Windows and Star Trek Movies

Kage Baker was sternly opposed to change just for its own sake. She liked novelty; but she abhorred its being pointless.” Improvements” to the things she used in her work and home were especially suspicious. Their only justification, in her eyes, was to make her buy more crap.

New and Improved, Kage often opined,  just means a new package and fewer uses. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  And she pretty much felt that applied to everything from computer programs to peanut butter and laundry detergent. She was a natural market for retro products.

As a computer user, for example, Kage  fervently wished that Windows would just – you know, settle down. Her profession, as she had arranged things, required a lot of word processing and Internet use. She didn’t want to be distracted by her tools. They weren’t supposed to engage her imagination, which worked just fine by itself – they were supposed to do what she told them to do and not mutate all over the place.

Kage hated the changes constantly being made to Microsoft programs, and felt most of them were made just for the sake of slapping NEW! on the labels. Their Office programs drove her especially nuts; no sooner did she figure out the bells and whistles than a new version came out and had to be re-learned. It was one of the worst habits of the technological age, she believed: that urge to change things just because you could. Kage didn’t like changes; she also didn’t want to be continually educated in how to use what was, to her, merely an enhanced typewriter – it was a waste of her time.

Eventually, Office became essentially unusable for her. She couldn’t access her carefully customized  dictionaries, or use the controls for margins and font sizes; she couldn’t even find icons for saving and closing documents. And it had taken her so long to learn to remember to save and close in the first place! I think it was Office 6 that finally unhinged her mind. That was when I gave up and installed Open Office, which looked and acted like the programs she knew; and Kage turned her back on Microsoft Office forever.

By that time, the joke was already going around that Windows was like Star Trek movies: the even-numbered releases were good and the odd-numbered ones were crap. A corollary went that OSes with names instead of numbers were also crap, but I never really found that, myself. The original release of Vista gathered hideous reviews, but I’ve used it for 4 years now with no difficulties. I waited until after Kage was dead to try it, though, because she wasn’t about to take a chance that the stories were right.

Well, now I’ve just replaced my entire drive, and have been dumped willy-nilly into the unknown seas of Windows 8.1. According to cyber folklore, it ought to be one of the good ones. And I guess it is better than some of the OSes that have come down the line … however, it seems to have an extreme case of change for its own self – and a lot of the changes are annoying and pointless. Kage would never, ever, in a million years have been able to figure this thing out – and I am seriously worried about teaching it to Kimberly: who, while much better at computers than Kage, is sufficiently of a Luddite stripe that 8.1 is gonna make her furious. She doesn’t like having to argue with her system in order to use it …

Windows 8.1 is easy to use: for me. For Michael, too. But we’re the IT department for our household.  I bet it’s a pain in the ass for a lot of people, because it is not at all intuitive.  I’m using it with no problem, but for the first time I am seriously considering dumping the Windows OS and  trying something else.

Windows 8.1 gives me the willies, you see. The egregious use of large blocks of primary colours instead of simple text labels is ridiculous. The colour schemes remind me of kindergarten classrooms. The icons seem to have been designed by someone from Nickelodeon, circa 2000 or so.

And where the hell has the Start menu gone to? Or the Shut Down prompt? They’ve been replaced with position-dependent zones that have no directions to their locations and are invisible until you find them. Those two innovations alone are gonna drive older users and liberal arts majors up the freaking walls.

You could read the manual, of course – but it’s a sad fact that most people never do. By the time folks think to try that, their blood pressure will have gone up 50 points while they try to figure out out to turn their damned machines off.  Windows 8.1 is not well thought out for the majority of casual users.

None of this would surprise Kage, however – she’d recognize it easily, once she stopped screaming in rage and I took the mouse away from her.  She predicted this. Windows 8.1 is meant to be easier to be used by people who use phones and tablets like extensions of their limbs. People who communicate in photos and abbreviations and emoticons; people who never look at a newspaper, seldom look at a book, and would rather watch a video online that read an article.  I sense an underlying assumption that this is intended to be used by the semi-literate – on their way to becoming the not-literate-at-all.

Only clerks need to learn how to read, Kage prophesied; her readers took it largely as satire, more of her “wry wit”. It wasn’t. She really feared it might be true in the very near future. She hoped that emails would give literacy a fresh beginning – then the NewSpeak of texting began to evolve, and she began to worry again.

Windows 8.1 would not make her feel any better.


