The Glitch Witch and the Buttons

I’ve had my Samsung Series 7 tablet PC for 10 days. It’s a fullblood computer with more processing speed, power, and memory than my desktop. Like my desktop, it runs on Windows 7. But it’s a slate: I can write directly on its screen with a stylus, it converts my handwriting to text, and I can insert the text anywhere. Naturally, with such glamour and perfection in my hands, I’ve been expecting the Glitch Witch.

I never dreamed she’d take the buttons. I use IE9 on the tablet, as I did on my desktop. For some reason, the buttons don’t show up on my tablet’s screen, but they appear on my desktop’s screen.

What buttons? You know: the buttons, the little widgets you click to buy stuff, or subscribe to my blog, or commence an action: the buttons that are elemental components of expedient online life. I don’t see the buttons.

It’s upsetting. I feel like a lunatic calling Microsoft and Samsung, refusing to give the tech rep my phone number, and explaining that I don’t see the buttons. They’ve never heard of such a thing. They apologize for the inconvenience. One recommends a total reset of my computer, but admits that won’t necessarily recover the buttons.

As has invariably been the case, my husband knows more than the tech reps. Forums recite numerous complaints from slate owners who don’t see the buttons; you can hover your stylus over the white space and click the little hand when you happen into position. But you don’t feel quite secure not clicking a visible button. We have become a people accustomed to clicking buttons to get things and to get things done.

My husband found two button losers on a slate user forum who discovered that they could see the buttons when they used Google Chrome, but could not see buttons with either Internet Explorer or Firefox. I had already tried Firefox and had the same result, thinking it was an issue specific to IE9, even though IE9 rendered marvelously visible buttons on my desktop computer. But tablets and desktops configure browsers differently. It seemed there were as many possibilities as there are buttons to be seen.

I despise Chrome as a tracking device and place it in the same category as malware, but I downloaded it to see whether it would render buttons visible. I declined to make it my default browser, and declined its generous offer to commandeer my carefully selected toolbar. I opened Chrome, a very basic and unassuming little box when it lacks permission to take over your computer.

It asked me to sign in to my Google account. No, thank you; sic your tracking curs on someone more interesting. I opened Explorer and copied a URL and pasted it into Chrome’s URL box. Bingo: I saw the buttons at Amazon’s site.

It’s weird how thrilling it was to see the buttons. It’s like waking up from a nightmare and finding nothing amiss after the urgent experience of churning chaos.

So I have Chrome as a back-up browser, with the inconvenience of first opening Explorer to copy a URL and pasting it to Chrome so I don’t have to sign in. I’ll only use it for button-dependent sites. I hope Microsoft will come up with a patch for Explorer, but slate users are such a micro-niche that it probably won’t hit their radar, unless this happens with their new slate, Surface, due out at the end of October–and that will add the confounding variable of Windows 8.

So, the Glitch Witch came; but she is not native to my computer, but to the awesome impossibility of total industry preparedness. It’s all too big and too strange; no one can possibly know even enough anymore, much less everything.

At some point I’ll decide life without buttons is perfectly tenable. Then I can start worrying about what the Glitch Witch will present with the next stroke of her broom.

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