OS Systems? Can We Talk…

Both David Churbuck and Jim Forbes have posted utterly brilliant assessments of the changing role of the OS on their blogs in the past couple days. Churbuck’s point:

…I do know this: if fans like Fester are looking at their hardware platform and voting with their feet based on the underlying OS …..

David hasn’t spent a lot of time working on Vista and makes the statement: “You know where I work, you know what I do; my exposure to the future of Wintel standard computing has been a grand total of half-an-hour.” That speaks volumes about the interest in Vista in businesses. None of the companies I know are considering moving to a Vista standard.

But Jim Forbes, ever the one for clarity on such issues makes a point I can’t agree with more.

This conversation and my growing dependence on web-based applications has forced me to ask myself “Do I really need to care who makes my operating system?”

I’m writing this on Google Docs and spreadsheets so I guess I’ve answered my own question. For the moment, I really don’t care much whether I use an operating system developed by Microsoft, Apple or Adam’s off ox.

What I care about is connectivity and occasional local computing. And reliability and efficiency.

I’ve got the same thought. I have a few bits of software I use that are proprietary shrink wrap type software, but for the most part I use online apps. I have not paid for a MS Office license and am fairly committed to Google Docs for the Office type stuff I do now. I use the Calendar and Gmail religiously.

What I’ve found in Vista is that the few things I do need my OS to do, it often doesn’t do very well. Here are some examples:

  • File management operations are an utter travesty. I just moved a vBulletin skin from one folder to another – the files were a total of 4.55 MB. The copy operation took 8 minutes to complete. That is not acceptable in anyones book. (Here is an extremely long MS TechNet Thread on the issue. Supposedly this issue can be fixed with an unofficial hotfix and will be resolved with the Jan. 1 or so release of SP1 – for the record I am not going to hack my OS to fix this even though the problem is killing my productivity).
  • Reliance on wizards for trouble shooting vs. just showing me the information I need to solve the problem. When I have a problem with the computer, it wants to step through and try to fix itself. It’s like calling Charter Cable – you have to talk to the computer for 15 minutes to get to the human you knew you needed to talk to at the start.
  • Bloated memory yet limited memory – This one really kills me. The problem is that while the system won’t run even the most simple apps without 2 gigs of memory, on a 32 bit system, you can’t install more than 4 gig of memory. My machine has an AthlonTM 64 X2 processor, so I could “upgrade” to the 64 bit os and then get around the memory limit, but my experience is that software support for 64 bit becomes a big issue.

The solution is clear – while we spent the 1990’s moving away from client server architecture, we’re now getting to the point that we need to revisit that issue. 90% of the computing public only uses their machines for email, office type tasks, and surfing Porn. Perhaps it’s time that Charter, Comcast and the rest looked at very simple os systems that would simply allow people to get online. That’d bring us back full circle to the old days of the big bad server and a bunch of dumb terminals. And it seems to make more sense.

For the record, I don’t care who makes my OS, as long as it handles the core functionality I need properly. The only good OS is the one you don’t even know is there…

4 Replies to “OS Systems? Can We Talk…”

  1. The idea of an OS-irrelevant world is nice but I haven’t found it works well for me yet in reality.

    While both my personal and business mail are Google (vanilla for personal, Apps for business), the web interface – slick as it is – just isn’t quite up to the convenience of a client. So the OS suddenly matters; when I was using a Windows machine I was stuck with Outlook bloatware, or one of the alternatives – all of which are, I find, pretty bad. (Thunderbird, for all the good press it gets, seems like it’s been designed by insane trolls to me – nothing about the interface makes any sense). So it was a big relief to start up my new MacBook and go back to using Apple Mail, which has its limits, but mostly stays out of the way so I can just get things done.

    I still need things offline on a regular basis. Working from a home office, I’m dependent on the generally crappy broadband available to consumers, and I’ve had a few “oh crap, I can’t get at that doc/email right now experiences” – one of which ended with me sitting in my car in front of the (closed) neighborhood library branch to get on their wifi).

    And I cannot get away from MS Office no matter how hard I try. The Apple apps are limited, OpenOffice is close but not quite there, the Google apps are handy but lacking features I use… sigh.

    Someday, I hope.

    And, as you note, there are the things where the OS just matters. Files. Reliability. Being able to mess with settings – wizards are one of the most horrible things about Windows, in my book, when I use it I find myself thinking, “I know what I’m doing, please leave me the hell alone.”

    I held off on the Mac purchase till I had a chance to find out more about Vista, and it seemed like it didn’t really fix the underlying issues I was having with Windows, so… back to the Mac. I’m no fanboy but honestly, since getting the new machine, it’s just been a big relief.

  2. Another example of what I call “the widget economy.” We’re increasingly separating the data from the app. Soon, even the least technical-savvy of small and micro biz will be “rolling their own” mixing and matching what they need as they need it – and treating their data like the gold it is – in an offsite Fort Knox.

    Sure, the technology has a ways to go, but I’ve got no doubt it’ll happen.

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