Monday, 29 November 2010

The old times - normality and computing

I remember during 199x when I was confronted by a teacher about the use of a computer as an everyday hobby and a girl in the class asked me how many hours per day do I use it. I didn't really kept a record of use but it wasn't much since we were pupils and I couldn't just sit in front of a computer all day in the strict family environment I have been living. Well, I estimated and said about 3 hours per day (I am preety sure it was quite much less for the reasons I just mentioned) and she shouted "Wow! Isn't that too much?" (Of course it was a first impression from a person who didn't even found necessary the use of a computer at all those days). During that moment I spent part of my time in programming, among playing games or using other software. It was quite a creative time and I still had hours left to do other activities. Still, what I was doing then was considered extreme, think that very few of us had a computer at those times and some hadn't ever used one ever in their lifes. It wasn't common. Being a computer geek was feeling like messing with the electronics of your fridge for hours. They'd say, the function of a fridge is not studying it, but only providing the necessities in life. Who does that?

I see the irony when I am examining modern life. I will start with the image of the internet cafe stores full of people playing WOW or watching their facebook profiles 24hours long (an image that is not present in some other countries I have travelled so far because net cafe are different there than here in Greece, but substitue "net cafe" for "from their homes"). Those people are "worse" than what I did back in the past and yet playing MMORPGs or being active on facebook is considered "in" today. It is amazing how things have changed! Today I spend way more hours in my gaming, programming and other computer activities at home than in the past, yet nobody cares because everybody is doing it in their homes or the net cafe stores and everybody is discussing about it. It could be even considered "out" if you don't have an account on facebook. I hear some stories of people failing to meet their friends on a particular day because they ommited reading the meeting announcement in facebook and so they missed it. Compare these two different times together and wonder how my own activities were extremely abnormal in the past yet now I am overshadowed by more extreme net-cafe MMORPG lurkers or people who want to check their facebook account wherever they are. You don't understand the absurdity of it and neither do I because these things are also "normal" for us today because we got used to them.

I imagine in the future that there will be Virtual Reality machines, more like plugging your brain into electrodes and stuff sending you signals, letting you live (dream) an alternative reality while being in a coma-like state for weeks, battling monsters in another plane of existence and when something important has happened in real reality (your house being bombed or your sister got married lol :), your mother will send you some kind of mail through the system that will come in the virtual world as a fairy bringing you a message from the earthly plane of existence or something so that you reply to your earth people whether they disconnect you or not yet. Describe such a vision of the future to anyone these day, will there be even a single person that will say this could be considered "normal" in the future? Yet it could be! Even this thing! Given some time, it could be like what is facebook and WoW today. And some people in the future would look back and say, how simple were the things back in the times of the old world wide web? How more mature?

Do you understand the analogy? This is how I think about these things. The most extreme things today might be considered normal tomorrow. Also, I don't see this shift as a decline of the youth, socialization, society or whatever. I like to see it as an evolution. If these trends of the new generations are really "bad" then they would hit back like a boomerang and maybe people would wake up and evolve. But the change wouldn't be necessary a backtrack to the older times but an evolution of what we already have. There is no meaning to look back or forward and say that things were better or are getting worse when we are part of this evolution. If the people really thought that WoW or facebook is "abnormal" or "evil" then they would just have to unsubscribe from it. But people want this. If it makes them more sad than happy then they will learn and change some of their habits. Nobody else needs to tell them. I don't believe in these absolutes of "bad" or "good", "normal" or not.

