Torturing Users

Sergey Brin of Google was quoted as stating that other OS and even GNU/Linux tortures users. I would take GNU/Linux any day because if you don’t want to manage it the darned thing just keeps running. I have set up machines that ran years without an update. Others have reported that forgotten machines kept running for many years.

Preston Gralla may not think so, but I believe that other OS is special in the torturing department. I will list some of my pet peeves in descending levels of pain:

  1. slow logins/boots, fighting the “hour-glass”,
  2. re-re-reboots, sometimes even when you are running the thing,
  3. malware, malware, malware,
  4. updates that don’t take or need several tries to take,
  5. zero-day vulnerabilities that the whole world knows about, including the bad guys and the updates are released at a convenient time in Redmond, WA, usually in the middle of your work day…,
  6. you need to change PC, OS version, and application to deal with documents from folks who just bought a new PC,
  7. cannot find the application that created that file,
  8. cannot find the driver for your bog-standard mouse or keyboard,
  9. swapping during boot-up,
  10. slowing down and/or eventually failing to boot a perfectly good PC, and
  11. an OS that entertains the concept of executing multimedia files… AAAAGGGHHHHH!

Have I missed any? Yes there are probably that many more again but it’s too depressing to think of a billion people enduring that nonsense for decades of their lives. Oh, the horror!

Gralla was writing about Chrome OS having its levels of pain like “no Internet access”. OK, that happens but, in the past ten years where I have had Internet access via satellite, cable, or radio, there has only been a few hours of downtime. How much downtime would that other OS get in slowing down, re-re-reboots, malware attacks, defragging, and slow boots/logins? Probably days of downtime. That’s special. That’s torture. PCs are fast. Running that other OS is torture just for the dragging performance it gives.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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30 Responses to Torturing Users

  1. Amen. SSH and Bash and APT is a killer combination.

  2. shamil says:

    no batch software installation or removal features in that other os either.

  3. JohnMc says:

    In reference to the idea of `easy`. One first has to understand the time reference of the term. Back in the days when real men used MSDOS 6 and compiled their own ethernet drivers, the idea of Windows 1.1 controlling a PC using mouse clicks was termed easy by Microsoft. That has been their cause celeb ever since. I was there when they trotted it out the first time.

    Yes one can define the relevancy, but the fact is M$ still brings that old chestnut out in their literature from time to time. When things get tough they go home to Mamma, uh Easy.

  4. JohnMc says:

    Odds are if a Windows system is running slow it’s caused by too many unneeded programs loaded and running in the background. Even Linux hasn’t addressed one of the most basic problems that non-savvy people face. That is, really understanding what programs are running at any given time, how to kill those processes, and ultimately how to prevent them from starting up in the first place. — Yonah
    ——-

    Come now. I can teach a neophyte how to use top, kill, and ps in less than an hour. Give me another hour and I will show them what is in /etc/init.d and how to use `service –service-all` to know what is going on in their box.

    It ain’t that hard.

  5. No one is locked in with GNU/Linux. File formats are open. Any OS that works can be used. That other OS does not work for people who want to keep a machine until it dies.

    GNU/Linux is not second-class IT. I judge IT by performance and these folks do get much better performance from GNU/Linux than that other OS and as thin clients, it is superior. We unboxed 12 NIB PCs with 500gB SATA drives and our 8 year old thin clients connected to an old XEON server made faster/more responsive IT. At Easterville, the whole school, except for the secretary’s PC used GNU/Linux and visitors were amazed at the performance compared to what they were used to with XP, Vista or “7”.

  6. oldman says:

    “The answer is simple. The machines exist, are plentiful and cheap. The real question is why should they be trashed? As thin clients they are not at a disadvantage. You can buy new thin clients with lesser specs.”

    So do you believe that it is OK to permanently lock a group of people into second class IT because you personally refuse to accept what is the common point in time at which most people accept that computer technology becomes obsolete?

  7. oldman says:

    “Bottom line is, just because you are willing and able to “pimp” your PC to accommodate Micro$ofts bloat does not make it okay to assume the rest of the universe is willing to do the same. For some of us, lightweight FLOSS has enabled us to be P.C users.”

    I am well aware that I am blessed with being able to afford the technology that I require to get tasks both personal and professional done. I also realize that there are those that can’t do so and who have turned to FOSS and Linux to gain access to personal computers and the internet.

    And one does not have to go to the third world to get them. One need only look at the far North of Canada where Pog works to see a situation where FOSS on linux has helped provide basic computing capability.

