Thursday, February 21, 2013

Desktop ambivalence (in a post-OS world)


There was a time when your choice of desktop OS said something about you - you were a Windows nerd or an Apple hipster - hell, Apple even based an entire advertising campaign on it. That was then. This is now.

A couple of years ago I was exclusively a Windows person. I wrote software for the .NET platform, which made Visual Studio my tool of choice, and the software I wrote ran on Windows servers. Even if I was working with VMs, I was running Windows Server VMs inside my Windows desktop OS.

I was always aware of Apple, but as I wasn't a hipster, and had never opened Photoshop, I left them to one side. When I was forced to use OSX I felt quite strongly that it was inferior to Windows.

Then I went to work at a creative agency, where I was swimming in an ocean of Mac-luvin. I started using one on the odd occasions when I need to borrow an office laptop. I still didn't like OSX, but I could get along with it.

At the same time I started playing around with Python, and I decided to scratch an itch I had around my complete lack of understanding of Linux as an OS. So I installed Ubuntu on a VM, and started playing with that.

Then I was given an iPad by work. And I bought myself a Windows 7 phone. So now I had Windows 7, Windows Phone 7, iOS, OSX, and Ubuntu in my life. I even installed Windows 8 when it came out (and paid for the upgrade!), but uninstalled it a week later (you can read about that here).

I finally realised that I had become ambivalent to the OS - and started concentrating on the tools I was using instead. I dropped Visual Studio in favour of Sublime Text, and dropped Word in favour of anything that worked with Markdown (which is anything).

I still don't like OSX - the fact that maximising a window doesn't, you know, maximise it, and the woeful Finder being my pet hates - but I bought myself a MacBook Air as my primary computer simply because I like the hardware, and frankly, I don't really care about the OS.

A beautifully designed piece of hardware running beautifully designed, and simple, software (stand up iA Writer), running on an OS that just gets out of my way, is all I need these days. Are we in the post-OS-as-brand world?

Postscript: the logical conclusion of this is no (discernible) OS at all. Over Christmas I thought I'd be a good son and back up the laptop I bought for my mother a couple of years ago. She uses it infrequently, but enough, and I figured she probably had something of value on it worth saving. In fact there was nothing - at all - on it. Every single thing she does on her computer is web-based. She is the Chrome OS poster child (grandmother).

1 comment:

Colm said...

Having a Mac laptop, and a Windows 7 Desktop, the only real difference remaining for me is gaming. But even that last bastion of Windows dominance is fading, more and more publishers (helped by the growth of indie gaming) are publishing to mac, OpenGL is getting closer to DirectX, and Linux is getting some roots.

There was a really interesting post by John Carmack talking about gaming on Linux. His perspective was that there is a lot of stigma around emulation and playing games through WINE. But really there's no reason for that, the software and the ports could be better but its a much more realistic goal. There simply isn't a business case for big publishers to make games for Linux.

Here's the post... http://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/17x0sh/john_carmack_asks_why_wine_isnt_good_enough/c89sfto

Now having firmly strayed way off topic I shall bid you farewell