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Responsibility in OS Design 52

John Martellaro wrote in to plug a double-feature collaboraton collaberation between himself and Del Miller discussing "OS Responsibility". Here is Part I and Part II. Neither say anything earth shattering to your average Slashdotter, but they each say important things very well, and because of that, they are worth reading, and perhaps showing them to the PHBs [?] out there who just might not get it.
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Responsibility in OS Design

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  • Be IS mucho powerful, but it currently has some of the same problems that linux has : a lack of perceived support by vendors. Like Linux, you have a lot of companies denying even thinking about a port to the OS. Adobe said they would make "something" though probably not photoshop. It is likely they will do some after-effects related work. A lot of Be users scoff at GiMP and blender, likely due to their "ugly" interface.

    OTOH, I like Be for it's ease of use, Configurability, and standard unix tools, things other windowed OSes don't have or implement properly.
  • by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @07:19AM (#1872429) Journal
    I have to disagree with the author of the second piece on the issue of modern attitudes towards alien life. While Star Trek, Babylon 5, et al. promote the idea of diplomacy and respect for alien cultures, these haven't penetrated so far into the collective unconscious as to entirely ward off the '40s-'50s conception of the dangerous, insidious aliens.

    Just take a look at The X-Files or any two-bit Roswell/Area 51 show. The aliens, the Greys, are the grantors of high technology, and that technology will, in this mythos, be used to further the aims of greedy businessmen and fascist, militarist politicians. The aliens and their allies will invade your body and alter your mind for reasons you will never understand.

    Now, consider which of these mythoi -- the Star Trek diplomatic Prime Directive, or the Roswell paranoia -- is actually more popular among ordinary people today. Which is regarded as more realistic? Which do some people believe to actually be true? And what does that say about views of technology and society?

    What it says to me is that a huge number of people in America (I don't know how popular the Roswell mythos is outside the U.S.) believe, or at least suspect, that technology and its masters are ruling the world, and not benevolently. That advanced science will be used not to benefit mankind but to subject us all to greater control: not to liberate, but to enslave.

    How much difference is there between thinking that your toaster is spying on you for the time-dwarfs of Zeta Reticuli, and knowing that your computer is spying on you for the gnomes of Redmond? The former sounds fanciful to us, but the latter was also the stuff of science fiction until recently. To those who are not themselves skilled with technology, there really isn't that much difference.

    (I'm not saying that all non-geeks are rednecks who think the Greys run Microsoft. I'm saying that these popular mythologies say something about people's relationship with society, and in this case with technology.)

    The old ideal of making computers into humanity's friendly aides and servants has not succeeded. Paranoia or no, it's a fact that there are those in whose interest it is to keep people afraid of the machines that they have to, for economic reasons, use every day. If they are afraid of computers -- if they believe that the computer is a willful, uppity, unreliable magical device, understood only by those who have sold their soul to it -- then they won't ask questions. They won't install Linux. They'll just buy upgrades when they're told to.

  • What it says to me is that a huge number of people in America (I don't know how popular the Roswell mythos is outside the U.S.) believe, or at least suspect, that technology and its masters are ruling the world, and not benevolently.
    Everybody who watches the X-Files, nobody else (I guess).

    Anyway, I think people (in the U.S., other nations will follow as usually) have developed a certain anxiety towards technology as most of them can hardly use it, not speaking about understanding the background or even controlling it. That's IMO the reason for the popularity of TV shows, articles etc. with conspiracy-kind-of technology-hostile stories. News in the popular press on Echelon and Microsoft's Word-GUID's will do the rest. It is understandable...

    How often have you seen this, or some closely related, disclaimer?

    As long as "the software industry" insists on such nonsense, and refuses to take itself seriously enough to warrant thair "products" to do more than melt down yer CPU, you may as well forget about the concept of responsibility in OS, or *any* "software", design!!!

    Again, would you buy a car, or anything else, for that matter, with such an explicit non-warranty?
  • The inherent problem with this is that for the vast majority of users, there's precious little choice. Why would someone want to use Linux or something similar when they use Win'95 at work or school? Why would someone who doesn't know much about computers want to fool with something like OS/2 or Linux?

    Sure, they might not like Win '95 or NT, but they don't really have a reasonable choice either. That's the problem, everyone hates Win '95/98/NT, but there's not a viable alternative, so they keep on buying the sub-standard software. I'm starting to think that this is only going to be solved in the courts.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Well, most grandmothers that I know of who use computers are far more afraid of system crashes than typing occasional commands at the command line off of a cheat sheet that their grandson helpfully provided them with. My grandmother likes CDE and is happy that she has not had to reboot in three years. The stability makes her very happy and she is starting to do stuff like scan in old pictures and so forth. Under Linux, her PC has the stability of a washing machine or toaster and that makes her happy. Have you ever worked with an intelligent user? She is 87. Commands were not too much of a stretch.

