I myself started with computers about 26 years ago; for someone of my generation I was late to start. My first PC was a DOS 2.11 8088XT 4.77 MHz, 640kb RAM. It used to give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside, waiting for that 20 Mb HD to load my Lazy Larry game to play on my green Hercules monitor. It was a huge step forward from having to load of those 5 1/4 " floppies. I can still recall that fuzzy feeling. Right now I got 'some other' PC which is only 2 years old. I don't get that fuzzy feeling any more, even though the things I do with this new nondescript PC are way beyond what I ever did - or could do - with that 8088. I wonder in another 26 years, will this fuzzy feeling return...? Somehow I doubt it. Maybe that fuzzy feeling is what appears in people who are the age I was then. I hope so for them, actually.
For a couple of years I worked for a very big company as one of the many MISes running around, seeing only part of the whole IT environmant, now I work as a CIO for a small (growing to medium) company in SEA where I have to make sure everything IT related keeps working as expected.
My current boss is what we where I am from call a "power freak"; he always likes the latest and best (also often the most expensive), the most recent updates, versions... etc. This quality has gotten him into trouble on quite afew occasions, and not only with his computers/laptops, also his Mercedes, iPod, and our email server, for instance. As an MIS I prefer slower stability over unstable (and often hardly noticeable) faster speed. Users do too, is my experience. I am talking about office use and not gaming right now, of course. Still, everybody wants a fast computer but not if that means it crashes a lot - including gamers. Unfortunately for me my boss is also a Computer Science major and knows too much to not have an opinion. That gets me into trouble sometimes (like with the email server). The funniest thing he ever told me, is that he really _needs_ an 800MHz FSB. So his Adobe starts up faster I guess. He does not do much more complicated than that with his laptop.
When I look at the things some completely a-technical people do with MS products, I am sometimes deeply impressed. Not only are they able to learn and use things like email (I am thinking of my very old parents right now) but also to make photo-albums, music libraries, magnificent Powerpoint presentations, extremely good-looking Word documents etc etc. MS has made it easy for people to start; MS has lowered the fear of computers. Yes: Apple did that too, and even earlier then MS. But PCs and MS made it more available by being much cheaper, and as such reached many more people. This is basically _still_ the case.
Microsoft is a clever marketer, always has been. If something looks new to people, it will feel new, and they will want it. And since the computer has become a means of entertainment, people get tired of looking at the same interface they have worked with for years (been through all the themes), they want something different. Like the paint jobs in their living room. Microsoft provides. Users allow Microsoft to perpetuate itself and its revenues by buying new paint jobs. Who's the stupid one?
So, all those MS bug-exploiting miscreants: why attack MS? Because they make money because their users are stupid? Where is the law laid down that people have to be smart, and that a commercial company can not market their products with that in mind? Aren't all used-car salespeople basically doing exactly the same? Aren't you miscreants doing exactly the same too, targeting computers of people who are not clever enough to protect their computers against people like you - except, of course, for the fact that you do not make money off it? Again I ask: Who is the stupid one?
But of course everyone is free to be stupid. There is no law that says you have to be clever to touch a PC.
Being far from stupid, the thing about MS that overshadows almost all good things is indeed their politics. MS is the richest company in the world but comes down on us little users like a ton of bricks to stop piracy. They buy/steal other people's/companies' ideas and patents and incorporate them in their own products as if they were their own. Other companies' products that could cause MS' profits to drop are forced off the face of the earth by lawsuits. MS'd make GNU and Linux disappear if it could. And you know what? MS may yet do exactly that.
When I think about Windows: what have really been the changes from a user's point of view? We did not do anything different with Win 3.1 than what we are doing now on XP. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Netscape or Internet Explorer, MSmail, Solitaire. Maybe there is a database application~ nobody knows or cares what lies behind it, it's a database, period. To a user it does not matter if it is Access, SQL Server, Oracle/Unix or whatever. Oh sure, there have been some improvements to make sure users enter data correctly, but we worked with it anyway. Nothing real has changed since the GUI was introduced on PCs, in particular since we started using a mouse to click pictures. So Vista may have been 'overhauled' (not sure what that actually means though) but from a user's point of view, what is different? What the user SEES - and has to work with - is the interface. Point and click, type data. And that is still what it is. Vista or 3.1, we still have to type the darn letter ourselves; Vista does not type it for us. Same thing with the Office Suite, ribbon or no ribbon: We still have to format the document and position the figures in it into columns ourselves, Word does not do that for us. Apart from maybe some bug-extermination in that interface to prevent it from crashing just drawing the pictures, all the actual improvements that really have been made, could have been made without touching that interface.
Windows requirements also have always been pushing hardware limits with every release. Just like games do with every fresh title. That's nothing new. Finally everyone got Win 3.1 running nicely, then Win 95 comes along with its higher requirements. Everybody, upgrade your PCs!
