OS Wars

Lest you think this is yet another mac versus linux versus windows versus OS/2 Warp FreeBSD post, it's really about moves to "Operating Systems," that exist within programs, not operating systems in the classic sense.


So I posted a while back about how there seems to be an application development trend away from desktop operating systems and towards developing applications that can be used online in a web browser.

Basically I thought that though exciting, a lot of these apps were slow, hard to use, and that truth be told most browsing software was flawed (slow, non-standardized,) and so forth. Despite the fact that there's more bandwidth floating around and the fact that people have gotten better at writing server side and host side applications.

Also earlier I posted a, mostly comical, list of five things that you can do in emacs but probably shouldn't. To subtitle this a little bit, emacs is one of the grand old text editors, written around a program language from the 50s (LISP), it's incredibly powerful, customizable program, it's free, and it's a program that a lot of the people who write programs use. So even though, the best word I have to describe it is absurd, it gets a lot of attention. Anyway, long story short, people have written extensions (in LISP!) that gets emacs to do all sorts of things in addition to writing text/code. Like, there are scripts to check your email in emacs, games that you can play in emacs, scripts that fetch web pages in emacs, IRC clients that run inside of emacs, and so forth. If I were a huge enough dork, I think actually I could probably get some of the functionality of every program I'm running at this moment, as a script inside of emacs.

I hope you're seeing where this is going, at least a lot faster than I did. While I'm not a huge emacs dweeb, I have a certain sort of respect for working that way: once you learn your text editing system (and after all, most of what we do is edit text) you don't want to move out of this environment. Particularly if there's a learning curve as steep as emacs.

Initially I thought that the shift towards using the web browser as a sort of lack luster runtime for "new" applications, was about lazy programers, and a sort of mass delusion, but really, I think it has more to do with people not wanting to leave their comfort zone, the application that they already spend a lot of time in, in the same way that urdweebs don't want to leave emacs (or vim, and so forth.)

Anyway, it's cool that clicked, I'm back to figuring out how to install mutt on OS X so I can more automatically integrate my mail drafting into TextMate, and be done with Mail.app for once and for all. Maybe after I'm done with the semester. Heh.

Onward and Upward

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