jueves, 17 de julio de 2014

From DOS to Windows and more.

Computing has come a long way since the first time I touched a Personal Computer.
I can't remember if it was actually the first-first time but I surely know I was a kid, it was at the lab my dad worked at the time, and what I did was play Prince of Persia. Of course, from DOS.
c:\>cd prince
Having and using a computer needed a certain knowledge that surely limited the adoption by most people. Being greeted with a command line is not intuitive and after typing whatever and getting "Bad command or file name" time after time, most people will give up.
Fast forward to this time and age, anyone can buy a computer and with no knowledge at all they can get around with no problems. Point, click, done. The latest popular operating system is said to be the most intuitive, everything is on the screen, everything seems to be so easy... for someone who has not used a computer before.
For people who used a computer since 1994, got used to all variations of an operating system and partially accepted whatever new version came, as long as it shared some common design rules, the new version is horrible. Completely unusable.
I normally use one or two versions older software until it loses support and I get no other choice but to upgrade. I got into that trend since Windows XP came out, I always focused on performance because I get mad when the computer is stuck "thinking", I don't like waiting for no apparent reason. I was using Windows ME because it ran better on my old computer, then I switched to Windows 2000 professional. I didn't like the idiot-proof by default programming that XP had, I didn't like the eye-candy, it brought nothing new over Windows 2000. Not in security, not in features, not in hardware support. It's just Windows 2000 with "Window Blinds" (that fisher-price theme). It had new networking options that never worked like they should, they tried to hide networking from the user and the user always ended up with more trouble because for example, windows firewall was blocking networking. Old-style Win2k was always better and worked with minimal tweaks.

Then it came Vista.

It is often compared with Windows ME. I hold ME dear because it didn't give me much more problems than W98/98SE. It was just an update with new icons, themes and candy, nothing new apart from Media Player 7 which nobody liked and a huge support for new USB devices, like scanners and cameras and the best one, mass storage. That meant connecting that new flash drive without using any driver. I liked WME. Vista was a completely different animal.
For Vista, bad timing was everything. They released an OS with a huge RAM footprint that couldn't run on most computers because it used up, by default, about 800MB on boot. It was being sold on new computers with just 1GB of RAM and some local assemblers even dared to put Vista on Celeron computers with 512MB.
The result? Boot, run your programs, be working for like 15 minutes and your computer will crawl because the hard drive will be swapping around all RAM contents.
The solution proposed by tech people: Max your RAM (2GB) or downgrade to XP.
Nowadays almost nobody remembers Vista because it was abandoned so quick. It didn't had a chance.
Then Vista got a refresh and came with a different name. If I had to make a comparison, I'll say Windows 98 is Vista and Windows ME is Windows 7. About the same thing but released on a time where computers could run the system comfortably, every computer came with 2GB of RAM stock so now swapping wasn't a problem. Performance-wise both systems are the same. They look similar.

And the paradigm changed with Windows 8.

MS wants now to compete on the tablet market with a system that resembles what they tried to do with PocketPC.
Pocket PC and Windows CE tried to mock up windows and windows features on portable devices, encouraging adoption by making it look and feel like the software running on a desktop computer. The difference was, that it was not a desktop computer and you couldn't, of course, install desktop software on such devices because the hardware was completely different. The desktop computer could do way more than the Pocket PC.
Now things are changing but in a way where Desktop computers have to be limited so they resemble what a tablet can do.

Welcome to Metro.

Basically, trying to take away what computers did since forever. Multitasking.
I bought a new computer recently that came with 8 installed. I used it for 2 days and upgraded to 8.1. I'm not happy to say it's the same thing.
I gave it a chance, I really did but the annoyances quickly outweighed any of the new features or any benefit to having a system designed to do what you do not want it to do. The global gestures were the first annoyance, the charms popping up when you didn't want to, the weird "metro" programs playing with your files when you had another player installed and even stealing the file associations from time to time. The ability for any program to install another language in the system and switch your keyboard to another distribution.
It's a complete mess.
Again, the new system has under the hood, all the features and options that Windows 2000 had. But hidden away so you can't get there by mistake. Or by normal ways.
It's like a toddler playing, hiding and running around with your toolbox. You have absolutely no problem with it if you're goofing around but it's a pain in the nuts when you have to do actual work, like, deadline in 1 hour work.
Control panel? Completely functional and looks the same since Vista when they changed "Add/remove programs" to "Programs and stuff" or whatever it is called now, the difference is, you have to explicitly say to the computer that you have to go exactly there with "WIN+R, control". Try to get there from metro? No way, it's hidden.
Disable the global gestures to stop the stupid charms from popping up? No. You're forced to learn to avoid certain hot zones on your touchpad.
Disable the russian keyboard distribution that some pirated software installed? Good luck with that, it will come up again when you're not looking.
Check the link status of the network card? It's hidden deep inside the network option in the control panel. 15 seconds to get there. On Win2K? two clicks on the corner of the screen.
Usability was thrown down the toilet. Now Windows is just a idiot-proof platform designed to be annoying and it forces their users to adapt to stupid computing methods. And they even become as annoying as OSX users, creating folders and files without user consent on any removable media.
After every windows mess-up, I end up trying Linux. This happened since 2003.
After every clean-up I think why keep using this trash? It should be something better out there.

What about Linux?

First try in 2003, red hat. Couldn't get the desktop to run.
Second try in 2004, Debian. The desktop started, couldn't do anything.
Third try in 2005, OpenSuSe. First usable desktop. I actually enjoyed it a lot. Suddenly hardware like my scanner wasn't supported.
Another try in 2006, Mandriva. This actually worked quite good, most hardware was supported, I even installed the Lexmark and Samsung printers we had at work, I installed it on a couple computers and used it daily until some accounting program compatibility became a problem, tried to run it on a VM but lacked the time to test it. It was a great system and even my coworkers enjoyed the experience. It was about to become a big deployment given the cost of MS licenses, that we didn't had. Then Mandriva drifted off the Linux desktop map.
A few distros later and here I am, with Debian again. Stuff works.. Barely.

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