    But taking me to task by in effect “Beggars can’t be choosers” doesnt change the fact that for those who can afford the systems to run it on commercial software running on Windows or OS X based systems allows one to get more done. And while it is one think to have to make due with software that can run in a system with the resources under discussion, it is quite another to laud it as the only way to go.

    In short I am grateful for the ability to choose what you can not.

  8. oe says:

    I do remember running Slackware in ’95 in 4MB or ram, with screen x 2-3 virtual consoles. I could even load X, though I rarely did as I was doing numerical computing at the time. There are modern distro’s around that I have read can pack into a couple of MB ram console only, and with older X window managers as low as 4-8MB. Admittedly you did have to I remember going into chunks of C-code tweaking and compiling to get X running then, but once up, it was rock solid for the 4 years I used that machine for our research code development.

    As to windows: “You don’t need to look at or edit any source code, ever.” true, and I can vouch that that has also been true of Linux going back to at least 2006 when I came back to it.

    I seem to be a jerk for several reasons, 1) the sister-in-law is a prickly character, 2) I decided about 2005 or so to get serious about jumping off the XP train as the IT experts at my worksite were saying that Vista was going to be yet another “unlearn a lot of what you know and force yourself to the new system”, I was sick of that going from Slackware to 3.11 to 9X, and 9X to Win2K and Win2K to XP…enough….!), 3) I was tired of being an “enabler”; continuing user’s cycle-of-dependency, fixing their broken 9X and/or WinXP for free – it’s literally like handing another beer to the alcoholic while the big brewery (M$) looks on and smiles at your being a free pusher….Nowadays, I take the tough love approach, I’ll help you for free if you willing to do what I did 4-5 years ago, and quit the habit, honestly try LINUX (or NetBSD, FreeDOS, etc.). You even get ONE reversion to WinXP if you give the Penguin an honest try (of over a two dozen folks helped this way, no one has exercised their ONE reversion) if fact most have come back with more boxes to covert, where they do it while I’m around to answer questions (Ubuntu requires about 7 answers to install). If your must have your windows repaired, there’s a list of good PC repair shops I keep handy to deflect folks to….
    Correct, I don’t know much about Vista SP-Special (e.g. “7”) just as I don’t know much about the modern Linux kernels and KDE/GNOME system internals, because these days I don’t want to learn them, and frankly as a user, shouldn’t have to learn them. Funny enough, despite this attitude of the Maytag repairman, a lot of the bash scripting, job control, early X window manager coding fundamentals, and /etc editing I learned in ’94-’95 is still relevant today, that is one very nice feature of Linux over both Crapple MacOS and M$.

  9. oldman wrote: ““While Windows fan boys make the claim that you can run Win7 on 512 mbs of memory you actually CAN run Linux quite easily on that amount of memory.”

    The real question is why would you want to.”

    The answer is simple. The machines exist, are plentiful and cheap. The real question is why should they be trashed? As thin clients they are not at a disadvantage. You can buy new thin clients with lesser specs.

  10. oldman says:

    “I haven’t had an opportunity to try a larger file copy with Vista or Win7…yet.”

    Then why do you bring it up? WinXP is two generations old news, and while there are still quite a few machines with XP around, (I have two) they will eventually age out of the population just like windows 9x, especially after 4/4/13 when windows XP support finally ends.

    I would hope that you would have mastered win7/8 by then.

    “While Windows fan boys make the claim that you can run Win7 on 512 mbs of memory you actually CAN run Linux quite easily on that amount of memory.”

    The real question is why would you want to.

    In this day and age neither Linux nor windows needs to be run in less than 2Gb of ram. Pog himself put together a white box pc this size for less than $300. This being the case the ability of a system to run in a footprint less than this is for the general computing population meaningless.

    The only exception to this is if you need or want to do you computing with castoff hardware that doesn’t have the memory capacity. This is the environment that Pog works in, and it is IMHO the one situation in which one might actually be able to make a case for Linux, but this is IMHO ultimately just as much a a corner case as my high end computing needs are.

  11. ray says:

    I’ve ran Windows XP with 256 MB of RAM, with decent performance.

  12. lpbbear says:

    “Odds are if a Windows system is running slow it’s caused by too many unneeded programs loaded and running in the background.”

    Quite true. Unfortunately too many third party app vendors create apps that bombard a Windows system with totally unneeded crap running in the taskbar or starting automatically for no reason at all that waste system resources. Can’t really point the finger of blame only at Microsoft for this issue although they have done the same thing with their apps as well.

