Topics include: programming, Apple, Unix, gadgets, large-scale web sites and other nerdy stuff.

Paul Graham on Microsoft.

2007-04-09 15:09:52

Microsoft is already dead, according to pg.

He makes his points brilliantly, as usual. Of course I'll have to agree, because I freed myself from the unholy crappiness that is Windows when I left my last job.

The company I work for now, which we started in early 2004, has no dependence on Windows, except that we have to test our web site to make sure it works in IE as well as FireFox. (IE is still 80%+ of the market.) That was by design. I had been screwing around with Mac OS X at home for a while, and when we were choosing technology platforms for the new company, I pushed pretty hard for Mac as the programming platform. "Wouldn't it be great to have Unix workstations again, where your home directory had everything you need. Just like back in the day (1986-1995 or so)," was one of my arguments.

I'd been mulling over the whole Microsoft vs Mac/Linux thing for the past fews weeks. I was reading some blog post somewhere about somebody's experience "switching." You know, changing their computer from a Windows PC to a Mac. The commentary on the post was the typical thing you see: the Windows lovers claiming that Mac OS X sucks just as much as Windows, has just as many viruses, etc. And the Mac people talking about how much more usable the UI is on Mac. Both of which are complete hogwash. Macs really are less prone to malware, and the Mac UI isn't really that much better than Windows.

What struck me was how quaint that whole debate now is. Anybody who knows anything about operating systems, software development and the software industry, and has actually used Macs and Windows computers in depth knows that the OS war is over. Purely in terms of technical capability, Linux and Mac OS X are vastly superior to Windows.

It's like Tiger Woods vs. Me in golf. I've never known anyone who has spent significant time in both Unix variants of operating systems and Windows who likes Windows better. No one.

Everyone smart that I know who likes Windows better just hasn't used Linux/Mac much. I assume they'll be Mac/Linux nuts like me when they get around to it. What really sealed it for me recently was installing a virtual machine on my Intel Mac, so I could run Windows and test IE7 at work. This puts Windows in the position of being the old crufty OS that you put in a box, run in an emulator, whatever.

A system that runs in such a position is a curiosity, the subject of tests and investigation, but not anything you use for actual work. The real OS, where you live and work is the OS that supervises the virtual machine. In my case, Mac OS X is the supervisor OS. Other folks run Ubuntu and Windows in a VM there. We have no anti-virus software, and if a Windows VM gets infected, we just delete the whole thing and restore from a backup. In other words, our Windows "machines" have become completely disposable: all data that matters is kept outside that box.

Once your operating system is relegated to running in an emulator for a few key applications, it's one step away from total irrelevance. Look at that cute little OS running in that cage! In the olden times, people actually trusted their work and data with it. Imagine that.