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12.26.19

We Need a Dumber Pre-Built OS

Posted in GNU/Linux at 11:35 pm by Guest Editorial Team

By figosdev

A gold worldSummary: What happens when Free software distros (e.g. GNU/Linux) become too ‘smart’?

Before smart phones, there were dumb phones. They made calls, got texts, maybe even had a web browser. Or if you like, they just made calls. If you didn’t want a feature, you didn’t buy the phone with that feature. It was that simple.

While the prospect of options doesn’t bother me (on the contrary, it’s the lack of options I take issue with) the regular onslaught of “features” is a burden. Using only Mtpaint, I loaded a picture of that famous van that says “FREE CANDY” in ominous red paint, and changed it so it read “FEATURES”. Don’t get in the van!

Now we have smart speakers, and the trend is becoming clearer. “Smart” means it does what it wants, or what its designers want. What you want (or don’t want) isn’t important, it will do it anyway. “Smart” in this context seems to be a zero-sum game — a smarter device creates (or asks for) a dumber user, one who is content to just sit back and let the device make all their decisions for them.

“Siri, what colour tie should I wear?” (They actually have this, by the way.)

“Hmm, on that outfit I would try the blue one with the stripes.”

“Siri, should I wipe with the 2-ply or the moistened wipes?”

“Very funny, you know that’s the smart toilet’s job.”

“It has to do with the fact that offering real options doesn’t suit designers with corporate ambitions anymore.”No, thank you, Siri.

Again, the option of a toilet that does the wiping doesn’t bother me, though it probably should. What bothers me is that if I want to take care of something myself, the basic assumption going into the design of everything these days is that I shouldn’t bother, or even care. If I want to wipe myself, I’ll just have to manufacture my own toiletries for the purpose.

This is why we can’t have simple things.

Actually, the reason we can’t have simple things is more complicated. It has a lot to do with the fact that consumers are worth more as cattle than as people. It has to do with the fact that offering real options doesn’t suit designers with corporate ambitions anymore. It also has to do with the relentless dumbing down of society, but if you’re worried that sounds a bit elitist, then so am I.

The thing is, we don’t offer things to people who want to do things for themselves like we used to. If you want an operating system that doesn’t behave like it runs Clippy as its kernel, you’ll just have to build the entire stupid thing yourself. Or use one of those distros that are basically a build-your-own-toilet kit.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that — those toilets flush larger things faster, using less water. If you didn’t have to design, saw, sand and stain the toilet seat yourself, I would get one.

“I do expect technology to evolve. What I don’t expect is for Free software to end up out of our hands. We used to mock clippy, but now he’s having the last laugh.”Basically, it’s becoming all or nothing — either you compile your own distro, or you ask it when how long until it dispenses your food pellet. But you can’t deny this much, you’ve lost half a stone since you got the thing 2 months ago.

I thought the entire point of Free software was avoiding this dystopian horseshit; I guess I was wrong. But every year that goes by, this software and the processes behind it seem less human, less community-based, more “streamlined” and above all, less free. We weren’t forced to give up necessities or well-established, reliable tools for useless gimmicks before. If it’s really free, why does it seem like everything is getting dragged out and replaced with some kind of bullshit from Apple?

I do expect technology to evolve. What I don’t expect is for Free software to end up out of our hands. We used to mock clippy, but now he’s having the last laugh.

Sure, these aren’t your typical digital handcuffs. These are softer, they blink, and they say “It looks like you’re trying to escape. Can I tighten?”

You’re free to reply, in the next major version it will stop bothering with questions and just tighten whenever the sensors determine a certain threshold of looseness.

These damned handcuffs keep getting smarter, but they’re doing the job they were made for. In the future, they won’t even need a key. Isn’t that cool?

“The solution for this in Windows was simple enough — if you don’t want Clippy, just click the “X”. But ensuring that he would never come back again? I RTFM but they changed it, again!”Maybe the solution at this point really is just to build my own from source. I’m still surprised that it’s come to that, when I’m trying to do simple tasks like run a basic, well-established text editor that doesn’t keep getting redesigned in some stupid way. I mean I didn’t think my only choices were “F — – you”, OR “LFS”.

The solution for this in Windows was simple enough — if you don’t want Clippy, just click the “X”. But ensuring that he would never come back again? I RTFM but they changed it, again!

It seems a bit late for that now, the bastard’s everywhere you turn. Why won’t you die, Clippy? Tell us what realm you came from, so you can be banished once and for all.

The freedom to NOT run the software, to be free to avoid vendor lock-in through appropriate modularization/encapsulation and minimized dependencies; meaning any free software can be replaced with a user’s preferred alternatives (freedom 4). – Peter Boughton

Licence: Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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