    My mother, a secretary for 30 years, is far, far, far faster on WP5.1 than on anything with a GUI. I cannot say that I have ever met ANY secretary of any competence who preferred a GUI. They achieved a level of virtuosity that allowed them to get very, very fast and be incredibly efficient. Have you ever worked with good secretaries? They also all, to a woman (well, there have been a few gay men, but mostly older women) are rabid about their IBM keyboards. They will not give them up. Would you suggest that they dislike mice because they don't know what they are doing, or because their fingers leave the home keys? How fast do you type? I have been at 90+ since I was 16. If you hunt and peck I am sure that the "Windows keys" come in handy, but not if you know what you are doing.

    And on the issue of hunt and peck, if you wish to do as little as possible, a mouse and a GUI is not the right way to minimize your time -- a menu is. I have never seen any study that suggested otherwise. And I know, from experience, a lot of garage mechanics that still preferr their DOS systems because they can make the changes and get out without having to screw with a mouse. A mouse doesn't make the process of entering "normal superbeetle 50mph shimmy" and "NC" (for "no charge") any faster. Instead of [tab], type, [tab], type, [tab], and type it becomes [grab mouse and figure out where the pointer is], [try to click on the box], type, repeat. It doubles the work that you have to do. People who want to type less than the minimum want someone else to do their work for them, not a GUI. Spoken to any garage mechanics about their systems needs lately? (ROWriter works great under DOSEMU, BTW.) (And yes, I know that there is a fix for the superbeetle 50mph shimmy, but it isn't cheap.)

    I am sorry to be cranky, but dumbing down the system beyond a basic functional level (NOTE: "basic functional level" generally means a text-based menu-driven system, like CICS, and there is 40+ years of hard evidence to justify this) is a bad idea unless you really want to start making vast (not basic -- that is actually a good idea) decisions for the consumer. I am not omniscient, even after a lot of tequila. I would suggest that you think over whether you really are.

    A few years back, I read that there had been an email exchange on a company (I wish that I could quote this -- it was on where the NT people were flaming UNIX for being hard to use. "UNIX," they said, "is like using a belt sander to wipe your ass because it is more efficient." The UNIX guru responded "Using windows is like wiping your ass with your hand: it is easy, more colorful, required no typing -- just basic finger movement, and is so easy that even a child could do it." The debate (over ftp file archive, I think, and a graphical interface to them) died at that point.
  • if they believe that the computer is a willful, uppity, unreliable magical device, understood only by those who have sold their soul to it

    Yep, and there's nothing to make them believe that better than a flaky, closed-source OS like Windows.

    Linux counters this on two fronts: (1) the source is open, even those that don't program understand that it's there for them to look at if they wanted to take the time to learn it (i.e., the hood is not welded shut); and (2) odds are they know somebody -- a family member, the kid down the block, a coworker -- who has or could have worked on Linux (or other open source/free project), so it has a human face. For most folks outside the Seattle area the coders in Redmond may as well be gnomes.
  • His call for better quality is echoed by many /. readers and others who use computers. I think people were more willing to accept flaws in the OS in the past because the technology was new and under very rapid development. The OS producers were (and still are) exploring what they can do, and the market is still exploring what it wants.

    As computers have now become more common in daily life, the importance of quality becomes more important. Would you accept the same type of failure rates in your car as you would your computer?

    The software industry will produce the quality of product that the market will accept. It costs time and money for quality control, so the industry will generally not spend any more money than is necessary to satisfy the market. (insert rant about monopolies, lack of competition, etc)

    Aside: Notice the big push in many other industries for ISO 9000 quality procedures?

