People say I rant too much. I complain and complain, but never seem to really like anything. As I promised a few weeks ago, I will talk about things I love about computers. After explaining why I like to complain and rant, this column will solely deal with fluffy bunnies, green meadows, blue skies, and shiny, happy people. I promise.
I complain because I do not care about computers. That may seem like a weird statement to make for someone who “does stuff” at one of the more geeky websites of the web, but let me explain.
Just as Eugenia often explained in her articles as well as on her blog: computers are tools. They are not a destination; they are means to an end. That end can be anything; from planning routes, to writing essays for university. From archiving and watching photos, to watching my favourite TV show on DVD (again, and again, and again, and…). I do not care about the computer itself; what I care about are the things I can do with it. In other words, when painting your house, do you care about the paintbrush, or the end result?
Hence my reason to complain. When you see your computer as just a stupid tool in order to get stuff done, it makes sense to complain about it as if it is a tool. Just like people complain about the remote if it is running out of batteries, just like people blaming the carton when they spill milk, just like people complaining about the knife when they cannot get something cut.
At one point (to be exact, season 1, roughly 30 minutes into episode 3) Mason in Dead Like Me says that he thinks computers will take over the world; Rube protests, saying that computers will never get smarter than human beings. Rube’s argument: “Yeah, when a computer loses it with a meter maid, or kills its self because it thinks it’s too fat; then I will believe in artificial intelligence.”
And I agree with him. Computers are simply not important enough to care about. That said, let’s get to the fluffy bunnies I promised you.
I love how using a Mac looks so good when everybody else in class is using clunky Dells. I love how Linux is Free. I love how for every problem, there’s a Windows application. I love BFS. I love Apple’s Exposé. I love GNOME’s ‘less is more’ attitude. I love how every pixel in KDE can be tweaked and adjusted. I love how Outlook 2003 and up have the perfect vertical preview pane. I love how Apple’s Keynote includes all these stunning transitions. I love how Linux lets me configure everything. I love Tracker and Deskbar. I love SLED 10 for giving me fancy eye-candy and effects without impacting performance. I love how Spotlight can double as an application launcher. I love how Office 2007 uses one of the best GUIs I have ever seen. I love how…
Forget it. You see how boring this is, and how ridiculous it sounds? Let us alter the above a bit for everyday tools. Because that is what a computer is.
I love how my remote control for my Sony receiver lets me switch inputs. I love how my glass holds my juice so perfectly. I love how my paintbrush is painting my doors red so well. I love how the key to my car fits so well in its ignition. I love how my bike changes gears so effortlessly. I love how…
I agree the above may seem like a stretch. However, it is what all this comes down to. Computers are tools, means to an end. Nothing more, nothing less.
I believe I broke my promise.
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But computers are tools in the plural for sure. One is good for this, other for that. One is built in China, the other in Japan, and another one in the USA. Just like there’s the splendid and shiny Swiss knife (set of tools) that almost everyone likes, but few really own one or remember to carry it on because you never really know when you are going to need it, computers that do everything that’s possible don’t really exist, and to make matters worse, as computers are really complex and are built and owned by so many people/companies, it’s beyond the simple desire to want to have Visual Studio.NET working on Linux, for example.
Sometimes, as I see it, users want computers that work like a Swiss knife, but they often need to settle down for a subset of it. And the funny thing is, that by applying a simpler mix and match, users can get a lot done with the individual tools. And one could think that tools that allow this mix and match are more valuable, though many folks don’t see such an appeal on Linux. Maybe they would prefer a supercomputer that’s a supermachine that does a lot of things like a Swiss knife would, but the downside of it is that the size of the manual would mean lots of reading, and we know that the need of reading is inversely proportional to how much one likes to use his tools.
Such figuratively speaking is rather too simple to represent anything in computers construction.