March 28, 2013

The State of the Changing Windows Blue UI: Change Hurts and Linux is Still Not the Answer


I started today reading a column by Steve J. Vaughn-Nichols and Linux, a long suffering Linux supporter, who was having a major cow over the possibility that Microsoft was going to eliminate the old Windows interface used with minor modifications since Windows 95 as they move to Windows Blue.   Part of me wondered why a Linux guy would even care since, hello, they are using Linux, but apparently Steven has deep concerns about an OS he shouldn’t be using.   

His issue was that Paul Thurrott had written about the coming “Blue” release of Windows 8, which may be named Windows 9, or may simply be a set of in-line improvements.   These improvements clearly show that Microsoft is moving away from the old Windows interface to the new one, much like they did back in 1995 when they moved from the DOS shell that was Windows to the Windows operating system.   Back then people were having a cow that Microsoft was drifting away from the command line interface, and while that interface still exists in Windows today, few use it.  

But looking at Windows Phone and Windows RT and knowing that most companies, including Microsoft and Apple, like consistency (and we tend to like consistency as well) even if they retain some part of the old interface their goal is clearly to make it redundant, like they did the command line, and many of us will have to learn something new.   And we’ll complain up a blue streak as the kids, as they always do, embrace the new way of doing things and look at us like we stepped out of Jurassic park as an escaped exhibit.   We really don’t like change, but we need to get over that.

Hating Change

It really isn’t just about Windows. Every time Facebook makes an interface change folks scream up a blue streak and Twitter is in the same boat.   We’ve known how to make better keyboards since 1933 and yet we still use a format that was designed to slow us down so we wouldn’t tangle a typewriter’s keys, even though most folks haven’t seen one of those in use for several decades, there is little chance we’ll be shifting to a new keyboard layout any time soon. 

If we look at how houses are built in 1954 Walt Disney and Monsanto showcased a house that could survive hurricanes, floods, resisted fires better than wood, and had features many houses still don’t have today.   I was there when they tried to use a wrecking ball to tear it down and the ball bounced off the house.   It could be pre-fabbed and assembled on-site in a few days, yet we still build houses much the same way we did over 100 years ago. 

In cars we’ve had the ability to use joysticks for steering, acceleration and breaks, allowing driving to be done more effectively by other front seat passengers.   Certainly safer because you can better protect the driver (no steering wheel) and it would make the car more comfortable.   In the case of a heart attack or other instance where the driver was disabled, the passenger could easily take over without struggling to get to the jammed accelerator pedal or having to untangle them from the wheel. You can see from this picture the result would be vastly more comfortable.   Yet our controls, with the exception of an automatic transmission (which often uses the same stick as a manual) are pretty much unchanged from the beginning of last century.  

You see it doesn’t matter if it is better, for us we like the comfort of sameness which likely goes to the core of why we still shake hands, a practice that was to keep folks from being stabbed, even though we know it spreads disease, and travel to many meetings even though remote tools from phones to conferencing software provide safer, cheaper, and less costly alternatives. But survival depends on our ability to change with the times and those that buy safer homes, drive safer cars, and avoid common practices that transmit diseases will likely live longer, less pain filled, lives.  

Wrapping Up:   Change is Good, Linux Isn’t Better

Now onto Linux, given Android is the most popular form of Linux in the market and it doesn’t retain the same name, is massively fragmented particularly with respect to UI (look at Amazon’s and Samsung’s implementations for instance), it seems strange a Linux guy would complain about Windows evolution. This isn’t the pot calling the kettle black; this is a crow calling a dove black. If you hate inconsistency and change Linux is actually less of an option than Windows, iOS, or the Mac OS.  

However, forcing us to accept change on a regular basis likely makes us more open to it over time and whether it is our views about marriage or operating systems we have to change to survive in a changing world.   If we can’t change we simply become those old folks that the kids make fun of, and while I’m sure I’ll eventually be chasing them off my lawn too, I’m not planning on doing that this year.   So whether it is what you drive, what you live in, or what OS or technology you use when it comes to change, suck it up, and step forward because the world will not stop and stand still for you.  

And yes, Windows is moving to a new interface, that’s actually a good thing. 




Edited by Brooke Neuman



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