Monday, March 24, 2014

Windows 8? No Thanks!

I no longer know how to operate Windows, and I'm not interested in re-learning it.

I still remember my first experience with Windows.  It must have been around 1990 or so, when they introduced Windows 3.0.   My old Hyundai 286, which I had paid nearly $3000 for (it had a 640 x 480 VGA monitor!  Hoo-whee!) could barely run the program.  I had to go out and buy a memory card (and populate it with DRAMS, sold separately) to "max out" the memory at 512K (or was it a meg by then?).  I also had to buy a "mouse" and "mouse interface card" which required about two hours of troubleshooting with the driver disc to make it work.  It pretty much ate up my 40Meg hard drive!

And when it was all said and done, it didn't really work.   And since every single program was optional, once I loaded Windows, all I could do with it was open a DOS window to run my legacy programs - very, very slowly.   I realized that my old 286, while capable of running DOS and WordPerfect at lightning speeds, was doomed in the Windows era.  This newfangled software required that we all buy new computers.  This was not by accident.

I sent back my copy of Windows 3.0 and got a full refund of my $99 from Bill Gates.

But of course, time marches on, and within a year or so, the firm I worked at actually decided to provide us with computers (as opposed to bringing our own from home), and they ran Windows, and something called "Microsoft Word" which was a big change from WordPerfect.

At the time, WordPerfect had like 80% of the word processing market, but they screwed the pooch by releasing WordPerfect 6.0 for DOS, which changed how all the function keys works (F1-F12, you probably wondered what those were for, right?  We used to use them, in DOS).   WordPerfect for Windows was no better, requiring everyone to re-learn how to use the program.  We lost all our macros and shortcuts moving to the new program.  It was frustrating.

Bill Gates decided to start giving away WORD for free - which sort of sealed the deal.   If we had to learn a new word processing program, we might as well learn the free one - and the one that rapidly started become the de-facto standard of the world.  (Of course, WORD documents took up 10 times as much disc space as a WP for DOS document, so new computers with much larger hard drives (and new high-density floppy discs) were required.  Funny how that worked.)

It was an interesting lesson.  WordPerfect went from dominance to the dumpster, in the matter of a year.  It illustrated how tech and software companies can go from "hot" to "not" in the blink of an eye, even old-line companies like IBM, which nearly went bankrupt, about the same time.   And it illustrated how, when you change the basic way how a program works, it can drive away your core of customers.

Since then, we've seen this type of mistake being repeated over and over again.   And Microsoft seems to like making this mistake more than most.   They have tweaked and tortured Windows over the years, changing things that don't need to be fixed (but usually offering a "legacy" or "traditional" view, to prevent confusion but in reality, creating more) just for the sake of changing things.  Re-naming all the elements on "Control Panel" for example, was just an exercise in frustration, particularly if you have numerous machines running different versions of Windows.

And it always has seemed that every other version of Windows is stable and works well.  If you get the even-numbered versions, you're toast.  The odd-numbered ones seem to work OK.   3.0 was junk.  3.1 was better.  Windows 95 was OK, 98 less so - XP was really the way to go.  But  Windows Vista was an utter piece of shit.  Windows 7 seems to be more stable and fixed many of the problems of Vista.  What does this say about Windows 8?   Yea, you don't want the even numbered version - particularly one which promises to change everything about windows.  Stick with 7, for now.  At least we know it works.

 And that is the problem right there.   Microsoft decided to "mix things up a bit" by making Windows 8 look more like a tablet or smart phone screen.  And many devices running Windows 8 - even laptops - now have touch screens.

Windows was originally designed by people who hated to type.  Bill Gates was a famous hunt-and-pecker (that didn't come out right) who thought the mouse (which was an invention of Xerox PARC, by the way) would save us all.   For those of us who type, however, the mouse is a PITA that breaks up our 110 wpm thought flow.

So now, the mouse isn't good enough, we have to touch the screen like these smartphone douchebags who are always swiping dramatically at their catalog of "selfies".

I went to look at some laptops the other day.  Yea, I'm a fossil.  I actually use a computer.    Why?  Because you can't create anything of value on a pad or a phone.  You can't tweet a Patent Application or even a blog entry.   Pads and phones are for consumers of media not creators, and the whole point of this move toward keyboardless devices is to make us more passive consumers and less creative content creators.   Consume and pay - don't make and use.

So they have a new laptop at the wholesale club.  I turn it on and I have no idea how to even use it.  For this I want to spend $500?

And the pad-like "choices" on the starting screen are all aimed at social media and Microsoft products.  They want me to use hotmail, of course, and their IM service.  In short, it has taken the powerful "personal computer" - that liberated people from the oligarchy of IBM and the mainframe, and re-imagined it as a passive device - little more than a terminal or "thin client" - heavily reliant on content providers online, and less and less of a tool that you use by yourself, to create content.

So, what to do?   Well, I look online and I see that my trusty Toshiba Laptop, that I bought for $380 at WalMart, a few years ago, is now selling for $150 on eBay.   I snap up a second one, running Windows 7 Ultimate (hopefully not a bootleg copy this time!) for Mr. See.  I also buy new memory modules to upgrade both units (with a larger hard drive, perhaps in the picture down the road).  With two identical laptops, I had redundancy of parts and of data, as well as a lot shorter learning curve.

Quite frankly, in terms of running WORD (2000, thank you, not that docx abomination) the PC has pretty much reached a plateau.   If you really get down to it, in terms of word processing, Word Perfect for DOS really worked just fine.   But upgrading to WORD 2010 and Windows 8?  How is that going to improve my life?  Really?

Why do you we need a new O/S just to balance our checkbooks (using a version of Quickbooks from 2002)?   Why do we need to change software annually, for that matter, when existing software works perfectly fine?  How many man-hours are lost in industry every year, for "retraining" or "training" on a new version of software that doesn't quite work as well as the previous version, adds "features" that are never used, and really don't add much to the bottom line?  Skipping an upgrade or two isn't being retrograde, it's just being plain smart.

Why buy a brand-new copy of Adobe Acrobat every year (for hundreds of dollars) when you can basically get a free copy of Acrobat 8 online (and it works just fine, thank you)?

As for Windows 8?   I'll wait for Windows 9.   Or maybe by then, some other alternative to an "operating system" will have emerged.   I had high hopes for Chrome, but the "Chromebook" while an interesting toy for e-mail and Skyping, really isn't a serious tool for creating content, just yet.

Maybe I should have never sold that IBM Selectric.