easy vs. powerful OS

Brian R. Smith brsmith at cs.umn.edu
Fri Mar 15 12:39:24 EST 1991


In bionet.software you write:

[An unbelievably long diatribe against unix, the main points being
that it is counter-intuitive and not metaphoric, due to programmer's
convenience, etc.  Lots of generalizations and misinformation
deleted.]

You seem to be missing the point.  Unix is (WAS + compatibility)
primarily a programmer's system.  All those commands and concepts you
find so alien were intended for a completely different audience.

Fortunately, an "operating system" is not comprised entirely of the
utility commands it comes with.  Unix isn't popular because of all
those wonderfully obscure commands; it's popular (IMHO) because of the
underlying (POWERFUL) features:
  Multiple processes.
    REAL background jobs.
  Virtual memory.
    You aren't required to have enough physical memory for all your
      processes.  (So you can run really BIG processes.)
    Memory protection.  Poorly-made programs don't crash your system.
  Security.
    Multiple users, file protections, encryption, PASSWORDS.
    Viruses?  Where?
  Networking.
  
What's more, a decent user interface (with all those wonderful tools
and their metaphors) CAN be built on top of Unix.  NeXT has made a
pretty good start.  (On a completely non-standard windowing system
with an obscure object oriented version of C, though, which has its
own complications.)

It will take a while before Unix/X really comes up to speed with
graphical user interfaces.  The mac had the advantage there because
Apple started from scratch - no compatibility or previous user base to
consider.  Of course, it's taking Apple quite a while to get virtual
memory into MacOS...

So - if you want the power of unix, you're stuck with the god-awful
user interface.  Not how it SHOULD be - how it IS.

My $0.02.
--
Brian




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