Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Speaking of Computers

When I bought my first personal computer, which was just a few months before the release of Windows 95, one of the first things I decided was not to become a slave of Microsoft. For a number of reasons, I also chose not to take the Apple route. Instead, I bought an IBM (cr)Aptiva preinstalled with IBM's own OS/2 Warp operating system.

There were a lot of things I really liked about OS/2 (and would probably still like if I still used it). It was a very powerful, configurable, adaptable, and stable system. It was (and is still) also immune to almost all internet viruses. However, like Linux, it wasn't as "idiot proof" as Macintosh or the most recent versions of Windows. In other words, you sometimes had to get your hands dirty by dealing with text codes or making configuration changes manually. That meant a greater risk of pilot error. Still, I actually found that to be a plus, as it offered a great deal of versatility.

Unfortunately, from the very beginning I had compatibility problems as the computer world was hesitant to embrace OS/2, and IBM was doing a piss-poor job of promoting and supporting it anyway. At first it wasn't such a big deal; some DOS games wouldn't work with the sound card. A few Windows programs (mainly games) wouldn't work at all. That didn't present a problem to me. However, I ran into device driver trouble from the start. First Canon Japan responded to my request for an OS/2 printer driver by giving me the usual air-sucked-through-teeth followed by, "Most people use Windows, so we only support Windows. Maybe you should consider using Windows, too, like everyone else!" (I then contacted Canon U.S.A., who responded to the same request by making me a printer driver! God bless American service!) Then, when I switched to an ISDN internet connection in 1997, I called IBM's service center to ask about a device driver for my DSU (ISDN modem). Once again I got air-sucked-through-teeth followed by, "Well, people in Japan generally only use Windows in their home computers, so perhaps you should do the same." (I then contacted my phone/internet company, who sent an OS/2 specialist to my house to set me up! God bless NTT!) Despite these headaches, though, I stubbornly maintained my (cr)Aptiva OS/2 setup at home even while using a Windows 95 laptop at work.

After another year, it became clear that the (cr)Aptiva, with its 486DX4/100 processor, simply didn't have enough oomph to keep up with modern internet demands. I kept the machine where it was to use for desktop publishing and games, and I bought a Fujitsu laptop with Windows 98 to use as my internet communication system. During the first two years that it served in this role the operating system self-destructed and had to be completely reinstalled (along with everything else on the C partition) at least four times even though I never mucked with it. I then upgraded it to Windows 2000, which ran without any trouble whatsoever for another year (though getting all my devices working was a bit of a chore at first). I probably would have continued using it as my communication station, but then the hard drive in the (cr)Aptiva suddenly freaked out and put OS/2 out of commission once and for all. I decided not to bother trying to fix. Instead, I got this Sony Vaio with Windows XP that I'm still using now.

I guess I'm now firmly in the Windows camp, something reinforced a couple of years ago when a college buddy of mine who works at Microsoft came to visit me here in Japan. I mentioned that I've always been a sucker for handmade items, especially if they're made by someone I know. He immediately reminded me that he's a member of the team that created Windows NT, 2000, and XP (but NOT, as he pointed out, Windows 98, which he laughingly called an "inferior product"). I guess he's got me there.

However, the computer I'm using the most at work right now is an Apple G5 running Mac OS X (i.e. Linux)!


  • For what it's worth, I hate OS-X. It looks pretty, but it's got some annoying features. The one that spurs me the most, is the acceleration algorhythm they have on the mouse driver. If you move your mouse slowly across one inch of desktop, the mouse moves (say) 100 pixels. If you move your mouse quickly across one inch of desktop, the mouse moves 1000 pixels! Depending on how much Dew I've had in a day, the cursor moves seemingly random distances, and I'm always missing my target click.

    That said, there is a solution: USB OverDrive is a cheap product that can cancel out the acceleration logic, and make your mouse more "normal", and in my opinion, usable. It also lets you override Apple's arbitrary maximum mouse speed, so that you can drive your mouse at a faster rate.

    I suppose I'd get used to the acceleration if I used a Mac all the time, but switching between Mac and a Windows XP box is killer on my wrists!

    I'm not found of the file typing Mac does either, but that's a subject for another day.

    By Blogger DewKid, at 6:24 AM  

  • Ndos?

    By Blogger Ndau?, at 8:45 AM  

  • Isn't that spelled "algorithm", DewKid? Maybe you should eat more corn.

    By Blogger Corn Cob Bob, at 8:47 AM  

  • I also tried OS/2 and LINUX, but now that I have Windows XP PRO Service Pack 2, I will never go back. NEVER EVER EVER!

    Unless the next version of LINUX can run AutoCAD seemlessly integrated with Promis-E software, of which I have the demo version, and am now using the full version at my new job. That is, I still have a two week period while they make up their minds if they're going to hire me, but at least its money, and now I know about Promis-E, an addon for AutoCAD that automates the schematic drawing process.


    How I say exactly when intoxicated...

