First, apologies for being away from the blog for so long. I took time off to start properly learning Python with O’Reilly’s great Python Pocket Reference. My last post dealt with lightweight, yet feature-rich GNU/Linux distributions. Somewhat still in that mood, I took a trip to a local flea market to grab some gaming gems of times long passed. It really brought back memories, but also blantly reminded me that in early-2000 one could have loads of fun with barely a Pentium 4 computer. This in turn brings me to a very distressing phenomenon that gained momentum during the last decade – bit rot.
Although this is not entirely fair, I put the blame mainly on gaming consoles. In former times computers were the domain of gamers and games themselves had to be written more efficiently as the hardware was lacking. This quickly changed and now instead of pressure on performance, we have pressure on buying new hardware to match demanding games. While this shows that game developers got lazy and are less inclined to write good code, the real problem are gaming consoles. The market has shifted drastically in the last decade and gaming consoles are no longer the toys I remember from childhood years, but somewhat serious contenders in the never-ending PC vs console duel. Alas, because PC hardware development is dynamic, consoles quickly fall behind and games have to be stripped down (but not written more efficiently!) of visuals to make them run smoothly. Due to the fact that those consoles are now the prime receivers of game franchises and A+ titles, computers are often left as an afterthought. This in turn leaves games ill-suited for more powerful PCs, because A) porting and optimizing games for PCs requires resources that many companies don’t have and B) very often games will look butt-ugly, because higher resolution models and textures were never planned. Regardless, there seems to be an unhealthy focus on visuals, rather than performance and functionality.
The emphasis on user interface (UI) design shows also in regular software. Suddenly, flashy animations, twinkling objects, sounds, etc. are more relevant than how well a piece of software runs. I have a feeling that many things have already been established at least some 10-20 years ago and lots of new software is developed simply to generate revenue.
Sadly, the GNU/Linux ecosystem suffers from this as well. Tried and tested low-level tools were obfuscated with layers of UIs, which in theory make the life of the common everyman easier, but in practice just force him to rely on badly designed software. For instance, we used to have /etc/fstab for all of our storage device mounting needs, but that didn’t seem to be enough and people had to invent udev and its ilk. Nowadays just doing something forces blind reliance rather than comprehension. Not sure we (the veterans) can fully appreciate that. Frankly, flourishing hardware development should be an incentive to produce greater software not write crappy code, assuming it will run anyway…