Earlier this week I installed the final version of Windows 8. And it is awesome.
That’s not a joke. Windows 8 is absolutely, unequivocally stellar.
It boots fast, looks great and, right out of the gate, fully supports every bell and whistle on my laptop (including the touch screen). Applications launch faster, and are generally more responsive, than I have ever seen on this piece of hardware. Hell, I even like the copy file dialog.
I kid you not, the copy file progress dialog in Windows 8 is a thing of beauty. If you haven’t seen it in action, and you are a fan of cool user interfaces, you owe it to yourself. To say I am impressed with what the team at Microsoft has accomplished would be a massive understatement.
And yet, at the end of the day, I am right back to using Linux. Why is that? What is it about Linux that makes me so excited to use it -- even while enjoying another operating system that I view as, in all seriousness, a work of art? Why do I not simply install Windows 8 on every machine I own and be happy with it?
As I sat in traffic yesterday for a few hours – as those of us in Seattle seem to enjoy doing so much – I thought long and hard about this. What is it that draws me to using a Linux desktop?
Is it the Open Source-y ness of it all? No. That’s not quite it. While Open Source software licensing is awesome, that’s not what has me excited about running Linux. Even on my Linux desktops I run (and develop) many pieces of Closed Source software – all quite happily without a single reservation.
Perhaps it is the package management? While being able to do a quick “apt-get install”, whenever I need a new tool, is immensely powerful (and blows away what is available on Windows 8)… that isn’t it either. Solid package management and repositories are a big win, but that’s not what has me jonesing to get back to Linux.
The lack of virii (I know people usually say “viruses”, but “virii” just sounds cooler)? Multiple distro options? Cool desktop environments? Hardware portability? Nope. None of those are quite it. All great – all awesome, in fact – but none are that special “thing” that makes me dream of running Linux.
That’s when it hit me: Right click, “Remove panel”.
The ability to slowly chip away and remove items from your user interface… until you are left with only want you want, and nothing more. The option of looking at an item on the screen, right clicking on it, and declaring to said item “Listen up, mister Thing-On-My-Screen. I don’t want you anymore. Be gone!” Panels, bars, docks, launchers, widgets, gadgets – whatever is on your screen, there is probably a way to send it to whatever form of the afterlife is reserved for unwanted Desktop Crud.
That’s really part of the design philosophy behind so much great Linux-specific software. “Don’t want it? Just remove it.” And I love that. So very, very much.
And, I’ll tell you this right now – as great as it is, you don’t find a whole lot of “Right click, Remove Panel” in Windows 8.