The Microsoft Dilemma

I’ve still not seen Vista in the flesh, and I’ve neglected to write up a ‘linux one year review’ (it’s been over a year since I switched), but I thought I’d chime in briefly on one aspect of Microsoft’s OS that always bothered me and is among the things I love about linux.

Powertoys. These were little applications that made it easy to tweak or customize the behavior of the operating system to provide alternatives. For the most part (speaking specifically of TweakUI) they just modified existing Registry keys, but it’s always nice to have that up front and center in a nice application.

And here’s the twist: I always felt like the developers at Microsoft did that in their ‘spare time’ as it were. That they felt like these were things they wanted and went out of their way to get it approved and posted for the rest of us to use. I felt like there’s this creative spirit that still lives in the hearts of Microsoft Employees, but that they are not free (like the Googlians are) to harness and express it… at least not directly.

That’s one of the amazing thing about Free Software. There’s probably been something like 1/256th (really I have no idea what fraction) the code of the whole of Free Software written that never made it. That’s a shame, but it was when individuals had a tweak or patch they wanted, but upstream said ‘no thanks.’ But for every 1/256th that got dunked there’s probably at least another 15/256 that got added.

The heart of Free Software is people that want a function or want an application or want a library, and they go to it. And then they put it up somewhere and say “this is here if you want it get it, if you change it tell me so if it’s good I can add it to mine.” With Microsoft not do they not want you to do that with their software, they don’t want themselves to play either. It’s far too rigid.

If Microsoft had more of the powertoys extensibility in mind and built in to their operating systems and software I think the world would be a lot mellower and sharing place.

And with all that wind let out, bookStack is nigh. It’s probably actually in the state it’ll be in when I ship it, but I’m still thinking about some of the quirks I’d like smoothed and features that I have in limbo for the moment. So if I don’t decide anything in a week it’ll be out.