About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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6 Responses to Windows and Star Trek Movies

  1. buggybite says:

    Apple has been making the same kinds of changes for change’s sake as Microsoft, and I’ve been a Mac user since 1994. The new “OSX” has made simple things difficult and difficult things ‘simple.’ Go figure.

    I hang in there, but still miss the old ‘Classic’ interface A LOT. (It’s Steve Wozniak I miss, not Steve Jobs.) New computer systems are not made with people like us in mind—you know, people who write and surf the net AT HOME, at a DESKTOP. Which does NOT DEPEND ON BATTERIES THAT MUST BE KEPT FULLY CHARGED.

    You’re totally right. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. What’s wrong with merely adding to a computer’s capabilities, rather than changing the interface all the time? Eh?

    Mind you, I’ve been hearing wonderful things about Scrivener, the Writer’s Wordprocessing programme …and it’s reasonably cheap AND works with both Mac and Microsoft. Maybe worth a look?


    • Kate says:

      Yeah, I’ve been looking at Scrivener, too. I have no complaints about Open Office; it’s done well by me. Scrivener does have a nice rep, though.

      I swear, the computer industry has been contaminated by the car makers. New year? Quick, change the number of headlights and hide the ignition in the glove box! Now it’s fresh and new!


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark says:

    I think your anecdotal rule works better for Star Trek than Windows….

    I’ve been using Windows since 2.0, but if I had to actually chart useful vs. (useless) versions:
    (2.0, 2.1)
    3.0, 3.1, Windows for Workgroups [aka 3.11]
    Windows 95
    Windows 98
    (Windows ME)
    Windows XP
    (Windows Vista)
    Windows 7
    (Windows 8, 8.1)

    [I don’t include Windows NT, Windows 2000, & Windows Server 2008 which were all server/networking oriented and thus outside my needs for personal & work-group computing]

    ME & Vista I rejected both because of A) serious stability/crash issues, B) limited hardware support & increased system requirements, & C) because they messed with the interface for no good reason. I’ve avoided the 8 series for much of your reasons (bad interface & poor design & needless changes)… the fact that it is a touch-screen/tablet design. And I HATE touch-screens. FFS, why would I want my visual interface to be smeared with skin oil and dirt from my fingers….not to mention anything else I might have touched? Like my lunch… And I want a screen that I can stack windows to the limits of my memory & processor. Not the two or three the interface designer thinks is “enough.”

    And about “read a manual” for you OS… When was the last time you saw a manual shipped with an OS? Mine was Win 95. Anything following, I had to buy an AFTERMARKET manual… because all I got was a disk and a security key #. Not that the Microsoft manuals were ever that good. Better to get a working guide that actually was sensibly arranged and included programmed examples w/ screenshots….instead of jargon.

    And if you want to give yourself the willies about literacy, consider what happens when an OS tailored around a decently flexible voice processing system is finally practical.


  3. Laura says:

    I think the biggest issue with Windows 8.1 is that it was designed for cross-compatibility with tablets and phones. Which is all fine and good, until you remember that classic desktops function nothing like tablets and phones. Mobile platforms are largely for casual use, checking your e-mail and playing simple games, while desktops are meant for doing jobs, like writing, programming, photo editing, or what have you. And how many people actually own touch-capable screens for their PCs? 8.1 is a touch-based OS, so not being able to use swipes limits its usefulness. And aren’t most LCD desktop screens nowadays much, much bigger than any tablet you’re ever going to see? So do we really need big, colorful blocks to indicate where to click? My eyes work fine, I don’t need help finding the Solitaire icon.

    It’s a sensible enough interface if you’re working on a surface the size of a small notepad, but if you can describe your screen as bigger than a breadbox, you probably don’t want to be limited to such big icons. It’s like taking a painting, blowing it up to ten times it’s original size, and being surprised when people can only comment on the brushstrokes and not on the overall painting.


  4. Classic Shell open source program from Ivosoft puts the old Windows control icons back onto your desktop:

    It was a godsend for me.


    • Kate says:

      I will look into it – thanks you, Shayne. I’ve also had a similar program called (or from) Pokki that is supposed to do that same thing; I’m looking at that, too. While my own install has gone pretty well, my brother-in-law’s desktop has been a nightmare. We replaced both of them at the same time – different machines, even different company’s, but his has made a chewed, soggy mess of his files … and using Windows 8.1 is driving my family nuts.


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