This article describes some of my annoyances in computing. If you had any problems reading this article, then skip this one. It will only be a waste of your time. There are a lot of annoying things in the wonderful world of computing. Of course, nothing is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we are not allowed to complain and scream and throw our keyboards at our monitors when yet another irritation pops up.
This must be the thing I hate the most about modern-day computing. Bootloaders have a way of being annoying, even when you only have one operating system installed. They’re vulnerable, basic, ugly, not newbie-friendly and yet they’re one of the most vital components of a computer. I really cannot understand why everything in computing has evolved, except the bootloader. I see no progress or development anywhere on this area, which is truly a shame.
Why? Well, bootloaders are kind of important, as you all know. Yet, they have remained the same over ages. A misconfigured bootloader could mean hell for an average user. I mean, an average user will probably think his computer is broken, and he will send it back to the shop, in order to get it fixed. This costs money. While, in the end, a few commands in a recovery console could also do the job.
Another really annoying thing is that a MBR is not write-protected. Some operating systems (read: Windows) bluntly erase/overwrite your MBR without warning. Of course I know that, but what am I to do when I have the need to reinstall Windows, when using LILO, GRUB or whatever? Of course this could be seen as a flaw on Microsoft’s side (which it is, obviously), but I have the philosophy that possibility creates action.
Why not make booting an OS simpler? Maybe integrate OS booting into the mainboard? It might really be a good idea to let the BIOS boot the OS. Just make sure the BIOS knows how to load the kernel, and the OS itself will take care of the rest. This way we don’t need crappy bootloaders anymore (let’s celebrate!).
There is, tough, no need to completely erase the bootloader. Because if it were, hobby and smaller operating systems would be screwed, because they would not have the possibility to boot their OS. Easy solution: tell the BIOS how to boot a bootloader; much in the same way the BIOS today tries to find a bootable partition. Hard solution: let the user add boot functionality to the BIOS. Both solutions are fine to me; as long as I don’t have to see one more bootloader in my life.
This irritation lies in the same path as my hate against bootloaders. Some people who might in fact remember my two “Hell & Bliss” articles from last summer (part I and part II), might also remember that one of my problems concerning Linux (not the kernel, the OS) was it’s relative slow boot time. That comment triggered a lot of silly remarks (“My Gentoo boots 2.720 seconds faster than your Windows XP!” and “So what, my DOS boots in 1 second!”), but fact is that operating systems take too much time to load. Whether it be Linux, Windows, BeOS or whatever other obscure OS: they require so much time to load.
Why does that annoy me so much? Well, frankly, I hate waiting. And I know many other people on this planet also hate waiting. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is check my email and check various websites for updates (OSNews.com of course, but also SkyOS.org and AquaXP). Why do I have to wait minutes before I can take a look at some websites? We are advancing so fast in the world of computing, yet we cannot seem to tackle this issue. We produce graphics cards that have more transistors than system processors (check the new nVidia 6800 Ultra; it has 222 million transistors, while the newest Pentium IV ‘only’ has 125 million!), we have 956.1 surround sound, 500″ widescreen plasma screens, cordless everythings, but yet, with all these high-tech superstuff we still need to wait those silly minutes in front of our supercomputers before we can hear our start-up sound (but, we do ‘experience’ that in 956.1 surround, that’s also worth something).
What I really want, is instant on. Period. I want to be able to just press my power button, and voilà: there’s Windows/KDE/Haiku/SkyOS/whatever. Of course I could leave my computer running constantly, but I find that a waste of energy and money. Besides, no matter how quiet a PC is these days, they’re still pretty noisy. What needs to happen in order to do this? Well, quite frankly, I haven’t got the slightest idea. I am no hardware designer or software engineer. I’ll leave that to the people who have the brains to figure it out.
Let’s say we’re invaded by aliens next summer, and they want to make peace. We then show them our greatest technological achievement in our homes: the PC. We show them our SuperPentium 5 gigahertz, with our Ati Radeon X5000 SuperPro and 5 terabyte harddisk and 956.1 surround sound. And still we’d have to wait those silly minutes before we can show them OSNews.com.
Probably the most useless invention since some scientists came up with the idea to split atoms inside a bomb. First of all, who in Steve Jobs’ name uses these multifunction keys? I have yet to find one person who actually uses those extra keys. Those keys are completely illogical. Why? Well, most ‘average’ pc users don’t have their hands on the keyboard all of the time. They have one hand on their mouse, and the other hand, well, somewhere else. Not on the keyboard, in any case. Therefore, in order to use the extra keys, he’ll have to make an extra move. And since everyone is lazy, they won’t do that. So, they will use their mice to click the Outlook Express icon, and not that email key on their keyboards. And I don’t blame them.
Secondly, it is getting harder and harder to find a decent quality keyboard without these keys. If you are like me, you want a high quality keyboard. This means you’ll probably have to go with Logitech or Microsoft. But, when the shops in my hometown only sell that multifunction nonsense, I am almost forced into using them. Luckily I found a very special keyboard somewhere else, but still, more ignorant people are forced to spent more money on extra features they won’t use. Stupid, really.
Yes, I dislike ordinary mice. They need a considerable amount of desk space, they need a mousepad (yes, most people also use a pad even when they have an optical one), and they’re ugly. The best alternative? Trackballs! Yes, everyone, get out, go to your shop, and buy a trackball! They produce less strain on your arm and shoulder, they’re easier to use, use less desk space, don’t require a mousepad, and they’re sexier.
Of course they have disadvantages as well. They are not very suitable for games, for instance. When you are a gamer, stick with your mouse. Another little thing is that they require regular cleaning. Because you operate the ball with your thumb, a lot of dirt gets inside.
But for me, the choice is easy: trackball! It was probably the best thing that entered my household after the Complete Greatest Hits, by The Eagles.
We all hate fanaticism, don’t we? We all hate fanatics, don’t we? Yet, we are all guilty of it, at least once or twice in our lives. That’s not really a bad thing, nobody is perfect. But, there is a group of people who have taken fanaticism in the computer world to a higher level. Whether it be GPL fanatics, Windows zealots, Apple addicts or whatever, they are annoying. Very, very, very annoying.
I mean, it is of course okay to try to convince others that your platform or belief is the one and only, but try to keep it civilized. And that last thing really is missing these days. Editors are ‘attacked’ at the personal level just because they express their opinions on tech articles! That’s crazy! Think about it, before screaming all sorts of nonsense simply because someone doesn’t share your affection with a platform or OS.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and I would really like it if you use the comment section to express your ever returning irritations in the world of computing. And please, keep it civilized. In the end, it all comes down to 1’s and 0’s.
About the author:
Thom Holwerda is a regular visitor on OSNews.com and has contributed more than once. His first computer experience dates back to 1991 (a 286 entered the household). Over the years he has played around with several computers, but it wasn’t until 2001 that he really started to experiment OS-wise with computers. His favorite operating systems are Windows Server 2003, Mandrake Linux and BeOS. He also has an affinity for the QNX Neutrino RTOS. He is also contributing to the SkyOS project, being responsible for the Dutch translation, and also functioning as an overall moderator on SkyOS’ independent forum, The eXpert Zone.