back to article 'Windows 9' LEAK: Microsoft's playing catchup with Linux

New videos of a "Windows 9" variant have emerged, and to this hack's eyes they look to have brought Windows up to speed with tricks that various desktop flavours of Unix have had for a decade or more. The feature in question is being described as “multiple desktops” and looks an awful lot like the “workspaces” that have been …

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Windows

Meeeh

I have had that in gnome for as long as I can remember ... with 3d moving cube transitions since about 2004 ?

Does it have some fanzy transitions ? Probably in 10 more years ;-)

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Re: Meeeh

CDE had that in the 90's - I cannot remember if you could have a different backdrop on each, I think you could on Solaris 8, iirc.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

Had that on SGI Unix (pre CDE) back at the start of the 1990s.

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Re: Meeeh

Before CDE HP-UX had them in VUE, and I'm sure they'd been around before then. Now HP's VUE is where MS got 3d effect windows from, HP & MS had agreed on making various things common in appearances and many of the keyboard shortcuts. These then became available in Windows 3. So its taken them a long time to implement the rest... like 25 or more years.

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Re: Meeeh

IIRC, Tom's Virtual TWM had multiple desktops since 1994 or so.

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Re: Meeeh

>>"Does it have some fanzy transitions ? Probably in 10 more years ;-)"

Ugggh. I hope not. I remember all those wibbly-wobbly windows in KDE and rotatable cube desktops. It was fun to see for about five seconds and then you turned it off.

This is a little late for me as these days I meet my needs with multi-monitor set-ups and I have 24" monitors, too. But it used to be the biggest thing I missed when going from using my *NIX box to someone's XP/Vista machine with a single 15" monitor. That felt really constraining. Nowadays it's much less of an issue. But still nice to see.

I could do without the Start Menu back. I wish MS would for once in their existence have the guts to stick with their vision despite angry internet commentators. XB1 - entirely digital with discs only as a distribution medium, share games across the entire country without ever meeting. "Nooo - we want to exchange grubby and breakable plastic and connecting once a day for five seconds even over a tethered phone is too much for us!". Simple swipe down in Metro to close an app. "Nooo! We're confused without a little minimize icon. Give it back to us! (even though it's meaningless in an environment where you switch between apps rather than a windowed environment you have to close a program out of the way)". Hit windows key and type the first few letters of the program you want / move the mouse a minimal distance to select the much larger target of grouped icons, about forty to a screen? "Noooo - we want to navigate up and down a small hierarchical menu for the dozen or so programs we commonly use. It's always been that way and should be that way forever".

MS - great ideas, backbone of a jellyfish.

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Re: Meeeh

I'm pretty sure virtual desktops date back to _at least_ 30 years back. OpenLook Virtual Window Manager (OLVWM) has it and I remember running that on my Sun3 machine in 1994 (which was already well deprecated back then - Motorola 68020 bases, pre SPARC). And I remember using similar virtual desktops long before then.

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Re: Meeeh

We get it, that's what you like. But trust me, a lot don't.

My daughter had a new laptop last week, she tried to get used to it, she even liked some of it. In the end I installed an add on that gives her the traditional menu and/or the Metro interface.

And that is what most people do want. The choice.

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Re: Meeeh

Back in the day I had two sides on my clay tablet.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

small hierarchical menu for the dozen or so programs we commonly use

So let's slap a full-screen window in their faces to they can find them better?

I don't think either solution is all that great. I think Linux has it right with the categorised menu*, rather than each company (and therefore peice of software) having their own sub-menu.

In windows, I almost always have to search in the start menu. In Linux, it's easy to click on it, when I'm in "mouse mode". I wish Windows could copy that, but I guess it's too late.

*I know you can make it happen in Windows, but you need to manually organise it. I gave up on that since Win95.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

"MS - great ideas, backbone of a jellyfish."

No. Appalling ideas, arrogant until it hurts them. The customer is always right[*] - they're the ones paying for and using the damn thing. They will change whatever it is they have to in order to make more money, regardless.

Perhaps if you didn't blindly cheer Microsoft's crappy ideas so then you wouldn't need to U-turn when they do.

[*] Please don't waste my time with a Ford mis-quote.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

Actually that is one of the problems. When MSFT say "this is the new Windows and it works in a slightly different, but much faster, way" all the WiFanBois scream "where's my start menu button?".

Henry Ford once said that when he first demonstrated the Model T a lot of people would ask "where do I put the hay in?"

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Re: Meeeh

H4rm0ny, I really can't tell whether that third paragraph is a joke or not, because nobody with half a brain could possibly hold that view.

Swipe down - will that scroll? Will it close and lose my work? Minimise and keep my work? How do I tell what will happen before it happens?

An icon that I can click on or poke has a thingy called a tooltip. Once I've read that tooltip, I know what it will do. (Or rather, I should).

Gestures cannot be labelled, and as they depend on context they are completely undiscoverable.

Watch this video. Labels matter.

The "half dozen" programs I commonly use pop up in the first level of the Windows 7 Start menu.

The hundred or so programs that I don't use very often but still need to have show in a hierarchical menu structure that lets me put "like with like".

I can already hit "windows" then type to search. Guess what - it simply doesn't work. It's a fundamentally bad concept because it does not match with how people think.

For a concrete example - I use IBM ClearCase. The application for it used to be called "Remote Client", and it's now called "ClearTeam Explorer". If I search for "IBM", "team" or "clearcase" it's not found.

With the old name, searching for "remote client" or "explorer" it's found, along with half a dozen other programs with almost identical names - with the old name I had several where the only difference was the icon.

How do you search for something when you do not know what it's called?

On Windows 7 I can follow the menu Programs > IBM Rational ClearCase > and bingo!

At home I can search for a fork - kitchen > cutlery drawer > bingo!

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Re: Meeeh

As Reg editors well know or could have found with one Google search, almost every windowing system ever written has had multiple desktops. Either built in or with a bit of freeware. Remember Bigdesk on Windows 3.1 ? In fact, multiple desktops were more heavily used then due to the low resolutions in use.

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Trollface

Re: Meeeh

I am fairly certain this was a feature on the abacus back in 1527BC.

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Pint

Re: Meeeh

Mm: "...what most people do want. The choice."

No. Impossible. You'd have to invent a check-box technology, and something like a Registry or similar data structure to store the user's preference. This is all completely impossible. Computers OSes must contain hard coded decisions, and it is impossible to offer any user options whatsoever.

Right?

</Sarcasm>

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Pint

Re: Meeeh

It was also a 'Power Toy' available under Windows XP; free from Microsoft IIRC.

We had it installed for so long that I'd forgotten that multiple desktops wasn't a built in feature.

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Re: Meeeh

So, we can clearly say "Prior Art" when Microsoft issues a patent on this, can we?

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Re: Meeeh

>>"H4rm0ny, I really can't tell whether that third paragraph is a joke or not, because nobody with half a brain could possibly hold that view."

I make a joke here about one day a year. Today is not that day.

>>"Swipe down - will that scroll? Will it close and lose my work? Minimise and keep my work? How do I tell what will happen before it happens?"

You can tell because it does the same thing as last time, and every time. Might as well ask how you would know what the little flat line is supposed to do if you've never clicked on it before. Swipe down close, swipe from left to switch between apps. Or just Alt+Tab if using a keyboard. Very easy, no need to clutter screen with window bars or icons - more screen real estate.

>>"Gestures cannot be labelled, and as they depend on context they are completely undiscoverable."

There are four directions you can swipe. That's pretty easy and once learned, you know. There are a dozen things just as unknown to you about your current OS but which you assume are obvious because you've grown used to them. Where is the tooltip on your double-click?

>>"The "half dozen" programs I commonly use pop up in the first level of the Windows 7 Start menu."

Start Screen holds five or more times that without having to resort to nesting or scrolling. Thus is better for anyone who uses forty or less programs regularly.

>>"The hundred or so programs that I don't use very often but still need to have show in a hierarchical menu structure that lets me put "like with like"."

They are still easily findable with the Start Screen either by scrolling down to the full list or simply typing. It is far better to optimize for the 90% of the time than the 10% of the time, so all those "hundred" programs (seriously) aren't cluttering up your normal usage. I'm a power user and I use about twenty programs routinely, and that's significantly more than most people. So why make people hunt for them in a menu with a small target area?

>>"I can already hit "windows" then type to search. Guess what - it simply doesn't work"

It does. I do it all day long. Win key, "ex" and return, I'm in Excel. Four key strokes quickly entered in less time than it would take to reach the mouse.

>>"How do you search for something when you do not know what it's called?"

In that minority case, you scroll down to the full list of programs and read.

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Re: Meeeh

>>"Perhaps if you didn't blindly cheer Microsoft's crappy ideas so then you wouldn't need to U-turn when they do."

I haven't U-turned in the slightest. I wrote about how I liked Start Screen when it was the way things were done, I'm writing about how I like it now when MS appear to be retreating on it. I have always been consistent except during the developer preview before I'd gotten used to it.

I am always consistent. It is MS that have changed directions which is why I now criticize them whereas before I was saying how good it was. This doesn't match up with your insults about "blindly cheerleading" at all.

And no, the customer is not "always right". Anyone who has ever worked in programming for a week knows that.

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Re: Meeeh

The advantage of a GUI is the discoverability. With all the secret handshake gestures you've just mentioned, the discoverability wasn't there.

How did you "discover" these gestures? By clicking your mouse at random until it did something? Did you have to google it? RTFM?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

> And no, the customer is not "always right". Anyone who has ever worked in programming for a week knows that.

If you presented a prototype/beta to a customer, and they said "No, it's a piece of fucking shit, I want a bell on it" - would you insist it's the best thing ever, and force them to use and pay for it?

Would you say to your client "You're just holding it wrong, dumbass! You just don't get it, do you? I've spent months working on this and you will use it because I know better"?

When they are paying for it, you advise them, then it's up to them to take your advice. You then just give them what they want.

Anyone who's been a developer / software engineer for at least a year knows that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

"I haven't U-turned in the slightest"

Sorry, I guess I was ranting at fanboys in general.

You haven't, and I did target you personally when I shouldn't have, so I accept your first two paragraphs.

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Re: Meeeh

I was almost with you until you used the word "swipe".

I have a mouse.

An icon is helpful.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

Sorry to point this out but I don't want to live in that world

and I'm not going anywhere.

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Re: Meeeh

"Would you say to your client "You're just holding it wrong, dumbass! You just don't get it, do you? I've spent months working on this and you will use it because I know better"? "

Seemed to work for Apple.

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Thumb Up

Re: Meeeh

Also a function in LightStep since Win9x.

(Which seems to still be in development-ish)

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Re: Meeeh

The customer is NOT always right. Especially not in groups. We only need glance at the bland, boring and inane releases of the focus group driven car designs during the turn of the millennium.

At the end of the day, the final decision needs to be made by one person who is brave enough to stick to a vision. It's what saved Apple from their floundering inwardly collapsing business.

I see by your attitudes you are clearly mired in the 90s, and still hold resentment against 'Microshat' for what you deem to be his evil deeds that held down the "clearly superior" operating system, which would have OBVIOUSLY been the dominant OS of choice in business...

Except, that isn't the case, is it? Apple had Jobs (on and off, and it really shows his influence was what made the company a success), Microsoft had Gates, who, admittedly, did let the sheer scale of the monster he'd created get the better of him for a while, but in 2002, really started to turn it around.

Linux has what? Linus? Not really. While I may have respected him some time back, he's merely a self centred bully, and really doesn't have the vision or the power to pull the meandering behemoth in the right direction.

"Linux can now support 1024 CPUs!"

"Great. Will it finally work with the wifi card in my laptop?"

It's truly ironic how this article has picked up on a somewhat redundant and gimmicky feature and said "Hey, we had this for ages!" Personally, I look at the Linux GUIs as "nearly there", and "not quite". And, it's not just me. Corporations aren't stupid. There's a reason they pay gigantic licence fees for Microsoft products.

Having multiple desktops is cute, but Microsoft's Clipbook algorithms have been so far in advance of everybody else', we don't even think of it as a feature anymore. The Linux community should be collectively hanging their heads in shame. It's over a decade since I had to admit that it was the best at copy and paste out of all the OSs, and they've remained ahead of the game since.

