Friday, December 28, 2012

The Sad State Of Operating Systems

I have become somewhat despondent in regards to current operating systems.  I feel like everyone is messing it up so badly, that there is nothing worth having out there.

This had been brewing for a while, but here is what tipped me over the edge.

This Christmas, Santa brought my boys a couple of new laptops with Windows 8.  After spending numerous hours setting them up I finally have to agree with the pundits.  Windows 8 is a schizophrenic mess.  It is neither fish nor foul, and in not making its mind up, it is poor at both.

First, the not to be called "Metro" interface, which I can see would be beneficial on a tablet, stinks on a traditional notebook.  It just doesn't work well.  Things that I could easily do in one or two clicks before, I now have to think "is that on the desktop or in Metro?" go to the appropriate interface, and then work through the incoherent menus to get there.  I went into it thinking that it was just different, and would take time to get used to, but no, it is just really bad.  They have tried too hard to not be like Apple in core areas, and are now too much like Apple in the bad ones.

It reminds me a lot of Windows 3.1 where there was the Windows side, that had its issues, and the underlying DOS side, that didn't quite work like it used to.  It was a tough transition, but at least then it was a move that was necessary and there were tangible benefits.  I don't see any such benefits in this move.

Live tiles are neat and all, and when they get it all sorted out the Family Safety stuff is a miracle, but the bads just way outweigh the goods.

And that is the problem I am facing will all of the available operating systems right now.

The next obvious choice is OSX.  It is really pretty but drives me nuts.  Here is my number one gripe, let me choose the font size on the windows and operating system components!  Seriously, you are the ones pushing the whole "retina" thing, and even you have realized at full resolution your OS becomes an unusable mess, and have limited it to half resolution.  So what is the point of a retina display then?  Don't start me on trying to scroll on the side.  It is like playing wack-a-mole with a one pixel wide bar!

This problem first came to my attention setting up my Mac Mini as an entertainment center server on my HDTV.  At full resolution, which you want so your videos look their best, it is impossible to read the OS windows from the couch.  To do anything on the OS I have to sit on the ottoman 4 feet from the screen to be able to read anything, and I have better than 20/20 vision.  It is ridiculous.

Another issue I have is that it takes a doctorate in physics to add a network drive, but one errant click will delete it with no warning.

If you want to do anything but browse the web, or get email, you had better be prepared to delve into menus and technical stuff.  For the computer that "just works", it doesn't.  Couple that with the IOSification is is going through, and you are going to end up with something that is just too dumbed down to be what I want in an OS.

So what are the options?

Linux is interesting, and it has come a long way.  Better yet, it is free!  Unfortunately with free comes its own set of issues.  For instance, is the program you want to run compatible with your chosen build?  How often do you have to jump into the command line to get basic things done?  Not only are the builds available a bit on the quirky side, but major software isn't available for them.  Sure in many cases there are open source alternatives, but for a lot of things you need the real deal.

Where does this all leave me?  I really don't know.  I have always been a Windows guy.  I looked long and hard at OSX, and while it has its merits, it fails on too many key points for me.  Linux is still too much the realm of hackers, and I have quite frankly gotten too lazy to really want to mess with it on a daily basis.  I run a server with it, but I don't want to depend on it for personal computing.  So, sadly, I don't have a solution.

One thing I am clear on, and I seem to be at odds with the major OS and computer makers, mobile OS's and desktop OS's are very different beast with different needs, interfaces, and expectations.  I like IOS on a tablet.  It is great for consuming information.  Android is a very viable alternative.  Neither works on a desktop.

Mobile OS's are for consuming information, and light creation.  Think answering an email or text, perhaps a note written while on a bus.

Computers are for content creation.  That is why they are having such a hard time "Metro"ifying Office.  That is why when you are doing detailed or extensive creation, one migrates to a laptop or desktop PC.  Tablets are great for consumption.  That is why people read so much on tablets of all kinds.

The sooner those making the technology figure this out, the better off we all will be.

As I look back on my post from March,, I am unfortunately realizing that things have gotten worse, not better.  That is not what technology is supposed to do.