Hardware manufacturers must love Windows, because they stimulate their market this way. They're not going to oppose a good thing. Interestingly enough, I read some articles stating that the Xbox is actually an Intel 800 MHz PC with only 65Mb RAM, 10 Gb disk, and runs on a custom version of Win2k. I am not an Xbox expert but what I have seen makes me feel that the Xbox proves that Windows wastes a WHOLE lot of resources on exactly that: the interface. And not even on operation but pretty pictures / animation / special effects only. Now with Vista the thing is Aero-Gloss. Yes, it looks cool, fun to play with for 5 minutes, but is it really useful? When we are typing our letter, is it going to be useful to make our Word window "translucent" so we can see everything behind it? Maybe for a very few very specific users who have very specific needs, but for the VAST majority I really can not believe that. It is like driving an F1 while a tricycle will get you there faster because it is easier to stop.
As an MIS I know my users (and myself). Believe me, they will start their future questions with "In Win XP/2k/ME/98 I could click here and then here and then I get this option, now in Vista, it is not there.". It is not a matter of being lazy or old to learn a new interface, it is plain GUI-fatigue; I just do not see why it _has_ to change. Stale? Yes, I set my XP interface back to very dull Win95 style as much as possible - after anything MS installed one has to spend almost the same amount of time changing the defaults to something useful. I am a dull person. I do not need or want all those fancy colours and effects and sounds, they clutter up my eyes and mind and so distract me from what I am supposed to do. Why buy the fastest PC on earth - so we have to wait for Windows-menus to 'fade-in'? To me (but that's personal), a pc is a tool, like a hammer to a carpenter. Why do I want a silvery blue hammer with a gradient green head, smoothly scrolling in on and fading out of the nail as I try to drive it in two pieces of wood to tie them together so the glue between them can dry? When my company switches to Vista (and with a boss like mine it is a matter of WHEN, not IF) everybody - including me - will have yet another learning curve just to get that interface down. It's just a big loss of continuity. Loss of money, in the end. So why switch to Vista? As usual, it can offer us nothing more than we do not already have - except maybe a headache. See how clever MS marketing is. As the wise man said: If you believe that, there may be a bridge in NY you want to buy.
So then I come to Linux (Unix).
Unix is an old OS, and started out as a multi-user thing, because it was from the start meant to be networked. The way things like permissions, authority, security are upheld has always been subject to careful scrutinization. Like Macs, PCs come from a stand-alone environment. Only later were they made to work in a networked and multi-user environment. No wonder there are so many holes left to plug (overhaul or no) in Windows systems - which, by the by, also makes it easy for those MS-bug exploiting miscreants to target those MS based systems - which in Unix have been discovered ages ago already and been plugged ages ago already too. Linux is based on Unix and as I understand it, started some 15 years ago. I wonder if MS had already developed their NTFS at that time. I would not be surprised if it turned out that MS took some open source code, gave it a twist, and called it their proprietary NTFS. Wouldn't be the first time they do something like this. Pardon my allegation. When I look more deeply into Linux I get the feeling MS has been doing that a couple of times now already (Slit vs. SideBar? What is that all about eh?). Open source means this can happen. So Linux, can we put some IRM on you? Oh too late, the MS-collective is working with SuSE already. Well then, byebye SuSE. It was nice knowing you. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.
As MS perpetuates itself with revolutionary development, Linux does so with evolutionary development. The advantage is that you can have the latest version of Linux on a machine that was top-of-the-line 15 years ago and one that is top-of-the-line now. Both will be useful. With Windows Vista this is impossible. It won't even install on the older machine. I think the DVD won't even spin-up. With Windows, that old thing is only fit to throw away.
Needless to say I tend more and more towards Linux. I would have switched completely to Linux were it not for my boss, who is a MS infantile all the way, and this whole part of the world, which is filled with MS grown babies. I still have to be compatible with them.
MS rules. It is the sad fact.
I think we should add that to the list of life's certainties, which sofar only comprised three:
1. One day you WILL die;
2. You WILL pay taxes;
3. People WILL talk about you.
It is time to add:
4. You WILL use MS.
Maybe one day #4 = #2. Oh darn I better shut up, I am giving them ideas. Did I hear they already had them?
I am not a Christian, but I can remember there was one story in the Bible that went something like this: Some guy was given 5 pieces of money, and he squandered it. Another guy was given 5 pieces of money and doubled it. The moral of the story was to think about and plan for the future. MS is taking this a little too seriously: they seem to be overlooking that in doing so, there are also a couple of guidelines. I can vaguely remember some commandments (8 and 9, 10 is debatable), something about forgiving being divine, and something about not worshipping Mammon. Hey MS, the guy only doubled it, not quadruplillioned it, okay?
