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Dinner for Twenty

Ease of use has produced legions of folks who really are computer illiterate but don't know it. They think they are "using" their computers, but they really aren't. They are popping TV dinners in the microwave thinking they are cooking- and worse, not knowing that there is any other way, and never realizing that while that may be a great way to make a quick lunch, it's a very dumb way to make dinner for twenty.

Point and click. Drag and drop. That's all most computer users ever learn. Not that any of this is bad: very often the GUI interface really is a good way to do something. Dragging a file from Network Neighborhood is always going to be easier than using the command line.

Easier, yes. But what about when you want to do something repetitively, or when specific types of files are to be copied (everything that starts with "log", for example: log02282001, log02292001 etc.) ? For those kinds of tasks, you need a script.

Windows does scripting. It has always had DOS (as bad a scripting language as command.com is, it can do tasks like the above). More recently, WSH (Windows Scripting Host ) has become available, and while under-promoted, under-appreciated and under-utilized, that gives you even more power. Windows can script- it's just that most people don't know it and even if they know that they can, they don't know how.

There are other tasks that beg for automation. I constantly see people editing web pages that are nothing more than lists of items surrounded by boilerplate text- all that changes is the items in the list. Any web designer wort their salt would automate that- script it - with a database or just a simple Perl script so that only a text list has to be maintained, and often even that file would be produced automatically. But every day, hordes of Windows users do this kind of thing manually- cooking for twenty with a microwave.

This lack of computer literacy costs money. It's not just the wasted time, and it's more than the countless hours spent futzing with fonts and margins (hint: ordinary folks should produce TEXT. People who know how to properly lay out text should decide on the fonts and the margins- and even THAT can be automated in many cases). It's the mistakes that creep in because tasks are not automated, it's the duplication caused by more than one person having to work on a project that could probably be done (accurately) in minutes by a program or script. Computers have improved efficiency? Maybe so- but the point and click crowd has a long way to go- maybe they are getting more down than they would without their computers, but they are still wasting time and causing errors.

But that's what happens every day in the Microsoft world: dinner for twenty prepared in a microwave. Slowly. Painfully. Expensively. Nobody gets fed on time, and the food isn't very good, but nobody complains because TV dinners in the microwave is so much easier than peeling veggies and boiling water and using that darn stove that nobody understands..

Again, Microsoft OSes have a "stove". They hide it, they make it even harder to use than any Unix stove ever was, but it is there and it would cook a perfectly good dinner.

Maybe not as fast as the Unix stove though :-)

See also Linux sucks



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