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I (still) hate computers (#1197)

Topics/tags: Technology, rants [1]

I hate computers.

People seem surprised to hear that, given that I’m a computer scientist and all.

But I hate computers. More precisely, I hate how computer software often behaves, particularly in complex situations when it interacts with other computer software. I suppose I also hate when computer hardware stops working at inopportune times.

Here’s my latest—of many—experience that leads to hatred.

My primary laptop [2] finally came back after three months in the shop [3]. I was happy. I’m (mostly) still happy. But the return triggered yet another one of those situations that enhances my hatred of computers.

I use on my laptop. While it was away, I used Microsoft Outlook. Outlook is a worse program. At least Outlook for macOS is a worse program; I haven’t tried Outlook for Microsoft Windows. How is it worse? So many ways. Here are a few: Outlook won’t let me send plain-text email; it lacks a plugin to handle PGP-encrypted email; and Outlook’s search facility is not as good as’s. One way Outlook wins? Unsurprisingly, it communicates better with our mail servers.

That doesn’t tell you what happened, did it? That’s okay; I needed to give you some backstory.

Once I got my laptop back, I went back to using On Monday, everything seemed to be working fine. On Friday evening, I went to look for one of my sent messages. And, um, I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t find it in I couldn’t find it in Outlook.

I tried restarting both applications. I tried different computers, at least for Outlook. I tried the Web Outlooks. Nope, no evidence.

I began to ask myself whether or not I’d sent the message. I also noticed that didn’t seem to show all of my messages.

I worried that the re-initialization of my laptop, along with the upgrade to a new OS, may have affected’s information about my Grinnell email. So I did the sensible thing [4]. I removed my address from, assuming that removing it and then restoring the account would fix things.

Soon thereafter, popped up about a few dozen windows, suggesting that it had sent none of my email for the week. Why not? I have no idea. But that does explain why people weren’t getting back to me for some messages I’d sent on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Since I no longer had my account active, all of those messages ended up going out with my email address instead. That’s not ideal. At least they went out.

I then reinstalled my address. Did it fix things? Nope. I still didn’t seem to be able to send email from

So I removed my account once again. I would have visited ITS except, well, it’s Saturday and ITS is closed. So I went to the Web to look for the instructions for configuring on macOS. I looked all over GrinnellShare [5]. I found a document on configuring mail, but I assumed it was outdated because it seemed to still explain how to use the iPhone I also didn’t notice that it had a section for Apple Mail.

In any case, I concluded that I had not found the document I needed. So I called weekend ITS [6,7]. They asked to connect with Zoom [8]. They walked me through the same steps I had done.

And, lo and behold, I could send email from my Grinnell account.

As I tell my students,

Computers are sentient and malicious. They demonstrate this by refusing to work until you ask for help and someone tells you to follow exactly same steps you’ve just done. Then they work. They do this solely to embarrass you.

I guess it was about time that it happened to me. Again.

Is working? Not quite. Sometimes I click on a message and it doesn’t appear. I expect that’s because it’s still downloading my gigabytes and gigabytes of messages. But I can send email from my Grinnell account.

A few days of work that got delayed. A few hours of extra work. And, once again, I can send email with

I hate computers.

It’s only fair. After all, they regularly provide evidence that they hate me.

[1] Are all my musings about technology rants? Probably.

[2] It’s really the College’s laptop, but it’s the primary computer on which I work.

[3] More on that topic in some subsequent musings.

[4] Also the painful thing; reloading my mail usually takes a few days.

[5] Aka GrinCo.

[6] Or is it weakend ITS?

[7] Some random phone service that we contract with.

[8] I’m so confused. Isn’t Zoom something that ITS prefers we not use? I recall them telling us not to use Zoom for essential work.

Version 1.0 of 2022-07-16.