Apologies, I should not pluto MS. Not only do I probably owe my job to MS, I still think it is just amazing what people do with MS products. And quite some people can do a lot more wonderful things with them than I can, while I am rated to be much cleverer by my peers. MS is the outlet of creativity or frustration people reach out to when they need it. It is THERE. Convenient and easy. Like I am blogging in Word right now. Did you thin
Sorry, my computer froze. Had to cold reboot. Where was I...?
Oh well, moving on.
As stated above, I started with computers some 26 years ago, so obviously I have seen newer and faster computers come and a few years later retire into obsoletion. When reading something about Vista my mind just does not stop comparing (sorry): What did we do with PCs 26 years ago? At the office, we read/composed/replied emails, typed documents, printed them, signed them, sent them out, or archived those papers (the law required it). We used Symphony, dB3, WordPerfect; we programmed in Basic, Pascal, C, COBOL (which was already obsolete). At home we played games, kept our addressbook, record(!)/tape(!)/CD-collections up to date so we could easily grab the one we wanted from our record-cabinet to play on our stereoes. We read books in our armchairs. On the way to and from work we listened to Walkmen. We carried our sandwiches and newspaper with us in our attache cases.
And what do we do now? We read/compose/reply emails, type documents, print them, sign them, send them out, or archive those papers (the law _still_ requires it). We use Office, make programs in VB or VC. At home we play games, keep our addressbooks, software and music collections up to date so we can easily find and play some MP3s on our PC. A few of us still sometimes like to read in our armchairs, but now do it with a wireless laptop stuck to our knees instead of a brick of paper. On the way to and from work we listen to iPod. We carry a laptop with us and stuff our sandwiches in a side-pocket.
What do we really DO that is so much different?
Yes, I see a storage advantage: We have a cabinet left over since we do not have to store our records/tapes/CDs in it, or even our stereo. That cabinet is now filled up with CDROMs and DVD-ROMs, all kinds of peripherals and peripherals to those peripherals. Or our Xbox of course. Or maybe we just fling our laptop-bag in there while we're at home.
I see a communication advantage: We read a book on our laptop until the sudden urge (or an instant message) pops up to check our email or play some online game. We listen to iPod until our cellphone rings.
Another difference I see is that the things we do have become a 100 times faster and the world 100 times smaller. Not that that means we only have to work 100 times less, oh no. A 100 times more output is expected from us and that a 100 times faster too. How often have we seen computer-related commercials showing some guy leaning back after a job well done, well before deadline? As if. Yes, things have become more convenient, but does it make us enjoy life itself more? It seems we have only less and less time and patience to do so - contrary to all those commercials. We have a million MP3s on our PCs and we can switch songs so quickly and conveniently we do not take the moment to fully enjoy the one that was playing.
Yet another difference I see, a huge advantage, about the world which has become smaller. Instead of emailing and chatting within the company, we can now do it globally. We are lucky to 'meet' and exchange thoughts with people from completely different cultures than our own. This grows understanding and brings peoples from all cultures, colours, races, and creeds, whatever, closer together.
... Something about 911 tells me that this isn't happening. Not really.
While I didn't start playing with PC's 26 years ago, I started playing with about 20 years ago. I started with the old Commodore 64's, learned on Apple's and Macintosh's in School (Apple used to (maybe they still do) give significant discounts to the educational community (thinking if the students learned on a Mac they'd want to use a Mac once they got into the real world?). Eventually bought my first 486 in High School and started playing around with Dos 6.2 and Windows 3.1.
I can fault MS, nor any corporation for that matter, for trying to be the biggest and best. That's the objective of any company...to make money...and to be better at it than any of their competitors.
I also agree there have been some 'questionable' ethical decisions made by Microsoft. I also worry that Microsoft's Operating system is so prevalent in the world... They are truly an unregulated world Monopoly when it comes to their O/S. Say what you will about the benefits of Mac OSX and Linux/Unix....those are just a couple of drops in the Ocean of Operating Systems.
From one of my favorite tech/gamer sites www.tweakguides.com, the site owner has been exploring Vista and has found the kernel to be an improvement over XP. However, I still find the cost to move from XP to Vista a little cost prohibitive at the moment. Fancy Aero graphics? That's nice...but worth the cost of upgrading (or conversely having your existing machine running slow)?
I think the gamer community would move away from Vista, and Microsoft for that matter if we had a viable alternative. You supposedly can get some games working in Linux via Wine or Cedega, if you know what you're doing. Until 'DirectX' becomes 'open' (like OpenGL) Microsoft will have a stranglehold on the gaming/enthusiast community.
And honestly...I like Microsoft products. DOS and Windows 3.1 were fine products. Windows 95 and 98 were nice updates. I resisted moving from 98 to XP because of the 'foolish hardware requirements' at the time (XP requires 128MB of RAM?!?!? Are they crazy?!?!?!) XP, for me, was such a VAST improvement over Windows 98....
I'll go to Vista....its inevitable. Just not right yet.