Someday – and hopefully sooner rather than later – I hope to own a laptop. Now let me explain, I do actually possess a laptop. It’s a fine Dell Inspiron 1720. It has a 16 inch screen and buckets of RAM, hard disk space and all the megahertz to satisfy the most demanding domestic users. Why, it even has the Vista Ultimate operating system – ultimate, no less! So what’s my problem?

Well, you see, I do possess the laptop, since I paid for it with my hard earned cash. But someone else, somewhere, out there in the virtual world has a bigger share-holding of it than me. Let me explain – every time, or it seems almost every time, I turn on my laptop I get a prompt telling me there are updates to be installed. When I choose to go with the updates I am assured (by my virtual share-holder) that I can safely work away while the updates happen in the background. Yeah, right – that’s like being told you can continue to drive your car on two wheels – doable, as they say – but damn near useless.

I am pretty computer literate; so I know I can turn off auto updates. That is, I can tell my virtual share-holder I don’t want any “updates” from him/her. However, if I do that he/she simply nags me to tears with prompts saying things akin to “shock, horror you do not have auto updates activated. This could lead to the end of the world as you know it”. Of course, I am but paraphrasing, but the intent is there – to frighten the bejasus out of me until I turn the auto updates back on, and re-instate by virtual share-holders control. So eventually, if you are like me, you’ll give way to the virtual super-nag.

Perhaps, dear reader, you think I am exaggerating my plight. Well let me tell you that in a recent two month period I was asked to install 48 updates. Of those 48, 90% were flagged as “important”. Now let me ask you, what other consumer product could be sold on the basis that it will have to be updated with “important” changes on an almost daily basis? I know software is the kind of beast that never actually gets a full road test until such time as Joe Public starts bashing those keyboards. This reality check test is difficult to replicate in a lab setting.

So yes, there’s going to be issues that need updating. Every software company issues updating packs on a regular, controlled basis. But some software companies – and I am talking major players here – are taking the Mickey. They are releasing, often on a global scale, a product so full of holes it should be marketed as Swiss cheese.

Imagine if an auto company sold you a car and two days later contacted you to tell you that they were sending around a mechanic to make some “important” adjustments. Now imagine this happening on an almost daily basis – and at all times of the night and day. You’d be pretty peed off with that car manufacturer, I should imagine? There you are driving along the motorway and doing nicely, when suddenly someone taps you on the shoulder. You look in your rear-view mirror and there’s your friendly mechanic saying “can you pull over I need to make a few important updates. It’s nothing too much to worry about. I just need to adjust your breaks and check that the petrol tank isn’t about to blow up.”

You wouldn’t be long ditching that car manufacturer. But then you have so much choice when it comes to buying cars it would be commercial suicide for any auto maker to treat its customers like that. But where software companies have a virtual monopoly, such considerations seem not to matter.

So that’s what running my laptop is like – I share it with a powerful virtual share-holder. It seems someone; somewhere sold me a product that has more screws loose or missing than your average asylum. And now, one day at a time, my virtual mechanic nudges me aside as he/she makes another “important” update. All for my own good, of course!

Sure, I do possess a laptop – but some virtual share-holder, somewhere owns the damned thing.

Based on my experience of Mr Gate’s best products, I decided to employ a very rigid regime when I received an IPad as a birthday present. My rule was, and is, simple: any app – no matter how brilliant it might be – that speaks to me before I speak to it gets dumped. Using this rule when I turn on my IPad there are no apps pushing and shoving to get my attention or worse, to control my browsing. I feel that I own the IPad 100%. It is bliss, pure bliss. But listen up other app or program makers – that is how using a computer is meant to be! So bog off at nano speed, and give me back my laptop.

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