    As we demand more quality and vote with our checkbooks, the industry will be forced to do better.
  • I got about as far as the first paragraph of page 2. His heart is there, but the words suck.
  • by JohnnyCannuk ( 19863 ) on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @08:41AM (#1872439)
    Felix, have you done any other job except use Unix? Everything you say is right and true but only applies to the 'Power Users' the articles talked about. Most grandmothers secretaries and store clerks don't want to (or can't) type. For a lot of people outside the computer industry, point and click is very much faster than typing will every be - not including the memorizing of obscure, English-centric commands (does 'ls' make any sense in French? or Arabic?). Lets face it, the article was well slammed MS for being unreliable and *nix for being difficult for the average person to use. I think the 'honour' that was mentioned had more to do with respecting the user and their wishes rather than foisting your wishes as an OS maker upon them. That goes for MS as well as *nix. MS is forcing bloated, unecesary features on to users who don't want it and *nix is forcing users to use an archaic, unfriendly interface or "don't use the system at all" (KDE/GNOME I know, but the CLI snobs don't like those 2 either). The 'honour' is giving the user what they want AND what they need - A simple to use interface for those who NEED it and the power for those who WANT and NEED it.
    No bloat. No bizzare commands.
    Choice (have a GUI and a CLI). Power. Configuarability (I can use the GUI only, the CLI only or both together.I can turn off something I don't WANT or NEED).

    Frankly, I don't see an OS out there yet which meets this standard of 'honour'...

  • I tend to believe "openness" and dependability are the necessary ingredients for an operating system. The most important thing to me is that everyone gets to play on a level playing field. Protocols and operating systems need to be open to promote healthy competition.
    Honor? Well that's inherent in an Open Source project (it's the reason most contributors donate their efforts). Proprietary software is not beholden to honor, nor should it be. It is developed by companies which are first and foremost beholden to their stockholders.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Or perhaps it's all the same sour grapes.
    "Boo hoo. I'm technically superior and SO much more intelligent, but some Hahvahd dropout is more successful and has more money than me."

    Tell me, which is more honorable?
    1) Writing workable (but not perfect) software that gets the job done most of the time without requiring too terribly much experience
    2) Writing more correct (but not perfect) software that at times appears hell-bent on not making itself easy to learn and integrate, and prides itself on doing so

    You tell me.
  • Except there's one thing both the authors of that article and all of you forgot. There IS an OS out there that's built by a corporation, that's easy-to-use AND reliable, that's powerful AND cutting-edge without being arcane, that anyone could trust with confidence. That OS is called BeOS. It rarely crashes, is rock-solid, is so powerful that it makes Linux look weak in some areas, yet it's easy-to-use, easy to develop for, and the people that make it are really cool. Because this OS is so new, there aren't a lot of applications out for it yet, but that will change dramatically starting this summer with the rollout of BeOS R4.5. It suggest you all go to Be's Web site [] and check it out for yourself. See what a COOL corporation can produce. Not all companies are little Micro$ofts. :)


  • by Salamander ( 33735 ) <> on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @09:55AM (#1872443) Homepage Journal
    >Having the market decides works better than you think. The theory is (if you ever took economist)

    *Sigh* What purpose is served by such ad hominem attacks? You don't in fact know my views on market efficiency, or how deep my knowledge of economics is. In actual fact, this is still a very hotly debated set of issues, just about the only consensus being that the "solution" probably lies at neither extreme - total laissez-faire or central planning.

    >if your product is desirable people will want it, if it's not nobody will

    This is overly simplistic. There are other factors, such as availability, pricing, compatibility with other products, monopoly situations, etc.

    >Having an external body decide what is good and bad is something only a communist

    Again with the grade-school rhetoric, eh?

    I am not suggesting, nor is anybody else here, that any central authority - either a government or a monopoly holder, and the two scenarios are actually veryt similar - should decide precisely what products people should buy. All I'm talking about are minimal standards that differentiate honest business from fraud or malpractice. Consumers have a right to expect that bridges and cars and drugs and electrical applicances (including computers) must meet minimum safety standards because even if the market does eventually differentiate between good products and bad it may not be efficient enough to do so before people get hurt. My suggestion is merely that the same idea be extended to software. I'm not talking about feature sets or pricing or bundling or anything other than a very basic promise that the software won't lose or damage your assets in the form of data.

    >What you fail to see, is that people WANT microsoft products

    No, they put up with Microsoft products, because they perceive the benefits as greater than the costs, and you know what? That's great. I just like to base standards on what is achievable rather than what I can get away with. In a sense, by failing to hold themselves to a higher standard than that absolutely required of them, the whole software industry is acting like one big cartel denying consumers a choice. I would like to see that deadlock broken, and a world created where the creators of quality software are rewarded relative to the purveyors of crap, instead of being pushed out of the market. If you have a better solution, please speak up.
  • >We all know honor doesn't work. it puts us in neat little boxes and expects us to behave according to some vague rule nobody really understands

    Umm, no, we don't "all know" that. Some of us "know" quite differently.

