quick process that establishes him as the only person (real or virtual) that can install anything on his computer, he makes sure his included firewall is up and running, and fires up the Safari web browser to see if the gifts he mail-ordered recently have been delivered by the shipping companies.
9:30 P.M. Bill has plugged in all his cables, but then remembers what the IT guy at work told him about protecting his PC before he connects it to the Internet. Bill power ups, establishes his firewall, and begins the “Christmas Eve Windows Update Marathon”.
Steve calls his wife in and uses the iMac’s built-in iSight camera to take their picture to attach to a few emails to the family. He then loads their “It’s A Wonderful Life” DVD into the iMac. He and his wife settle into the sofa and use the iMac’s remote control and FrontRow interface to relax a bit before bedtime. Long before the bell rings and the angel gets his wings, Steve and his wife are fast asleep.
10:30 P.M. Almost done with the Updates, Bill reviews his included Internet Security and Anti-Spyware software. He discovers they are but free trial versions. Soon Bill will have to pony up over $100 to keep both suites working and to subscribe to the updates required to keep up with the malware that will certainly come with the New Year. Now there’s a gift that keeps on giving.
Outside, the moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
© 2005 Peter F. Zimowski