I have a dream

It seems fitting to resurrect an old column that I wrote seven years ago in honor of Dr. King’s birthday and the coronation activities tomorrow. I made a few changes, but it still works today. 

Twenty-some years ago, the PC was invented and our desktops would never be the same. And now we must face the tragic fact that our desktops are still not free. Twenty years later, our lives are still sadly crippled by the manacles of frequent crashes and by numerous security problems. Twenty years we have lived on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. We are still languishing in the corners of American society and find ourselves exiles in our own technological land.

So I have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition. Windows has to go from our desktops. It is time for the ‘nixes (Unix, Linux and Apple’s OS X) to play a more major role, and for Microsoft to get with the program and fix this broken buggy whip.

I say to you today, my readers, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of productivity. I have a dream, that all PCs will live up to their original marketing potential, and free their owners from the evils of Vista and frequent application crashes. I have a dream that one day our desktop PCs, sweltering with the heat of their overclocked CPUs, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and reliable operations.

I have a dream that one day all of my applications will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood and play nicely on my PC, no matter what version of drivers and odd video adapter is inside my computer.

I have a dream that your and my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the version of operating system running on their desktop computer, but by the content of their work output on their hard disk.

I have a dream today.

This is my hope. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day from having to reboot our computers every day, from crashed applications and inexplicable blue screens and error messages.

How I wish most of us could free ourselves from the tyranny of Windows and have a desktop operating system that didn’t crash frequently, could support our legacy applications, were easy to install and wasn’t a security sinkhole. Dream on. When I wrote this back in 2002, we didn’t have XP, we didn’t have Vista, and we didn’t have Mac OS-X. Even with these new operating systems, we still have a very unstable OS, driver issues (still) with Vista, and more security issues by the week.

But a guy can dream, can’t he?

0 thoughts on “I have a dream

  1. Dave, I have to agree. I’ve never liked broken software masquerading as quality work either. But who will do this work? Are you volunteering steadfast years of your life to this cause? Or do you have some wealthy patron lined up to support the manpower required to create something palatable (like Ubuntu, which actually is doing pretty well considering)? Or are you going to rally support from the trade press despite the setbacks, bugs, resets and restarts that inevitably occur with long-term projects that aren’t corporate-controlled? All these things, and more, are not optional – they are requirements. Why?

    The simple truth is changing the old broken paradigms results in a lot of unpleasantness from vested interests. I’m not talking about some negative comments on a web page – I’m talking about serious attacks ranging from lawsuits to blackballing. Even the most remote theoretical threat of the tiniest of potential revenue streams that probably won’t happen in a million years still invites personal and professional attacks. If you have a big war chest (like an Ubuntu) or a big backer (like a Google), it’s feasible but perilous. I wouldn’t advise anyone to try this without serious thought.

    I suppose everyone would like some anonymous programmer to sit in a room and come up with the “next OS” that is modular, self-healing, backwards-compatible and forward-thinking, works with all devices ever invented and yet to be invented, never has bugs (or at the very least, detects failures and backs up to an earlier stable form) and is always available. Oh, and it must be free to obtain, have free support that is constantly and engagingly available and always have the online and ad presence that sells you on your choice even when you experience “buyers remorse” (when you haven’t spent a dime). Oh, and this programmer should not in any way make anyone feel bad by having to change anything or learn anything new from the Windows contingent, lest the fantasy of skill be shattered.

    Seems like a tall order. Even Microsoft with all of its billions of dollars and incredible talent can’t seem to pull this one together, and they charge for the fruits of their labors, something the “free” UNIX OS’s don’t dare try. Everyone is great at complaining, but very few offer thoughtful constructive criticism that is designable (everything has trade-offs), implementable (coding takes time and money), investable (somebody has to pay and that means some kind of open source business model that supports itself), and sustainable (you can innovate not for a day but for years).

    So yes, we can make an OS that does what you wish. It is possible. Not easy, perhaps, and definitely not a quick hack, but possible. Maybe just knowing that is enough for most people. But it isn’t enough for someone to commit blood and treasure.

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