Friday, October 26, 2007

Everybody's Two Cents

It seems everywhere you look, there's another article written giving advice on how to best run your computer. "Do it our way, it's best!" or "Neat things to do with your computer" seem to be the trend. Fact is, there are just too many individuals out there, and just as many ways of maintaining your computer (be it a Mac or a PC).

One part I find really confusing about this is how authorities on the matter (like Microsoft, for instance) will write articles teaching you how to organize your computer, then come out with the latest and greatest in search technology, just in case you lose something. Seeing how Microsoft's latest program search feature works, it looks like they could do to read their own articles! But I suppose that's what they get for trying to keep up with the Mac.

Looking at the latest release from the Linux camp seems to follow this basic trend in trying to help everyone be organized, but falling back to "and we have a search feature if you misfile anything!" In the latest Ubuntu 7.10, there are folders for Music, Documents, Pictures, Video, you name it. Nice and easy to organize, if that's your style (most of my files will wind up in a Download folder somewhere, to be honest). And when I lose something, there's Tracker to get me out of a jam.

Of course, the rivalry across these three platforms doesn't end at just trying to be helpful and let you keep your life (and your files) organized. Oh no, there's much more than that, and they each try to one-up the other. Enter "bling!" Really, I think it was the Mac that started it all. It was that sexy graphical user interface (GUI) that first hooked Bill Gates on the idea, and the rivalry has revved up ever since*. Not to be outdone, the UNIX crowd developed a similar system, but until recent years it just hasn't cut the mustard.

Apple's slick interface, called Aqua, and made with yummy-sounding names like Cocoa and Java, is without a doubt the smoothest experience you'll see in computing today. Microsoft's Windows Vista is pathetic in comparison. And then there's Linux: trying to be everything to everyone, with a few nice tricks up it's sleeve, but master of none.

Computing today is light-years from where it began, and we still have so far to go. When you can organize a computer as well as (or as poorly as) you can organize your life, we'll really be getting somewhere. For now, I think we need a new metaphor. Perhaps something that reflects the real world better, instead of trying to compartmentalize everything into Folders and Files. A little less concentration on the splashy effects that require that we go out and buy brand new video cards and faster CPUs might be an idea, too.

But I guess that's just my two cents.

*And yeah, I know about the Xerox thing, okay? :)

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