Helped uncle-in-law with computer

Computers are terrible

Windows computers are especially the worst, but tbqh computers in general are just awful terrible machines

Aunt-in-law mentioned when she was a nurse and using computers every day she was much better with them.

That's what it takes! The only way to understand a computer is to use it and relearn how to use it constantly, because the interface is always bloody changing for no reason at all!

These folks don't have dementia or anything, they just don't use the computer every day so when they need to boot it up for something, everything's moved around!

How the hell are you supposed to "learn" something that hides its important bits and constantly changes while you're trying to learn it?


Windows XP hid file extensions by default because Microsoft thought people would think they were confusing, and then when everybody ran cutekitten.jpg.exe they predictably put out a security alert saying whoops, that was a terrible idea, everyone should change these settings to show extensions. And then in Vista they hid the extensions again and then issued another security bulletin saying whoops we did it again, here's how you put it right

· · SubwayTooter · 2 · 22 · 39

AND THEN THEY DID THE SAME THING AGAIN IN EVERY WINDOWS VERSION SINCE. And changed how you find the menu entry to fix it! Not even to make it easier to find! How the hell are you supposed to learn how to use a Windows box if they do this kind of crap?!

If you woke up one morning and your coffee pot had rearranged all its buttons for no reason at all, you'd chuck the damn thing in the trash! Why do we put up with this from computers?

Oh and yeah the computer is the most powerful and complex machine you'll ever use and it doesn't even come with a manual.

My kettle came with a manual! It said here's how you plug it in! It told me which button to press to turn it on and there's ONE BUTTON! It said don't fill the kettle up with milk!


It doesn't come with a manual because by the time it got printed it'd be out of date because the damn interface changed (again, I must stress, for NO DAMN REASON AT ALL).

If it stayed the same then people who don't use the computer all the time could sit down with it every now and then and get used to it.

Computers are unlearnable unless you're in bloody thrall to them.

I used to teach computers professionally, back in the Windows 98 days. Back then, and even into the XP days, you could teach someone about files and folders and it was pretty easy to grasp, made sense, things were mostly where they'd left them. These days you go to save a file in Word or whatever and where's it go? Who knows! Who cares! Don't worry about it! In the ten years since I've used Windows apparently MS decided the idea of files in folders was too complicated for people?

I swear every damn thing Microsoft does to try to make it "easier" for people just makes it more opaque, harder to understand what's actually happening.

This is why I write vanilla bloody JavaScript. Investing half my life keeping up with the dozens of ever-changing trendy ways to make it easier is actually harder than just straight-up learning that pig of a language

If computers were a car it'd have the bonnet welded shut and there'd be no temp or fuel or speed gauge 'cause they're too complicated and you don't really need to know about them, and whenever you left it alone for a little while the headlamp switch would move randomly around the interior, and smug 20somethings would make fun of you for not knowing that it's behind the bloody passenger head rest this week Christ how can a machine be so infantilizing and so dangerous at once

I completely understand why some people build their own 8-bit computers, which is bloody easier, reading a book about interrupts and address and data buses and being Done Forever or giving Bill Gates a hundred bucks for the privilege of learning to use a computer all over again every couple of years

I fix machines whose address lines run through a 40-pin connector covered in rusty mouse piss and whose unfused bridge rectifiers are a legitimate fire risk and they're more stable and reliable than modern desktop computers, seriously

Like, a Williams System 6 runs its lamp matrix through resistors that get so hot the enamel flakes off them and they desolder themselves from the board, still more dependable than a Windows box in the hands of someone whose job doesn't involve constantly taking care of a Windows box

Computers are unlearnable, constantly-changing mystery boxes of misery and woe unless using a computer is literally your full-time job, and sometimes even then.

You can't learn the buggers. Just when you're starting to get the hang of them they bloody change.

I'm on Ubuntu MATE, which is a fork of Gnome 2, which came out in the early 2000's. Because IT SODDING WORKS

It's like bloody Clippy, remember him? The whole computer is like that

What if the people who made Internet Explorer made your entire operating system

And this thing of making the computer easier for new users by making it harder for everyone who's already put in the time to learn it - WHAT NEW BLOODY USERS?! Everyone and his gran's had the misfortune of using Windows at some point or another! Who are these ten computer-untouched people Microsoft are trying to make things easier for, that we all have to relearn computers every few years?

My aunt/uncle told me a story about the volume control. See they have a desktop computer and it's got some speakers attached and when they want it louder they turn the volume knob clockwise and when they want it quieter they turn it anticlockwise, it's a perfect system that's been around since before they were born. Anyway they had the geek squad out because the sound quit working and you can see where this is going, can't you?