I can't wait the time when those virtual coma brain machines will become a reality. I'd like to observe the reactions from people and how the youth might adapt to such environments as if nothing is wrong. I like to think that even the most extreme could be considered a trend in future times. I'd love to see the controversy. It's gonna be fun! :)

p.s. This post was inspired by another in anisixos blog which criticizes the classic saying "the old times were better", though it's not specifically focused on computers and also is written in greek.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Orthodox file managers

I remember when I was at elementary school in the computer lessons, we had XTs there (raah lovely for a Computer Hermit like me :) and I was learning to use DOS. Some guy told me "What are you doing? Try cd norton and then type nc". I am surprised now that he knew that thing because he didn't seemed like the person interested in learning what we did in the class. I didn't know what Norton Commander was then. I couldn't even imagine. I am curious about the cultural shock I might had then when I switched from the black DOS background to those two blue panels and never had to type DOS commands again (though I was pretty good at that already).

Well, I found about Norton Commander later and got used to it and loved it. I don't remember when and I don't remember my shock. I probably have missing memories. Much later I installed Windows 95 and so I was using the File Explorer. A friend introduced me to Total Commander (Windows Commander then) and since that time I can't live without it. I learn now that the whole concept of such a file manager is called an Orthodox file manager and there are a lot of managers in the similar style today. I think there is one or more in Amiga and there is certainly one in SymbOS for CPC which is called of course SymCommander :)

Not many people are using Total Commander or something similar. Of course it's hard to get into it when you are used to Windows Explorer. But I was already familiar with Norton Commander in DOS and the way I was using the arrow keys and TAB to navigate and all the other shortcuts, copying, moving, deleting, decompressing stuff in a frenzy, such way it would be not possible to do with windows explorer. I always hated when I had to open two windows explorers and move and resize the windows so that they don't overlap and drag and drop stuff with the mouse, which becomes a more cumbersome action especially if your mousepad sucks and you take a long effort to move stuff around. Ok,. it's not that bad, but when you are used into playing with the keys and copy/move stuff around and organize your directories and stuff so nicely and fast you can never go back.

People are crazed when I install Total Commander in their PC just so I can do my job. Some people hate it. I don't know why. There is even a group in facebook called "I hate Total Commander" but it's not a programm about which everyone talks, it's not a thing that is like a propaganda. It's a programm that very few know. How can they hate a thing that nobody cares about? The boss in my first job was surprised positively that I was using Total Commander and I was the only one there using it. Other people near me hate it, someone was afraid something was wrong with copying file because I wasn't using the explorer but that thing. Doh?

I thought about writting this post after reading a post in doomworld. There, people where asking how big is your Doom folder (with WADs and ports and stuff, mine is 4.5GB :). Someone said something like 20GB but he said his folder was a mess and there were many unorganized stuff that might be there twice or more. Anyway, he even asked for fun if he could pay someone to clean up that enormous mess. And then I thought, how do you organize that thing? Total commander of course. If you see how fast I can navigate around left-right panel, create/delete directories in one side, to copy stuff from the other side, make extremely organized folders/subs to copy stuff there and move stuff from where they don't belong you can understand how helpful is this for organizing messy files on your PC. Of course you can do this with explorer too but I imagine it would be quite more annoying. My other thought is, people who have a mess in their PC (desktop with random scattered files) might be too lazy to take care of this mess in the first place anyways. Total Commander makes me navigate like crazy around and organizing stuff. It comes naturally.

I am a maniac for organizing my folders. Sometimes I don't do it. Sometimes I also have mess in my desktop (but very few). I organized project folders, game folders, demo folder, all with sub-folders categorizing by various criteria (year, group for demos, genre for games, finished/unfinished projects, etc), moving old games/project/demos/etc to those folders in a speed frenzy. Love it!

p.s. I am curious, for someone who might know. Is there a file manager where you can put additional keywords on the folders? So I have my demos organized by groups and not year. Could I put a keyword of the year at each of the demo folders or also other keywords (e.g. this demo has 'plasma', crazy :) and have a file manager that you can see the folders as dir but it could also use the keywords as additional virtual folder structures to move around? Now that would be something for the folder organizing maniac like me :P

p.p.s. Oh, I used the word 'folder'. Shit! I hate it how it's not called directory anymore but got used to it. Nah..

Monday, 8 November 2010

I have a great idea, WE will become rich, YOU will do it!

