input and output

Why the state of the art in desktop computing has me wondering why Dell and others are out to kill the desktop.


Desktops and workstations must be so damned inconvenient to manufacture and support. Or is it that tablets and smart phones have to be so much more profitable?

After a week of setting up, configuring and restoring data to a new desktop at work it’s clear to me that there’s trouble in paradise.

A 19 or 20 inch “widescreen” monitor is no more appropriate on a desktop in a working office than it is on a laptop, as far as I’m concerned. Widescreens are for viewing multimedia. You know, movies streamed from Netflix. YouTube videos. Hulu TV. But spreadsheets? Well, maybe. But documents created in a word processor like Word or OpenOffice Writer? Programs written in vi?

It’s juvenile. It’s as if the computer manufacturing gods have decreed that the intended future of computing is as a platform for sending messages on Twitter. Or posting personal photos on FaceBook.

Those of us who have been paying attention have observed with horror how desktop operating systems have drifted towards being higher resolution versions of the incomprehensible, inefficient and fatally deficient products that drive smart phones (Gnome 3, Windows 7, you get the picture).

Have you ever tried drafting a technical report on one of those? Or controlling as server in a terminal session?

The quality, and ergonomic acceptability of keyboards and mice have suffered along the way as well.

I’m a system administrator and a programmer. Touch screens and carnival ride voice activation are useless to me. In fact the CPU cycles used to drive them is from my perspective a terrible waste of power. But the keyboards they now ship with new desktops are carpal-inducing horrors, and the mice clearly included just for show — because they’re not much good for pointing and selecting anything.

Clearly the major manufacturers are now being run by a bunch of teenagers who have no idea what it means to actually have to be productive.

I guess Steve Jobs has won, with the help of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey. And the Gnome Project. We have all now been re-made in their self-indulgent, “visionary” image.

It’s Friday, and I’ve still got a few thousand more lines of code to read through in this incredibly cramped display.

No wonder executives prefer taking the day off to golf.