It works for me!

Originally, this post was going to be about the non-viability of Windows as an OS geared towards the people, instead having been created to serve the interests of a mega-corporation, but I think instead that a constructive post is called for instead. One that shows why people run the OS they do.

I’ve begun to realize recently that people get into religious-type wars over the silliest things, like vehicles, and sizes of bodily appendages, and what-have-you. The area I’d like to concentrate on is the operating system that people run, and why they choose to do so.

Operating systems are, by their very nature, facilitators. As non-intuitive as it sounds, OSs were not intended to help users; they were designed to help programmers cut down on the amount of work they would have to do to write an application.

As Neil Stephenson puts it:

Operating systems are not strictly necessary. There is no reason why a sufficiently dedicated coder could not start from nothing with every project and write fresh code to handle such basic, low-level operations as controlling the read/write heads on the disk drives and lighting up pixels on the screen. The very first computers had to be programmed in this way. But since nearly every program needs to carry out those same basic operations, this approach would lead to vast duplication of effort.

Nothing is more disagreeable to the hacker than duplication of effort. The first and most important mental habit that people develop when they learn how to write computer programs is to generalize, generalize, generalize. To make their code as modular and flexible as possible, breaking large problems down into small subroutines that can be used over and over again in different contexts. Consequently, the development of operating systems, despite being technically unnecessary, was inevitable. Because at its heart, an operating system is nothing more than a library containing the most commonly used code, written once (and hopefully written well) and then made available to every coder who needs it.

So when people argue for their favorite OS, whether that be MacOS, Windows, any distro of Linux, *BSD, or whatever else less-known OS that runs on the x86 platform, they’re actually arguing over their favorite flavor of facilitator. Much like the discussion of different flavors of ice cream, such discussions are ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things. Who cares if your favorite OS is this or that? To some, however, it is vitally important that others agree with their choice; it is miserable to realize that you are the only one (or so you think) that has made the choice of OS you have. And so you spew vociferously vituperous vitriol towards anybody who dares to disagree with your choice.

Let this be a word to the wise: if your OS runs what applications you want, be happy, and let everyone else be happy with their choice. Instead of criticizing, help others with their issues, if it happens to fall into your area of expertise. If it differs from yours, let it be (As Paul McCartney would have it).

Then everybody will be just a wee step closer to being at peace with each other. Instead of being divisive over our differences, let us unite with our similarities, because we have much more of the latter than the former.

Author: Matthew Miller

I am currently attending Kansas State University, and am pursuing a bachelor's degree in Computer Science. I was raised in a Christian family, and fervently serve the Lord, as it has helped me and my family throughout my life.

4 thoughts on “It works for me!”

  1. “they’re actually arguing over their favorite flavor of facilitator. Much like the discussion of different flavors of ice cream, such discussions are ultimately pointless in the grand scheme of things.”

    oh you “open source” types and your relentless re-writing of history. youve found one explanation and declared it the only one. wait, let me double check and read the rest… yep.

    “let us unite” sure, no differences are really important. you can vote for public healthcare, i can tell you it will never work and also keep you from getting that wheelchair or transplant you needed, in the end we all like different flavors of ice cream and WHO REALLY CARES? everything in life is just ice cream. see? differences are boring, lets pretend we agree on anything that matters.

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    1. Perhaps I was a bit unclear in what I was trying to say.

      Differences are important, because they make relationships and friendships that much better. However, differences that unite are different from differences that people use to build walls around themselves and a like-minded group of people. If one wants to be discriminate because a difference is not to his liking, then he needs to reexamine his ideas. On the other hand, one that accepts a difference as part of being friends, and uses it to improve himself/herself, then that one is to be commended for his/her diligence in challenging her/her own weaknesses.

      Again, I apologize if I came across as someone who didn’t think differences are important, because they are. However, it’s differences that divide us that I was trying to address, not the differences that challenge people to improve themselves.

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      1. thank you for your thoughtful and patient reply. i agree with your about discriminating over superficial differences. what i was trying to say is that there are political reasons for preferring one operating system over another– i think it has far less to do with simply judging people over their personal preferences, although some people try to paint it that way.

        in terms of “political” i mean there are basic human rights that many or even most of us agree are important, which are sometimes damaged more by one piece of software vs. another. this may at first sound pedantic or nerdy or just idealistic until you think about the fact that more and more of peoples lives (medical information, finance, for some the bulk of their *legal* music collection or reading library, live video communication with kids) have their computer involved in some way.

        the comparison to flavors of ice cream just doesnt fit, its actually more important than that. i dont really think this is about discrimination, it isnt about being petty or finding an arbitrary reason to judge users, its actually about the operating system or software itself; not the user at all. and until i read your “about” i assumed you were one of the people deliberately confusing the two. instead, i think youre making an honest (though certain) mistake. thats not as bad, though– everyone does that.

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  2. Well, I certainly don’t put myself above any other human being, especially where mistakes are concerned; I’ve made more than my share over the years, and I’m certain I’ll make many more before my time is up. Words are sometimes tricky to work with, especially when you’re trying to convey a certain idea that’s been banging around in your head, and try as one might, it comes out wrong.

    For what it’s worth, I totally agree with your points. I’m just sick and tired of people wasting energy, time, and effort to tearing down when they should be building up, because the latter takes a lot more talent, and people who choose to do so are more respected, than the former, because all that takes is a good stick of dynamite, metaphorically speaking.

    I appreciate you taking the time to reply. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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