    “if you can’t speed up a Windows machine with a little more than 15 minutes of investigation then you really don’t know how a Windows system works”

    While you or I might have no trouble cleaning up a Windows system that is using up system resources because of unneeded programs the average user likely won’t know where to start. I have seen plenty of bogged down Windows systems that uninformed users put up with for years simply because they have real lives and no time to learn how to do this.

    “Lpbbear, again, brings up problems that were an issue in Windows XP, but have since been addressed in newer versions of Windows.”

    Exactly why I worded it this way
    (corrected my typo)

    “My favorite (cough cough) torturing users feature in WinXP and I assume all other versions?”

    I haven’t had an opportunity to try a larger file copy with Vista or Win7…yet.

    “Not to mention there are many great, free programs that handle coping tasks such as Copy Handler.”

    I thought we were talking about basic builtin features of the Windows OS itself. Not third party add on apps. I am quite aware there are many superior file copy apps available for Windows. The point is the the file copy built into Windows itself is sorely lacking and has been way behind what I have enjoyed using in the Linux world FOR MANY YEARS. If its been fixed in Vista or Win7 WOOHOO. ABOUT FRIGGIN’ TIME. Only took 2 decades.

    “256 megs of RAM? Yeah, I had a machine with that, back in 1997!”

    Ahh rich kid eh? 😉

    My system in those days was running 32 mbs of ram. I was still using Win95 and was just starting to discover Linux at that point in time.

    BTW, even though I was kidding on the “rich kid eh”….I wasn’t.

    16 mbs of memory in 1997 cost right around $60.00 That means your “mythical” machine from 1997 had approx. $960.00 worth of memory stuffed in it. Most motherboards from that period rarely supported that amount of memory so while it is possible you had a system running 256 mbs of memory most people using Win95 were running with far less than that. Memory prices began dropping in 1998 with Win98 and 32 mbs in 1998 went for approx. $60.00 making your mythical 256 mb machines memory worth $480.00. Even with Win98 it was very rare to find a system running 256 mb. Most thought they were in fat city at 64 mbs in those days.

    Every once in a while someone brings in an older system from that point in time. I am always amazed at how much faster Win95 is on an old P90 with 32 mbs of ram than Win7 on a current dual core with 2 gbs of ram. The difference is stunning. Both Windows and Linux systems from that period got the same quality and amount of work done with far less system resources and quite often more speed. Sure, we have really fast CPU’s, way more ram and huge hard drives but essentially the actual system speed, as to where it relates to work getting done, is no faster. All that huge increase in performance in today’s systems is being buried under sloppy inefficient programming and superfluous application features.

    I in fact remember the first ISP in my area and the system they used. The system I use for Linux gaming is likely far more powerful and has more memory than that ISP’s system. That ISP’s system served an entire region that stretched over a hundred miles in all directions.

    It ran Linux BTW.

    Yes, this is an issue in Linux but it is a much worse issue in Windows. While Windows fan boys make the claim that you can run Win7 on 512 mbs of memory you actually CAN run Linux quite easily on that amount of memory. While KDE4 and Gnome might be a bit boggy with 256 mbs several other window managers would work with that quite well. So yes, you are correct….in a way. As a Windows user you would have to go back to 1997 and be using Win95 to get decent performance out of a 256 mb Windows system. With Linux you can do it….right now.

  13. Amen. Some northern Canadian communities have kinship with third-world communities because the costs of modernity are multiplied by transportation difficulties and lack of gainful employment.

    An added bonus of LTSP and such is that, if at least one modern PC is available the other clients get the benefit of it. So, GNU/Linux is a force multiplier. ARM and tablets are going to be another. Later this year prices will drop a lot and soon much of this stuff/hardware will be available globally. Unlike “normal” PCs, the ARMed thingies can be made profitably small and cheap. For remote communities the advantages of small/light are huge because freight becomes less of a problem. I have worked in communities in the North here where air freight was the only option and it was $5/pound back when oil was $20/barrel. Now that oil is $100/barrel freight prices have risen. I have applied for a job where the pay is double what I received last year, mostly because the cost of living is astronomical. Fortunately, GNU/Linux allows me to reduce the cost of IT in remote communities many ways. Using low-powered thin clients really saves a lot of money in oil-powered communities.

