Friday, December 4, 2009

Free Dumb of Choice

Sigh. Larry Dignan is doing one of those “10 Things Linux Has That Windows Should Use” articles which he’ll follow up with “10 Things Windows Has That Linux Should Do”. Do people get paid to write such drivel? Really? Cos I don’t, and I can drivel along with the best of ’em.

This comparison thing anyway reminds me of thirty years ago, when I was a just getting started in life and had the great fortune to meet and talk with one of my literary heroes,

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Man, did he smoke a lot! A big bear of a man with a shaggy brillo head of hair , a craggy but friendly voice and an aura of nicotine haze. I was a neophyte smoker, myself. He liked Pall Malls.

I was into Rothmans

(the English kind, not that Canadian rubbish.) Anyway, I don’t smoke any more. Found out I like breathing and tasting and smelling better than inhaling fire and tobacco fumes and carrying this continuous odor not unlike the bottom of an ashtray in a hooker’s lounge. I just carry around the cigs for effect now.

So, I met Kurt Vonnegut and talked with him. And he talked about this writers conference he went to, where he met Commie writers from the Soviet Union, and they talked and shared stuff about what was so great and what was not so great about each other’s countries. And that kinda’ stuck with me.¬† The commies wanted to change things so everybody had a job, enough food to eat, enough clothes, a roof over their head and free healthcare. We wanted to change things so everyone can say, write and create anything they want without fear of being persecuted by the government, shot by the police or frightened into silence and the freedom to choose what to do with their lives.

And here we are today – we have the freedom to choose Windows or Linux (or Apple) but nobody’s ever really satisfied – and critics are always forever pointing out how x could be better if it did things like y and maybe also a little like z, too for good measure.

For a long time, if you were smart enough, you rolled your own and tinkered with it until everything was the way you liked it. You can still do that with Linux, and if you’re an uber-geek, you can go under the hood of OS X, and monkey with that – to a degree. But most people don’t want that kind of freedom because it is too much work. They wanna’ turn the damn box on once and let everything work intuitively magically without any thought. A lot of people have made a lot of money and got very very powerful playing on that willingness of others to give up certain freedoms.

I do find it interesting that an awful lot of neophytes are jumping into the developer’s market for the iPhone, and surprisingly, Android, too – designing apps for fun or trying to make a quick buck – people who before never so much as written a BASIC¬† program or got past algebra 101 but are now getting excited and learning to get their feet wet.

But, anyway, Chrome OS is going to make using computers even easier for everyone – they’ll be reduced to being mere internet devices, as everything will be done in the cloud within the browser, with the most successful apps being the easiest most non-thinking ones that get desired results. And eventually most everyone will quite freely choose Chrome devices and happily keep making more unthinking choices.