I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel... or could that be the unblinking eye of my new desktop computer. This modest computer--HP Pavilion fare for the plebs, its video card is less than special and its built-in speakers fail to work, but with a rather nice 19' flat-screen--is sufficient for my current purposes, including blogging.
I must have realized that buying a computer in a foreign land that speaks a foreign tongue would not be as easy as just walking into a Best Buy, socking 'Steve' in the eye, and walking out with a nice desktop.
First there was the matter of choosing whether to buy a DIY computer (which can be either a Frankenstein's monster of perfection, or a perfect horror) of various parts bought separately, or to buy an off-the-shelf pleb product. I went with the pleb product because DIY computers can be notoriously high-maintenance, especially with the various Chinese knock-off parts floating about. There's also a lot more room to be cheated, whereas at the Gomei store (China's answer to Best Buy) it's pretty much sticker price or nothing. No bargaining involved (although I did try).
Many expletives and disappointments (over the lack of real speakers and low-quality video cards available) later, we walked out of the Gomei with our present configuration. That was only the beginning of the ordeal.
For the next two days, I wrestled with the machine (Monkey vs. Robot, so to speak). The machine came preinstalled with Linux rather than Windows, because in China a legit copy of Windows costs almost as much as a new computer. Ridiculous. I for one, would be more than willing to buy a legit copy of Windows (most American consumers never have to, since it's preloaded on their machines), but for a reasonable price. When I expressed my interest in buying a legit copy of 'English-language' Windows, though, the salespeople at Gomei all but laughed in my face. Does such a thing even exist in China?
Microsoft, I have one thing to say to you: You are missing the boat. When Google or some other company releases for free the same services you are charging an arm and a leg for, all the developing world--and a decent slice of the developed--will be right there waiting for it. Microsoft may well become a diminished brand in the future if something doesn't change. Piracy will always be your master as long as you attempt to hold onto inflated prices meant for the American market. Maybe China won't be making you much money, but currently your profits don't really have to come from there--America, EU, etc provide more than plenty of those. As the Yuan currency becomes more valuable, so will your Chinese profits. But certainly there won't be much of those if 90% of China is using pirated products.
In any case, I was for one evening stuck in limbo as I attempted to overwrite Linux Red Hat with my pirated copy of Windows. Surpassing that challenge, I was then stuck without proper drivers because Gomei doesn't provide them with the computer (but rather sends them out with an employee). Here I am waiting, still, for sound card drivers that will work. The ones they tried previously couldn't be used because I don't have Service Pack 1 on this pirated bit of Windows.
Oh, the automaton-ity!