Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Mind Pollution

   The time has come to talk about a different kind of pollution. I'm not talking about the pollution that is created by manufacturing computers. This time I'm talking about pollution of the mind.

   Mind pollution has permeated the internet. Computer articles are mostly written from the point of view of a person who uses Microsoft products. The assumption is that everyone uses Microsoft Windows and Windows software. To be fair there are a few OSX and Linux articles. Heaven help you if you use something really unusual like Plan 9 or HaikuOS. I can only assume those folks have a lot of patience and a strong will.

   When I was in high school Microsoft Windows did not exist and we just used what was available at the time which was a Commodore PET. For the folks too young to remember a Commodore PET was an 8-bit computer with a 6502 CPU and 32 kilobytes of memory. This was in the early 1980's. So my perspective is different. Moving from one computer ecosystem to another is relatively easy since I've done it so often. I naturally think in more abstract terms such as "software presentation program" rather than thinking of "PowerPoint".

   Back then no one would have thought of using a specific software package for word-processing. You either used a dedicated machine that only did word processing or you went to the computer store to find some software that would run on the computer you owned. Since everything was so new no one had any preconceptions about which software package was the "best". One usually went along with what their schools used, e.g. if your school happened to use a Commodore computer you probably would have bought a Commodore computer.

   Even in the mid-90s when people were running to the mall to buy Windows 95 the computer articles on the net didn't have the overbearing assumption that you owned a Windows box and now you type "format c: /s" or "ipconfig" (it was ifconfig in the Unix world since 1982). Or my personal favourite "Get your friends off XP" which initially sounds good until you realize the article is about installing Windows 8.1 on your computer.

   That's not to say there aren't articles about Linux and BSD, there's lots of them. And even with articles about Firefox there's enough similarities between the Windows and Linux versions that one can often extract useful information from them. I suppose one could still complain about the assumption that everyone uses Firefox.

   It's really all about mind share. You might think "Microsoft doesn't control me" but what about the computing masses? What about the schools and the governments and the banks? We should have platform independence and people should be able to do their online activities with the platform of their choice. The media should NOT assume that all their viewers use Microsoft software because that is certainly not the case.

   Mostly I can use my Linux and BSD machines to do everything I want to do. There are a few edge cases where it takes quite a lot of effort to do certain things, but for the most part there are no serious problems. Once one walks into a computer store it reaffirms that you're in the Windows World. There are Microsoft stores now but I haven't bothered checking them out as there's just nothing there for me.

   I'd like to think that with the internet we have bypassed rigid and inflexible thinking as people are free to tap into any part of the web. Still, it behooves journalists and teachers to write about computer topics in a platform independent way to the greatest possible degree. If one must write about things which are platform dependent they should at least make it immediately clear that their article is platform dependent in the article's title. It is the general concepts and the broad interchange of information that is the most important thing.


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