Now that the usual round of end of year regurgitations of the past years IT events has ended we may further indulge ourselves by examining the pundits procastinations for their worthiness, or lack thereof. As ever, we were dished up a list of happenings which the IT scribes believed warranted our special attention. What our computers feel about such matters remains to be seen but some brave souls did manage to come up with various musings on what the future may hold for us, and them, (our computers that is) in this age of technical speculation. Whilst these ritualistic utterings have become a feature of the holiday silly season, why not build on this truly great and ancient tradition and comment on the level of veracity of the scribes from our much beloved land of nerds? They got it all wrong.
At this point I should point out that anyone who may somehow be sensing that a little smoke can be seen wafting from the previous sentence is undoubtedly projecting their own fantasies onto this highly technical, not to say scientific analysis of modern IT life in the new Millennium. As our earliest and most primitive (?) ancestors well knew from long experience in the field of fire starting, you most definitely can have smoke without flame.
To backup this most original of claims I shall elaborate on a little matter which none of the scribes seemed to have noticed (or none of the scribes who I managed to stumble across in my vague meanderings around a tiny fraction of the internet during a period when there is bugger all else to do.) During the aforesaid 2002 a truly revolutionary state of Operating System Independence was attained. Well okay, the first few wobbly steps towards this truly miraculous and blessed state of being were realized but as every baby knows, the longest journey must start with the first faceful of dirt.
Due to the long suffering efforts of the good people of the WINE project we saw the proverbial light at the end of the longest and darkest of desktop tunnels; BEING ABLE TO CHOOSE OUR OWN OS.
Now WINE has been around for quite a few years but it was not until it dawned in the craniums of some at least half awake people that things started to happen. To cut a rather long and complicated story short, it became clear that trying to develop an API translation program that enabled all programs written for one OS to run on another OS was too complicated and was taking too long.
Instead they decided to concentrate on a program that enabled a small section or group of programs written for one OS to run on another OS. Lo and behold, SUCCESS!
As all good nerds are aware, we truly blessed and upstanding folk who so wisely and courageously use any one of the many wonderful and varied incarnations ( or should that be incantations) of LINUX on our desktop computers may now run programs written for another OS. Well, some of them at least.
Not only do programs such as Crossover Office allow us to run certain Windows programs on Linux based distro’s, it does so reliably and practical as fast as they run (or indeed fail to run) on MS operating systems. At least that is what all the reviews on this subject claim. Being merely a pundit myself I naturally haven’t tested them to try and find out. Still, since these tests were run on computers and we know that computers don’t make mistakes and since the results were posted on the internet and we know that we can believe everything on the net, they must be right.
To a lesser degree, Transgaming X have done the same in their truly laudable efforts to allow us to play Quake and The Sims on the desktop OS of our choice (as long as we have the brains to make the right choice of OS, as I am sure all the readers of this web site have.) The next step, of course, is for one of those lazy, open source modders to do something about enabling us long suffering gamers to import a character from Quake into The Sims, especially the multiplayer and online versions.
Of course it is much more difficult to make something as complex and advanced as a modern computer game run on a non-native OS compared with a mere business office suite. This is how it should be since every modern thinker knows what is, and is not, important in this most up to date and sophisticated age.
Now clearly this is just the beginning. Not only are both the above mentioned companies dedicatedly and efficiently working to improve their offerings to a grateful public, others can learn from their shining example and do the same thing in other areas. For example. What is to stop a bunch of bright ,young talented software engineers from Apple looking at (err, learning) (err, copying) the ideas, principles and code used by the WINE project and related companies and developing their own versions which allow games and other important programs from another OS to run on those stunningly fast desktop computers that use the Mac OS?
Surely this would be a simple task for such an innovative, competitive and talented company? Not only could they improve on the work already done by those inefficient open source part timers, they could bring their inimitable Apple panache and style to the project which so obviously displays to all but the most ignorant and debased of computer users the superiority of the Apple way of being.
