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User Journal

Journal Journal: Mac OS X looks greener from the other side of the fence

Dark Paladin suggests that the key to loving MacOS X may be not knowing MacOS 9 and below. Maybe he's right. I've been watching MacOS X mature for years, but I still haven't quite been pursuaded to switch.

Mac OS 9 is just too good.

Do I know what I'm missing? Sure I do. I have an awesome dual-screen Athlon running Red Hat at work, and am no stranger to Windows. My roommate runs OS X. It looks very pretty.

I'm still not switching. Mac OS 9 is too good.

My tower also boots into MacOS 8 (as well as Linux). That was a fine system, too. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

What do I stand to gain from OS X?

Memory protection -- I don't have problems with rogue apps in MacOS 9. My MacOS 9 system is very stable. Memory protection is overrated.

Multitasking -- Cooperative multitasking actually works very well. It is often more responsive than my X-windows desktop, despite having a CPU half as fast. Preemptive multitasking is overrated.

Unix -- Oh joy, I can run thousands of nonintuitive CLI utilities and inconsistent, mentally taxing X programs. Does this program use alt or control for its accelerator keys? Can I paste with the mouse, or do I have to use a menu? Can I copy from this window and paste into that one? Only under some conditions! Yeah, gimme some more of that Unix lovin'.

Aqua -- I really need my desktop picture to bleed through my windows. Give me a break, I only have a 400-MHz G3 and 256 MB of RAM. I don't have enough resources to run Aqua. Funny how OS 9 runs fine on it, though.

Broken HI guidelines -- Some things in Classic MacOS are just better thought out than their OS X counterparts. A photograph of a hard drive mechanism to represent a volume of storage? Sure, I know what it means, but my mom doesn't. Nor does she want to. Go back to school, propellerheads. Learn the difference between "we can" and "we should".

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I'll stop using Mac OS 9 when it no longer meets my needs. And not a day sooner.

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: Play buzzword bingo!

Do you, like most people, have trouble staying awake in business meetings? Liven things up a little by playing Buzzword Bingo! Each time you hear one of these overused words or phrases, mark it off. When you get five in a row, you win! Try to have a good cover story to explain to your confused coworkers why you just yelled, "BINGO!" in the middle of a meeting.


Postscript: There are lots of instances of Buzzword Bingo floating around. What makes this one special? Answer: Every single buzzword in my board was taken from a single press release. Wish I remembered which one it was.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Effective Word

"MS Word forces you to deal with presentation issues at all times."

Naturally, you want to compose the structure and content of your document first, and worry about presentation later. I can hardly imagine any sensible writer doing otherwise. In Word, this is trivially easy.

The key is to write your document in Outline View. For all of its warts, Word has the best outline editor I've ever used. Use the outline view to create your sections and subsections; fill in body text blocks; and rearrange to your heart's content. Use change bars to track your changes if that's important to you.

Once the content is in place, note that the different levels of headers are associated with styles -- very convenient! All you have to do is define your styles, and *poof!* the presentation aspect of your document is done. Better yet, define your styles ahead of time and save them in a temlpate. Note also that your table of contents is trivially generated from your outline headers.

If you don't want to be annoyed by the instant spelling and grammar checkers, just turn them off. I do.

While I detest the anticompetitive business practices of MS as much as the next mustelid, I have yet to encounter a better application for most writing tasks than MS Word. It's not perfect, but it's better than the competition. Its cross-referencing capabilities are a bit weak for academic or scientific publishing, but for general technical writing it is excellent.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Did Xerox invent the (PC|GUI|Mouse)?

A common misperception may be stated:

Xerox originally came up with the concepts of the personal computer, the graphical user interface, the mouse, and several other substantial breakthroughs in computer science.

According to this page, the personal computer was invented in 1949. Xerox was a chemical company called Haloid at the time, and was just getting into the photocopy business.

This very good primer describes how various pieces of the GUI were invented throughout the 50s and 60s by people such as Ivan Sutherland and Alan Kay.

