Dear Bill: You Suck at Software

It’s no secret that, here at Heathen, we prefer Macs and Open Source tools to the Microsoft juggernaut. We didn’t care all that much until about 1998 or so, when we realized how awful Windows was on a laptop — for example, sleep never worked right, and if recent experience is any indication, it still won’t, even on XP — and how much easier things seemed to be for our Powerbook-using colleagues. We were doing project management consulting at the time on Internet software, so we lived in Office, which meant we could make the jump with little or not trouble. We jumped, and were MUCH happier — even moreso when Apple went to OS X, which gave us our geekiest heart’s desire: Unix with a good front end.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying it’s been a coon’s age since we actually had to DO something with Windows. “Get a Mac” has been our advice to friends and relatives for years, and we back it up with a growing inability to troubleshoot “modern” Windows installations (not that the tech support people are much better; “nuke it from orbit,” a/k/a “wipe and reinstall” seems to be the standard bit of advice for a Windows machine with some odd problem).

Today, though, we’re working with a piece of software our firm wrote to integrate our main product with client back-end systems. It’s Java, so it’ll run anywhere, but we’re testing on an XP machine because that’s the target platform for the current client.

Holy CRAP XP sucks ass. Just a few fun things we’ve discovered:

  • Can’t find the Control Panel window you just opened? That’s because the Control Panel is actually an instance of the “Windows Explorer” file manager. This in contrast to, say, the Services manager, which IS a program. Is interface consistency somehow antithetical to the Windows worldview?

  • XP Pro and XP Home have drastically different expectations user-wise; among them are the location of the home directory for the system user. Why is this? What the fuck, Bill?

  • WTF is the Windows equivalent of “tail -f”? Is there such a thing? How else do you watch a goddamn log?


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