XP, Please Don’t Leave Me!!!!

Posted on August 25, 2013

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Work and family always get in the way of getting personal pet projects done, hahaha.

Anyways, I can finally yell “finally”.  With my wife taking the kids on a play day last sunday,  I got a chance to do some upgrades to my old yet trusty XP work horse. I fixed its broken DVD writer, and I’m cloning its primary drive (with clonezilla) into a larger one. Unfortunately the RAM upgrade I had planned didn’t pan out well. Apparently I did a mistake when I ordered two 1GB ram chips which appear to run at a different speed from the existing 1GB chips already in place. The whole thing either freezes when the BIOS loads, or limps its way through XP, crashing unceremoniously like the Hindenburg.

Typically I’ve been able to get away with mismatched RAM chips, but I guess this was the time I had to pay the piper. Oh well. RAM is cheap so I’ll order some more with a little bit more care.  Refunds for the wrong RAM? Unfortunately nope. I bought them almost a year ago, so that’s a no-go. Oh well, live and learn.

My Old XP Machine

My Old XP Machine

Say what?

Yep. XP. Indeed. Si. I said “XP”.

I’m a Unix/Linux kind of guy, and I have a morbid fascination for cramming as much functionality as possibly in piped-incantations of sed, awk, grep, tr, xargs and anything but the kitchen sink. But I’m also very pragmatic and agnostic when it comes to software.

Furthermore, I’m a guy who gives credit when credit is due.

And indeed XP deserves ample credit. To me XP represents the pinnacle, the nerdvana, the Valhalla of Windows technology.

Case in point, I have a Windows Vista laptop with more RAM and a faster HD than my old work horse… and yet I prefer to do my coding on my XP machine.

It is simply faster and leaner and meaner. It is a testament to how far the apple has fallen from the tree when Vista is capable of slowing down a laptop with relatively powerful hardware.

Supposedly Windows 7 makes an improvement on Vista.  Indeed it does, which I know first hand since that is the OS of my work development box. But I refuse to pay for an upgrade to Vista as a solution to the bad deal I got when I paid for my laptop… and the Vista OS that came with it.

It’s like the dentist pulling out the wrong molar and then you having to pay for another visit to pull the right one. Indeed, working with post-XP OS updates is like pulling teeth.

It Gets Worse

Indeed it does. I had a chance to use a Windows 8 Laptop (my sister’s actually). The whole UI paradigm that is the Star Screen is completely flawed and confusing.

I believe it is a great and powerful paradigm for tablets and mobile devices. But for a laptop or PC? C’mon!!!

Whatever happened to the Principle of Least Astonishment???? If you don’t know that principle, it goes like this:

The more that a system makes its users think “WTF?” in astonishment and confusion, the more that you failed in the execution and delivery of such a system.

We saw a lot of that when MS Office 2007 changed all the well-established and widely understood UI paradigms, de-facto standards, that previous versions of MS Office had established for almost a decade. MS Office products pre-2007 had a lingua franca of productivity that felt natural to the user. That was gone with 2007, and for no apparent advantage. None of the changes introduced yielded any significant ROI that warranted their introduction.

More of the Same

With Windows 8 on a laptop and PC, we simply get more of the same what-the-heck-MS-Office-2007 UI malarkey. As I mentioned before, these UI paradigms make absolute sense on a touch screen or in a tablet or mobile device. But not on a  laptop.

Do a google about it, and you will find droves and droves of users asking “how to close Start Screen” or “how to get old Start Menu”.  I felt the same way when I handled my sister’s laptop. This is the type of confusion that is general and widespread and that crosses generational boundaries.

This looks to me like a misguided attempt at being hip by Microsoft. Until hardware manufactures actually come up with good touch-screen hardware that makes it inconspicuous and transparent to the laptop or desktop user, the laptop and the desktop will remain distinct from their tablet and mobile device counterparts.  They might well be used concurrently by the same users, but each device calls for a different role and usage pattern from the user.

Those cognitive and physical distinctions cannot simply be blurred and swiped under the carpet by an omniscient, ill-consolidated UI. Maybe there is some ulterior, long-term wisdom and planning going here by the Windows 8 architects and I’m too plebeian to see it. I simply don’t see the wisdom of shoehorning a UI paradigm that is excellently made for tables and mobile devises on desktops and laptops  (specially those devoid of a touch screen monitor).

Good Bye XP

I feel dread when XP finally reaches its EOL on April 8th, 2014.  It will mark the end of a good era. I believe Microsoft has the juice and the talent to really make up for these UI transgressions  Microsoft had a good thing going on in XP when it came to usability on the desktop and laptop. It should be wise to leverage on that as opposed to to make a desktop or laptop look like a mall kiosk.

Moral of the story. Change must have a readily apparent ROI. It must not confound users unless the changes deliver new advantages that are both significant and impossible or near impossible to achieve with previous standards.

Letting the apple fall far from a relatively good tree is not a good way to conduct business.

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