The mouse was invented by Douglas Englebart in the mid-1960s.

Xerox did invent at PARC in the 1970s and beyond: several other substantial breakthroughs in computer science, such as Ethernet and Smalltalk.

User Journal

Journal Journal: How will Free software succeed?


You just have to ask some fundamental questions to see why.

Q: Who benefits from Free software?

A: Absolutely everybody who uses a computer, except those who make money by selling competing software -- and even they benefit, because they can use Free software, too.

Q: If nobody's paying for software, who's going to write it?

A: Free software will be supported by companies whose main business is not selling software, but who do need to have software. IBM, Apple, Sun, and HP all benefit when they develop software and give it away for free, because they sell hardware. Systems integrators can afford to give software away because they sell configured systems. Large web sites can afford to give software away because they sell advertising. AOL can afford to give software away because they sell content. Contracting shops want to have a free infrastructure because they sell vertical-market applications. There are more than enough businesses with solid, nuts-and-bolts financial incentives to keep Free software going indefinitely. Companies whose sole product is Free software may be funded by industry consortia that wish to have the benefit of continued support of the product, or that wish to forge an industry-wide standard.

Q: How stupid do you have to be to fail to see that most people and companies stand to benefit if they can get (some of) their software for free?

A: Very stupid. Stupider than the people who make mony selling software.

Q: So what could possibly stop Free software?

A: Plenty of obstacles can slow or even stop the spread of Free software. Ignorance is now pretty much out of the running; millions of people know about Free software. Lies will slow the adoption of Free software by scaring away potential users. Greed may prevent some companies from realizing that giving software away as an incentive to buy their other products and services may do more for their business than selling it. Betrayal, e.g., persuading governments to outlaw Free software, can easily kill it. Disorganization is probably the biggest threat. Free software projects need strong leaders to hold them together and assimilate all the contributions to improve the project for everyone, and discourage forking.

Q: What's wrong with charging money for software?

A: There's absolutely nothing wrong with charging money for software. It is difficult to sell something that's freely available, but it can be done. People pay for bottled water, even though they can slurp it straight from the tap. People will voluntarily pay for anything -- even software -- if they perceive some added value.

Q: Does this mean the long-term dominance of Free software is assured?

A: Not at all. The opposition is extremely dedicated, and has vast resources. Free software has gotten off to a good start, but it is by no means too strong to be smothered.

If enough people with real business interests come to realize how they will benefit from writing and distributing Free software, then it stands a good chance of surviving.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thank goodness for journals!

We all have our hot-button issues. Okay, most of us do. Most ignorami I can ignore, but occasionally one trots out some overused piece of misinformation that hits so close to home that I can't let it go undispelled (or, at the very least, unchallenged). I'm sure you know the feeling.

So there you are, hammering away at the keys all afternoon, 3 or 4 browser windows open at once pulling in references, composing a masterpiece of rhetoric to put this yokel in his place. If the parent article is close enough to the top of the first page, you might even get modded up to +5 -- bonus! Life is good.

Time passes. 3 or 4 months go by, and what do you know, your favorite issue is again the topic of the day. And, as surely as night follows day, some other often-in-error-never-in-doubt idiot is spreading the same propaganda that you poured your creative genius into rebutting. "Ha ha," you say, "I have you now! My counterargument is all ready to go, and all I have to do is point you to my previous article!"

Oops! Your article no longer appears in your info page! Of course, you did save the source in a text file on your home machine, but you're at work now, and it would be a waste to post the same article all over again.

Journal to the rescue! A place where the fruits of your intellect won't get lost among the weeds of idiocy; only the choicest plums dangling tantalizingly before your readers' very eyes. A place to which you can easily divert the discussion in the threaded news commentary. That, one hopes, will not be thrown out with the bathwater of lame -1 Anonymous Coward trolls after a few short weeks.

Thanks, guys! We owe you one. Stop by to collect it next time you're in town.

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We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra