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Thread: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

  1. #1

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    What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Or what the rest of us call... The windows 8 app style metro things.

    Do you think they will become the dominant platform for windows programs? Or will people still stick to Win32 apps?

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    The basic problem is that they are designed for mobile. That means a different architecture from a normal Windows Subsystem application.

    Only a narrow set of proprietary and unpalatable tools support them natively and that different architecture imposes limitations. Those limitations are mainly about conserving resources and making them more secure, but since Microsoft screwed up and lost the mobile computing market it once owned it seems like day by day they tweak the model to remove those limitations.

    I doubt they'll go anywhere. Microsoft has invested too much in the blind alley to give up on it easily. But adoption rates are abysmal so eventually it will die. The only question is whether it dies before Windows does or dies with Windows.

    The entire premise they are based on is turning PCs into giant phones for the megamasses. I.e. selling PCs to people with no need for a PC. If you need a PC to do a job then they are the wrong paradigm. This is why they fail: people who don't need a PC can now use a phone or tablet.

    If some killer game console comes along that eliminates another mindless-masses market. At that point PCs will revert to market share like they had back in the 1990s. Goofy things like UWP will go away, PCs might get more expensive again as economies of scale collapse and venture capital life-support dries up. Will Windows still be a thing then?

    Hard to guess. But it may be telling that Microsoft appears to be working as hard as they can to turn Azure into a Linux based service. They are even working very hard to move SQL Server over to Linux.

    It sounds like a world without Windows has gone beyond the planning stages at Microsoft. They may not like it, but their business model requires constant market expansion so Windows will get the old "heave ho." The only hope left is to turn phones and tablets into little more than smart terminals to "mainframe" centralized resources in the Azure cloud.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I think as an application platform it's very interesting and has good ideas. It's better in almost every way than Windows Forms and should be the default platform for new applications. But I think it faces insurmountable challenges and will never be adopted.

    The original Windows Forms was GDI, and it hit the scene with Windows 3.1. Before GDI, every "GUI" application was written in terms of using ASCII art to "draw". You could use a mouse in these applications, but for the most part people used keyboard shortcuts because on a 24x80 screen it's just not hard to use the arrow keys to get where you want to go. GDI was a game changer, and part of the reason Office is so dominant today is because every Office competitor felt like they could ignore GDI. By the time they realized their mistake, they were years behind and couldn't release fast enough to catch up.

    Part of the reason GDI caught on so fast was the power of graphics. Learning that the "B" button with a bold letter B meant "make this text bold" was a lot faster and intuitive than memorizing keyboard shortcuts. Being able to deal with dialogs and wizards instead of learning a special programming language for a word processor meant people could produce documents with hours of training, not weeks. Being free of the 24x80 console screen meant being able to fit dozens of lines on screen and quickly moving through the documents. The productivity increase in moving from DOS to Win 3.1 could be clearly seen.

    UWP is not a game changer in that aspect. It doesn't transform the user experience in such a fundamental way that GDI applications feel "wrong" or "clunky". It does make them more friendly for tablets, but tablets and mobiles are a "reduced" experience compared to huge PC monitors and a mouse/keyboard. For some applications, like web browsers and Netflix, that doesn't really matter, and UWP is "as good as" Windows Forms. For other applications, like Excel or Visual Studio, even a "good" tablet experience is bad compared to just doing the work on a PC.

    I think in 2007, Windows developers might have been excited about UWP if there was some Windows answer to the iPad. But we didn't really get the MS answer to the iPad until maybe 2012. By then, if someone was excited about tablets, they'd already moved to a platform that supported tablets. By then, people who needed/wanted mobile devices had already left Windows.

    So UWP is the framework we needed about 10 years ago, only now that it's arrived 10 years too late we've already found solutions that work without it. If you need a Mac/Linux/iOS/Android/Windows app, you're probably using Cordova or Electron or any number of other HTML/JS platforms. If you are writing mobile apps, you're already used to using Java/Obj-C/Swift. UWP and Xamarin are solving a problem that most people already considered solved.

    Worse, UWP is only Windows-focused. If you want to write a Windows app, there's already Windows Forms and no one's complaining that it's inadequate for the things that "I want a Windows app" usually means.

    That means no one's really excited about UWP, because it's not solving anything anyone described as a "problem" since about 2011.

    For UWP to catch on, it needs to do these things:
    • It must be free and deployable outside the Windows Store. (This will never happen.)
    • It must create applications that use .NET Standard and run on Mac/Linux/iOS/Android with GUI. (Xamarin provides this, but it's expensive.)
    • It must be easier to learn and faster to deploy than its competitors. (It's not.)

    What might work is if MS pulls a VB6 and makes a ton of useful "application wizards" for UWP apps. That will still only be useful if they cut the price of Xamarin from "$500 per seat" to "free". In general, to bosses it looks a lot cheaper to tell a random dev "you're going to have to learn Cordova" than it does to say, "I'm going to buy you Xamarin, and you have to learn it".

    In short: UWP vs. what people are using is a very Pepsi vs. Coke situation, but what MS needs it to be is "car vs. horse".
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Just another thing I forgot to mention, on really bad processors, the UWP is way too slow. I upgraded from Windows 8 to 10 and believe that Microsoft might add a bit too much things to the launch of UWP apps. And now they're making the "default apps" list so slow to open and all the other UWP/metro things slow to open, and remember most of these are JUST A MENU. I also noticed that, for example, if I open audio with Groove/Xbox/something music (microsoft can u just stick with a name pls thx), the audio often plays before the app is even fully loaded.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I would be really interested to know which development tool people would use, as a replacement for WinForms. Posts seen on other forums actively suggest WPF, Xamarin etc, with comments like 'Winforms is dead, move away from it now!'. My reason for asking is simply this, I use VB and VS2017 which I am very happy with, and have a number of commercial windows applications installed at client sites. I would consider rewriting these, if the new tools are going to be adopted by the development world and not just the current flavour of the day. I am an old geezer and have seen many things come and go over the years and I have learnt that change just for change sake is not a reason to change. I am sure there are many developers who will have the same concerns/confusions regards the 'next' step.

    Therefore, from your experience/views etc. what do you think will replace WinForms? if anything.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Nothing will totally replace it until computers as we know them are totally replaced. There have been several candidates held up as possible replacements, and none have done so, often for the reasons Sitten talked about. WinForms is good enough for most situations. WPF does have some real appeal, especially when it comes to dealing with DPI issues, but it's harder to learn, and there just isn't all that much incentive out there when WinForms is so established. Xamarin has some growing pains before it can be considered a real player, and it will end up with some of the same issues as WPF, as far as learning goes. Both use a XAML type of language. That's not hard to learn, just a bit different.

    Another candidate is Cordova, which is just HTML/JS, and has all the issues that goes along with that, such as a bewildering array of frameworks and tools. Having lots of options isn't exactly a drawback, but what it means is that Cordova isn't a thing the way WinForms is. If you know WinForms and VB, then you can look at any WinForms project written in VB and it will all be there. There may be libraries added in, but that's about it. With Cordova...are you using JQuery? Bootstrap (which requires JQuery, but it a layer on top)? Dojo? Ionic and Angular? and so on. For each one there are a few differences you'll have to understand, and each one could be seen as a thing more like WinForms, so Cordova (which makes use of any of those), isn't even the same type of a thing as WinForms.

    Then there's the platforms. WinForms will live as long as Windows lives. But there's Android, Linux, and Mac. Each was thought to be a likely replacement at some point in its life, yet none have gathered more than a small share of the market. There's also the different platforms, where other OS have grabbed pretty nearly ALL the share, but they all have drawbacks, as well. There IS room for a new OS that has some of the features that brought people to Windows, such as the development environment. It just isn't clear whether such a thing is even likely.

    So, there is no one, clear, replacement for WinForms, nor is it clear that WinForms will be replaced anytime soon. What is abundantly clear is that there are LOADS of prophets out there foretelling the future. If you have enough prophets, then at least one of them is likely to guess correctly.
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Quote Originally Posted by bmwpete View Post
    Therefore, from your experience/views etc. what do you think will replace WinForms? if anything.
    I was a PDP-11 and VAX-11 programmer for 20 years. Around 2000 I moved to VB6 and MS SQL - migrating all my clients...

    Half a dozen years ago I moved to a browser based replacement to my VB6 app.

    I use JavaScript - that's the front end coding language. I use VB.Net and MS SQL server as the backend running on a web server. AJAX for talking back and forth.

    As Shaggy mentioned it makes sense to use a JS library. You certainly do not need one - it's just that they all are designed to make manipulation of the "document" easier. They also alleviate some of the cross browser issues you might encounter.

    The reason you manipulate the window in the browser is because AJAX allows you to stay in the browser and sit on a single page. That page "grows" and "redraws" whatever parts are needed for the user to have their experience.

    By using a browser to host your application you remove all "dependencies" on the user machine - that is a real plus, imo.

    Browsers are designed for visual display - imo, easily exceeding what WPF can do.

    If you are interested in how to create a rich internet application - and use something like jQuery to make that go fast - check out this book.

    https://www.manning.com/books/jquery...-third-edition

    Reading this book and working through the examples will have you forgetting WinForms and embracing RIA!

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Well if you want to go that route there are also things like:

    https://electron.atom.io/

    Then you are not tethered to a server, can work right on the PC as a PC instead of as a terminal, don't have to worry about the lack of portability inherent in web applications, etc. Visual Studio Code was even built on that technology.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I was a PDP-11 and VAX-11 programmer
    Oh happy days!
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I have a hard time stifling laughter when VAX folks try to claim they were mainframes. They were not. Some of them were pretty large minicomputers, but minicomputers they were.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Who used the term mainframe? I know they were minicomputers - I've owned them myself!

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    My father was an engineer for Digital Equipment. I'll have to ask him what term he used. I certainly can't remember. I believe the company billed itself as "The number 2 mainframe manufacturer." That was behind IBM, but if that was their term, then I think they'd call them mainframes. Not sure about that, though.
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I used to work for DEC myself. Techs would joke about the VAX as being a PDP-11 accessory because it had a PDP-11 inside it connected to the console. To boot the VAX you had to first boot the PDP-11 and then use it load the VAX microcode from an eight inch floppy disk. Then you could start the VAX. Sales people always referred to the VAX as a "super-mini" computer. It was the DECSYSTEM-10 / DECSYSTEM-20 machines that were regarded as mainframes.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I only saw one of those big DECSYSTEM-10 like machines once - at the Ministry of Education in Toronto. Back in my salad days...

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I used to program a DECSYSTEM-20 back in the late 1970's. Great system. Ah those were the days...
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I think UWP is inspired by Apple, where all devices are connected and can substitute each other in some ways. It's interesting but I just wonder if it's a good idea. Cause' most of people have their laptop to work, phone to call/text and hardly use PC (except at workplace, but would you connect your personal phone with your work PC?)
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Why not? There is what we would do now, what we would do a decade ago, and what we will do a decade hence. I certainly see a time when all we have is a phone-sized object that IS the computer. You plug it into a base station to get full monitors, keyboards, and so forth, then you unplug to travel. The Surface is close to that already, except that it is larger than phone factor.
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I feel like the problem with that vision at the moment is we haven't nailed the paradigm for apps that can adapt to both situations.

    Multi-window multitasking is a good paradigm when you have big monitor(s) and lots of input devices. Single-window focused apps are the best model when you have a small screen and few input devices. This much we've learned from ~50 years of computing.

    A good application should be able to detect which of these modes it is in and adapt to it. I don't mind having a pared down, touch-friendly interface for OneNote when I'm on my "phone". But if I dock that phone to 2 monitors and a mouse/keyboard, I don't want that diminished interface anymore. I want to use OneNote with windows and the full Ribbon AND touch support from the phone.

    But even in Microsoft's current experience, I don't seem to get that. A UWP app is a UWP app, the only concession is now instead of being forced to fill some docked section of the screen they can be in windows. But a UWP app can't open (to my knowledge) child windows, and isn't allowed to switch to more desktop-friendly paradigms like Ribbons and Menus. UWP is a tablet/phone API first and only makes small concessions to the desktop paradigm.

    Apple's approach is multi-device: they decided to avoid trying to address a multi-paradigm app. If I have an iPhone and a Mac, walking near my PC means my Mac's applications offer to pick up where I left off on my phone and vice versa. The good thing about this approach is I don't have to make compromises: the Mac apps assume I have a big monitor/keyboard/mouse and the iOS apps assume I'm on a relatively small device with touch input and sometimes a keyboard.

    Microsoft's approach right now is "Desktop's a really big tablet" and that doesn't work effectively. Touchscreen monitors are nice and a boon, but they also aren't ubiquitous or a full solution to the problem. They either need to switch to a multi-device approach like Apple or introduce Desktop paradigms to UWP along with facilities for apps to adapt.