    It doesn't matter though, because I at least wasn't talking about honor. I was talking about accountability. You screw someone over, in this case by what amounts to fraud, you pay the price. Your naive version of "let the market decide" is the same justification used by snake-oil salesmen and psychic hotlines, but I think we can do a little better.
  • Have either of you actually learned how to use Unix? It has a fairly consistent underlying model which allows the user to do things in a straightforward, managable way: by piping the output of one command into another, until the final filtered product is produced.

    Yes, it does this all at the command line with somewhat obscure commands such as 'grep' or 'cat'. But what do you expect? Unix wasn't designed for a point-and-click GUI system; those COST too much and are more cumbersome to use when you want to get things done. Typing has always been faster than moving a mouse around, even if it requires taking some time to memorize commands and learning how to find the commands you don't know (thank god for tab-completion)

    In any case, I suggest you look into the history behind the design of these systems before you make judgements about things appearing hell-bent on not making themselves easy to learn and integrate. Inconsistent design will always reign as the top reason that a product is hard to use.

  • Objection, your honor.
    YM subjective.
  • by Salamander ( 33735 ) <> on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @07:49AM (#1872447) Homepage Journal
    The articles looked like a lot of fluff to me, meandering far without ever reaching a point, but it did make me think a little about our collective responsibility as software developers and that's always a good thing.

    I agree with the idea that developers are responsible to their users, in much the same way that doctors, lawyers and other certified professionals are. IMHO, shipping a piece of software that crashes users' systems or corrupts their data or allows someone on the Internet to steal their data, when you knew it would do those things but shipped it anyway due to schedule pressure etc. is an act of malpractice. If a product (and here I'm talking mostly about an OS-level product) is shipped without proof that "due diligence" was exercised in finding and fixing bugs, the vendor should simply not be allowed to sell it any more.

    Nobody expects perfection. If you have a reasonable procedure for finding and fixing bugs, you needn't worry about this, even if a serious bug does in fact slip through. If you give away your code for free, you also needn't worry. But if you hope to make money by selling software that you know (or should know, according to reasonable standards within the profession) is not adequately tested and debugged, then, well, screw you.
  • Interesting. I've never seen the term 'honor' applied to operating systems before.

    The term 'honor' conjures to mind a knight in the medieval times (Or maybe a Klingon, depends on your mindset..;]). He had to serve his king. He had to protect his country. All very noble concepts. Romanticized by those the concepts enchant...

    ...He had to kill stuff and take care of a horse too.

    So, perhaps I'm off base, but unless we see the gritty details of an 'honorable' OS, (i.e. code) perhaps it's not really that honorable after all?

    The heading is 'responsibility', defined as having power, yet using it wisely and to the common good.

    M$, as of yet, has not made any definite arrangments to release their source code. Somewhat like the sushi analogy--do we really WANT to know what we're eating (running) ?

    Heck yes.
    I'm sure a GOOD sushi cook wouldn't mind if you asked what goes into your raw fish.

    The way I see it, Micro$oft truly DOES have all the trappings of megalomania.

    I dunno. I still see the Klingon.

  • And there's probably a lot less honor in using exclusionary pricing practices to force competitors out of the market.
  • Just to follow up -
    Sun Tzu's Art of War. []
    Sun Tzu lived circa 400-320BC
    Buddha was ~6th century BC.
    Not sure of any influences Buddha had on SunTzu.
  • That's all well and good but Microsoft grabbed the desktop market with Windows 3.1 and then leveraged that domination to the datacenter with Windows NT. Windows 3.1 crashing once or twice a day on my desktop while I try to use a word processor or spreadsheet is one thing. Windows NT crashing once or twice a day in the datacenter while trying to host a database for my business is another.

    This is why linux and Free/OpenBSD are doing so well. Microsoft tried to sell us a buggy desktop operating system to run our datacenters and failed miserably. As people are catching on, they're switching to more reliable but less easy to use alternatives.
  • by Frater 219 ( 1455 ) on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @09:58AM (#1872452) Journal
    While it's very true that the Mac platform is not open-source, the following things are also true:

    1. Apple documents its APIs well. It doesn't use undocumented or erroneously-documented APIs to give internal developers an edge, nor does it change APIs in order to sabotage third parties. In fact, Apple has documented its systems to a degree rarely found elsewhere -- including publishing specs, developer notes, and the Inside Macintosh series online []. The Inside Macintosh series are really remarkable; when it comes to documenting the thinking behind the API as well as the functions within it, they might just surpass the available documentation for Linux.