    By Blogger Pa've, at 2:09 PM  

  • I feel I have lived much of that history with you, sir Moody.

    The OS/2 days were heady days to say the least. The ability to multi-task and not crash while 99% of the rest of the world floundered were good days indeed.

    My sweet spot is Windows 2000 now. It is the most reminiscent of OS/2 and doesn't have the privacy/licensing/pure-friggin'-slowness issues of my XP installations.

    Steve Jobs keeps me entertained but Apple never allows their OS to get stable before pulling the rug out on some new revolution.

    I do find it ironic that Apple went with Intel while Microsoft's XBox migrated to the Motorola's PowerPC platform. Wonders never cease.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 3:15 PM  

  • Dewkid
    I know what you mean about that damned mouse accelerator. It can be helpful with a large screen, but not if you're moving a lot within a small space. Pointer control has always been a problem on that G5 for that reason. Fortunately, I mainly use the Mac for making sheet music, and the program I use is designed for "hands on keyboard" operation. I don't have to use the mouse all that much.

    Ndo, ndipshyte.

    Corn Cob Bob
    Is it "logarithms" or "logger rhythms"?

    I updated my work laptop from XP Home to XP Pro and then XP SP2. Considering I don't really use the networking features, I haven't noticed much difference beyond the security center.

    Not much chance of my ever using an AutoCAD program, either. I'm in a different line of work.

    The only problem with using Windows 2000 in Japan is, as with everything else, the chronic "keep up with the Suzukis" way of thinking of the society in general. Businesses tend to cater only to the latest trends, as illustrated by my problems getting OS/2 drivers for my Canon printer and ISDN modem.

    Not long ago, I went to one of the leading electronics/computer stores here to order a service pack upgrade CD-ROM for my wife's Windows 2000-equipped laptop so she could use USB 2.0. The "computer specialist" at the service counter looked at me in pure disbelief before suggesting (in a "you poor, ignorant fool" tone of voice) that I download it off the internet. When I informed him that I'd tried, but a total of nine viruses had invaded the computer and crashed it before downloading was complete, he turned and started helping a different customer. I said, "Excuse me...," and he waved me off, said, "There's no reason for it," and turned his back on me. Needless to say, I don't go to that store anymore.

    Hmm. Most of the school's computers run Windows 2000. I wonder if their service support insults them, too.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 7:42 PM  

  • We still use win 2K for most of our test systems. I dont think it will go away soon either. Even though we keep getting threatened to change to XP.

    By Blogger Vulgarius, at 5:54 AM  

  • The computer world shares the same of the rest of the nature... the survival of the fitest.

    Information technology replaces itself, more like making itself obsolete.

    Which comes first, the super program or the fastest chips.. the race continues

    By Blogger Robin, at 7:00 PM  

  • Robin
    I'm not sure I totally agree. If it were really survival of the fittest, OS/2 would've stomped Windows 95 into the dust. I've had a Microsoft programming engineer admit to me point blank that Windows 95 was put on the market before it was ready. Basically, Gates & Co. tossed an unfinished, bug-ridden product on the market and pumped tons of money into a huge marketing campaign. Windows 95 quickly became a household name, nipping OS/2 in the bud just as it was starting to become popular (although IBM made a lot of errors in terms of promoting its own product). Once MS was assured of its dominance, it then completed development.

    So you see, Robin, it's not survival of the fittest. It's survival of the best PR campaign.

    Admittedly, the late version of W95, which I used at work, was quite good, and I never had any trouble with it. W98, however, was a royal pain in the behindermost. Replacing it with W2000 was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 12:19 AM  

  • OS-X rocks. I was so scared to switch over from 9, now I look back at 9 and cringe in horror. It's so "antique", and X is an obvious step upward in so many ways. What's generally great about macs is you are always in control, no prompts asking you if you really want to do this...are you sure? I use a PowerBook G4, by the way.

    By Anonymous Jeff Nicholson, at 6:39 PM  

  • What if you hit the wrong button by mistake?

    By Anonymous Some Skeptical Know-It-All, at 9:10 PM  

  • OSX keeps you in control? Are you serious? The lack of prompts asking whether or not you want something done sounds to me like you are losing control. I hate that! I want to know what is going on, not have the machine decide what's best for me (it is often wrong), and do it anyway.

    Here's an example: I had an html file that I wanted to peek at for some web-coding I was doing. When I opened it up in "Text-Edit", rather than give me any options, it decided rather pointedly that I wanted to see it as a web page. I spent nearly 20 minutes clicking through endless menus looking for a way to open the damned file where I could even see the actual code! Of course, nothing as simple as changing the extension (the easy solution in windows). I had to go through some bizarre conversion process, and change some preferences in TextEdit to get the file to even open in text mode. Frustrating!!!!!

    [/rant off]

    (sorry, this hits a nerve in me, if that isn't obvious)

    By Blogger DewKid, at 5:40 AM  

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