Friday, 31 October 2003

Slashdot | Microsoft's new CLI

Microsoft going back to the command line. It's the 3 ages of technology again, isn't it?
Stage 1: a prototype, effectively - barely fulfilling design criteria, and certainly not robustly.
Stage 2: over-design. They've got the hang of it, they've got a market, so they pack it full of features until it becomes cumbersome.
Stage 3: just right - removal of extraneous features.

To a unix-head stage 3 is the command line. I'm no unix head, but I do appreciate the elegant simplicity of Unix: everything is in a file. So, all the settings are in a file, which you can tweak either through some pretty GUI screens with checkboxes and tabs, or through the CLI by editing the file directly. Non-Unix people say, "but unix is so user-unfriendly. Who wants a command line? It's so indecipherable." My response, as one who is not a techie but has a sincere respect for techies and technology, is simply if you're playing with settings you should explicitly know what they do.

The other advantage of a file-based system (as in, you tweak files directly, rather than use wizards that give no indication of which file you're tweaking), is that you can make changes easily reversible by the use of comments - something woefully lacking in GUIs. Finally, it also means you just need Telnet to tweak any online server in the world. None of this Remote Windows Desktop foolishness. Mind you, whether this degree of tweakability is healthy in an OS with Windows' security record is questionable.

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