January 19, 2010, 4:53 PM — What sucks about operating systems? For one, they're never finished, ever. The excuse is that hardware is never finished, so how could an operating system be finished? Note to self: biggest change in hardware was from 32- to 64-bit CPUs and address space. Fooey. Here are the basic problems that dog almost every operating system to this day:
#1: Backup and Restore
In the early days of computing, hard drives had a three year life cycle from installation to trash can. We even slammed them against desks (with feelings) to loosen drive heads that had become frozen against platters in a deadlock called 'striction'. We told and warned and cajoled and begged people to do backups. The software to do this uniformly stank when delivered with the operating system. Great works of art called 'tar' (short for tar and feather-- not 'Tape Archive and Restore' as widely believed) and Microsoft's 'backup.exe' propelled users to never backup their machines, thus allowing the hard drive manufacturing business and disk recovery business to soar, as it does to this day. As a result, no one backs up, even to convenient Internet resources. What then riles me further is that they'll call, in tears, wanting to know what to do when their machine is stolen, or the drive ends up not working any more. That we put users at risk to hardware failures is horrible. Some product manager at an OS vendor thinks to him/herself: let the third party people do this. It's a bag of worms for us. Who cares if it's tough to use? People never backup anyway. With this attitude, much frustration occurs for all of us.
#2: Device Drivers
The secret sauce of most peripherals is the software glue that binds them to a particular computer: the device driver. They can be deliriously cool, or can cause a computer to infinitely reset itself, or behave in the most bizarre ways. OS makers have been wrestling with how to deal with devices not made or serviced by an OS maker or its hardware sponsor since the beginning of computer time. Some schemes have matured, but for a long time, we hunted almost weekly for new drivers to make things work. Thanks, Bill.
Yet it's impossible to do what consumers believe to be the most simple things. Take connecting a Windows Mobile phone to an Apple running MacOS--- or vice versa. While the vice-versa part of connecting an iPhone to Windows kind of works these days, the reverse isn't true at all. Perhaps you've got a nice new video card. You need to check the operating systems version compatibility to ensure success. Lacking that research, who knows what works? This should be simple. It's very NOT simple. If they don't work, but should, try to get the hardware maker, the peripheral maker, the OS people, and maybe an application maker to fix it. Occasionally you have a prayer with open source stuff, and much less so if not.