I hate this attitude. When someone insists on telling me that with such smartness, implying that his idea is such a goldmine that it's most important to abandon anything else I am doing and focus on his awesome idea. Especially when that person has nothing to do with the scope of the work involved. When he sees your own work as an opportunity for money and fame, which he thinks that you don't take.

It would still be ok if that person boasted about his great idea while he started working on a prototype of it, or already having an interest or past experience on the subject. But when people not being interested in the creative process behind programming come and insist on using ME, because they think I spent my time in creating useless computer software (demos) for obsolette platforms instead of grabbing the opportunity to work on their awesome idea, that's where it really gets on my nerves. If you cared at least a bit for the creative process behind my thing..

The other common misconception and overration from their side is the belief that their so great idea is enough for the eternal success, such that they will be instantly famous and rich and they won't need to work ever again in their lives. This is such an exaggeration and not only. What we use to say is that it's not about the idea but the implementation. Everybody's got a great idea for success. But nobody wants to spend several years from his life to learn the necessary skills and then take some more time and planning to bring his idea to life.

And this is still not enough. Do you think that even the greatest idea fullfilled after truly hard working would never have any chance to fail? First of all, it's the proper implementation that matters. You may have the greatest idea, even spent time from your life to do it yourself, yet being poorly implemented. Secondly, what about marketing? Public relationships? Good timing? An unpredictable market? One can think of so many good pieces of software, websites, quality stuff, honest attempts that you would respect the work behind but somehow they didn't catch up. While at the same time a fart simulator on the Iphone makes some guy rich and famous.

Not only isn't your great idea that you want another person to do it for you enough for eternal success, but even if you did it yourself and it was good, you wouldn't be able to tell the outcome. One thing I'd like to add, even if your idea happened to be succesfull, you wouldn't be so rich so that no more work for you for the rest of your life. Whether you would make 1000 euro or 100000 euro, you should still have to invest on that to continue with your next piece of software and move on slowly without big expectations. What makes you think elsewhere? How naive can you be? Or how far does your impudence go? To even imagine the possibility of eternal richness with some idea you think it's great, yet you don't even want to work it out but insist that others should do it for free, is such rudeness if not the ultimate hybris!

And this doesn't end here. Let's see it from my own point of view. Think about motivation. A person cannot just take on your plan and start working on something like a big programming project that needs dedication and great will, just because you think you are persuasive with your glorious idea and promise of glory and riches. Personally, the attitude I described, especially when you despise my programming focus on "useless" stuff and only focusing on the outcome, makes me dislike even thinking about working with (not for) you. I would only work on your own idea if you paid me and that's not even certain. Secondly, even most of my own ideas for stuff I would find great or interesting usually go to the recycle bin because of lack of interest in the long term. If I can't be always motivated and hard working for doing my own beloved stuff, how would I be for your own ideas that I might find irrelevant at the particular time? What makes you think I would spare my time and effort because you had an idea? If you are so obsessed and enthousiastic of your great ideas for riches and fames then it's YOU who should start working on it!

Think about your "me sitting, you working, I rule" clueless attitude. Think about your lack of interest in the domain and sole focus on the outcome. Think about the need for a good implementation, marketing, luck, unpredictability. Think about you should also provide something yourself (if not the work, then the funding). Think about motivation. Remember that you can still fail. Don't be so clueless and arrogant and show understanding to what we are doing here. When we were burning our remaining neural cells focusing on some obscure tech hobby like programming, you were there mocking us for our dedication on "useless" stuff while boosting about how your clever ideas can make you an instant success without any effort.

Hey, I have a great idea for a book but I am not good at writting and I am not interested in it, will you write it for me? Doh :P

p.s. Needless to say that most of those "genious" ideas are just laughable stuff. Cluelessnes win! Also search for "How can I make the ultimate MMORPG/Facebook website and become rich?". You find nowadays a lot of queries of this kind on google :P