My kindgom for a perfect operating system

Just now I copied several gigabytes of data from one partition to another on my Windows XP Pro (64-bit edition) Intel Core 2 Duo E6400 machine. Having toyed around with Linux here and there over the years I’ve come to know that such a request isn’t beyond the realm of reasonableness. Linux can carry out this seemingly trivial task with aplomb but if you try to get Windows to do the same thing, old faithful shows just how crappy its inner workings truly are: try to double-click on Outlook in the systray and up pops a yellow balloon saying that it’s not responding, try to do anything else for that matter and one begins to realise that a stiff drink would have been the more prudent course of action.

I feel like a deer caught in the headlights of an on-coming car with no idea which way I’ll turn. All my favourite applications depend on Windows (with the exception of Firefox), but Linux, although it has a dream kernel capable of withstanding much abuse, doesn’t really offer much as far as quality in the user-space. There is no way that something so annoyingly-named that sports a GUI as haphazard as amaroK could ever replace iTunes, and I could never accept the spartan simplicity and barely-customisable Nautilus file manager or the flickery and slow bloatware that is Konqueror as replacements for what is, 99% of the time, a fast and zippy Windows explorer.

Don’t even get me started on Macs, either. Whilst Apple’s computer designs are works of art, the GUI is just a bit too freaky for an old Windows user like me, and with Home and End keys that don’t move the cursor to the beginning and end of the current line, I can’t see me ever accepting the one-size-fits-all-dummies feeling I get with OS X.

What would be nice is to keep the Windows XP shell but give it a decent kernel and hardware interface layer so that it feels responsive like Linux but still fits like an old glove. I know people still holding out with Windows 2000, so I guess I can still get away with using Windows XP for a couple more years, but even that can’t last forever. Windows Vista isn’t looking too appealing, either, with it’s Draconian (with more than a dash of monopolistic) licensing, a virgin networking stack that won’t be worth touching until at least service pack 2, a graphical shell that will bring new meaning to the word “bloatware”, and no decent “classic” interface. If Microsoft didn’t go all “focus-group” with Vista I might be able to put up with it, but as it is, I’m staying put – indefinitely!

5 thoughts on “My kindgom for a perfect operating system

  1. Since writing the above I’ve had to take over the support for two classrooms of Intel iMacs at work, and I have to say that they are growing on me a lot. The only problems I see now are the Finder and, to a lesser extent, the Dock.

    With no address bar and no merge-whilst-copying I just cannot bring myself to switch to the Mac. And yes, I am smart enough to figure out Applescript to make up for some of these inadequacies, and am not afraid of the Terminal, but I simply cannot accept this bizarre lack two such basic features. Apple could fix these two problems in an instant but it seems to me that they’ve decided to do nothing so that Steve Jobs doesn’t have to lose face and admit that the Finder is pretty pathetic.

    If Apple improved the Finder and made it usable tomorrow then I’d be buying a Mac the day after. It only takes 20 seconds to boot and 5 seconds to load the desktop on my 20″ Intel iMac at work whereas my home PC (Intel Core 2 Duo E6400, 1GB of Corsair DDR2 memory, Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 motherboard, 300 GB Seagate SATA-II drive 16MB cache NCQ) takes about a full minute before I can enter my password and a good two minutes before the hard drive has settled down so that I can start doing things.

    With a Windows/PC experience this bad (and with Vista being absolutely deplorable; it’s no wonder they’re now calling it “Windows ME II”), Apple could be winning over Windows users in their droves if only they’d swallow a very tiny amount of humble pie and just fix the god-damned Finder! But no… Steve Jobs’ reputation is sacrosanct…

    Here’s some further reading on the Finder and the Dock and just why they are so sucky:

    About the Finder from Ars Technica
    Top Ten Nine Reasons the Apple Dock Still Sucks from AskTog

  2. Oh come on, give in, trust your feelings… use the Mac OS X (smile).

    You know you want to – Dock beats Start Menu any-day (can you send an email directly from the Outlook icon in the start menu?).
    you are smart enough to figure out Applescript to make it do what you want to; like merge folders and if you are looking for where you are in a finder window – simply change the few from folders to directory tree (its the three column icon up there in the corner on the left). Oh Command (the apple key) and arrow keys move you around your text (cmd-left is like the home key) its just conditioning (home and end are used for extended scrolling). I do prefer FireFox over Safari but I wish the Mac version had spelling built in as Safari does – and I wish it were faster but I don’t find it unbearable. It works for me – better then IE ever did – damn those .net or whatever that stuff that only works in IE – programmers. And I know it locks up to the pin-wheel of death (not as bad as a blue screen but it is annoying) but it usually isolates the program you are in.
    Seriously – I’ve still have to live with Win XP (our company IT dept. won’t make the switch to Vista for a while) and I’m usually the guy who fixes others Windows XP boxes when there is no IT around but would you expect anything less from a Mac guy? Its only one-size-fits all for those who want it to be (I say why not – its damn near painless) and those who just want to get work done with little pain and more time to play. If you want to play – open up Terminal and get into the Unix code… Sorry to Rant here, go ahead If I got you started you can reprimand me now.

  3. Jeez, for the price of one kingdom I’d better not be getting no glue-factory nag! For that kind of exchange I’d be expecting daily back rubs, perfect coffee on demand, and a built-in sci-fi and porn collector. The right to gloat and rub it into everybody obviously is assumed.

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