Escape from Windows

We make our living from a program that runs on Windows. It is my dearest wish to see Cardbox running on something else. Why? – and how can it be achieved?

I am not actuated by great objections to the Evil Empire’s business methods (doubtless this is a moral defect in me) but Windows is crumbling under its own weight. Every time something is wrong, or over-complex, or incomprehensible in Windows, Microsoft add another layer of complexity to cover it up. For example, Windows has a way of requiring rebooting after almost any software update, however trivial it is. We are told that Windows Vista will contain additional programming to avoid this. I have seen this happen before and it is like finding a piece of rotten wood in your house and covering it up with waterproof paint. The rot doesn’t go away but you can’t see what it’s doing any more. The remedy for complexity is to paint more complexity on top… and when Windows finally collapses we don’t want to be buried in the rubble.

This is why the news that Apple is moving to Intel processors is so interesting to us. Most of the press coverage has been to do with the cost and performance implications of the move but the technical point is the really exciting one. It is already possible to run a limited set of Windows programs on Linux, in a limited way, using a software layer called WINE (I’m told that Cardbox 2.0 works under WINE but I don’t know about version 3.0). Now suppose that Apple puts its resources behind its own CIDER project:

  1. Bronze Apple: Get as many Windows programs as you can to run on the Macintosh “out of the box” with no changes. When problems occur, cooperate with the manufacturers to find a way round them that doesn’t harm Windows compatibility. The programs will look more Windows-ish than Mac-ish but at least they’ll work, and a barrier that stops millions of users from even considering the Macintosh will be gone.
  2. Silver Apple: Now that software developers know that there’s a worthwhile market there, put resources into a hand-holding project that will help them produce Mac-aware versions of their programs. No revolutionary rewriting from the ground up, just adaptation to the Mac way of doing things so that a Macintosh user doesn’t have to make allowances for an alien program’s origins.
  3. Golden Apple: Encourage selected developers to go the whole hog and produce dedicated Macintosh versions of their software. The move to Intel makes the move easier technically, and the Silver Apple level will let the developers gauge the market and plan their investments accordingly.

Result: insurance against a possible collapse of Windows, the removal of an artificial market barrier, and, once more and more programs stop being dependent on Windows, a big opportunity for Linux as well.

And what about Linux? The Cardbox Server already runs on both Windows and Linux, but there are three problems with moving Cardbox to Linux as well: no-one uses Linux on the desktop; we can’t write programs for the Linux user interface because there is no one such thing; and no-one wants to pay for Linux software anyway.

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2 Responses to “Escape from Windows”

  1. James Says:

    “we can’t write programs for the Linux user interface because there is no such thing”
    Linux has no UI? Am I missing something? The command line is a UI. And for a GUI, what about X.org & GTK or QT?

    Or did you mean an “official” UI?

    …Or was that sarcasm?

  2. cardbox Says:

    I meant that there is no such thing as the Linux user interface. Plenty of things you can describe as a Linux UI, but (as a direct consequence of that) no the UI.

    And as more and more people use Linux, the proportion of them who are users of X, GTK, Qt, KDE, or whatever will get smaller and smaller: the remainder will all be Linux users plain and simple. If they are to buy and use our program, it will have to look identical to all the other programs that they are using, but there is no point in asking them what UI is involved because they won’t know what a UI is. They’ll go away to find out – in other words, they’ll go away.

    It doesn’t matter whether there is an official standard Linux UI or not. What matters is whether, on being told that I am using Linux, you can draw me a reasonable picture of what my screen looks like and talk me through common operations, without looking at my computer and without asking me any questions. With Windows you can; with Mac OS you can; and that’s why those have to be the first targets for commercial software.

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