Windows? OS X? Linux? All garbage.

I've been using computers almost every day since 1984, starting with a Sinclair Spectrum, doing the inevitable long Amiga stretch, then finally giving in to using Windows, later becoming a wannabe cool kid and switching to OS X, with various Linux distributions inbetween. My conclusion? Operating systems suck. All of them. They're horrible.

For the past four years, I've been using Ubuntu at home and Windows at work, and I'm close to switching back to Windows again now that I've discovered the beauty of Cygwin. Not that I'm happy about it, Windows is terrible. But the alternatives are worse.

What's absolutely baffling is this smugness that comes with using an alternative operating system. Apple users of course feel like they have some gold-plated premium system that sets them apart from all that riff-raff. Linux users think of themselves as hardcore hackers straight from a William Gibson novel and scoff at the ignorance of people who click on the "X" button to close a window instead of simply opening a command prompt and typing "kill -s 9 $(pidof chrome)". I've been there. And I still regret that nobody had the sense back then to punch me in the face to set me straight.

Windows

At least there's unison across all camps that it sucks. There's a lot of software out there for it, but installing anything is a fucking ordeal. Once you find a website with something you're interested in, you choose whichever mirror sounds closest to your current location (wonder if it's ftp.horseshit.com or www.parsnips.org?), download the exe and run it. After a few pages worth of pointless installer screens, you'll get a checkbox for "Do you not want to skip installing Super Browser Toolbar?". I consider myself pretty experienced with Windows, but I still fall for that trap on occasion and end up with some random piece of garbage on my computer.

Luckily, there's anti-adware software! Which unfortunately has been infiltrated with adware as well. The infamous Lavasoft Adaware has been bought up by the same two guys who brought us gems like the free AVG AntiVirus trash.

Using a Windows computer is like trying to cross a minefield. I don't know how inexperienced people even manage. And judging by what their computers look like, they don't. I've seen computers full of malware, browsers taking up half of the screen space with toolbars, and the task manager full with obscure processes. And that's often already the case before the first software is even installed - most computers come pre-baked with a shitload of crap.

The standard shell is horrible. Windows batch scripts are like trying to write prose on a kids' typewriter that only has 10 letters. Luckily, Cygwin fixes this problem. The only downside is that there are now two competing shells installed, and you sometimes find yourself using them both at the same time.

OS X

I remember buying my first iMac. I thought that thing was awesome. When I found that some things were different, like how text manipulation works, I figured it must be superior, because it's Apple. Even though it was decidedly more awkward to use than Windows. But no, I just told myself I haven't gotten myself used to it yet.

I used iPhoto to manage my tens of thousands of pictures. It felt a bit patronizing, instead of specifying the resolution and quality of an image when sending an email, I had the choice between "Small", "Medium", "Large". Custom size? Screw that. Imagine going to a hardware store that only sells lumber in "short", "medium", and "long".

As I used it more, I realized that Apple software isn't this infallible divine goodness created out of unicorn farts. iPhoto kept crashing when I did certain things, and whenever a new update was released, I eagerly installed it, hoping that the devs fixed the crash that I kept reporting, only to find it still broken.

Then there is that magic beach ball - everything felt so slow. I bought a reasonably beefy iMac, but it was still chugging along whenever I did anything non-trivial. I thought that Apple may simply not have mastered proper memory management yet and had hopes that future OS X releases would make virtual memory paging less invasive. Unfortunately though, later releases were actually even more insufferable on older hardware.

Then, of course, there's the hardware issue. By using Apple computers, you immediately eliminate a large amount of things you could buy at a computer store. Whenever you go shopping, your first question will be "Does this work with Macs?". Your best bet is typically to use overpriced Apple hardware, which is essentially the same as the others, except twice as expensive.

Speaking of hardware - it is all so proprietary. And not in a good way. Once you go Apple, you're locked into their ecosystem, in both hardware and software (even more so on iOS, obviously). The biggest irony is that one of Apple's most iconic TV spots shows them as the antidote to the 1984 scenario of thousands of identically-dressed zombies blindly following their leader. And here we are, people with identically-looking computers blindly worshiping Steve Jobs as this genius. Apple is a religion.

Ubuntu

As I'm collecting my thoughts to find arguments against Linux distros, I keep laughing because of the absurdity of it. Would you like to live in a third world operating system? One where things considered basic necessities in other regions are often hard to come by?

Forget about things like Netflix. Most AAA games. Professional software for things like video editing or image manipulation. Hell, forget about drivers for your hardware! Got an Nvidia Optimus chipset? You can install Bumblebee, spend a few days trying to get it to work, and then use the command line to switch between Ivy Bridge and Nvidia. For bonus points, the guys who did Bumblebee ended up having an argument and split the project, so now there are multiple forks of it out there, and it's up to you whom to believe who has the better version.

That neatly serves as a demonstration of the chaos in the Linux world - you have many distros, all ever so slightly different. You have tons of different applications, many of them put together in a half-assed way, using one of the many UI libraries like Qt or Gtk or Java, so you have a wild mix with zero coherence or consistency whatsoever.

Even Google, which is internally using an Ubuntu clone, has neglected Linux. Forget about using Google Drive natively, unless you want to experiment with one of the makeshift solutions out there. Picasa works after hacking around for a while, but you still won't be able to log into your Google account, which makes it only half as useful, and you probably shouldn't click on the geotagging button, otherwise it will crash and you'll have to delete your settings.

Due to the lack of drivers, most of the proprietary features added by vendors will be inaccessible to you. Sound? Controlling the backlit keyboard? The available drivers may or may not work. Or maybe they'll work a bit. From Ubuntu 10.04 through 14.04, the HDMI output on my laptop kept changing between "not working at all", "working pretty well", to "psychedelic colors and halfway off the screen".

Yet using it makes you feel so absurdly superior, because catching an elephant with your bare hands and then grilling it gives you more satisfaction than just buying a steak in the store. And of course you feel "special". Windows is for the masses. OS X for the weak. You, however, are one of the chosen few, and everybody is asking you what this cool operating system is you're using when you move a window and the wobbly Compiz animation kicks in.

Sure, you say, I'm eating my delicious hand-caught steak! Of course, you don't show the scars from the other fifty times when you tried to catch your dinner and ended up bare-handed with only scratches and pain to show.

I'm back to Windows now and I marvel at the luxuries that I once again get to enjoy after having previously depraved myself of them for no good reason. In hindsight, I'm still wondering why I did it, other than just not to use Windows, which is indeed a street cred killer.

ChromeOS

I'm not going there. I like ChromeOS a lot, it serves its purpose well - but its purpose is diffeerent than that of Windows or OS X or Ubuntu. I would consider it a "mobile OS", like Android for laptops.

Comments

Mr. Stone said…
I agree they all suck, but the problems you describe with linux are actually vendors imposed, because of lack of popularity, not inherent to the OS design, like in Windows case.
Anyhow it is getting better: https://insights.ubuntu.com/2014/10/10/watch-netflix-in-ubuntu-today/ http://store.steampowered.com/steamos
Gareth Cox said…
I went 100% Linux for a while in the early 2000's. After some initial pain I started to really enjoy it. It definitely made me feel like a guru hacker. Things were good for several months. Then I got a second monitor and tried to get it to work. It was countless hours of man pages and text file edits. Eventually I found the graphics card didn't support 2 monitors yet on linux. I switched to windows and on bootup both monitors turned on perfectly. I've never gone back.

Popular posts from this blog

Best of 2016

Spartan Ultra Beast