    2. Apple uses open standards where possible. You might say that this is simply because it hasn't been in the position to embrace-and-extend, but I'd say otherwise. Apple has been at the forefront of adoption of real industry-standard protocols such as FireWire and USB. It has used industry-standard networking protocols wherever it can. (AppleTalk was created before TCP/IP was accessible on the desktop, and for very different purposes from TCP/IP. Now that TCP/IP is everywhere, Apple is moving to abandon AppleTalk in favor of it. And AppleTalk was never a closed standard; it's documented extensively in Inside Macintosh and elsewhere.)

    3. The MacOS has consistently done better than any other system at being accessible to everyone. By this I include the ease of localizing applications (modifying them for foreign languages); the built-in support for handicapped and limited-vision users (Easy Access and CloseView); and the human/computer interface research which has gone into making the MacOS far, far more accessible for the average user than any other GUI to date (except, maybe, BeOS).

    The Mac is far from perfect; the MacOS is not open source; nor is the Macintosh an open hardware platform. However, Apple has consistently supported open standards, open APIs, and systems which are open (accessible) to the average user. These are all good things, and shouldn't be forgotten.

    Apple needs to learn from the free-software movement. Darwin is a start. However, the elements of a closed-systems model in Apple's business plan endanger Apple's future. If KDE, Gnome, or any other free-software GUI project can build an interface as accessible to the user, and to the developer, as the MacOS already is, then Apple will have a lot to lose. Yet KDE and Gnome have a long, long way to go.
  • Posted by Gates of Borg:

    Computers didn't get where they are now because everyone followed all the iddy biddy standards that made everyone happy. We need to constantly innovate and explore. If somebody wants to create his operating system the way he see's fit let him and the market decide. We all know honor doesn't work. it puts us in neat little boxes and expects us to behave according to some vague rule nobody really understands
  • It's a pretty sad commentary on society if it's true that "the most widely recognised symbol of honour is probably the Klingons". Of course most of the Klingon concepts are borrowed from various cultures, e.g. the Samurai, but that's an aside.

    It used to be that the most widely recognized symbol of honour was probably the Boy Scouts, followed by (in some circles) the Marines.

    Concepts such as telling the truth, and keeping your word, even when inconvenient. Placing the good of the (however defined) group above that of self (think Spock in Wrath of Kahn if we must have Star Trek comparisons).

    Certainly none of the above concepts seem to bear much in common with certain large, commercial, closed-source OS vendors.

    Yes, "integrity" is certainly part of honour, part that seems pretty consistent across cultures, whereas other details may vary. But it isn't quite the whole concept.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @07:17AM (#1872456)
    This may just be a product of my (hopefully) productivity-oriented mindset, but did that piece leave anyone else scratching their heads in search of the point?

    Perhaps the references to BASIC reveal the structure of the author's mind -- full of GOTOs. We find a tidbit here, and another there, but no trail forms from the crumbs. Thus, when we are presented with the one dropping the crumbs, our hunger is unsatisfied and the conclusions are difficult to (pardon the pun) swallow.

    Then there's that conclusion. (My, we certainly think quite a bit of ourselves, don't we?) It brought back memories of "The Matrix" -- in that its creator(s) thought it contained infinitely more insight and vision than it actually did. A suitably droll and overdone end to a droll and overdone piece.

    I know many of you will enjoy this piece because you have jumped (at least until something better comes along) on the pro-Tux, anti-Bill bandwagon, and meticulously follow its polarized worldview. I urge you to stop and think, though -- what's the point? Is it productive to simply write such pieces (and to follow with the megabytes of "M$" and "bill sux, d00d" drivel posted here) or to convert your lofty visions (and not-so-lofty complaints) into something we all can use?

    Come on, people. Stop complaining and start coding.
  • Interestingly enough, there's a good article on mac "clones" over at MacKido [], here []. According to it, Power Computing was in quite a bit of finicial trouble before Apple ended clones, and, you must remember that Apple more or less bought them out after ending the licensing. Besides, Power Computing was, more or less, the only clone maker really tearing into Apple's market that was deystroyed. Umax is still doing fine, MacTell was alright last time I checked, Motorola didn't even notice. The only other "casuality" was DayStar, who was producing high quality products for a very small niche (people who needed quad CPU machines with 9 PCI cards). DayStar was also in a bit of hot water before it entered the Clone market.

    Anyway, Apple has recently released an Open Source OS that can be ported to any platform. So build yourself a box and port Darwin to it.

