This semester I'm teaching two unix-based courses; next semester it will be another two, one of them about how it works. It's a great system for geeks and gamers. If you're being attacked by orcs, you have to know which of the weapons in your arsenal to shoot at them. Most of us don't, so we try the flame-throwing crossbow -- nope; OK, try the laser defragger -- nope again; what about...? When nothing works, get on the internet and download the cheats. Aha, it was the magic potion I neglected to pick up on Level 3 that I need to use on these orcs. On Level 5 the orcs are different, and the defragger works. If you're a gamer, figuring out these puzzles is fun; if you have a job to do, it's a pain in the wrong place.
In 1984 the Macintosh was a compelling system choice for my personal requirements, for these reasons:
a. It was new, and I could get ahead of the pack as a supplier of software.Last year Apple killed the "aging" 18-year-old MacOS and replaced it with a "modern" 35-year-old system. How well does this new system meet my requirements? Let's see:
b. It was small and learnable.
c. It was a radical change in technology, the harbinger of things to come.
d. It was incredibly easy to use, no arcane command line to learn.
e. Everything I wanted the computer to do, it already did, and did well.
a. Most of the unix programmers have a 10-year lead on learning it over me. I have a lot of catching up to do.I really wanted to make the switch. For ten years my primary system was MacOS/6.5, a speedy little system that made the Mac IIci run circles around later Apple systems. I had a G4 running MacOS/9.1 that was slower in every way -- except running long compute-bound jobs, which were about 3 orders of magnitude faster. I need to use the newer hardware, but I don't like fighting the system to do it. After spending 20 years avoiding unix (and failing often enough to remind me why it's a good thing to avoid), I either had to switch to it, or participate in enabling a convicted criminal corporation to profit from the fruits of their crime. For three years I diligently tried to get a unix -- any unix -- system to survive the first reboot. I succeeded only when I got here and had access to wizards who have been using the system far longer than I. The MacOS required about 1% of a guru's time to fix the occasional problems (I was that guru for most of the users I knew); the PC requires closer to 5% or 10% of a guru's time to keep it up and healthy, but unix -- ALL flavors of unix -- need something like 50% guru time. The CTO at a large technology company IS that guru; unix is a natural choice for him and his shop. The receptionist in his front office is not a guru, and she doesn't want to become one; neither does his mother. Most computer users just want to get their work done; they don't want to fiddle around trying to get the computer to behave predictably.
b. It's huge, too big for any one person to understand.
c. It's 30-year-old technology, not event-driven at all.
d. The command line is everything.
e. What it does it does poorly, and most of what I want it to do, it cannot.
Personally, I hope Apple succeeds, but I'm afraid they are moving in
the wrong direction. The 21st century is event-driven and graphical, not
file-based with a clumsy GUI thrown on top as another "user". Fifteen years
ago I used to say that Apple was like the USA government: way out ahead
of whatever was in second place, but all parties were desperately trying
to close the gap. Now, the federal government has changed direction, and
is once again trying (feebly) to preserve the distinctives of what it means
to be American, but Apple actually succeeded in passing up and trading
places with the second-place runner. In terms of ease of use, WindowsXP,
bad as it is, beats OSX. sigh