Since the release of Windows 7, more and more articles are coming out with the admission that the people responsible for the operating system known as Unix, from which all operating systems of today either derive directly, or borrow from heavily, really had their stuff together.

With over 35 years since the humble beginnings of Unix (39 to be exact) no one has been able to come up with anything that surpasses the ideas that were begun in 1970. Notice I said all operating systems above – anyone only slightly familiar with the last 3 versions of Microsoft Windows, and Unix, can plainly see how much Windows is borrowing from the long used constructs of Unix.

It’s especially strange when articles explaining the newest of concepts brought forth by Microsoft, like MinWin, are really nothing more than the small kernel concept of Unix, yet Microsoft casts itself in the role of Archimedes, and shouts “Eureka!” at the public bathhouse. This is illustrated clearly in a story on Betanews, where the author there attempts to explain the MinWin concept as brought forth by Mark Russinovich, perhaps the world’s greatest authority on Windows extant.

In a very long winded article, we are told in less than precise terms, that Microsoft screwed up when originally designing parts of Windows – the major ones. In their effort to reinvent the wheel, they strayed far from the ideas that Dave Cutler had put forth about the system design. As one of the first comments on that article has stated, “Microsoft is taking credit for an idea shown over 30 years ago, and acting as though it was a novel one.”

Almost as though it was planned, Larry Dignan put up an article this morning on ZDNet, stating that the guest author feels there are at least 10 concepts that should find their way into Windows, from the world of Unix. I agree with at least 6 of the 10, and I think the average user might have an even higher level of agreement.

1: Compiz

No matter how clean Aero gets, I am not a fan of the flat, single-workspace desktop of Windows 7. Yes, it has come a long way, but it’s not nearly the modern desktop that Compiz offers. Of course, many would argue that Compiz is nothing more than eye candy. I, on the other hand, would argue that many of the features Compiz offers are just as much about usability as they are eye candy. Having a 3D desktop that offers you quick access (via key combinations) to multiple workspaces is handy. Window switchers can’t be beaten for ease of use. And the eye candy is just a bonus. Having Compiz on top of Windows would certainly take the experience to a level few Windows users have experienced.

While some will say that a work-alike to Compiz and Cron is there in Windows, neither answer from Redmond has the power or scope of these items.  Also, the other items on the list may have some similar item in the world of Windows, but no one in their right mind would call them analogues.

5: Cron

I am a big fan of Cron. Cron jobs enable you to easily automate tasks. Yes, you can add third-party software on a Windows operating system to help automate tasks, but none will have the flexibility of the cron job. Cron allows you to schedule as many tasks as you like, at any time you like, from a simple command-line tool (or a GUI tool, if you so desire). And cron is available system wide — for both administrative tasks and standard user tasks. Having an automated system built in would certainly be handy.

Though since Windows 2000 there have been Scheduled Tasks, Microsoft acts as though it is a secret, only for the upper crust to know. This is typical of much of Microsoft’s dealings. One only has to experience trying to find a fix for something that has not just been released to know that. It is easier to Google for results (and yes, as recently as yesterday, I discovered that Google will find things on the Microsoft site that are not found by Bing). Another thing that has always irked me is how difficult it is to find things that someone has made available to make the user’s life easier or fuller, yet they are almost completely hidden by non-important puffing and bluster by the powers that be.

10: Hardware detection

Before anyone gets bent out of shape, this is not what you’re thinking. Let me set this up for you. What happens when you install a Windows operating system and something doesn’t work? Say, for example, video. You thought for sure the OS would support your video card, but when the installation is complete you’re stuck with good old 800×600 resolution. So you go to the device manager to see if you can find out what the card is, and you get nothing. How are you supposed to find out what drivers to download when Windows gives you no information? Oh sure, you can open up the case and check out the chipset. Or you might get lucky and find that device driver CD lying around. But what if you can’t? Or what if that video is on board?

If you were using Linux you could at least issue the dmesg command and get some information right away. And if dmesg didn’t help out, you could always fire up the Hardware Drivers tool, which will might discover a proprietary driver you could use. In Windows, if you don’t know the card, you’re going to have fun finding the drivers. Although Windows hardware support is better, Linux hardware detection is better.

Those are the most important three, in my opinion, and number 10 is especially egregious in its absence from Windows. The others that I have not included are in a range from nice-to-include to important, and you can either read the full article at the site, or download a PDF of it here.

The sixth of the ten mentioned is a regular release cycle. I think it is something that Microsoft is unable to do, unless that cycle is on the order of 7 years. (which might not be that bad!)

Microsoft cannot seem to make major strides at this point, I believe, mostly because of hubris. The legendary tales of 100-plus hour work weeks seems to do nothing towards getting any alacrity in design from Redmond. Neither does the prodigious stock program or any other perk that is bestowed upon those who toil in the halls of Microsoft. For all the progress Microsoft has made, it is still slow to admit many mistakes, and still unwilling to pay attention to the will of its beta testers, as most of their purpose is simple bug catching.

The public has yet to ever see the people chosen to do the early testing for any Microsoft project, which makes many believe they are always found within the halls of the Redmond campus. This yields a much different attitude as to what is important, and also a proprietary nature to change, and the level of annoyances that are allowable.

While these things may eventually find their way into Windows, it will not be soon, for Microsoft must put some distance between articles like this and the implementation of those ideas, so as to be able to once again shout, “Eureka!”




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