Microsoft House V2.0


Nov 28, 1999:  Moved in to my new digitally-maxed out Hermosa Beach 
house at last.  Finally, we live in the smartest house in the 
neighborhood.  Everything's networked.  The cable TV is connected to our 
phone, which is connected to my personal computer, which is connected to 
the power lines, all the appliances and the security system.  Everything 
runs off a universal remote with the friendliest interface I've ever 
used.  Programming is a snap.  I'm like, totally wired!!!!

Nov 30:  Hot Stuff!  Programmed my VCR from the office, turned up the 
thermostat and switched on the lights with the car phone,  remotely 
tweaked the oven a few degrees for my pizza. Everything nice & cozy
when I arrived.  Maybe I should get the universal remote surgically 

Dec 1:  Had to call the SmartHouse people today about bandwidth 
problems.  The TV drops to about 2 frames/second when I'm talking on the 
phone.  They insist it's a problem with the cable company's compression 
algorithms.  How do they expect me to order things from the Home 
Shopping Channel?

Dec 8:  Got my first SmartHouse invoice today and was unpleasantly 
surprised.  I suspect the cleaning woman of reading Usenet from the 
washing machine interface when I'm not here.  She must be downloading 
one hell of a lot of GIFs from the binary groups, because packet charges 
were through the roof on the invoice.

Dec 3:  Yesterday, the kitchen CRASHED.  Freak event.  As I opened the 
refrigerator door, the light bulb blew.  Immediately, everything else 
electrical shut down: lights, microwave, coffee maker, everything!  I   
Carefully unplugged and replugged all the appliances.  Nothing.  I 
placed a call the cable company (but not from the kitchen phone).  They 
refer me to the utility.  The utility insists that the problem is in the
software.   So the software company runs some remote telediagnostics via 
my house processor.  Their expert system claims it has to be the  
utility's fault.  I don't care, I just want my kitchen back.   
   More phone calls; more remote diag's.  Turns out the problem was 
"unanticipated failure mode":  The network had never seen a refrigerator 
bulb failure while the door was open.  So the fuzzy logic interpreted 
the burnout as a power surge and shut down the entire kitchen.  But 
because sensor memory confirmed that there hadn't actually been a power 
surge, the kitchen logic sequence was confused and it couldn't do a 
standard restart.  
    The utility guy swears this was the first time this has ever 
happened.  Rebooting the kitchen took over an hour. 

Dec 7:  The police are not happy.  Our house keeps calling them for 
help.  We discover that whenever we play the TV or stereo above 25 
decibels, it creates patterns of micro-vibrations that get amplified 
when they hit the window.  When these vibrations mix with a gust of  
wind, the security sensors are actuated, and the police computer 
concludes that someone is trying to break in.  Go figure.
    Another glitch:  Whenever the basement is in self-diagnostic mode, 
the universal remote won't let me change the channels on my TV.  That 
means I actually have to get up off the couch and change the channels by 
hand.  The software and the utility people say this flaw will be fixed 
in the next upgrade -- SmartHouse 2.1.  But it's not ready yet.   
Finally, I'm starting to suspect that the microwave is secretly
tuning into the cable system to watch BayWatch.  The unit is completely 
inoperable during that same hour.  I guess I can live with that.  At 
least the blender is not tuning in to old I Love Lucy episodes.

Dec 9:  I just bought the new Microsoft Home.  Took 93 gigabytes of 
storage, but it will be worth it, I think.  The house should be much 
easier to use and should really do everything.  I had to sign a second 
mortgage over to Microsoft, but I don't mind:  I don't really own my 
house now--it's really the bank.  Let them deal with Microsoft.

Dec 10: I'm beginning to have doubts about Microsoft House.  I keep 
getting an hourglass symbol showing up when I want to run the 

Dec 12:  This is a nightmare.  There's a virus in the house. My personal 
computer caught it while browsing on the public access network.  I come 
home and the living room is a sauna, the bedroom windows are covered 
with ice, the refrigerator has defrosted, the washing machine has 
flooded the basement, the garage door is cycling up and down and the TV 
is stuck on the home shopping channel.  Throughout the house, lights 
flicker like stroboscopes until they explode from the strain.  Broken 
glass is everywhere.  Of course, the security sensors detect nothing.  I 
look at a message slowly throbbing on my personal computer screen:  
WELCOME TO HomeWrecker!!!  NOW THE FUN BEGINS ...  (Be it ever so 
humble, there's no virus like the HomeWrecker...).

Dec 18:  They think they've digitally disinfected the house, but the 
place is a shambles.  Pipes have burst and we're not completely sure 
we've got the part of the virus that attacks toilets. Nevertheless, the 
Exorcists (as the anti-virus SWAT team members like to call themselves) 
are confident the worst is over.  "HomeWrecker is pretty bad," they told 
me, "but consider yourself lucky you didn't get PolterGeist. That one is 
really evil." 

Dec 19:  Apparently, our house isn't insured for viruses.  "Fires and 
mud-slides, yes," says the claims adjuster.  "Viruses, no."  My 
agreement with the SmartHouse people explicitly states that all claims 
and warranties are null and void if any appliance or computer in my 
house networks in any way, shape or form with a non-certified on-line 
service.  Everybody's very, very, sorry, but they can't be expected to 
anticipate every virus that might be created.  We call our lawyer.  He 
laughs.  He's excited! 

Dec 21:  I get a call from a SmartHouse sales rep.  As a special holiday 
offer, we get the free opportunity to become a beta site for the 
company's new SmartHouse 2.1 upgrade.  He says I'll be able to meet the 
programmers personally.  "Sure," I tell him.