October 9th, 2016

Hard Stare

Switching OSes regularly is good for your brain.

Recycled blog comment, in reply to this post and this tweet, itself a comment on Bill Bennet's blog post.

I couldn't really disagree more, I'm afraid.

I regularly switch between Mac OS X, Linux & Windows. Compared to genuinely different OSes -- RISC OS, Plan 9, Bluebottle -- they're almost identical. There's no such thing as "intuitive" computing (yet) -- it's just what you're most familiar with.

IMHO the problem is that Windows has been so dominant for 25Y+ that its ways are the only ones for which most people have "muscle memory".

There is nothing intuitive about hierarchical filing systems. It's not how real life works. People don't have folders full of folders full of folders. They have 1 level, maybe 2. E.g. a drawer or set of drawers containing folders with documents in. No more levels that that

The deep hierarchies of 1970s to 1990s computers were a techie thing. They're conceptually abstract for normal folk. Tablets and Android phones show that: people have 1 level of folders and that's enough. The success of MS Office 2007 et seq (which I cordially loathe) shows that hunting through 1 level of tabs on a ribbon is easier for non-techies than layers of menus. Me, I like the menus

You get used to Windows-isms and if they're taken away or altered, suddenly, it's all weird. But it's not harder, it's just different. The Mac way, even today, is somewhat simpler, and once you learn the new grammar, it's less hassle. Windows has the edge in some things, but surprisingly few, and with the accumulation of cruft like ribbons everywhere, it's losing that, too

You say Apple's spent 27y hiding stuff. No. That's obviously silly. OS X is only 16y old, for a start. But it's spent 27y doing things differently and you didn't keep up, so when you switched, aaaargh, it's all weird!

OS X is Unix! Trademarked, POSIX certified, the lot. You know Unix? Pop open a terminal, all the usual stuff is there. But it's too much for non-techies, so it's simplified for them. Result, a trillion-dollar company and what PC types call "Mac fanbois". There's a reason – because it really is easier for them. No window management: full-screen apps. No need to remember the meaning of multiple mouse buttons. They're there if you need them, but you can do it with gestures instead^d^dI learned Macs in 1988 and have used them alongside Windows and Linux for as long as all 3 existed. I use a 29Y old Apple keyboard and a 5-button Dell mouse on my Mac. I use it in a legacy way, with deep folder trees, a few symlinks to find things, and no Apple apps at all. When I borrowed the Mac of a student, set up with everything full-screen on multiple desktops switched between with gestures, all synched with his iPad and iPhone, I was totally lost. He uses it in a totally different way to the way I use mine -- with the same FOSS apps as on my Linux laptops and my dusty unused Windows partitions

But that flexibility is good. And the fact that they have sold hundreds of millions   of iOS devices and Macs indicates that it really is good for people, and they love it. It's not slavish fashion-following: to account for a company surviving and thriving for 40 years based on that is arrant foolishness

Perhaps you're a car driver. Most of them think that car controls are intuitive. They aren't. They're entirely arbitrary. I mostly switched from motorcycles to cars in 2005 at nearly 40 years old. Motorbike controls -- a hand throttle, because it needs great precision, but a foot gearchange because that doesn't -- still feel far more natural to me, a decade later

But billions drive cars and find car controls natural and easy

It's just what you're used to

It's not Apple's fault, I'm afraid. It's yours. Sorry

I urge you to exercise your brain and learn new muscle memories. It's worth it. The additional flexibility feels great.