"What do you mean, I can't right-click an image in a webpage, copy it, then flick to a remote desktop, and paste it directly into a random third party application running on a machine the other side of the world?"

Linux has a great, and brilliantly designed core, and given its royalty-free, which has allowed it to survive almost exclusively as the core that runs the Internet Of Things but guess what? Microsoft are catching up, FAST!

Linux might always have the Free thing, but as we are now seeing, the vulnerabilities in IOT devices are starting to become a real problem, and when it comes to security, Microsoft have been leading the world for quite some time...

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Re: Meeeh

The earliest Window managers had virtual workspaces and a pager to make switching between them pretty seamless. A 1994 style pager seems to be the big thing missing in a lot of these MS/Apple attempts at recreating 20+ year old Unix ideas.

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Mushroom

Re: Meeeh

I remember a number of those attempts to bolt on added features to Windows. They tend to be a disaster. Windows isn't exactly designed with that in mind.

Trying to compare those things to a proper window manager is a sad joke.

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Childcatcher

Re: Meeeh

I don't know where you learned about user interface design, but they taught you some bad things.

Microsoft has pretty obviously mislaid any good interface designers they had, and you can tell that by the way the UI changes with every release. Hell, the UIs aren't even consistent among Office products (Visio is a perfect example). Yes, I realize Visio was purchased in 2000 from Visio, Inc., but you'd think 14 years would be long enough to get its UI into conformance with Microsoft's nominal "standards" (which they seem to revise way too frequently).

UIs should be simple, obvious and unchanging. You can always add optional features, of course, but the basic UI shouldn't change. And when adding features, DO NOT enable them by default. Because many of your users will be confused. Those of us who use computers in our daily work, don't like to have to waste time learning a new UI with every OS release. We're trying to use a tool, not enhance our Windows experience. We most certainly don't like to play hide-and-seek with gestures, until we find the one that does what we want.

OK. Rant over.

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Re: Meeeh

It hasn't been invented yet untilit is released and patented by Apple you mean. It must be some sort of witchcraft if it appeared before they release it.!!!!!!!!!

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Re: Meeeh

>>"How did you "discover" these gestures? By clicking your mouse at random until it did something? Did you have to google it? RTFM?"

How did you discover double-clicking did something? How did you discover holding down the mouse button on a window bar and dragging moved the window around?

Honestly, you know you can swipe / drag from the side, I do, everybody here does. But I forget - the attitude on El Reg that we're all special people with great technological gifts. Perish the thought that Ordinary People could learn to do this quickly and easily.

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Re: Meeeh

[DllImport("user32.dll")]

private static extern IntPtr CreateDesktop(string lpszDesktop, IntPtr lpszDevice, IntPtr pDevmode, int dwFlags, long dwDesiredAccess, IntPtr lpsa);

[DllImport("user32.dll")]

private static extern bool CloseDesktop(IntPtr hDesktop);

[DllImport("user32.dll")]

private static extern IntPtr OpenDesktop(string lpszDesktop, int dwFlags, bool fInherit, long dwDesiredAccess);

Etc.

Feature has been hidden in windows for years, I've written a few implementations of this for personal use over time, and there are many 3rd party apps which make use of the above.

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Re: Meeeh

When I run out of fingers on one hand, I have another whole new hand, which I then switch to ---

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

How did you discover double-clicking did something? How did you discover holding down the mouse button on a window bar and dragging moved the window around?

Sigh, strawman...

In program manager, I clicked it once - it didn't work. Clicked twice... tada! Dragging the title bar for some reason was obvious to me. I had never seen or used a GUI before, but I read that windows can be moved about and sized - figuring out how to do it wasn't difficult.

Now, mouse/finger gestures just aren't obvious, unless you randomly drag/stroke until something happens? They might be cool for extra functionality, or when there's already a well established method to perform the same task.

Perhaps I'm just thicker than the average Windows grunt but even though, until recently, I've been developing GUI apps since 1992/3 (for Win3.0) I couldn't figure out how to get rid of metro apps (or shutdown) without slamming every key until something happened. Yep, I've been out-smarted by Windows.

If my software required some special knowledge for basic operations, it would get uninstalled and they'd move on to competing products.

