The Linux Desktop: it’s all over now, baby blue

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 4:14 pm. Red Herring magazine was maundering on about how Linux’d never take over the desktop — and it hit me: it was like “UHF’ll never make a dent in VHF” (antediluvian broadcast TV standards). ... True — but who cares? ...

I mean, I love my colorful desktop as much as the next user; but I enjoy watching TV also, at least occasionally. ... The truth is, the age of the computer desktop or TV as the center of anything is rapidly coming to a close. No matter how much “media convergence”, telephone, and reborn PDA junk they flog, Microsoft is being steadily reduced to replacement sales, or somehow convincing the world’s hungry and poor to buy their expensive operating system. ... The day of the costly office suite is likewise trickling away; “productivity” enhancements are supposed to attract new/upgrade purchases, when it’s obvious the most significant such enhancement would be making the software about a tenth of the size it is now, and just as much cheaper....

The Old Days

In olden days, at least once we got Laserjets, computer word processing was wonderful because you could produce documents that were better than the most expensive IBM typewriter output, and were effectively cheaper because, to be sure, of productivity features....

Now? The LOL tells me banks no longer accept “company stationery” as business ID — because any 12-year-old can fake the stuff. ... The day when the personal computer could make printed material “just like a magazine” passed almost a decade ago, and of course nobody wants magazines or newspapers anymore — at least partly because of this: one of the obvious attractions of these now-moribund media was the presentation, the type faces and photographs, and now anybody can do that!...

And that’s been the desktop’s major attraction all these years: the ability to turn-out business material that “looked professional”. What’s happened is — we just don’t care anymore! Anybody can do that!...

Email: The Ultimate Frontier

The proof of this pudding is the new dominant business medium: email — which is notoriously deficient in formatting and, indeed, when you try to put in some, your recipient or his virus checker may object. ... The web, which could have formatting as good as, say, the 1992 WordPerfect 5.1, doesn’t even bother — because the whole concept has become so devalued. ...

So chasing after the Linux desktop is an exercise in nostalgia; might as well wonder, where is the CP/M desktop? — because it’s gone, gone, gone down the rat hole with hula hoops and Linotypes and Varitypers and Fridenwriters (see me typing on one below) and all the equipment and presentation of another, simpler age.


As an example of the total worthlessness of presentation-based media, I offer a personal anecdote. ... Because I am an important and influential leader of the software industry, I am constantly offered free magazines like Eweek and Bass Fishing — and, recently, U.S. News & World Report, which pretended to give me a subscription, but instead sends me weekly spam: there’s no way to cancel, and an “account” button just hangs-up! ... The pitiful dying publication imagines it can compete with the web and somehow escape the darkness looming before it by spamming a digital copy of its wretched journal — as if anybody wanted that! ... Its own valuation of its own magazine is below zero: that of spam!...

Wednesday, September 6, 2006. I finally managed to email my spam “account” with the sentiment “Stop sending this spam” and actually received a response. The spokesthing explained that for important complicated technical reasons they couldn’t stop spamming me, but if I called a phone number and begged, they might stop! ... So the negative price of this subscription, already below zero, falls and falls to an ever-larger negative quantity!...

You understand, I like printed media — because I’m an old fogey, and pathetically hold on to the familiar comfortable environment of my formative years. ... And actually I suspect “niche” magazines could still have a place, because it’s just more fun to read about model railroading or computers for that matter in a printed publication than on the web. ... Paying for them is another story, as I discuss elsewhere....

$ubscription!

And then in the fullness of time, it turns-out U.S. News was planning on me paying for their spam! ... It was a scheme to get me to subscribe, which, after a free year of their digital edition, I would harbor an uncontrollable urge so to do. ... That’s why of course they couldn’t cancel the spam; because it was part of some incompetent twit’s subscription scheme and if everyone immediately canceled after they were gulled into it, it would make the scheme look even stupider. ... Presumably by now he’s moved on, to better and grander scams....