Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Happy birthday Linux!

Well I've missed the date by a few days, but the Linux kernel (the most basic part of an operating system, that interfaces with the physical hardware) is now twenty-five years old, making it only a little over two years younger than me.

Amusingly, in the post announcing his new project, Linus Torvalds called his new operating system kernel merely a hobby, not intended to be a professional endeavor. Fast-forward to today, and the open-source nature of the Linux kernel has led to it being used in a host of operating systems from basic consumer-oriented distributions to highly-customized distributions running on the most powerful supercomputers on the planet. Linux-based operating systems dominate installations in pretty much every category except desktop computers.

Writing about Linux here reminded me of how I've been using Windows 8 at work lately, and while I generally prefer to say nothing if I can't say something nice, I feel like venting some of the frustration I've been feeling. I'd never actually used Windows 8 before, merely heard about its shortcomings from other, but I've now experienced it first hand. In no particular order, here are some of the irritants I've experienced in the past few weeks:

  • Random freezes for no discernible reason while doing mundane things. Nothing quite like opening up a new instance of your browser after just starting the computer, opening a new tab, and having it freeze on you. Similar freezes have happened a few times in the past few weeks. I think it's probably happened about that many times in the last year on my computer. I got Chrome to repeatably lockup on a simple Source Forge page that (ironically) Internet Explorer opened with no problems.
  • Things not scrolling when you hover over them with the mouse. It's a little thing, but once you're used to it it really breaks your flow to have to click on different windows in order to scroll them. Especially when it's something like opening up a file-browser window and the focus is on the search field rather than on the file window proper.
  • Not having the secondary cut'n'paste clipboard from highlighting text that Linux has. I didn't realize just how much I relied on it for casual cut'n'pasting until I had to go back to Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v for everything.
  • The Start Screen that replaces the Start Menu in Windows 8, and its atrocious design of flat, bright, primary-color rectangles. I'm not even sure how to open specific programs now, and I never know when something is going to switch to opening full-screen in Metro mode. And why are Computer Settings and Control Panel two separate programs??
  • A “Save as…” menu that always defaults to a fixed set of best-guess folders, none of which are ones that I ever want to use, and which necessitates an extra click just to get to a general-purpose file-browser. Was simply opening to “My Documents” by default too difficult or something?

Anyway, you get the idea. I'm really glad I decided to jump ship when I did, from Windows 7. Despite growing up using Windows exclusively, I'm not happy with how Windows 8 turned out, and having grown to love Linux in the meantime I can't really ever see myself going back to Windows. Linux is by no means perfect, but it's less hassle and frustration for me in general. It's like the old joke that says the best operating system is the one that aggravates you least and stays out of your way the most.

Anyway, these were just a few disparate thoughts about operating systems I had recently—a hui hou!


  1. I have not dealt with either Windows 8 or Linux. I kept Windows 7 till 10 came out. I don't know if this works in 8, but right clicking on the Start menu in 10 gives you a much more civilized list.

    1. I haven't used Windows 10 either (though I hear it's generally a lot better than 8), but I believe the Start Menu was brought back in 10 due to the wide-spread outrage over its removal in 8. I'll give it a try—thanks for the tip!—but I suspect it won't do anything in 8.


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