the more clever you *think* you sound...

August 15, 2006
I've been carpooling with Tim since I started my new job. The conversations during the trip make it worthwhile... often techie, sometimes political, almost always geeky...

This morning we were talking about the popularity and feature set of various OSes. (Random side note... I've noticed a lot of Russians who say that's short for "Operational System". Funny how I notice that "ing" to "ional" change so much, even though it barely makes a difference in meaning.) He's a strong Linux advocate on many fronts, using Windows because he has to for work (though even there he uses OpenOffice instead of Microsoft's offering, and is delighted that no one ever seems to notice) and for games, while I'm kind of a Windows guy, sort of coasting on the way Windows really was a superior alternative in 1995.

I consider myself a bit of poweruser with OSes, very deft in several areas, from commandline quick-and-dirty scripts in Unix and Windows to setting up shortcuts in ways that let me start most of my favorite applications in 2 keystrokes (but without relying on 3rd party installs), from using Windows without a mouse (a skill honed from when I was leaning wayback in a papasan chair and couldn't reach the mouse easily) to just generally flying around the various folders throughout my harddrives.

When it comes to UIs in general, I tend to be intensely conservative. I dial back Windows XP so it looks the way 95 did. OSX and various flavor os Linux GUI have never really clicked for me. I still use this ancient version of Paint Shop Pro that I've been using for a decade, despite some limitations and irritations with it. You would think I would have the skills to pick up these new systems fairly easily, but I realize there's a single underlying theme in all of this... I'm good at the UI I use not because it's a good UI, or I like UIs, but because the UI of the OS is intensely uninteresting to me, strictly a means to an end, and any time I notice or think too much about the UI, it's probably a bad thing. Similarly, I don't like Mr. Ibis' route of customizing Windows desktop to "powerize" them, because then I'd be more dependent on those modifications, and my skillset less transferable to other people's PCs, as well as uppping what it takes to feel comfortable in a new workspace of my own.

Quote of the Moment
[On Billy Beane realizing that many good baseball players are discarded by the major leagues because they don't look like good players] The latter discovery in particular struck a chord with me because my football career has been blighted by exactly that sort of prejudice. English scouts visiting my Friday morning five-a-side game have (presumably) discounted me on peripheral grounds of age, weight, speed, amount of time spent lying on the ground weeping with exhaustion, etc.; what they're not looking at is performance, which is of course is the only thing that counts. They'd have made a film called Head It Like Hornby by now if Billy Beane were working over here. (And if I were any good at heading, another overrated and peripheral skill.)