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My internet connection was blocked for half an hour today, which is, yes, a short time, but it was infuriating. It was infuriating because it happens every semester. The IT guys on on campus are always installing some new kind of “security” or “firewall” or “anti-virus” application.

So for half an hour, the University server showed me this everytime I tried to connect to the Net. It was telling me that I could not access the Internet unless I installed something called InciterX. Of course, that’s some kind of Windows thing, but when I searched for informaiton on it on Google, it turns out’s even better: the top hits are all Korean. Is InciteX some kind of Korean Windows patch thing?

Beats me. I run Linux. We don’t have viruses. We don’t need those things, and we can’t install them.

Except, of course, the Internet in Korea presupposes Windows, requires Windows, and operates almost as if Windows is the only OS there is.

I don’t mean the annoying fact that one cannot access all kinds of websites in Korea without being a Korean citizen: the government legislated that foreigners ought to be able to use their Foreign Registration Card (whatever it’s called) numbers to access web pages, but of course, nobody’s updated the software to allow it because, hey, that would be work. (And maybe the demand is small, I suppose.) But I’m not talking about that.

I mean that tech support, web design, services, banking… everything presupposes that you’re a Windows user. Even if someone started selling powerful, flashy Linux boxes for business use, at amazing prices, I think it would never fly, because nothing here works unless its all Windows. I know at least one foreigner who runs a business website in Korea and who confided that he didn’t use a Korean web designer for that reason — their designs only work in Windows, and in Mac or Linux or other OSes, it fails miserably, which they pretty universally never think to check, and don’t seem to regard as a problem.

Which, if you’ve ever moved away from Windows, is amazing, because Windows is the least stable, least functional, least long-term usable platform there is. I installed Ubuntu 6.something on my PC at the same time I installed Windows XP on Lime’s, and her Windows installation is in absolutelty desperate need of reinstallation. The office computers where I work are so run-down by overall system rot that viruses don’t even add any appreciable slowdown — so slow that pages take one or two minutes to load, on the fastest institutional broadband I’ve ever used! — and yet the tech support guys tell them they can’t reinstall the OS because of course, the data on the PC will be lost.

Which is stunning. When you’re running Linux, the easy solution is a second partition for data, which lets you reinstall the OS any old time. It’s that easy. It could be that easy on Windows, actually, if the tech guys knew and cared enough to bother. But instead, the secretaries are stuck using computers that run slower than Windows 95 on Win95-era machines. Meanwhile, the Linux installation I made on my desktop PC, in my office, is a couple of years old and is working fine. Yes, Linux needs to be reinstalled occasionally, but it doesn’t rot out from under you the way Windows does.

Anyway, not to compare Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux further: all I think is, a person should be able to use whatever OS they prefer, without major interference and problems. You’re free to use Windows, if you want: choose that kind of headache, instead of the kind I get when I cannot do X or Y or Z and need to dig into the command line to fix it. Yeah, Linux still has that aspect, though it’s not common, but I don’t think everyone could handle it. I’m barely able to myself. But no matter what you choose, tech support should be professional enough to handle that, even if they specialize in supporting the most popular OS. (Even if it happens to be the shoddiest one available.)

But that’s not really how it works here. This afternoon, I was seeing a page that instructed me to install some Windows thing if I wanted internet access. And apparently the reasoning is good, if you use Windows. Lime installed it on her PC, along with some kind of anti-viral thing, and it found 15 viruses on her computer that the free antiviral software.

But I don’t have viruses. I can’t get viruses. Linux doesn’t have a virus problem (for reasons explained here). I don’t So what’s the deal?

The secretary at the office called the IT center for me and someone there said to her, “Ah, foreign computers. They are weird. I can’t fix it unless he’s using Windows.” Note that: he spoke of fixing my computer, at least that’s how the secretary explained it. My computer’s fine, but he seemed to think there was something wrong with it. As I explained this, she was shocked to discover I’d bought my computer in Korea. “Why do you use Linux?” she said, and I gave her the simple answer: no viruses, more stable than Windows, and free. “Why do you use Windows?” I asked, and she just shrugged. The real answer is, because that’s the only OS you can productively use in Korea.

When Lime called, to inform the IT guy that my computer was fine and it was the campus network that was requiring a software bitlet I couldn’t install because I’m not using Windows, the story was more like, “Ah, I see… well, I’ll try to find a workaround and call you tomorrow.” I let her know that service was better at the time, but she refused to tell him. It’s better if they spend some time thinking about it, figure it out for real, she suggested.

Actually, service is 85% better at the moment. 85% doesn’t really feel like enough to me, what with every ninth and tenth webpage I load coming up blank — especially Listal, of all sites, which I use quite a lot! It got suddenly better, and now that it’s evening, access it getting spottier again. I think if these guys cannot sort it out, and I need to get internet access set up in my flat, I’m going to send them the bill. After all, it’s their questionable competence as tech support guys that is messing up what’s supposed to be free internet access in my home.

I have to confess, though: the real reason it infuriates me is because it feels like another manifestation of the “Monohomouniwoori Culture” attitude that drives me crazy. When I see a big guy in Korea, a big Korean guy I mean, I always want to ask him where he gets his shoes. I know it’s a small market, but it’s way harder to find big shoes, big socks, big underwear, big shirts… clothing that fits guys bigger than average size here is really hard to get. (And I’m not even talking about my size.) As a Korean friend living abroad commented on his brief return to Korea, women here seem to have become physically much closer to some eeriely visible average appearance — as if all that plastic surgery is actually an elective form of Stepford Wife-ation, or something. That increasing trend makes me very nervous, and I suppose any manifestation of one-size-fits-all here drives me round the bend.

But it’s worst when it affects my daily life, and when you touch my internet connection, you touch my daily life. So my connecitivity is still spotty. Oh, and the other reason it bugged me so much is because this happens every damned semester. A semester hasn’t passed during which some “new security” thing has failed to pop up and screw up my internet connection for no good reason other than my choice in OS.
Right, enough of this: I have some write-a-thon work to do, and laundry to put into the dryer and more to wash. And dinner… and editing… oh, the devil’s work is never quite done, is it?

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