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

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It doesn't come with a manual because by the time it got printed it'd be out of date because the damn interface changed (again, I must stress, for NO DAMN REASON AT ALL).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

· · SubwayTooter · 4 · 13 · 30

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.

To be good at computers you have to bend your head into a pretzel and accept the indignity of mastering a skill and then having it arbitrarily unmastered for you, and that's something that no other machine asks of you.

Computers are godawful miserable devices and being bad at them means that you're smart.

And to add to this gibbering manifesto, yes this is why I learned how to use Linux - because once I've learned it I'm done, I don't have to learn it all over again every couple of years, I can actually get good and continue getting good without having my progress arbitrarily erased just so some billionaire can get slightly richer.

But that's not a catch-all solution! Not everyone has the spare couple of weeks to get acquainted, lots of people are forced into Windows because of work nonsense.

I mean just off the top of my head, there's plenty of folks out there who need to use Photoshop and can't afford to keep up with Apple's upgrade treadmill, or who need to use MS Office for work.

(and yes there are other image editing and office programs you can use, and some of them are better, and it doesn't matter in the same way it didn't matter that Betamax was better than VHS)

Just being better isn't enough. I don't know how people can live in a world full of QWERTY keyboards and still think that simply making an enormously better product will cause people to use it over what everyone else uses.

@ifixcoinops I haven't even touched a windows box in at least 5 years, but Ubuntu is about a 10th as bad. I use a tiling window manager with a bunch of scripts. I've had the same interface with minimal changes for about 10 years, and that's great until the closed source VPN software I'm forced to use crashes my whole network stack and I have to reboot to use VPN once a week or so.

The worst part of knowing computers all the way down is that I know it doesn't have to be like this

@Hex @ifixcoinops It's great that your setup works for you, and I'm sure you've optimized it to be perfect for your needs.
That said, I believe the standard should be a reliable, visually discoverable UI. The same way I can climb on pretty much any bicycle and start going, users should be able to deduct, and then rely on, basic axioms of interaction.

@T045T @ifixcoinops agreed. And it shouldn't be necessary to program your own interface to make it consistent.

@Hex @T045T @ifixcoinops

A thing I realized early last decade when everyone suddenly went with new and bonkers UIs (Windows 8, Unity, Gnome 3, etc.) was that the Windows 3.1-style UI has become so ingrained that it's now its own established UI paradigm and changing the UI away from that--even to something more newbie-friendly--will *also* lose users.

(Which is why I switched to XFCE; they stayed with that look and feel and *so* glad they did.)

@suetanvil @Hex @ifixcoinops oh man, don't get me started on windows 8 - I'll be forever salty that they backed down from the legitimately good ideas of that design (and many of windows phone 7/8`s too) rather than using their market muscle to double down on and perfect them. I'm sure they have the brilliant minds on payroll to do that, but they buckled under the backlash :(

@snailerotica @ifixcoinops Should have added an exclamation mark. I was (half) joking.



@snailerotica @ifixcoinops Also, maybe it'd be cool if we weren't dickish to strangers on the internet?

@Lofenyy @ifixcoinops yeah, i was maybe a little coarse with that one. sorry about that.

@snailerotica @ifixcoinops That's alright. An apology is sadly more than I could ask for from most people, so I do appreciate it.

@carcinopithecus @snailerotica @ifixcoinops Honestly, I do find people on here to be more relaxed than other parts of the internet.

@carcinopithecus Haha that's sad. I definitely recommend to anyone who's willing to put up with the strictness of the rules. In return, you get to be on one of the best moderated fedi instances out there.

@ifixcoinops ... all of this. Also, phones are probably worse. I was trying to explain Android UIs to my grandma, forcing me to actually think about why things are this way; _nothing makes sense_ but we've had time to get used to it and learn the stupid hieroglyphs that no one even labels anymore. Seriously, it feels like Norton Commander was 10x more user friendly than this.

@ifixcoinops Alternatively, if you have the luxury, craft your environment in such a way that all relevant state is exposed to you and it doesn't change without your explicit consent/approval.

@ifixcoinops As someone who has used Linux every day since the mid 1990s there's a lot to learn, and a lot that changes over time. It definitely required a lot of dedication, but it's also been the most portable of the OS skills I've learned.

@ifixcoinops well there's like "will this better thing be widely adopted" and there's "will this better thing be good for me personally" and I think a lot of people conflate those two questions, but there's a lot of situations where the second one is enough.

@ifixcoinops I agree so so much & I just see so few people pissed off, angry, upset, about how soft, how systematic, how general computers are. we have been betrayed and betrayed ourselves. the cult of the application has grown too strong in computing while connectivity & communication, the inter-system magic that is relevant, had been left to disgusting big social & other gatekeepers. almost no one sees that the failure is to think bigger, to think in terms of systems, and even fewer the galaxy brain think in terms of inter-system. these fucking fools, these losers, overpaid at their jobs to do very little, they lack the ambition hopes & horizons to steer us towards anything of enduring human value. pathetic.

@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.

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