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Re: Meeeh

I sort of take h4rm0ny's point about people preferring to stick with what they know and react badly against what is new. But is isn't really like that with computers and GUIs. Users really do like good stuff, and dislike bad stuff. They are excellent judges, which is a main plank of Apple's success. Give them something nice and the like it straightaway.

I still remember how delighted the public was with the Windows 95 GUI, and how it was such an improvement over 3.1. We immediately loved the shiny new right-click context menus, and the start button menu. I never heard a single voice want to go back to 3.1.

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Happy

Re: Meeeh

"Ugggh. I hope not. I remember all those wibbly-wobbly windows in KDE and rotatable cube desktops. It was fun to see for about five seconds and then you turned it off."

I agree on that, and I turned it off too, but I admit it was fun to show it to Windows users sometimes.

The “problem” is that if you don't have “bling” like that you are considered old-fashioned and it's probably quite fun to program too.

Sun tried something similar, and quite good looking, stuff too, it was called looking glass. We are very easily influenced by what we see, and that includes cars and women and what not. I remember a girl I showed a Linux desktop, she was very appalled by it, but it turned out the reason was the background I used.

Next we will learn on TV how new and fantastic the Windows 9 is.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

Ummm, Windows XP had this also. Not installed by default but a free download from MicroSoft.....I was running it before Vista came out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

"Swipe down close, swipe from left to switch between apps. Or just Alt+Tab if using a keyboard. Very easy, no need to clutter screen with window bars or icons - more screen real estate."

Invisible UI is very obviously NOT GOOD.

What's the thought process here--"hey, there isn't any indication of what's going on with the system or what you can or should do with the software or how to do it, but we've reclaimed 2% of the screen real estate!" Has there ever been a case in software design priorities being so completely backwards?!

I have Windows 8 on my HTPC. I mostly just use it to run a web browser (Chrome) in the Desktop mode. I try to use my mouse as I normally would. I would say about 2-3 times per day, my mouse movements get misinterpreted as swipes and cause things to happen that are completely foreign and undesirable to me. I get UI bars inexplicably appearing from all different directions and I have to figure out how to make them go away before I can continue doing what I wanted. I don't see how anyone could justify this UI design as good.

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Re: Meeeh

Making swiping/swirling gestures was tried in web browsers in the early naughties I believe. It failed because it's non-intuitive. Why ANYONE would think it;'s a good way to do basic tasks in an OS, I have no idea.

And please don't assume anyone's using a touchscreen, they failed for desktop computing in the 90s because of 'gorilla arm', which is why they'll fail now

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Meeeh

>>And please don't assume anyone's using a touchscreen, they failed for desktop computing in the 90s because of 'gorilla arm', which is why they'll fail now

Also it would be pretty inconvenient for me to get up from my couch to touch my TV to interact with it.

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Coat

@ h4rm0ny -- Re: Meeeh

I have always been consistent except during the developer preview before I'd gotten used to it.

I am always consistent.

Something about stubborn, and hobgoblins, comes to mind....

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Re: Meeeh

And it was never very useful

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Re: Meeeh

But the cutlery draw isn't labelled, so you won't find the fork unless you search through every draw until you find the right one.

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Re: Meeeh

Not in the original, it was in the abacus update version 1 in 1500 BC

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h4rm0ny

Upvote for mentioning the wibbly-wobbly rotatable desktop cubes as fun but not very useful (I fail to remember if I got Lunix up and running, or if I just watched the videos on it).

Downvote for suggesting MS should ditch the start bar, for any reasons!

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Re: Meeeh

h4rm0ny: the internet champion of "fuck democracy, choice, or anyone else but me. The rest of the world should be forced to used things the way I like them, and given no alternative option!"

But other than that, he's really a great guy.

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Headmaster

Re: Meeeh

As much as I'm a big GNU/Linux fan, sadly the award for virtual desktops probably goes to the Commodore Amiga.

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Re: Meeeh

>>h4rm0ny: the internet champion of "fuck democracy, choice, or anyone else but me. The rest of the world should be forced to used things the way I like them, and given no alternative option!"

That's it, let the hate flow. It's good to turn an argument personal, isn't it?

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