    We will always have "desktop" in some form because it is convenient to use this paradigm for many tasks, so our applications should be able to support it.
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shaggy Hiker View Post
    Why not? There is what we would do now, what we would do a decade ago, and what we will do a decade hence. I certainly see a time when all we have is a phone-sized object that IS the computer. You plug it into a base station to get full monitors, keyboards, and so forth, then you unplug to travel. The Surface is close to that already, except that it is larger than phone factor.
    That may be "20th Century gadget thinking."

    More likely we'll have office and household "central computing" like "central heat" supplemented by subscription based computing utilities. What you carry will get more powerful too and still have some autonomous capability but basically it becomes a terminal to these more powerful centers. More of a set of sensors and a user interface with always-limited computing power and storage compared to central services.

    To some extent that's where we are now and the trend is just increasing.

    You may underestimate the ability of people to burn computing power and ignore the value of databases and long-term storage. Phones are already a pain to replace, imagine trying to if you had most of "your life" on one.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    If Microsoft had been smart they might have tried to get a piece of that pie. Instead they ended up dropping the "home server" concept to focus on Azure and client devices like phones and their "Dufus" product line that is going nowhere.

    Azure is becoming more foreign every day and may soon be nothing but a big "me too" Linux-based service. Amazon will probably build upon AWS and move into AWS-in-a-box to serve as a home server central computing utility.

    Microsoft seems great at shooting itself in the foot. Lately it seems to manage to place quite a few slugs into its own head.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    No one is going to push the "home computing mainframe" model that you want. I agree with you that it's the better experience. But there is far more money in selling subscription access to "your life in the cloud" and dangling "if you don't pay you lose it all" in front of people. This is the world tech has built. The Silicon Valley "meritocracy" is just a fancy word for "the people with the money run everything".
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Yes, people are sheep.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Quote Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
    Azure is becoming more foreign every day and may soon be nothing but a big "me too" Linux-based service. Amazon will probably build upon AWS and move into AWS-in-a-box to serve as a home server central computing utility.
    I am curious as to why you think Azure is heading towards being a "me too" Linux based service? There is a lot more to it than a few linux VMs and a bash prompt.....

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    It is becoming a lot more like SaaS offerings from Oracle and IBM and many smaller players than a cloud offering like AWS. Being based on Linux means nothing aside from leaving behind the crown jewels within Windows.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Quote Originally Posted by dilettante View Post
    It is becoming a lot more like SaaS offerings from Oracle and IBM and many smaller players than a cloud offering like AWS. Being based on Linux means nothing aside from leaving behind the crown jewels within Windows.
    Personally I think there is a lot more to Azure than you are giving it credit for, if you are looking at cloud development and aiming more towards the PaaS approach rather than IaaS there is an awful lot being offered. The fact it is a lot more inclusive and supports .Net, Linux, Windows, Containers, PHP, Python, Bash, Powershell etc. doesn't seem to be something that indicates a move towards a "me too" Linux based service.

    At the moment Amazon certainly seem to be the big player when it comes to home automation and media with Alexa but I think that is a long way away from a AWS in a box that would work as a home server.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I feel it's difficult and dangerous to try and predict where the industry is going.

    MS made a very bad bet in the Vista timeframe when they asserted that netbooks would be the future. Their bedfellow Intel led them down that path. Turns out ARM chips were pretty good and tablets met consumer demand better than "a really small, really slow Windows PC".

    They tried to regain ground by asserting, during the Win7 timeframe, that "tablet-like laptops" would be a good way to fight back. That didn't rhyme with "race to the bottom" so OEMs didn't comply. MS fired back with the Surface, which I feel like has been the biggest Windows success of the past 5 years. I don't know what its sales numbers are. I just know it's the first Windows thing that made a lot of Apple fans jealous.

    Speaking of that, Apple's really at a low point. The Windows OEMs finally quit fighting for "worst laptop on the market" and started making *really good* machines at volume. At the same time, Apple's been distracted by its mobile devices and let its PC line falter. In terms of hardware, we are in a time where Windows is well-poised to gobble that market back, because the only advantage MacBook Pro has at the moment is its display.

    I don't know much about the server/cloud market, but I feel like MS has always been Pepsi and Linux is Coke. It's always MS spending a lot of money to explain how they're "just as good as Linux", meanwhile Linux is too busy "being reliable and free" to bother with advertising. That Azure isn't on fire and bleeding money is a VERY good sign for MS, and I think if they didn't support Linux it'd be dead in the water. Windows hosting has always been an also-ran.

