I believe in binary Zen. You're either at one with everything, or at zero with everything.

Linux's User Interface Puts MS Windows' To SHAME!

Date/Time Permalink: 08/05/09 12:11:28 pm
Category: Humor

Well, I got me a new refurbished box with very good specs, which is about to become my new home office machine. That's as soon as Slackware 13.0 hits final distribution release, which should be any day now... (Bought the box with Windows on it, you see) So, while I'm twiddling my thumbs waiting for that landmark to come to pass, I did what any Linux user probably does when temporarily owning a copy of Windows (XP Pro here), and checked how it's doing these days.

Because, see, I just can't get enough asstroturfers telling me how swell Windows stacks up to Linux lately. Gotta see for myself what all the hype is about. And since Microsoft is now suffering from the delusion that it competes with Linux, well...

It didn't take long before the old Microsoft memories came back. Literally before I could get into the desktop, the first problem hit: It doesn't recognize the mouse. To be sure, the mouse is an old Wacom tablet with the little wireless mouse on it, pressed into service because, well, my other four mice are busy. It plugs into the USB port. But anyway, I've plugged this same mouse into more than six different machines running Linux and it always worked instantly.

So, it's time to use Windows without the mouse. Won't this be fun? Using Windows without the mouse incorporates three methods:

  • Using the Super key (the one with the logo).
  • Using 'tab' and 'shift-tab' a lot.
  • Using 'alt' + letters when you have a program open.

That Super key is a riot. To quote the keyboard reference, "Logo-S: Toggles CAPS LOCK on and off" How handy. I've always said to myself, "Pressing one key to toggle Caps-Lock just doesn't cut it; why can't I replace that action with pressing two keys instead?"

Anyway: I'm doing OK, but after a while I get tired of the mocking white arrow stuck in the middle of the screen, so I wonder if it's possible to control the mouse pointer with the keyboard. On Linux, you do this by hitting 'Ctrl-Alt-NumLock' (you'll usually hear a beep), then you can use the arrows on the number-pad to move it around and some other keys to simulate right/left/middle clicks. It's actually kind of fun when you get the hang of it; I've been known to use keyboard control on the mouse pointer when I'm too lazy to reach for the mouse itself.

Well, I searched (on my current office Slackware computer, of course) for this and discovered this page. Mind you, on Linux, it's a single three-key salute, and off you go.

Look at the instructions on that link. Look at them! You have to open the ironically-named-as-hell "Ease of Access Center", select a tab, click a check-box, click 'save'... and then there's something else there called 'set up mouse keys' just below it... Where you have to open another dialog??? And do (counting bullet points) eleven more actions??? Man, I'd hate to think if I had to do all this because I was handicapped.

I gave it a try anyway, even though that page is for Vista and I'm looking at XP. I mean, how much would they change something like this from version to version? I'm still trying to find the XP instructions. Like, now.

Well, hitting 'Logo-U' (step one of 14 in the instruction) gave me two dialogs, with the focus on a second one called, "Microsoft Narrator.' In typical Joe-Sixpack form, I grunted, "Huh?" But tabbed my way to dismiss it. (Why do you dismiss everything in Windows with 'OK?' A better label for that button would be "shut the * up!")

As always happens in Windows, it argued with me, giving me a second dialog box to swat away. Yes, sure, Narrator on, Narrator off, whatever. No, not 'help.' Exit. EXIT!

Finally, I can see the dialog I came for. Step two begins "Under Explore all settings, select..." Uh. I see a dialog completely unlike what is described. Must have changed it between versions.

Why? Why change such a basic thing?

In desperation I frobbed the nearest thing having the word 'keyboard' on it, which turns out to be 'On-Screen Keyboard.' It pops that open. So, in trying to discover how to use the keyboard to control the mouse, I have instead succeeded in discovering how to use the mouse to control the keyboard.

Well, after plenty of frantic keyboard-pounding I managed to close all that and give up. Exploring the 'Start' menu, I decide to see what I have that's fun to explore by keyboard... and hit the jackpot! It has Windows PowersHell installed! Well, I popped that baby open and beheld a command prompt. Would it be Unix-like? I typed 'ls.' It lssed! I typed 'ls -a.' It gave me a red error, not knowing what '-a' is. I typed 'man ls' and I'll be damned to Jiminy if it didn't dump out a man page for ls!

Windows powers Hell.

Now I see at last what everybody's complaining about. If Microsoft ever hopes to succeed on the desktop, they have to get rid of this command line! That's what's holding them back!

And there'd better not be any Windows elitists coming 'round yelling at me to RTFM, either.

Is Slackware 13.0 done yet?

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