April 16, 2014

.comment: Luddite Linux - page 3

The Role of the Modern GUI

  • July 5, 2000
  • By Dennis E. Powell

The odds are good that Linux was not where your computing career began. If you are an old UNIX or mainframe hand, my hat is off to you, but you've probably not read this far, so my respect will go unnoted. But it's more likely, I think, that you started with DOS or a dosrivative, such as Windows 95 or OS/2. If you've been in the game long enough, you've used text-based applications, and I bet you remember one or two of them fondly. Perhaps you've even noted that graphical applications that consume 100 megs of drive space load no faster and do nothing much more than did the old apps that would fit on a floppy. Maybe you were among those who were outraged when you learned that a full install of Word for Windows took up 20 megs on your hard drive. Seems kind of puny now, doesn't it? I just now timed it: Word 4.0 for DOS loads more quickly on a 640k 8088 machine with a 40-meg MFM drive than WordPerfect 8 (the only standalone X word processor I have here) does on a K6-2-400 with 256 megs of memory and a really fast IDE drive. That's a pretty high price to pay for WYSIWYG.

And it's not really necessary.

Look. I like GUIs for a great many things. I also have a stack of machines in the other room, with various monitors (even an EGA) and 386 and 486 processors of various speeds. The hard drives are all big for their day and all under a gig. I rescued all of them from the dump.

The drives are full of software and Heaven knows what else. I do not have licenses for any of it. For the machines to be used, the drives would need to be wiped and something else installed. All are capable of running Linux, but they're a little thin for anything other than use as maybe a firewall machine or something. Running X and a desktop and apps would slow them to unusability. So they're useless.

There are millions of machines like them. They could be doing good work at schools and in charitable organizations. But there is no software available for them.

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