Am I Too Old or is This Actually Better

In 2001 I was at a conference. One of the presenters showed both Apple and Microsoft operating systems on his screen. He said, and I am paraphrasing from memory, “Apple stole their OS from Xerox. Microsoft stole their OS from Apple. What if Xerox got it wrong?” I was very thought provoking. I flashed back to all the science-fiction I had seen and read. I realized in everyones view of the future, the mouse just wasn’t really part of the equation.

It is now 2014, and I have to say, I think OS’s are worse than they use to be. At work I use Apple and Windows. At home I am devoted Linux User. I often switch versions when one takes bad turn. I work in the terminal often. I prefer to do updates, configuration, etc. via the command line or through text files. I like to see the errors, and I like to know that I can force remove problems and reset things.

In 2002 I had a big Apple tower running OS X server. It was about 1000 USD for the license. The server software was great though. Last month I bought OS X server for Mavericks. It is horrible. It doesn’t do very much at all, and what it does, it does badly.
Why is a company which is producing a massive number of clients, killing the services we all need to really make them work seamlessly?

I use cron jobs all the time on Linux. Cron jobs let you run programs on a schedule. Normally I use them to make little utility programs. Apple used to have a normal cron setup, now, it is bloated and strange. Almost as if, they are discouraging people from using cron.

Windows 2000 and later versions of Windows NT were good operating systems. I did thousands of hours of video editing and compositing on a dual pentium 3 windows NT machine. It was far more efficient and reliable that any current Dell or Lenovo desktop running in my school. How is that possible?

I realize that with mobile markets growing, things have to change for mobile devices. However, laptops and desktops are not mobile devices. Being portable should not impact the operating system standards. The use or potential use of the machine should dictate the operating system scope.

I worry about students depending so much on following pre-defined gestures and patterns. Students love using iPads, as I have stated before, this is a good way to engage them. At what point should we be concerned that students often choose a path that works on the iPad but is actually poor practice rendering bad results?

Recently I have been working with one of the biggest school management systems in use today in K-12 education. My school is going through the initial implementation. I have stopped trying to go through the hundreds of screens and slow web-forms. I immediately realized that if I wanted to get work done, and do it quickly, I needed direct database access. The best part about this, the direct database access is not even part of the menu. You have to know a secret URL to pull up the interface.

Doesn’t this means that the creators of this system have hidden the most powerful feature because they do not believe people can learn use to use a database properly? Should we be promoting a culture of dumbing-down systems or should we be prompting the training and development of competent users?

My final thought on this concerns the term hacking, which is changing for the worseStudents are very curious. Many go through a phase of experimenting with school laptops or their own laptops. They attempt to use command line, or various other non-traditional pieces of software (many hidden but already inside the OS). This leads them to detect certain features of the OS that are not secure. From there they often branch out and find security issues on the network. Often these issues are on printers and other devices that were never secure. Lately, people have termed this hacking, after a student has reported what they found. Is it hacking? Or is it learning?  What is this teaching them?

Maybe I am too old to appreciate all the swiping and tapping. But, I do think being able to control my system is actually important. I like being able to work quickly and not waiting on screens to change. I feel empowered knowing I can sit down and do something new, without a visual guide to help me. I also believe that these are the topics we stress to students all the time in virtually every subject taught. Why are we [educators] not talking about changing the way technology comes together to improve learning first and access to materials and media later? Why are we choosing technology based on ease of this or that, instead of its potential to improve a student’s ability to master their environment and customize their experience?

Do you believe in the no-win scenario? Do you believe the box when it says “NO. YOU CAN’T?”

Kirk: I reprogrammed the simulation so it was possible to rescue the ship.
Saavik: What?
David Marcus: He cheated.
Kirk: I changed the conditions of the test; got a commendation for original thinking. I don’t like to lose. ~ The Wrath of Khan

1D0n7 :).

Tony DePrato

1 thought on “Am I Too Old or is This Actually Better”

  1. That is a great quote at the end. I think that OS have actually gotten better. Remember it’s no longer just a desktop//laptop computing environment anymore. I remember working on the first iMac at university and just being frustrated with the lack of options.

    Now, I find I have more control than ever with support forums, terminal access and tutorials online. I’ve rarely used Linux but have heard good things about it and I think we can all agree that Windows 8 design isn’t going anywhere soon.

    I like the gestures on trackpads as opposed to keystrokes and with wearable tech starting to really gain traction it is an exciting time indeed. I believe for any meaningful progress, there must be a large number of failures.

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