DoomsDay Aardvark Random Rant

Random Rant for 5/29/2002

OK, today we'll begin a new set of rants. I know that I don't write much, but since the summer has started, perhaps that will change since I'm now only commited about half time. This new set of rants will discuss why it is that computers suck.

I was considering only writing about why Windows sucks, but then it occured to me that other operating systems suck, too. I wouldn't want all those mac users out there to feel left out so I've decided to include them, as well. Then I figured, oh, what the hell, we can throw in some others, too, and we'll just make a day of it. So. Lah!

That opened up a whole new door. That's why this is going to be a set. I could yammer on endlessly, but we'll just conclude by saying that the next one will probably touch on why computer applications suck. Anyway, to begin ranting about operating systems.

First, let's talk about Windows. Bluntly put, it sucks. My opinion should be good enough for anyone, but I suppose I should elaborate. It's buggy, unstable, ugly, slow, condecending, unstable, and generally just doesn't work. Did I mention that it's unstable? Now, don't get me wrong, I use windows. More or less because I have to. It is fairly useful for playing video games, if you don't mind occasionally having to start over because it corrupted your saved game on a whim, or just decided that it didn't want to play that particular game on that particular day.

The good news is that Microsoft has been pretty good about updating the system. The bad news is that it just doesn't seem to get any better. The last real update was the one that took us to Windows 98SE. Some will argue that Windows 2000 was a good move, too, but that's really where the operating system just started to get silly. Starting in the year 2000, Microsoft decided that it should hide things from the users. Apparantly, Microsoft noticed that a great many people who shouldn't have computers now do, and decided to corner this new market. They have now pretty well (With XP) idiot-proofed the thing. The problem here is that they pretty much sysadmin-proofed the thing, too. The most annoying part of XP is that it just won't shut up. Since I've worked on it, it has popped up some stupid text baloon or another almost every day. It's almost like watching VH1's "Pop-up Video." I just wish that I could turn the damn things off. If Windows wants to hide something from me, it should just shut up and do it!

I could go on about Windows, but we'll just save my ranting about microsoft for another time. Now we're going to talk about Apple. Mac's are some of the most wonderful and powerful door-stops and boat anchors ever produced by modern technology -- and they're good for media editing, too. I could talk about why the exterior design of the machines is just plain ugly, but I was talking about operating systems.

This brings up a point. At the moment, there are really two Apple OS's. OS 9.x and OS X (pronounced 10). OS 9 is pretty much OS 8 in twice the RAM. It added more extensions, basically just for the sake of adding them, since they're not used at all in OS X. (I guess the guys at Apple just needed to get it out of their system -- so to speak). Dispite what many mac users (the main problem with this OS) will tell you, MacOS is NOT USER FRIENDLY. What it is, is stupidly simple. There is exactly one way to do anything (with an occasional keyboard shortcut). Note that you cannot actually traverse the GUI with the keyboard, which would be nice, but you can cursor around and accomplish nothing by it. Also, all applications share the same menu bar. While mac users do not find this strange (indeed, some are not even aware of it), the rest of the world finds it very difficult to work with, especially since many apps put different things in menu. (Case in point, the Go menu in Internet Explorer occupies the same screen position as the one in the finder, but the two menus are frankly and totally unrelated...)

OS X makes some noticable improvements to the underpinnings of the operating system (UNIX is good), and then proceeds to make up for all of them by doing rediculous things to the GUI. Any speed boost from using the BSD microkernel is totally eaten up by all the pointless icon-zooming and menu bar animating. You still can't actually change anything but the colors (and most people don't even do this).

Don't get me wrong, I like OS X. I just wish that it would let me do things the way I want to do them. All in all, though, the best thing about macs is their user base. These are the people who have been brain-washed by early experience and advertising. They believe that their OS is user friendly because they've been told that it is. They make the statement that theirs is the best OS for media development. They may even be right about this. Unfortunately, they really have no understanding of how their systems work, it's pretty much magic to them. It isn't their fault, really -- you'd do it too, if you'd been brought up on an over-glorified, colorful version of palm OS. But they do get the most darling (faun in headlights of Mack truck) expression on their faces when they are forced to move that right hand off the one button mouse and place it on the keyboard. I haven't met the mac user yet who could touch type.

Of all operating systems, the one that comes the closest to not sucking is Linux. It's fast, powerful, stable, elegant, and best of all, it's free! It is also a UNIX (much like OS X if you can get to a command line), which means it doesn't assume that you have the same level of mental function as a pineapple. The downside of this is that if you do have the same mental function as a pineapple, you are pretty much screwed. Honestly, though, I think I read somewhere that a Mandarin Orange could successfully operate KDE.

Linux has only two problems. First, nobody takes it seriously except it's already established user base. The effect of this is that the application pool is different. Not "non-existant" -- DIFFERENT. Normal users seem to fear change. They panic when some one suggests that they abandon MS Office for StarOffice. These same people would probably be unable to tell the difference if they were actually put to it, but whatever. Back to the point, there's no Photoshop, no Dreamweaver, no MS apps at all. There are also very few games.

The second problem is really just a matter of time. Linux was written by geeks for geeks. As a result, when it comes to installing software, it can force you back to the command line from time to time. Things are certainly improving. RPMs and DEB's are gradually taking the place of tarballs and $./configure; make install Hopefully, in five years or so, the world will wonder what this "Windows" was, and OS X will run X-Windows instead of Aqua.

If you want more information about the worlds best operating system, see The Bowling Green Student Linux Users Group. We're a little nuts, but we can also be a lot of fun.

Have a nice day!
This is the DoomsDay Aardvark, signing off...