    In addition, Apple's most recent Macs (iMacs, B&W G3s, and the new PBs) are using software ROMs. That's the only proprietary part of a Mac that's overly difficult to reverse engineer.

    There never were any clones, only licencees. Now there can be real clones.
  • by DonkPunch ( 30957 ) on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @07:22AM (#1872458) Homepage Journal
    I really like the idea of more critical software consumers. I want to see people actually READING their license agreements. It would put the biggest grin on my face to see someone read an agreement and say, "No way am I agreeing to that. Back to the store you go."

    I would also love to see more people actively looking for better software. "Better" is a subjective term, though. Ease-of-use might be the most important thing to someone while reliablity might be more important to someone else. Either way, anything is an improvement over the current "take what they give you" mentality. It will be a great day when more computer users say, "Ok XYZProgram, you have crashed on me for the last time. I'm going to find something better."

    I question the author's points about ease-of-use. Granted, there is always room for improvement here, but computers have become REAL easy to use these days. Some of the people who complain that their computer isn't as easy to use as their toaster seem to forget that the computer does a lot more than the toaster. Perhaps this is why some pundits are predicting the rise of set-tops and special-purpose embedded systems -- systems that trade flexibility for simplicity.
  • The Mac OS is an example of how closed source succeeds ... Closed source produces real clunkers and true works of art.

    While I can't say that I've ever been overwhelmed by the Mac GUI, I will stipulate that the MacOS is a good example of a UI.

    However I don't think that MacOS's closed source was intrinsic to its (technical/aesthetic) success. Apple could do something similar to Mozilla, where the development process is open but the final decision as to what goes into The Official MacOS(r) would remain with Apple.

    With Navigator 5, Netscape is likely to continue to use and bundle closed source and proprietary modules and plugins, such as Sun's JVM.

    Also, very large (corporate) open source projects like Mozilla tend to have only a small corps of developers outside of the company itself. There are lots of people who pull the source from the CVS tree and maybe try a build or two, but the active developers are few and far between.

  • Well perhaps secretaries was a bad example to use...they do type for a living. As for Garage mechanics with dos based systems, well where I come from that's still pretty rare. Most do things on paper still. My point is that the vast majority of people using computers are new to it and have not used one for work or pleasure before...some have never used a type writer either. I'm not saying rely completely on the mouse, that's ridiculous. But you can tab and type with Win 95 or BeOS or GNOME and people find those environments a lot more inviting and easy to use than the old green screen. Remember my point about configurability - allow the user to choose and customize according to their level of expertise, don't force them to use the CLI because YOU think its a better user interface than a GUI. Maybe for you, or your grandmother or your mechanic it is, but for a lot of other people it isn't (my mother and brother, who is a mechanic for instance).

    Besides, as a programmer who does a lot of GUI design, if the 'hunt and peck' as you put it is so much slower, I suspect the GUI was very poorly designed in the first place. A good GUI can be designed to be intuitive, and just as fast to enter information as by hand (typing or writing). I think when you say GUI you think Win95/98/NT - no one has accused MS of being good at GUI design.

    Try surfing to
    to see some pointer on proper UI design. You might not be so "cranky" about the CLI.

    BTW click--copy --click--click---paste can be a lot quicker than
    mv /somedir/someotherdir/somefile /someotherdir2/someotherdir2/

    for someone who does the two finger 'hunt and push' style of typing. Just my opinion of course.

  • by Dunx ( 23729 ) on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @07:24AM (#1872461) Homepage
    Another very clear evocation of the principles of Open Source. But...

    No matter how vehemently immoral business practices are decried, the fact is that the most popular operating systems in use today are the product of a business culture which considers Sun Tzu's "Art of War" to be required reading but which eschews the cultural values (Confucian? Buddhist? I confess I don't know Sun Tzu's origins) that gave a moral context to his writings.

    Such a business culture practically requires that a position of strength be used to pound the opposition into tiny pieces, and no advantage will be passed by in that aim. The rights of the customer are rarely considered.

    The only way to establish a more sane operating system market where serving the users becomes more important than pulping your competitors is to divorce OS development from business.

    However - in trying to sell such a divorce to the general population of users I doubt that it's advisable to talk of honour (or honor, if you prefer): taking up the Star Trek analogy from Part II, the most widely recognised symbol of honour is probably the Klingons. Sad to say, any idea strongly identified with Trek is generally considered irredeemably geeky and hence not worth considering.

    How about we use the word 'integrity' instead?

    British and loving it.

