On Windows

I have held off on making a post like this for a long time now, but I think it is now the time to do so.

I thought things would improve with Windows, but for the past five years (has time really gone so quickly?), Microsoft has not done anything with their power users, effectively leaving them in the dark to “modernize” their operating system for small devices (netbooks and tablets).

Microsoft knows so well that power users are leaving in droves to Linux, so they developed the Windows Subsystem for Linux – essentially a remake of Interix – to allow people to “run Ubuntu” on their machines all while keeping the familiar taskbar on their desktops and without having to tread through the territory of repartitioning, package management, and drivers. By taking advantage of distros’ terse and hard-to-read documentation as an “advantage” for staying on Windows, Microsoft has kept the uninformed lured into Windows 10.

Let’s remember what Windows used to be primarily for: office applications. Professionals and businesspeople still use Windows every day to get their work done. They were so invested in the system, in fact, that some of them took to learn keyboard shortcuts and other nooks and crannies of the system to do work even faster (or if using a mouse was not comfortable).

Today, Windows is used for three reasons:

  1. Microsoft Office dominates the market for productivity.
  2. Windows comes with almost every personal computer that isn’t a Mac.
  3. After MS-DOS, Windows was the go-to platform for PC gaming, and it still is. As such, gamers are reluctant to move anywhere else, lest their performance decrease.

The weight of Win32’s legacy features is too heavy of a burden to keep Windows moving forward as it is. Windows 10 has a multi-generational UI: modern UI (e.g. PC settings menu) from Windows 8 and 10, Aero UI (e.g. Control Panel) from Windows Vista and 7, Luna icons (e.g. Microsoft IME) from Windows XP, and UI that hasn’t changed since the very beginning (e.g. dial-up, private character editor) from Windows 98 and 2000.

The problem is that many business users still depend on Win32 programs. Microsoft is in an extremely tight spot: they must push for new software, all the while keeping friction as low as possible during the transition process.

But if Microsoft is going to eradicate Win32, why bother developing for UWP? Why not take the time now to develop cross-platform applications? Hence why companies that care – that is, companies that do not sell their 15-year-old software as if it were “new” in 2018 – are targeting either the web or Qt (which is very easy to port). Other programs that require somewhat tighter integration with Windows are very likely to use .NET, which means pulling out C#.

Here are some reasons I still use Windows on my desktop:

  1. I am accustomed to the keyboard shortcuts. (i.e. sunk cost)
  2. Microsoft Office.
  3. I can pull out a VM if I need Linux.

However, these reasons are becoming less relevant: I am unfamiliar with Windows 10 (due to its inconsistent UI), and Windows 7 is losing support soon. Moreover, a reliable method of installing Office through Wine is being developed, and new technologies that allow hardware pass-through, such as VT-d, have caused gaming performance on a VM to match almost that of natively running Windows.

I am also tired of the support offered for Windows: those who actually know what they are talking about are called “MVPs,” and everyone else simply seems to throw canned messages for support requests. For instance, if you look up “restore point long time” on Google, the first result is a Quora question called, “Why does system restore point take so long on Windows 10?” with some nonsensical answers:

  • It’s very fast, but restoring it can take a little while. Maybe you are referring to a system backup. Download this backup software and it should be super fast.
  • Just read the article on How-To Geek and it should cover everything. Two hours is worth it to get your computer working again. And if a restore point doesn’t work, just try another one.
  • Microsoft optimizes their DLLs for speed. Also, restore points are disabled by default.
  • This is a terrible feature.
  • Here is how to create a restore point. Go to the Start menu…
  • The “multiple levels of code” is just so much more advanced in Windows 10.

None of them answer the question: why does creating a system restore point take so long?

You can probably find similar blabber for why Windows Installer takes so long, or some technical feature of Windows.

These days, I don’t really think many people know how Windows actually works. How in the world am I going to use an operating system that nobody knows how it actually works?

In comparison, any other well-supported Linux distribution has people so tough on support that they will yell at you to get all kinds of logs. With Windows, nobody really knows how to help you; with Linux, nobody wants to bother helping such a lowly, illiterate n00b as you.

As for Wine, if Microsoft did not financially benefit from it, Microsoft would have taken down the project before it ever even took off. My suspicion is that once Wine is at a stable state, Microsoft will acquire (or fork) the project and use it as a platform for legacy applications, once they have eradicated Win32 from their new Windows.

All in all, Windows has served me very well for the past years, but I have grown out of it. All the while, I wish to stay away from the holy wars fought daily in the open-source world, most especially the war between GPL and BSD/MIT, although they do seem to be getting along these days. The problems arise when MIT code is about to get linked with GPL code, and that’s when developers have to say “all right, I can relicense for you,” or, “absolutely not, read the GPL and do not use my software if you do not agree with it.”


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