The marvels of modern operating systems!

Updated: March 12, 2021

Sarcasm is an emotion that is hard to convey with verbal cues. The elegant beauty of tongue-in-cheek is lost in the written medium, alas, write we must. Because in the last few weeks, I installed and/or updated several of my systems, Windows and Linux included, and I encountered some lovely regressions, which warm the cockles of my heart.

I wanted to use this opportunity to tell you a little more about this escapade, and why it's significant. You may say, updates, lolz, things break and all that. Only it's not how it's meant to be, and I refuse to succumb to the low-IQ nonsense that is slowly taking over the digital world. Onwards, brave soldiers.

Teaser

The Battle of Thermopylae, 300 lone users against the myriads of software bugs.

Let's start with Windows

I decided to run Windows Update on one of me boxen. Now, I'm very stringent in how I do things. First, I never update as soon as things come out - I let last-minute problems sort themselves out. Second, I always do a full system image before running Windows Update, because:

Anyway, the box got its update, and everything was seemingly fine for a while, but then:

Product: HP DeskJet 3630 series Basic Device Software -- Error 25036. Call
to DriverPackageUninstall returned error 5 for package 'C:\Windows\System32\DriverStore\FileRepository\
hpwia_dj3630.inf_amd64_053b3cb5af31937e\hpwia_dj3630.inf': A caller of DriverPackageInstall must be a member of the Administrators group to install a driver package.

2021-02-15 13:42:34, Info    CSI    000001ce Warning: Overlap: Directory \??\C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup\ is owned twice or has its security set twice
Original owner: Microsoft-Windows-shell32, version 10.0.18362.1237, arch Host= amd64 Guest= x86, nonSxS, pkt {l:8 b:31bf3356ad164e25}
New owner: Microsoft-Windows-shell32, version 10.0.18362.1237, arch Host= amd64 Guest= x86, nonSxS, pkt {l:8 b:31bf3356ad164e25}

I then ran sfc on a SECOND computer, which has also recently been update, and it ALSO had the same errors show in the scan log. So what we have is the following:

To make things worse, if you search for this type of error online, you will find a whole bunch of references pointing to Windows 10, sfc being broken (or not), and all sorts of wild symptoms that range from false positives to blue screens of death. How marvelous. So I wonder, why should one bother with updates? What benefits other than "security" do they actually bring? Messing up a finely tuned setup that works without any problems?

Let's continue with Linux

Specifically, I did some work and testing on my IdeaPad 3 box. Here, I encountered a brand new problem I've not seen before. Going from windowed mode to full-screen mode would result in the video playback flickering once or twice before settling - almost like scanning for optimal resolution or whatnot. Best of all, it wasn't there when I first configured the box, but here we had some updates, too!

And then, we go back to Linux and hardware compatibility in general. Pretty much any device I owned had this or that (small or large) hardware issue running this or that distro. Always something. T400 had mouse issues. G50 had Wireless issues. EeePC had fan control and screen brightness issues. Now, the IdeaPad 3 has video issues. Not tearing, but this odd new artifact.

Every single time, "someone" is to blame - other than the distro and the overall bad state of QA across Linux. We could blame AMD now (the graphics on this laptop), the same way people always blame Nvidia. Or we could blame VLC. Except ... there's no playback problem in Windows, with VLC.

Then, let's not forget the missing PulseAudio problem in Kubuntu - no simultaneous audio in/out profile. Then, let's not forget the wildly varying Samba performance, with distros reporting between 7 and 17 MB/s, while Windows does roughly ~35 MB/s - same box, same physical location, same test as always. Speaking of Samba, in Plasma, across multiple distros, you can't print to, yes, you guessed it, Samba-connected printers, because the functionality isn't there, in Year 2021. I mean why have the option listed in the applet then? Remove it altogether. Better not to list Samba at all than have it listed and then slap the user with a grayed-out Browse button.

Only input or putput profile

Printing

Finally, I got meself thinking about boot performance. Very good speed - 8-10 seconds, which is really nice. But then, back in 2010, a T60 machine (already a bit old then) with a 5,400rpm mechanical disk did 15 seconds while using the Upstart boot mechanism. And then, in 2011, Natty booted in 8-9 seconds with SSD, no sweat. So, a decade has elapsed, we have a different "modern" boot mechanism that introduces a similar logic of event-based parallelism, we have new operating systems, even more powerful flash cell technology (NVMe), and the total boost we get from this is ... not a lot. Wunderbar.

Mediocrity as a Service

I blame touch and cloud, primarily. The rapid expansion of these two domains have led to the cheapening of software. Everyone now thinks they are entitled to something for nothing, and the companies are more than willing to indulge the illusion and hook the plebes onto their services. Except ... the laws of physics don't allow for this discrepancy. So where do you think the delta is going to come from?

That's right. Quality!

As soon as companies realizes that, unlike professional users, who actually must have quality, the rando-idiot only wants to be entertained, quality can be pushed sideways in favor of cheap, instant gratification. And the executive worldwide crowed in glee, for they were all amazed:

Why work hard and slow to create a high-quality product when you can work fast and deliver 65% quality at 35% cost! Profitses, my precious!

Which is why pretty much any software created in the last five or so years lacks in quality, especially those made with so-called "modern" methodologies. This whole "fast break" nonsense is a morass of mediocrity and hopeless coding, not unlike throwing coals into a fire and hoping one will harden into a diamond.

Darwin

Charles Darwin getting all disappointed as he watches modern software being developed.

I wonder how the actual engineers and software developers feel? People who actually now have to follow these shiny new ideas and churn out average-quality stuff? Are they even aware of how fragile this whole stack is? Or do they just dumbly nod at the over-excited management, do the bare minimum that's required and simply get on with their lives?

This nonsense extends beyond just the two examples I outlined above. It's everywhere. Update any which product and something goes wrong. Software hangs or freezes and breaks, and people just reset their digital stuff and move on, as if nothing happened. But that's what happens when you take any idea or product and try to mass-market it. You end up with the lowest common denominator.

Conclusion

Sometimes I feel like an extra in a C-quality production of Les Miserables or perhaps Planet of the Apes. I look at this sordid state of affairs and try to figure out the best way out. On one hand, I think, this is good, because I can invest in the companies that make money off morons, and then some day in the future, I can use that money to make my own life as comfortable and idiots-free as possible. On the other, I live in here and now, and I have to contend with stupidity all the time, and live with this expectation that software that worked just fine yesterday may stop working tomorrow, just because.

I also know that the words written in this article will resonate with a tiny, tiny percentage of the overall population. The world is changing. The change is inevitable by the virtue of how things are and have always been. But no one can convince me that mediocre is anything else than what it is, and I will never accept subpar quality. In fact, mediocrity is the worst state to be in. Those on the low end know they are on the low end. Those on the high end know they are on the high end. It's the middle (class) that is deluding themselves they are better off than they really are. The same with software. Bye bye now.

P.S. The images of the firemen (article thumbnail), The Charge of the Light Bridage, and Charles Darwin are in the public domain.

Cheers.

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