  • i agree with the author of the article in that an OS shouldnt have to rely on third party software to stay optimal. e.g. disk defragmentation programs, anti-virus programs, and the like. bottom line is a robust, reliable, customizable OS. which is easy modifiable and usable. hmm sounds alot like something they tried to teach us in college about writing good software. the way i see it is that people will continue to endure second rate OS' until they are informed about what is actually out there. now come on, most computer users dont even know that linux, freebsd, and even unix exist. all they know is windows and mac and they probabally couldnt even tell you any differences between the two. i think that the public needs to be made more aware of what is actually out there, and then the public's expectations of an OS will rise. once the public has a clear expectation and makes a decision of what they want, business will provide for the consumers even if they have to work together.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    what does this have to do with microsoft, just an off handed joke?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    excellent point, well presented. the element of the "moral context" is especially relevant...

    what's our context?

    we live in a warrior society. this is reflected in our language, social dynamic, behavioral norms, etc. a duelist mentality, where kicking the other guy's butt is okay... so long as it's done honorably (with integrity?)

    yet at the same time we decry 'violence'. i suppose this is to be expected in a melting pot society; especially one in which hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty are so rampant.

    so, let's accept us for what we are. domineering, ruthless, convinced of our own rightness (emminent domain sound familiar?).

    funny, during a war, God is always on our side.

    good thread.
  • shipping a piece of software that crashes users' systems or corrupts their data or allows someone on the Internet to steal their data, when you knew it would do those things but shipped it anyway due to schedule pressure etc. is an act of malpractice

    I Agree. Could you sue a software engineer/company for malpractice?
    How many geeks out there would submit to a professional association, like accountants and solicitors|lawyers? Not many I think...

  • If anyone asks me a Winbloz question I first look at them with distain. Then I tell myself the general population has not had the opportunity to see the light of Unix/Linux. They don't know any better. They also don't have the time to discover the beauty and power of Unix/Linux. If Micros~1 software does what they need, then it's all they want to use and that's the way it should be.

    Today's English Lesson: Oxymorons

  • From the tone of the argument, the Mac people seem to have developed quite a snooty tone towards "closed" OSs, even though this is what the Mac has historically had, and I would argue still has.

    Well, in a certain sense the Mac is closed, but it is an example of how good closed can be. &AElig;sthetically, the Mac OS is the most nearly perfect of all offerings (some disagree, but I doubt that any system can satisfy everyone). Under the hood, it is not that great, but it does have some very interesting ideas that have been ignored by many. The data/resource fork system is about the most elegant way of seperating form from function that I have found (then again, I don't know much).

    Windows, in all its many fell incarnations, is an example of how closed source fails. The Mac OS is an example of how closed source succeeds and of its unique advantage (the Mac would not have done as well without tight software/hardware control). Linux is an example of how open source succeeds. It is also an example of how open source fails. I installed PPCLinux on my 5400, and Linux on a Dell Optiplex something-or-other. The basic CLI was a pleasure to use, very fast, very efficient &c. Getting my CD drives to work, getting X to work, getting a decent window manager up, these were painful. Don't even get me started about network configuration...

    The point is, open source is not an end in itself. Perfect software (recall the root meaning of perfect: finished; perfect software needs no update because it is complete) is the sole end. Open source is one means to that end. Closed source is another means to that end. Open source tends to produce a decent product, but not a superb one (vide Linux GUIs or Apache's performance). Closed source produces real clunkers and true works of art.

    Of course, either approach can produce software anywhere along the quality spectrum, but the grouping tends to differ. The tight control and central vision of closed source can be good or bad, and lead to excellence or muck. The loose control and group vision of open source can lead to innovation, but may never get around to intangibles. Like, say, an OS which installs itself the Right Way the first time...

  • by Salamander ( 33735 ) <> on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @08:39AM (#1872471) Homepage Journal
    >I Agree. Could you sue a software engineer/company for malpractice?

    Ick, no, I hope not. This society is litigious enough already. My hope is that we can keep things simple, without throwing accountability out the window because it's "too hard".

    >How many geeks out there would submit to a professional association, like accountants and solicitors|lawyers? Not many I think..

    I agree: not many. The grammar-school libertarians and suspiciously-alike "nonconformists" would never stand for it. Certification of individuals is not really what I'd propose. ISO-9000 "quality school" BS is even worse, focusing either on the wrong parts of the process or on whether it's documented rather than whether it works or is adhered to. What I had in mind was more of a one-time audit, much like when you have an outside accounting firm look at your books, associated with the release of a product to say "yup, somebody made a reasonable effort to test/debug up to reasonable professional standards before it went out the door".

