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PC's have Plug & Play
And pigs can fly (if launched out of a catapult).

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

Plug & Play means that you can plug something in without fear that it will fail (1).

(1) Some may not fear that it will fail - but that is not the same thing as confidence, that is just ignorance.

PC's do work, sometimes. PC's also fail, miserably, sometimes. So playing with plug & play on a PC is like tap-dancing in a mine field, playing chicken or playing russian roulette - you may get away with it - but that doesn't make it smart.

Things have definitely gotten much better in the PC camp. IF you have all new Hardware, and it is a major companies motherboard, and it has an up to date BIOS (that supports PnP), and the card you are adding is new, and MS decided that the manufacturer of that card was big enough to include a driver for that device (or that device is generic enough), and if the planets are aligned right in some mystical way that no one seems to understand, and you are not pushing the system too hard - THEN (and only then) PnP works almost as well as a Mac (2).

(2) There are usually a few extra steps for the PC types, and some things I forgot to mention - but lets not pick nits.

If that paragraph of conditions doesn't sound like a ringing endorsement - that's because it isn't one.

Most of those criteria are met much of the time. So it often does work. But there is a large percentage of the time that one or more of those criteria is not met, and when that happens it is one roaring pain in the butt. Then the user gets to try to figure out which of the criteria is not met, and for all practical purposes PnP on PC's makes diagnosis of why even harder than it was before - often the system will fight you.

Just one PnP failure can cost days or weeks of time, and what can quickly equal hundreds or thousands of dollars. Many people just throw away the device they were trying to use (or use it on a different machine) or trade it for a different one (in hopes that the other one will work), because that is easier than figuring out PnP (3).

(3) I have an interesting example from work. A co-worker had the gall to try to use an Hewlet Packard printer and a Syquest drive on the same parallel port (which they both advertised that you could do). The drive worked fine...until you printed -- then the drive no longer worked.

As is usual in the PC's he called all three companies involved (Microsoft, HP and Syques) and spend hours on hold.

  1. Syquest told him the Microsofts must have a problem in PnP.
  2. Microsoft told him that HP's driver probably didn't unload itself properly.
  3. HP said that Syquests drive's driver didn't use the right protocols.

Finger pointing. Anyone who has played the PC support game is well aware of this problem. Your problems don't get solved, your time and money is wasted -- and most Mac people never have these problems in the first place.

After days of work, spread out over weeks of time, he gave up. He fought with Syquest for days to get them to accept the drive back (and give his money back) because that was the last device bought - and had to give up on actually backing up his portable computer.

These types of stories are not isolated - they are very common. Ask any PC Person (who has been around) if this sounds familiar -- either he can tell you similar stories, or he is a liar.

Like most of MS's programs they seem to figure "why do it right, if we can do it quick". They hack, and come out with a half-assed solution, and the users pay -- and then the users gets to pay Microsoft MORE so that they can get support. Then they pay for the priveledge of being upgraded, so they can be abused in the future, or so that they can have the priveledge of having their system work the way it was advertised to in the first place.


Plug & Play is not using a device with the hope that it may work - plug & play would be able to plug in any device without the fear that it (or your system) may stop working. That is how it works on the Mac and not how it works on PC's. PC's still have a sick game of russian roulette that they call Plug & Play, and I keep expecting a cheer of glee when the user plugs something in and it actually works. Not that this isn't common, but dramatic failure is still all too uncommon and all too costly.


Created: 02/07/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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