That's right, they'd bumped something and accidentally hit Mute on the other, harder to use, less precise, less convenient software-based volume control that Microsoft inexplicably put on their computer.

My aunt and uncle are smart people, they just don't use the computer often enough to puzzle out why on God's green earth anyone would design a machine to have have a volume control and then ANOTHER, crappier volume control.

Bill Gates stalking around the office in 2003, bored, sits on some rando's desk, "Hey Ted, I know everyone's already got a volume control on their speakers, but... they don't have one that's, like, a bit shit. Can you just pop one in the taskbar for me? Cheers mate"

"Hey Steve, you know what I'd really like? I'd really like if my mouse was louder."
"Can you make it do a click sound through the speakers?"
"Not everywhere, though. Just on the internet."

And the world tells old folks they're daft and out of touch if they can't figure out the computer, when the computer remains unfigureoutable, all your learning wiped out at arbitrary intervals just so that new, crappier computers can be made.

And that leaves me and others like me to say to people that if it's confusing it's not because you're stupid, it's because you've been away from computers long enough to still be sane.

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@ifixcoinops Every word you are saying here is true. It's a honestly terrifying that so much of our lives are bound up in these terrible machines.

@ifixcoinops the entire industry decided this at some point, though i think they're only going to truly succeed in finally killing off the user-facing filesystem by way of most computation moving to mobile devices that were designed to obscure it from day 1.

@ifixcoinops a couple generations from now some bright spark is gonna have an idea like "ok, but hear me out, what if you could put your stuff in a place where different applications could access it, and - get this - the applications could just run right on your computer and you wouldn't even have to subscribe to anything"

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@ifixcoinops every pair of headphones I've used before 2020 has had no built-in volume control. if operating systems didn't have their own, listening to audio would have been a very unpleasant experience

@ifixcoinops An eighteen post rant about technology. This is what I'm on the fedi for!

@ifixcoinops tell me how putting advertisements in the start menu was a way of helping

@ifixcoinops Tangentially related... I work with a young coder who’s constantly telling us about some new software that she built a singularity container for and six different Snakemake pipelines... scratch that, Nextflow pipelines. She’ll abandon them in a few months when something better comes out or they find bugs in the bleeding edge abandonware.

I’m the grumpy old man in the corner coding everything in Perl and using slightly less fancy software because I know it works.

@ifixcoinops I am on Debian 10 with XFCE and i agree it just works

@ifixcoinops The solution to this is avoid using complex software.

Notice how people who understand these things tend to use minimalist window managers, this is why.

@ifixcoinops this.
the kind of car that's resilient and outlasts its owner; straightforward design and open interface.

@ifixcoinops Have you seen some of the windows 10 update screens?
"Just a moment...
Everything will be right where you left it..."


@ifixcoinops This is how cars are these days, maybe *because* they have computers in them?

Transmission oil dipstick? Nope you don't need to check that. Greaseable ball joints? Don't worry about it! These might last 100,000 miles and since we only warranty it for 30,000 we don't care, just buy another car!!!


Don't worry, Elon Musk has a big team of really smart people dedicated to making cars just like this

@ifixcoinops After two weeks in quarantine you step into your car. You wait for 30 minutes, as the newest updates are installed: "please do not turn off your car". Finally you can start, listen to your music and be on your way. Approaching your first traffic light your foot reaches for the break…


@ifixcoinops so basically like a tesla *runs away*

@ifixcoinops Computers used to come with manuals but people looked at them and was like "I'm not reading this shit" and threw it out

@ifixcoinops @kzimmermann This is why I apply a group policy setting at $DayJob to show filename extensions on all the computers in my domain.

Smartphones are even worse.
App authors keep changing their stupid UI every couple of weeks, so I have to reteach my elderly relatives how to use their phone. :-/
@futzle @ifixcoinops @kzimmermann

@wzqtparor oh yes, so true. And all for the "IT'S FOR THE EXPERIENCE!" UX/design guys.

You know what's shitty UX? Having to relearn the UI every other update with no other added benefit to it.

@futzle @ifixcoinops

@kzimmermann @wzqtparor @futzle @ifixcoinops past me would be highly surprised that one day I'll end up praising Microsoft of all things for doing this right, but once upon a time in the 90s they did! neat article about the history of the Start menu & UX studies:

(... and then the past 20 years happened :P)

@wzqtparor @futzle @ifixcoinops @kzimmermann yep. Example: the old Android "triangle circle square" thing made some sense and you can refer to them in words. They jumped over to a stupid gesture thing. I set it back to the classic version for my grandma. Well, they do reset it again; the setting is about 5 levels deep in some menu, good luck explaining how to do this to her with essentially unusable navigation...

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