Of course it may be that this mere flyspeck of a task is beneath the capacities of such people, far too trivial and meaningless to be bothered with. And think what would happen if they went ahead and as a result large numbers of common, ordinary folk started using Apple hardware and the Mac OS? Instead of just the undoubted elite constituting 2.9341729876543210000001% of the desktop OS market (as at 1:53:02PM GMT on Sunday 5th of February 2003) it could well happen that vast hordes may begin to switch to becoming Apple users, sorry beings. How then to differentiate the true connoisseur of the desktop computing experience from the unenlightened rabble? Much safer to continue with policies which make such a switch most unlikely.
On second thoughts, perhaps looking towards Apple in this matter is not such a good idea.
How about BeOS then? This is one OS that even a scribe such as myself has had hands on (if I may use such a crude term) experience and to quote from a slightly relatively well known guru in this field, it was indeed an “esoteric” experience. With such a classy OS its future would be assured if it could run programs written for other OS’s.
Alas, 2002 was the year BeOS ceased to exist as a commercial (or even non commercial) desktop entity. Hands up those who currently run BeOS as their only desktop OS? Hands up those who currently run BEOS and another OS? Hands up those who have EVER run BeOS? Hmmm, yes.
How could this happen to such a brilliant desktop OS??? But wait, what about the open source community who are toiling away personfally to create open BEOS from the sweat of their shiny brows, glowing eyes and overlarge brains? Hope springs eternal good readers. Only the future will tell what awaits us in this arena but I fear it will be the dim, distant future, rather than the nearly, could be, let us hope, didn’t I see something on that somewhere future that we in the IT community have so joyfully and wisely made our own.
So, okay then, it is true that this revolution that I am trumpeting only presently allows LINUX users (God bless their Souls) to run some programs designed for windows. But the principle is clear and as CPU and video card hardware gets ever faster the penalty for API translation becomes less and less meaningful, if indeed it even exists in the office suite area. And as the code warriors become more experienced they will undoubtedly improve the efficiency of their programs which will further reduce the difference between pure, unadultered and absolutely perfectly scrumptious native code and the nasty, buggy, rude, lazy, hopeless non-native rubbish that a decent person would not even mention in polite, civilized company.
Having been so bold as to enter this field of highly intellectual, (apologizes to our American readers for using foreign terminology) well thought out and well documented punditry, I shall go the whole hog, as the old saying goes, and predict what the future will hold for this surprisingly overlooked revolution.
Nothing else but complete triumph, absolute victory and total world domination (in the nicest and cuddliest possible way of course) could eventuate for desktop freedom of choice in our wonderful, blissful IT future. All we have to do is to look at our glorious past to see that complete success is guaranteed.
Having said that, it would be less than honest of me to fail to mention that a small, tiny, almost non-existent shadow of doubt ever so briefly and lightly brushed against the further most outer boundary of my consciousness.
What if Linux is not ready for the desktop? What use is it claiming that Linux disto’s can run programs written for another desktop OS just as well as that OS if (shock , horror, gasp) those distro’s are not ready for the true and authentic desktop experience??
Now as all good and keen eyed readers of this and any number of other similar web sites is aware, one or two articles on this precise matter have appeared in recent times. Indeed, by my admittedly rough calculations ( I may have somehow missed the odd one here or there) 278,516,777,909,223,400 X 47 articles on this very subject have appeared on the net in recent times, ie. the period January 2002 to the present day, whatever that is.
Clearly this is a matter which concerns a few people, perhaps even more than a few.
Suffice to say that such a matter shall have to wait for next years punditry as the extingencies of time preclude us from elaborating in a worthwhile manner on such a complex and difficult topic which has been so brilliantly handled by so many who have also bent their backs to the noble cause of elucidating the future of the IT universe. I truly trust that this article has given all who may chance upon it an honest and accurate analysis of the state of the desktop computing industry in the year of 2002 and a clear grasp of what lies ahead.
Copyright Ian McKenzie 2003.
About the Author:
Ian McKenzie has never used a computer in his life. This article was delivered by carrier pigeon and was written using a rock nib dipped in wild berry juice.