  14. I have run XP in 64 MB and it worked. 256 MB is quite usable with GNU/Linux. Some distros won’t install in 256 MB because of the need to include lots of data in RAM during the installation but XP will swap just to boot in 512 MB. Face it. That other OS is a hog for RAM.

    Some distros have one(additional)-click installations of LTSP. Most people don’t know it exists. One of my video shows how it works in Debian GNU/Linux with some command-line stuff. EdUbuntu and Debian-Edu come to mind. If ordinary teachers can use them, homeowners could. They might need a teenager around to do things fearlessly though.

  15. eebrah says:

    @oldman

    256MB may be peanuts for you but it is quite a cost for those of us in the third world using the P.C’s that you first world folk toss in the trash.

    It is also a decent amount in an #ARM device like the $25 “Raspberry Pi” pog talked about recently and low end smart-phones.

    Bottom line is, just because you are willing and able to “pimp” your PC to accommodate Micro$ofts bloat does not make it okay to assume the rest of the universe is willing to do the same. For some of us, lightweight FLOSS has enabled us to be P.C users.

  16. Yonah says:

    Odds are if a Windows system is running slow it’s caused by too many unneeded programs loaded and running in the background. Even Linux hasn’t addressed one of the most basic problems that non-savvy people face. That is, really understanding what programs are running at any given time, how to kill those processes, and ultimately how to prevent them from starting up in the first place. Sincerely, from one computer geek to another, if you can’t speed up a Windows machine with a little more than 15 minutes of investigation then you really don’t know how a Windows system works or you haven’t been using the right tools. You don’t need to look at or edit any source code, ever.

    Lpbbear, again, brings up problems that were an issue in Windows XP, but have since been addressed in newer versions of Windows. Not to mention there are many great, free programs that handle coping tasks such as Copy Handler.

    256 megs of RAM? Yeah, I had a machine with that, back in 1997! Today, especially if you’re using Firefox to surf the web, that sucker would hit the swap file harder than a crack addict on Christmas. Don’t even think about using KDE 4 and having a computer that at least looks somewhat modern. People don’t want to feel poor. People don’t run thin clients at home. Nor is it practical to expect them to know how to set one up or even desire to learn how.

  17. Nope. 256 MB will run a couple of applications. It will also run most thin client setups.

  18. oldman says:

    “No need. 256 MB will do a lot very well with GNU/Linux. ”

    Efficiency is one thing Pog, IMHO stupidity is another. 256Mb may have been an acceptable amount of memory for a system 11 years ago given the capability of the applications at the time, but the evolution of software in both the FOSS and the windows spaces since has made that kind of number nonsensical.

    If you are stating that 256Mb is acceptable, then you are running either Xfce or pure CLI. It is one thing to be able to run a system this small in a pinch, but is quite another to propose it as acceptable for general use. An Linux environment sized in manner won’t support anything like even the basic set applications that most people would want to use on a desktop computer.

    and its IHMO bushwah to even suggest it as viable.

  19. lpbbear says:

    My favorite (cough cough)tirturing users feature in WinXP and I assume all other versions?

    The braindead file copy in Windows. You know. The one where you are simply transferring several gbs of data from one system to another and then it stops, for some ridiculous reason, and then quits completely forcing you to have to restart the whole damn process by going a folder and file at a time until you find the offending file or folder.

    Yep, thats high tech Mickeysoft for ya!

    Unfarking believable!

  20. That’s a big reason to use FLOSS. If a FLOSS system were to slow down, one could edit the code and fix it. M$’s EULA specifically forbids that. The people who build a system that degrades with use should be the ones responsible for fixing it. They had ten years. Why didn’t they?

  21. No need. 256 MB will do a lot very well with GNU/Linux. Why size up my machines just to improve M$’s partners’ bottom lines?

  22. oldman says:

    “Funny, she uses the old clunker machine from 2002 set up in the kitchen running Debian more than her flashy new kit in her room….Everytime she bothers me to look at it I just toss another Distro LiveCD on her keyboard…she get it soon enough.”

    Instead of being a jerk, why dont you fix it?

    Or don’t you know how.

  23. oldman says:

    “I question “easy”. Compared to installing the OS, GNU/Linux is far easier and I find no ease in waiting for things to happen during routine use. ”

    Pog, OS installationspeed is ultimateloy a meaningless metric for most people. Even if it does take a while because you are (re) installing on an old system, the amount of time preparing the system for use, will ultimately be dwarfed by the amount of time that one will be productively using the applications that one runs on it.

