Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Apr 2013 21:06 UTC
In the News "Kay says that some gadgets with superficial Dynabook-like qualities, such as the iPad, have not only failed to realize the Dynabook dream, but have in some senses betrayed it. That's one of the points he makes in this interview, conducted by computer historian David Greelish, proprietor of the Classic Computing Blog and organizer of this month's Vintage Computer Festival Southeast in Atlanta (the Festival will feature a pop-up Apple museum featuring Xerox's groundbreaking Alto workstation, which Kay worked on, as well as devices which deeply reflected his influence, including the Lisa, the original Macintosh and the Newton). Kay and Greelish also discuss Kay's experiences at some of the big outfits where he's worked, including Xerox's fabled PARC labs, Apple, Disney and HP. Today, Kay continues his research about children and technology at his own organization, the Viewpoints Research Institute." A great interview with this legendary man.
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RE[5]: History
by hhas on Wed 3rd Apr 2013 22:57 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: History"
hhas
Member since:
2006-11-28

"And PC technology is rife with contrived complexity and utterly unsafe by design."

That sounds like an overgeneralization, the linux + repository model has been used successfully on desktops long before the model was used in mobile. But, linux, unlike say an ipad, gives the user the option to install from sources outside of the repository. It's a great hybrid model incorporating the best of both worlds.


And what is the consumer-friendly security model that Linux provides out of the box to ensure even the least technical user is safe from malware, online fraudsters, etc?

(I won't even comment about Linux+complexity as it applies to ordinary end-users as I cannot keep a straight face doing so.)


"But I think the ugly truth is that too many geeks like having the old status-quo, a preening elite sitting atop a vast contrived mountain of techno-crap smugly looking down on all the hapless lusers below them with their malware-riddled PCs and neverending struggles with baroque, arcane desktop applications, casual data loss, and all the other long-established brain-dead faults of that half-baked platform."

I assume your talking about windows.


No, it's a cross-platform problem. Non-technical users will struggle on any desktop OS. Regarding security (malware, scammers, etc), the biggest risk comes from social engineering: what does any OS do to tackle that? e.g. Modern web browsers can just about tell you if a web URL looks legit, though offers no guarantees as to the safety of its content. And email doesn't even do that: you've no idea if a given message is actually from the party it claims to be from. Trust and privacy are the two most priceless commodities to modern computer users; what are the platforms actually doing to deliver that? Precious little from what I can see. Heck, even a basic necessity like ensuring every desktop process is properly sandboxed is only arriving now, 20 years late, and is still greeted overwhelmingly with "how do we get rid of this" rather than "how do we ensure it works right". The desktop of every internet-connected PC is an untrusted environment and must be treated accordingly; geeks still sticking their heads in the sand saying "it can never happen to me" are part of the problem.

(And again, I won't even get onto the other usability disasters like poor HCI and rotten data safety or we'll be here all night.)


"To be blunt, I cannot help wondering just how much of the concern is over users trading some abstract 'freedom' for concrete safety and productivity, and how much is just butt-hurt spite that common users are no longer willing to play the game by the geeks' own rigged rules?"

It is genuinely a concern for freedom, both ours and normal users. My opinion may not be worth much to you, but it's not a lie.


"Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one." Or, results matter, opinions don't.

Users who are unable to control their own machines because those machines are far too complicated and unsafe for them to handle are not free. They are just as much victims as users who have vast corporate entities crawling into every aspect of their personal lives. You honestly care about the latter problem? Fix the former.

So what are you doing to create a true consumer computing platform that both meets the needs of non-technical users and preserves their personal freedom? My guess is: not a lot when you don't even comprehend why your beloved PC is such a tyrannical horror to those users in the first place. Older users are afraid to explore and experiment for fear of breaking or losing things; younger users probably will. You think you're giving them freedom, but all you're really doing is feeding them rope to hang themselves with.


"Personally I hope for a future where the vast majority of ordinary users have their day-to-day computing activities met by a safe, curated platform optimized to their particular needs, and the only folk left using PCs are those that genuinely need them."

This tells me that you don't have experience with linux, because that's exactly how the linux app repo's work on the desktop. You choose what you want installed from the repo's, and the system installs everything automatically and safely.


You mean the Linux (Ubuntu Desktop) I run on my netbook? Or the Linux (Ubuntu Server) I run on my server? Or the Linux (CentOS) VMs I used in my last job? Or the Linux I installed last week on an old laptop for a mate so he could use it for light web browsing and letter writing? (I also run Mac and Windows desktops, currently use a Win8 phone and have had an iPad in the past.) I may not live and breathe Linux to the extent that the hardcore geeks here do; OTOH, I probably bring more experience in other fields (art and design, desktop automation, book writing and editing, end-user programming, various sorts of application development, etc) and have a couple decades' experience of life as end-user, developer and even ersatz educator, so while I may not beat you on depth of experience I can likely outdo you on breadth. And alternative perspectives are something the Linux/FOSS world is painfully short on.

The notion that Linux repos or their contents are in any way inherently trustworthy is exactly the sort of dangerous naivety and ignorance of the real world that I'm talking about. The only 'safety' you get from using Linux repos is the same security-by-obscurity safety that Macs used to provide: not enough users to make them a worthwhile target to malware vendors. (Though expect that to change pretty damn quickly if the current plans to make desktop Linux the standard in China takes off.) And it still doesn't touch on the broader 'trust' concerns that, frankly, all the desktop and mobile platforms have yet to resolve.


Look, I appreciate Linux for what it is, but I also appreciate what it's not, which includes things like being non-nerd friendly. (Again, do not measure it against Mac or Windows, as those are relatively poor too.) Even the supposedly user-friendly distros like Ubuntu don't require much surface scratching before they drop you right in the soup. And even when the Linux OS itself is ticking along smoothly, the state of its desktop applications (i.e. the only reason to run a desktop OS) is really very sorry when compared to Windows, Mac, iOS or Android. And as for Linux in the mobile userland? Please don't make me laugh. I wish the likes of Canonical well on that front, but I'm not holding my breath when 90% of modern personal computing is all about delivering the larger ecosystem, not the 10% that's the OS (the only bit that Linux-heads invariably fixate on).

Linux/FOSS fans like yourself desperately need to step down from your self-congratulatory ivory tower and spend some quality time interacting with ordinary people and understanding how they live and work, and what their desires and motivations are. And then, if you successfully fuse all that practical experience with your traditional technical strengths and really work long and hard putting all that newfound wisdom to focused use, you might someday produce something that is actually directly useful to them. Otherwise you're just blowing a lot of empty smoke.

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