Working on Windows
Monday, November 3, 1997 by Dave Winer.
I posted an early draft of this piece on the Scripting News website mid-day Sunday, but I took it down because I wanted to think a little before sending it out.
I'm glad I did that, because it'll work better if I introduce it.
First, we're fully committed to producing a Mac version of Frontier 5. The public alpha for the Mac has already been released. We've been using it for about a month to produce our websites, with few glitches or problems.
Further, the development of the Windows software is making the Mac software better. One of the major complaints has been that Frontier is too difficult. Both versions are getting simpler because of the experience we're getting with Windows.
I've become a full-time Windows user. I'm getting most of my mail here, doing most of my writing, and web browsing too. It's strange but wonderful. New neural pathways. All my cards in the air. Wheee! I can feel myself getting smarter. I like it.
Frontier on Windows is really fast and it's simple! It's allowing me to see the essence of what Frontier is, in a way that I've never been able to see before. Back when the Mac version was this lean, I didn't know Frontier that well. Now I live and breathe it.
I get a chance to refocus it. A new formula, powerful cross-platform web scripting. Automated site management is what we do. The user interface reforms around a different mission from the one we launched on the Mac in the early 90s, before the web happened.
My software feels new again! Most of the mouse actions are the same but the ones that are different are incredibly annoying. The keystrokes are all wrong. The Alt-keys feel good, the Control-keys don't, and the mixture of the two feels worse.
New neural pathways are forming, and old ones are falling into the background. But I learned that the old pathways never die. The base of my spine knows how to use the outliner in Frontier/Win. Why? I used to use a PC as my primary computer, and we kept keystroke-compatible every step along the way as we moved to the Mac, and now back to the PC. Alt-UDRL. Ten years later, my brain remembers how to work Frontier, as if it were the PC version of ThinkTank or Ready! Wow.
But problems that used to fade into the background are right in my face. I see why people are confused when they first look at Frontier. I'm motivated to fix the problems.
And while Windows is a bit frustrating, it's also got some things that I really like. With IE 4.0 installed, each folder displays in a web browser window. This makes previewing a website really interesting. Click on the file in the "Explorer" and it displays as a mini-web page.
But networking is slow on Windows! I have two NT machines, one a server, one a workstation. Just opening a folder can take 15 seconds, and the delay is unpredictable. Since my Mac can access the same server, I often use it to browse the other NT machine, it's a lot faster as a client, for some reason that I don't understand and didn't expect.
There are some deal-stoppers in the Windows version that keep me from doing work on the scripting.com website from the Windows machine. I'm writing this on the Windows machine, but it will go out thru the Mac, where I have the best connection to the website for authoring.
I've written a script that's designed to run on either machine. Cross-platform scripts are no longer a dream, I'm doing it. I start giggling sometimes. I'll probably read this two months from now and think it was silly to say that.
The biggest bit of liberation comes from leaving the loser's world behind. I'm not calling names, I own that label as much as any other Mac user, and I received it as a gift from some scared people who didn't want to look into the Mac community.
But the barriers are on both sides. Now I really retch when I see "Windoze" in people's emails. What are they holding onto? Why aren't they willing to try a new way of doing things? If the Explorer is confusing compared to the Finder, why isn't some software entrepreneur taking advantage of that?
These are serious questions. Is it really because Microsoft wants it that way, or do we? I was talking to a VP at Netscape last week; he said that the largest group of Navigator users are on Windows 3.1. If that's true, Microsoft isn't all-powerful in this market. It's now over two years since the shipment of Windows 95. A lot of those 3.1 users upgraded to Netscape's browser before they upgraded to Microsoft's new user interface and Win32 compatibility.
What's really going on?
For the last few weeks in DaveNet I've made a point of looking into some of the myths of the software world, specifically the belief of many people that Microsoft is responsible for all the problems.
But Bill Gates isn't who everyone thinks he is. Just listen to what he says and read his email, and take him at face value. I have long believed that his reputation doesn't explain who he is, that his actions are different from what many people predict.
Try an experiment. The next time you're standing at a curb waiting for a light to change, notice which foot you step out with . You'll probably see that it's always the same foot. With me it's my right foot.
OK, take a deep breath. Next time lead with the other foot. It may be hard to do, it was for me. Keep doing it the wrong way. It hurts! The pain comes from breaking a well-ingrained habit.
These are called neural pathways. Psychologists say that breaking these habits makes you smarter! Want more evidence of how powerful neural pathways are? Try Don's Amazing Puzzle again:
Even when you know there are six F's, often you see three anyway.
What a trip!
A friend taught me something once.
I said I'm scared of doing that!
She said Then that's exactly what we're going to do!
Friends can support other friend's fears, but that isn't being much of a friend. So, to the extent that you consider me a friend, please consider this. If you've been holding out on giving Windows a chance, go ahead and do it.
If I can, so can you!
PS: We're now looking for testing help for the Windows software. If you have experience using Frontier on the Mac, and now are primarily using a Windows machine, and have time to help us find and work out the bugs, please send me email. Later we'll open the testing process to people with no experience with Frontier, but we want to work out the major glitches first.
PPPS: Is WinZip 6.2 scriptable?