    To elaborate a little, we all know that "I don't write code with bugs" is rarely if ever true. All the auditor should need to do is look at a test plan and report and a bug database and make sure they look "kosher". If you don't have a real bug database or a process that includes formal bug reporting the job gets more difficult, but the information may still be there in CVS/RCS logs and the audit might just take a little longer. If you don't even have real source control...well, at some point just about anyone would have to admit that they can't prove the product was properly tested and debugged, and that it shouldn't pass even a relatively informal kind of audit. At that point I have to ask then how the hell do you justify asking customers to pay you and trust you?

    Sorry for the shouting. It just seems absurd to me, as a software engineer myself, that software engineers should have absolutely no accountability whatsoever for what they produce, even when they're making a profit, and yet that seems to be precisely what many here believe. That disgusts me, even as I remind myself that the /. audience is not exactly representative of the industry at large...and thank God for that.
  • Posted by d106ene5:

    From the tone of the argument, the Mac people seem to have developed quite a snooty tone towards "closed" OSs, even though this is what the Mac has historically had, and I would argue still has. Try asking (former) Power Computing employees what they think of Apple's "openness", or should I say "revoke whenever we feel like it" openness.

    Listening to all of these "pundits" pontificate about the moral high ground of open-source is nauseating. We're looking at Johnny-come-lately claiming an intellectual heritage of open source software that is nearly twenty years old.
  • Honor is the courage to stand for and defend the truth, at all costs.

    Ultima fan
  • by NutZac ( 18515 )
    What is important in an OS? Honor

    I agree. Honor, however, is objective. What I think is honorable, you might not. Ergo, what OS('s) I think are honorable , you might not see as honorable.

    Uptime/downtime isn't objective. Hence our frustration with MS.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Honor's a good word, and integrity is a part of honor. The OS vendors lack integrity, too (ever read a System Requirements panel?).

    I had a couple minor disagreements with the article, but for the most part, found it refreshing.
    The price for keeping up with technology is that your hardware becomes obsolete every few months and won't run the newest software. MacOS 8.5 rendered my TV card and PC emulators useless. Yet, it was not a difficult decision to give those up in favor of improved stability, ease of use and something simple like Sherlock. I don't fault Apple for doing this.
    However, the OS vendors are often less than honorable when it comes to providing the necessary components of an OS, including security, efficiency, ease of use, and interoperability. It has been two decades already, as the article points out, and that should be more than enough time to fix the critical issues.
    But even the simple things are annoying: Why
    doesn't my floppy drive know if a disk is inserted or not? It seems like a simple thing but such minor inconvenience that addressing this problem was not financially sound. But what if I want to reboot a remote server or automate an install process? This simple thing becomes an issue...
    As for serious issues, the OS vendors are despicable. Why add versions of software whose only apparent merit is to feed the revenue stream by making older versions obsolete? Why add "features" that limit or prohibit interoperability with other platforms (thereby locking users into a single vendor)?
    The most frightening thing is that people actually paid for beta release software, chock full of bugs, because the marketing spin made it seem like a privelege.

  • by A Big Gnu Thrush ( 12795 ) on Tuesday June 01, 1999 @07:15AM (#1872477)
    Not to insult the open source community, but in comparison to fully closed OS's like MacOS and Windows, the user base for Linux, FreeBSD, etc..., is just as willing to accept inadequacies as other computer users. The difference being the nature of those inadequacies.

    Example: Mac users would never accept an installation procedure that forced you to manually edit a text file for the program to work, but they will accept once a day crashes. The same thing is probably true for most Windows users.

    The goal in desktop computing has been to move toward a feature rich, user friendly, environment with little emphasis on reliability or efficient use of system resources. The Linux market has been the opposite. Reliability and efficiency are key, but any complaints about ease of use will get an RTFM response.

    It's a trade-off. The writer of this article complains that OS manufacturers abuse his trust and offer a second rate product, but this is a product of the market in which we live. Hardware design works the same way. Cheap is king. Big mHz, Big RAM, Big HD, even if everything is low quality.

    The computer industry sells us what's just around the corner. We use what is viable today. As long as we buy into the marketing, they will keep selling us the future even as we go home and unwrap the past to use every day.
  • If a non-family member asks me questions about windows, I politely decline to comment about my level of expertise. I don't want to outright tell them "no, I won't help you with that kludge of an OS" or make them think they are somehow inferior for using it. I simply inform them that I cannot help, and that Unix is my area of expertise.

    Seems people hear computer and think windows. Mindshare.

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead