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The Microsoft Space

I've been using the term “Microsoft Space” for a while now without really defining it—even to myself, probably. It's about time I did.

First, I'm talking about the way humans interface to computers. I've never meant the term to mean only Microsoft—thus the word “Space”. But Microsoft has built up an approach to interfacing with computers that is—unfortunately—creating a lot of mind share, notably from Apple and large parts of the Linux space. How should I define it? Here's a first cut.

Incomplete mumblings from here on

 Directory structure

 It also seems that the designers of Microsoft-style software are overwhelmed by the
 concept of directory trees.  They do everything to hide this structure, leaving people
 like me completely baffled when I try to find a file.  Instead, you see countless cases of
 utter stupidity when programs go looking for files.


     What is actually happening, I am afraid, is that we all tell each other and ourselves
     that software engineering techniques should be improved considerably, because there is
     a crisis.  But there are a few boundary conditions which apparently have to be

    1. We may not change our thinking habits.
    2. We may not change our programming tools.
    3. We may not change our hardware.
    4. We may not change our tasks.
    5. We may not change the organizational set-up
       in which the work has to be done.

Now under these five immutable boundary conditions, we have to try to
improve matters. This is utterly ridiculous.

Edsger W. Dijkstra, on receiving the ACM Turing Award in 1972


<gr0Ogle> callum: Just for you. [17:18]
<gr0Ogle> As it says, it's incomplete, and it's clear that I need to get my
 thoughts together. [17:19]
<gr0Ogle> But I'd appreciate useful feedback.
<callum> Without having read much, one thing that strikes me immediately is
that MS weren't the inventor of the GUI, which right up front you
characterise the whole phenomenon by. I don't know if that's worth
clarifying or if you might consider where MS took the GUI as opposed
to where it started out and could have gone. [17:21]
<gr0Ogle> Yes, I was wondering what to say about that.
<gr0Ogle> There are also things like icon clutter.
<gr0Ogle> Microsoft didn't invent the GUI, but the current offerings owe much
 to Microsoft. [17:22]
<callum> Yes, there are definitely things that occur when working with the GUI
paradigm which lead to decreased usability and performance (like icon
<callum> But then, you can end up with a home directory that looks like crap
too. [17:23]
<callum> At least it's usually sorted. But then you can do that in a gui too.
<gr0Ogle> It's not really clear what a Microsoft space home directory is.
<callum> And MS even provided a "Cleanup unused icons" feature.
<gr0Ogle> Ah, understood.
<gr0Ogle> Yes, some of these features are good.
<gr0Ogle> I'd like a "cleanup unused cruft in .emacs" function. [17:24]
* Darius notes that you can use windows fair well without a mouse
<Darius> esp for word processing, coding etc
<Darius> well, I can
<gr0Ogle> Darius: For some definition of "farewell".
<gr0Ogle> But in that respect, MS seems to be better than Apple.
<Darius> fairly well even!
<gr0Ogle> Understood.  It doesn't materially change my reply :-)
<Darius> heh [17:25]
<callum> find . -depth 1 -mtime +365 | xargs mv .unused
<Darius> also, you don't need to use a mouse to move between windows
<gr0Ogle> callum: Doesn't work inside a file. [17:26]
<Darius> also I think your Djikstra quote needs some ""'s
<gr0Ogle> Darius: You do if you want to point to the right one immediately.
<callum> gr0Ogle: no, just the unix equivalent to "cleanup your desktop"
<gr0Ogle> But that's a feature, not a bug.
<gr0Ogle> callum: Ah.
<Darius> gr0Ogle: true, but in my experience I usually toggle between 2 or 3
windows so alt-tab is very easy to use [17:27]
<Darius> WRT directory trees, GNOME have that disease too now
<Darius> although windows wasn't so bad until vista
<gr0Ogle> The Dijkstra quote arrived twice, and you may have the older version
 where I don't say "Incomplete mumblings from here on" in the wrong
<Darius> and you can restore sanity in vista
<gr0Ogle> Darius: If you only have 2 or 3 windows, you don't have an issue.
<Darius> gr0Ogle: no, I mean the _working set_ of windows is 2 or 3 [17:28]
<gr0Ogle> Darius: And yes, I definitely include many GNOME "features" in the
 Microsoft space
<gr0Ogle> Anyway, as I said, it's incomplete.
<Darius> what about the lack of (good) virtual desktops in MSland?
<gr0Ogle> I'm still working on it, and listening to your input.
<gr0Ogle> What's a virtual desktop?
<Darius> yeah I didn't twig it was the unfinished part :)
<Darius> gr0Ogle: tvtwm vs twm [17:29]
<Darius> for people with less deskspace than you :)
<callum> gr0Ogle: I'm not sure about your comment on directory structure. Both
Apple and MS operating systems have definite directory structures
where stuff can be found. You can even tell their GUI file browsers
to show you "hidden" stuff. It's just a matter of learning about
it. I'm not sure that they are any more obscure than unix, in that
<gr0Ogle> You mean multiple paned "displays"?
<callum> Darius: I've used something called VirtuaWin which seems ok.
<Darius> callum: hmm OK
<callum> (for the brief moments I've had to use Windows on my laptop)
<Darius> callum: there was a microsoft power toy which mostly works but lots
of apps get confused about it
<Darius> and it's sloooow [17:30]
<gr0Ogle> callum: All the GUIs hide the information.  You really need to look
 for where you are.
<callum> NB missing "l" in VirtuaWin.
<gr0Ogle> Anyway, my diary's there now.
<Darius> callum: right? [17:31]
<callum> One of the interesting side-effects of using Exceed (an X display
server for MS Windows) is that you can run a window manage in
auto-raise, focus follows mouse mode, and then it works for all the
MS Windows as well. [17:32]
<Darius> heh
<callum> Darius: I think so, although that's a newer version.
<Darius> there is a power toy that does sloppy focus for windows
<Darius> callum: OK ta
<callum> It's still possible to confuse some apps, but it seems to work most
of the time.
<callum> gr0Ogle: you're fooling me. [17:33]
<callum> and I'm not looking at the xml either. [17:34]
<gr0Ogle> Hmm.
<gr0Ogle> Sorry, specified the wrong directory.
*** Stralytic ( has quit: Ping timeout
<Darius> callum: I imagine the "fun" part is generating work arounds for buggy
<gr0Ogle> But now, promise. [17:35]
<callum> gr0Ogle: did you find gimp 2.4 as described much different to 2.6?
<gr0Ogle> Different enough to be confusing. [17:36]
<gr0Ogle> It didn't help that the version it showed was in German, too.
<callum> Ok, I be off home now, me hearties. [17:38]
* gr0Ogle waves.
<lawrance> hi [17:57]
<lawrance> i didn't stack it
<lawrance> huzzah
*** Stralytic ( has joined channel #bugs
<Stralytic> gr0Ogle, what have you got against reverse chronological documents?
<gr0Ogle> Stralytic [18:04]
<gr0Ogle> ls about paragraph last the particularly Note
<peter> gr0Ogle: Apple were the first to produce a consumer-level GUI (copied
from Xerox) and M$ copied Apple. [18:15]
*** alastair ( has joined channel
*** Z ( has changed mode for #bugs to +l 21 [18:16]
<peter> gr0Ogle: Is Apple really copying from M$ or just continuing its own
GUI development? [18:17]
* peter STR that MS-DOS had a working directory (one per filesystem even).
  Possibly CWD got lost because it's less clear what a CWD is for a window -
  does it inherit from the WM or is there one CWD for all apps? [18:20]
<peter> gr0Ogle: Dijkstra's quote needs the formatting corrected. [18:29]
Running Apple programs: Spotlight (*slow*), Terminal That 'other' way to run programs: Using the handy type-it-yourself command

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