Thursday, May 2, 2013

Windows/Mac/Linux -- Philosophies of Running A Computer

I'm a Windows user. I didn't intend to be one. If I could have afforded it, I would have bought a Mac when I started.

I'm glad I didn't, though.

I wouldn't mind being a Linux user, mind you. But I'm not ready for that kind of learning curve and commitment. I don't have time.

I don't really like a lot of Windows software, and I readily acknowledge the wonkiness of a lot of what Windows does. But there's a quality to it I've come to like - and that quality I'd call 'tinkerability'.

You don't tinker with a Mac. Any applefanboi will tell you: you just plug it in, turn it on, and, you know... it just works. That's Mac propaganda, verbatim. It just works.

Anybody who knows me well will tell you that's a big, big assumption around me. I have a well-known, longstanding knack for making things go wrong. I'm also quite curious, and I'm interested by the things I work with. Apple doesn't want someone like me. Apple wants someone who's happy to be a seamless end-user, willing to do things the Apple way until that rare moment when it all comes crashing down, and you're forced to stare at a dead Mac. (Then you send your dead Mac away to be renobulated. Or something.)

Windows isn't the same. It's there, a platform, widespread, worldspanning. And Cthulhu alone knows how many software developers - enormous, large, medium, small, tiny - work with it. But with the advent of the Internet, Windows had become the very avatar of moddability. You could call up and download all manner of bizarre software, load it into your machine, tweak it, get it running. Most of it was crap, yeah. No doubt a lot of it was riddled with malware. But some of it is pure gold.

I'm still doing a lot of my writing under a thing called Yeah Write, because the interface is fantastic, and the file storage system is breathtakingly brilliant. (Clue: it sets up an interface that looks like a filing cabinet. With drawers you can label. And in each drawer, you can put document folders that you can label. And obviously, each document folder can contain documents. It literally mimics the intuitive structure of a real-world filing cabinet. Very, very easy to keep track of your work.)

I know. There's plenty of oddball independent stuff, these days, for the Mac as well. But Apple always laid a heavy hand on what could be created, and if they didn't like your stuff, they wouldn't support it. Windows? Fuck it: if you can code something that'll work on Windows and dump it on the Net, what the hell do they care? You already bought their OS, right?

I know. Windows is buggy and crashy and prone to malware. But you know what? I can fix that shit. I can reboot. Clean stuff out of the registry. Get the system running again when it doesn't want to. I can get under the bonnet (hood, to you Yankee types) and I can pull things out, put them back, reconnect them and reconfigure them. No, I'm not a hardcore, highly trained Windows tech, but I guess I'd probably qualify as some kind of 'power user', I suppose.

And I like it that way.

Unfortunately, I've just been playing with Windows 8 on Genghis' new machine. (He needed one for school.) And I really, really fucking hate it.

The Microsofties have built a new look. They're trying to integrate the touch-screen/app bullshit, and in order to do so, they're going to great lengths to conceal the places where you can pry the system open for yourself. File extensions? Hide the fuckers. Directory trees? Huh. Old school. Hide those too. Just make it touch and point and click and open. That's all they want, man!

Problem is, I don't want that at all. I actually want enough access to configure the system to suit myself, thanks. If I wanted a seamless, join-the-dots process that led me by the nose from go to whoa, I would fucking well buy a fucking Macintosh. 

Windows releases are funny. They're like Star Trek movies. Every second one sucks rabid donkey rectum. Windows 8 is one of the rectum-sucking releases. Hopefully, I can just keep working with 7 until they come to their senses and provide something more useful in Windows 9. But if they fuck it up, and try to make the whole thing ever more Mac-like or mobile-phone-touchscreen-applike...

... I guess I'm actually going to have to swap over to Linux. Because if I'm going to spend a thousand bucks on a computer, I want more control and choice, not less.