For weeks now, those of us who are
lazy unfortunate enough to have been using Windows 8 have been looking forward to the first update, Windows 8.1. The upgrade was free, and the yes-men reviewers on the interwebtron have been crowing about how wwwwuuuuunnnnndddeeerrrrffffuuuuullll it is. And, hoo-boy! Let me tell you what! When I went to my laptop yesterday morning, it notified me that it had installed updates. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I thought maybe the OS fairy had updated my computer. But no. So, after pawing around the ‘net, trying to figure out how to install this thing, and after a couple hours futzing with it to convince it to download and install, I booted up into Microsoft’s latest creation. It was at least two hours, and seemed significantly longer, but regardless seems entirely too long for the download and install of some 3.5-ish gb of an OS upgrade. I seem to remember that I used to download and install a far more full-featured Debian system in a fraction of the time back in the day. Regardless, I started poking around at the new features. Perhaps this is worth a review.
Windows 8.1 gets a good solid ‘meh’ rating from me. Apparently the ‘.1’ means ‘NOW WITH START BUTTON! AGAIN!!!’ in Microsoft-speak. At one of my day jobs, I had a supervisor who had me log into one of their brand new laptops to complete some kind of work training program. He asked eagerly if I had yet used a Windows 7 machine, which I told him that I had not. He told me an overview of what my task was and to his surprise, I performed the action as he started to explain the steps, despite the fact that my M$ experience was only as recent as XP.
“I thought you said you hadn’t used 7 yet,” he noted incredulously.
“I haven’t,” I shrugged, “it’s just more Windows.”
Seriously. They didn’t label the ‘start’ button as such and the interface was slicker. It ran the same anyway. When I got my last laptop, it shipped with Vista. XP to Vista? Yawn. Vista was bloated and buggy, but otherwise basically a slicked-up XP. Vista to 7? The latter works better, but it’s mostly just an ironed out version of the former. The transition from 7 to 8, I was nervous about. For no good reason, I might add. I found that since I only run 8 in ‘desktop mode,’ it’s basically the same but without that button and a start screen instead of a start menu. I’m not sure what I expected from ‘.1,’ but I guess significantly more than the return of THE BUTTON. And, since this isn’t really long enough to be a stand-alone review of 8.1 (which looks like ‘B.J.’ at a glance), I may as well just rant on about the common operating systems in general.
Windows is like your basic white bread. Virtually nobody really likes it, and it’s not really worth what you pay for it, but it will make a sandwich for like 99% of the people and institutions out there. It’s relatively cheap and easy enough. Mac OS, on the other hand, is like the mass-produced baguette-bread you might get at some hipster coffee shop chain. It tastes marginally better than the M$ white bread, but it’s stupidly overpriced, and the people who habitually eat it think their farts don’t stink. If you use Mac OS, it doesn’t make you look nearly as cool and interesting as you think it does. So sorry. Linux is like all the ingredients you can buy at the grocery store to go home and bake your own bread. You stand there at the check out counter with your flour and eggs and whatever else goes into the recipe, stupidly grinning at the cashier with the anticipation of how delicious and healthy your bread will be when you get done with it. If you have acquired the knowledge and skills, and if you put in the time and effort, that’s going to be some dang fine bread for sure, made to your specifications. Most of us have neither the time nor patience for that nonsense. Even Ubuntu, arguably the easiest Linux distro is like getting the packet of ingredients that you mix up and throw in your breadmaker. I haven’t found it to be worth the effort for the returns.
So, I’ve been using M$ Windon’t variants. For a while, I did dilly dally with Linux, and still admire it as an OS, but it just takes far too much work to get to where I want it to be. My KDE desktop environment (meta redundancy deliberate) was prettier and faster than anything M$ or Mac available, on half the hardware. And then, I’d go and edit some config file, crash the thing, and wasn’t smart enough to fix it. Weeks of work down the drain and out a computer to boot. Pun much intended. There are even a couple of iThings in the house that we spent some time playing with in the past. We begrudgingly use Windows because the OS market kind of sucks. Either you’re a serious DIYer, or you buy from the box whichever of the big boy is the lesser of two evils.
Why isn’t there a basic, affordable organic market bread OS out there? It would be totally great if there was one that was as configurable as Linux, as robust as the more obscure ‘nixes, as easy as Windon’t or Mac OS, that would run basic programs, and would behave with whatever hardware combination out of the box. If Android was developed into something that most people would want to use on a desktop system, then maybe it might fill such a hole in the market. My guess is that it would be far more likely to just turn out like a clone of Mac OS or Ubuntu instead.
I guess the major take away from this rant is that operating systems pretty much suck in general. Hardware is gaining speed at an alarming rate, but the software isn’t reflecting that progress. We can look around and marvel at how sophisticated technology is, but without the software to back up the hardware, we’re spinning our wheels in the long run. A friend of mine was a programmer in the old days. His school classes taught him that the computers only had so many resources, so you had to program lean to stay usable. Then one day, this guy Bill Gates came by and said that all these computers had to be faster to run this new whiz-bang thing that he came up with. And, here we are.
Somebody out there, someone smarter than me, get off your butt and get to coding already.
p.s. – This morning, I had to restart the network card in order to connect under 8.1 this morning, just as I have routinely had to do under 8 point nothing. So many dazzling improvements…