    I also wonder. Could it just be, Pog, that you waited because you never ran xp on a properly sized system. I have a 7 year old Dell Pentium 4 HT 3ghz that has been upgraded to 4Gb RAM – it Windows XP Pro runs quite speedily on it. I have also a 4 year old 2.4Ghz Core2Duo based portable w. 2Gb RAM that the family uses that runs quite well as well. I have never had any of the problems that you regularly cite as negatives.

  24. oe says:

    Easy – I came back top to the Penguin around 2005-6 because it had become easy; even then a lot of the modern disto’s had taken enormous leaps into the releam of “it just works”. I used to envy the Mac users, but by around 2008, no longer did, most distro’s have out Mac’ed the Mac. As to Win7, the wife ordered a laptop Dec. of 2009 with it pre-installed, followed the setup poster carefully and she used it carefully according to best practices….Well a couple of months later, after she had accumulated data on it, it plain refused to login, and a couple of backup accounts she had made failed as well. We had to use a LiveCD of Linux to get her data off, at least WinXP never stranded us from our data….when the repair shop recommended a wipe-n’-reinstall, she said let my try that Lynx-thing and she has not looked back. The sister in law who bought a new Win7 desktop in Dec 2010 is now complaining for me to look at it is because it is getting slower and slower, she doesn’t want to take it to a repair shop either as a “tune-up” is about 1/3 the cost to buy the whole machine. Funny, she uses the old clunker machine from 2002 set up in the kitchen running Debian more than her flashy new kit in her room….Everytime she bothers me to look at it I just toss another Distro LiveCD on her keyboard…she get it soon enough.

  25. I question “easy”. Compared to installing the OS, GNU/Linux is far easier and I find no ease in waiting for things to happen during routine use. It only looks easy if that’s all consumers see.

  26. JohnMc says:

    Yonah,

    You know you have arrived or are the butt of a bad joke when you are an entry in Wikipedia. Not you specifically, but Vista for example — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Windows_Vista

    Granted it is an old article. And yes Win7 is an improvement. But the fact is Microsoft still has a long way to go. An old song in computer science is `You can have it fast, or secure or easy. But not all three at once.`. Microsoft selected easy as their marketing marque. The rest they say is history.

  27. A company has to live with the reputation it earned. XP is still the most widely used desktop OS in the world.

  28. Yonah says:

    Robert, a good number of the issues you cite are not a problem on a modern version of Windows, such as Windows 7 or Vista. Specifically the driver and speed issues you mention. It sounds like most of your experience was using Windows XP on underpowered machines. I can’t speak for everyone, but I do not have any of the issues you bring up.

    The same goes for OE, who mentions some things that are just not right, such as the supposed Registry Rot. There is no Registry Rot and not a single person has ever been able to prove that the size or composition of the registry in any way affects the speed, performance, or stability of a system. Rather, since many semi-technical people don’t understand what it is, they adapt a false understanding usually dictated by others who are ignorant. A classic example of this is the browser cookie. So many people actually believe deleting cookies somehow improves performance. Maddeningly incorrect.

  29. oe says:

    Here’s more – Forced installs upon shutdown or while working, – Registry rot, – no asc-ii based configuration of system, – screen capture that is a many step process, – Crapware laden PC’s, – Hunt-for-the-Driver games, – Needing to Defrag. and other pain in the *ss tasks that FOSS “just does”, – peer-to-peer networking that never works seamlessly across the versions of that other OS, – Tightly integrated apps (Office) that hose critical data files with much time invested, while competitor apps don’t – Ridiculous CPU-sucking eye-candy that doesn’t help productivity, – Phone home spyware built into the OS, – Having to deal with license keys, – LACK OF INTEGRATED PACKAGE MANAGEMENT (e.g. nagging from every app seeking updates….), – Crappy throughput performance on a LAN, – Having to relearn essentially a new OS every 2-5 years…and I could keep going.

  30. Bender says:

    You should have seen my Gentoo system 🙂 Nothing even debian beats it on speed and configurability and that is all thanks to FOSS software that allows me to do everything with it as i desire. I admit, there’s more to maintain (though i could easily automate most of the tasks) but i get not only speed and performance per MHz and MB but i get greater configurability, for example installing vlc i leave out great chunks of stuff i don’t need thus having a lighter and faster experience 🙂
    And my boot speed, slightly tweaked as i don’t need many things is ~10 seconds to login screen (on a standard HDD!).

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