    VR was the thing a lot of the industry bet on, but I think Microsoft correctly identified AR is the thing that's going to make money. Google tried and failed at it a few years ago, which is becoming the story of almost every Google venture these days.

    In terms of software, MS has dramatically increased its reach by making Office a tool that works on every platform. MSSQL can now work on Linux. Visual Studio is adequate on the Mac, and tons of people are using .NET Standard to write services that run on BOTH Linux AND Windows.

    That's the fun thing about this moment in time. You can spread your bets around the table with modern tools. MS used to put all their chips on "Windows", but now they have bets on "Mac" and "Linux" and "iOS" and "Android". It's probably wise to place similar bets. If all your chips are on "Windows", I have a bad feeling the future might not be bright.
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sitten Spynne View Post
    No one is going to push the "home computing mainframe" model that you want.
    And yet there does seem to be such a trend developing:

    The drive-thru data center: Where an appliance runs your local cloud

    How soon it extends to the home is a question, perhaps one Amazon may have already seen as an opportunity to extend their "Echo" infrastructure they are already diversifying with Amazon Key.

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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    "No one" was definitely hyperbole, I think a more accurate assessment is it'll be a mostly niche market.

    I feel like there's not a way to make reliable networking stuff braindead enough for Joe Average. Part of the problem's the cruddy "routers" a lot of ISPs provide. Somehow these guys will have to figure out how to open up ports via NAT and... I just don't see it happening.

    So the consumer's going to keep getting screwed over by the big IoT services. Google's sunset one and bricked devices. Logitech is still selling devices for one they're bricking in 2018. No telling when Amazon's going to stop supporting this round of devices: I've got 3 Kindles that are bricked becuase I forgot to get an update pushed to them before some cutoff.

    I'd love to see it. I want a device that, instead of working exclusively, can work on its own or integrate with any combination of Amazon/Apple/Google. I've seen plenty of tech nerds complain the current market's too fragmented. Some article I read last month laid out a scenario like:

    I'm downstairs. I've started the washer, but I can't schedule a reminder for when it will finish because my phone with Siri is charging upstairs. I ask Google for my agenda. It complies. I want to ask if a book I ordered is coming in, but only my Echo knows that and it's in another room. I'm watching TV in the den. It's cold. Echo can't interact with my Nest thermostat so I have to walk into another room.
    Etc.
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    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    In a sense we may still be in the wood stove era of home computing.

    Most people today risk blowing themselves up or starting a fire tinkering with a modern natural gas home heating system too.

    For that matter computer literacy is regressing as we speak. More and more people will soon be too incompetent to use a PC, and will be reduced to consumer phones, tablets, and Chromebooks. They won't even miss it as they descend into Eloi-hood.

    We already see it here. People want to be "programmers" and yet they cannot manage even the most rudimentary home PC and network admin tasks. Scary. But the world needs ditchdiggers too.
    Last edited by dilettante; Nov 10th, 2017 at 04:40 PM.

  30. #30
    You don't want to know.
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Posts
    4,025

    Re: What do you think about the Universal Windows Platform?

    I feel like it's OK if a device can be used at different levels by people with different expertise.

    For example, I just want to drive my car. I know about steering wheels and gas pedals and brakes, and I'm good at defensive driving. I can do some simple maintenance like changing my own oil or changing tires. But if I need to do something like replace my brakes, I take it to a person who knows what they're doing because I don't have the equipment, time, or know-how to do it myself. So I want a car that's reliable and where the stuff doesn't break.

    A bunch of my friends are Jeep people. They're always under the hood or under the chassis. They love their damn Jeep. I don't think there's a single OEM part on some of their vehicles. Turns out the OEM stuff is pretty bad, and most of it NEEDS replacing if you don't want to face long-term problems. It's a car made for people who want to tinker. That's not for me.

    But both my Jeep friends and I know how to drive a car!

    I feel like that's the same kind of label you're applying. Most people want to use a computer to find entertainment, find a party, and/or get laid. You don't have to know how to change the jumpers on a SoundBlaster to configure IRQ for any of that. Some people figured that out and made a lot of money writing apps for those people.

    Some people get excited about spreadsheets. There's probably an app for them, too. It's probably called "Pivt" or something. "Swipe right to reticulate my splines."
    Nothing I post is production-ready. It is provided as-is, use it at your own risk.

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