February 21, 2019

The StartX Files: Why X Foibles Don't Matter - page 2

Is complexity a help or a hindrance? Ask a Windows fan.

  • March 13, 2001
  • By Brian Proffitt

Which brings me to recent criticisms I have seen in the media about X. Comments range from outright firebombs: "this will never be ready for primetime" to condescending little pats on the head: "given time, this cute little interface may rise to the level of Windows."

Windows? Windows?!

Time for truthful disclosure: Windows, in my opinion, may have a lead on interface simplicity. I have to at least give them that point--for now. But under the hood, Windows is just as cumbersome as anything they accuse Linux of being.

And this interface lead they have (if you can call it a lead) is rapidly dwindling to nothing. For all of the naysayer's comments about how awkward X is, recent developments have taken great strides to smoothing out any remain interface foibles. The recent release of Qt 2.3 and its ability to antialias fonts is but one example of that.

And down in the code, where the OS really counts, Linux may have its quirks, but it is nowhere near as complicated as Windows. Assuming you can even get to the underlying code in Windows, like those lucky(?) software developers allowed limited access to the oh-so-secret Windows source, there reportedly is so much spaghetti in there no one can figure out how it all works together.

Linux is cellular in nature, not one big cancerous mass of code. True, sometimes getting those cells to work together can be a balancing act, but c'mon, if I wanted to fix to fighting components within Linux, I could do so with a lot more ease than in Windows because it is likely that the Linux systems are only affecting one another. In Windows, when something goes wrong, Lord knows which parts of the system are affected.

An operating system, contrary to popular belief, is more than just a pretty interface. I cannot remember the last time one of my Linux machines crashed. My lone Windows PC? Last night while my daughter was playing Cluefinders.

X may not be the best-looking kid on the block, but given the fact that it runs on *nix machines, it's got a lot of power already and certainly a lot of potential. What does not work for X can be tackled by any talented developer who wants to give it a go.

Windows may be the beauty queen, but it's a vapid queen at best. And where is its potential for growth? And when something goes wrong with Windows, who can fix it but the people who created it?

If the criteria for Linux to be a "player" is to have a stunning interface, then I think critics are being shortsighted. Not looking beyond the GUI is a big mistake.

But if this the way it has to be, then I would warn those same critics to watch out. Because if it's a stunning interface you have to have, then with the releases of KDE 2.1 and (soon) GNOME 1.4 and all the other cool window managers, you're about to get it.

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