February 23, 2019

.comment: On the Outlaw Trail with Linux - page 2

The Mainstream Is Good, Right?

  • February 14, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

I spent close to an hour wandering the aisles of this vast hardware/software emporium, and it gradually dawned on me: Except for one subnotebook machine there was not a single item in the whole place that I would be happy to have, even as a gift. (Well, okay, there were a few LCD displays that were kind of cute, but too small, too braindead, and too expensive compared to that which can be gotten elsewhere.) This was not true as late as a year ago, and it's not me who has changed. The monitors on display were kind of junky, their specifications unimpressive -- the selling points now are metallic plastic cases, rather than good stuff under the hood. The hard drives, video cards, sound cards, SCSI adapters, CD-RW drives, and so on were distinctly middlebrow. The software selection included very little for Linux, of course, but more broadly there wasn't much there of a serious nature. Keyboards were plastic junk, some of which seem to have gotten melted into odd shapes -- these were $100 -- and some that were uniformly bad as keyboards, but came in assorted colors. I've always thought Kensington was a serious company, ever since their great Expert Mouse trackball was sadly available only for the Mac. Now there's the "Expert Mouse Pro," which is silver metallic plastic and is festooned with buttons that will go to particular URLs or will launch programs, as well as a wheel in addition to the ball, and which looks like some dimestore playpretty that ought to squirt water at imaginary space aliens or something. There was memory available, though nothing high end, and there was neither a motherboard nor a processor in the place that one would be proud to own.

The whole store seemed aimed at the typical 14-year-old. Sadly, the average mainstream computer user of any age seems to greatly resemble the typical 14-year-old.

It was the first time I've visited a big computer store and found absolutely nothing that would make my system any better. I was never in my life so glad to be out of the mainstream. I wondered if, should Linux sweep the world to the extent that Windows has, we'd see such a collection of stuff, all aimed at Linux.

I fervently hoped not. And I realized that we probably wouldn't, for the same reason that Linux is unlikely to sweep the world in quite that way. We have not just higher standards but different ones. It used to be that when wandering through a big computer store I'd from time to time think "I sure wish there were a Linux driver for that." No more. I'd love to see native driver software for the Expert Mouse, but if no one thinks for even a second of trying to cook up support for the Silver Imitation-Spaceman Many-Button Expert Pro, I'll actually be kind of glad.

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