RANT

When I started writing this, I was of the opinion that the trouble is that the World is becoming more authoritarian by the day.

I don’t mean politically … we all know that.

No, I mean inherently.

Take a look at Firefox Quantum, for instance.

Now, sure, many of the changes were necessary — the previous foundation was simply too insecure, never mind underperforming. But others were made that were completely unnecessary. If you’re going to remove the facility for third party extensions to manipulate the interface, that’s one thing (and, from a security perspective, very sensible), but that’s no call to remove the facility altogether!

Take a look at the below image.

That’s Firefox running on my Linux machine.

You can see that, having created a UserChrome.css file with the necessary style, I’ve moved the tabs below the address/tool bar. And, given the panel above it with the informational applets, you can see why I’d want to do that: it makes more sense to have the system applets on the panel at the top, the app (Firefox in this instance) extension icons next and the (volatile) tabs last — when I want to know about things I glance to the top panel for system-wide information, the middle panel for application-specific information and the bottom panel for document-specific information … moving from the general to the specific as I cascade down.

Also, it’s aesthetically more pleasing than splitting the pretty icons with the tabs.

I mean …

That’s just fugly.

But it’s a far from ideal solution.

Look at where the URL/URI box is … slap bang in the middle of the middle panel and all squashed up by the need to have the extension applets on the same bar …

You used to be able to put it where you liked, And you didn’t need any third-party solution to do so, it was a feature of Firefox itself.

So, you could have it laid out like below, for instance, with the specific URL for the tab right at the very bottom … where it belongs (both logically and aesthetically) …

But it seems you can’t do that any more; I can’t find any place in the UserChrome.css to change that style element — I had to mock that image up to illustrate the concept.

The developers at Mozilla appear to have decided that they know best what you need by way of customisation and they have decreed that you don’t need to separate the URL/URI box from the extension applets.

The developers at Microsoft have much the same mindset, it seems.

If you recall my exasperation with the shortcomings of the shambolic Windows 10 ¹

… you’ll be aware that you can’t ‘brand’ Win 10 Pro as you see fit, only as they do. Nor can you query certain elements of what the OS is doing, because they don’t deem it necessary. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of how crap Win 10 is. I’ll spare you the details of the six-hour ordeal wherein I all but tore my hair out trying to figure out why GPEdit was showing me my logon/logoff scripts but, when I tried to back them up, telling me that they no longer existed and, when I went hunting for them found that the entire folder sub-tree was missing from \Windows\System32\GroupPolicy\ … because, fed up with constantly deleting the desktop.ini, I decided not to show hidden files on my desktop, only for that setting, unlike others, to apply system-wide, not just to the folder in question … but how amateur and, again, authoritarian is that!?

As for Apple’s mentality … the Stepford Wives were given more freedom for radically independent thought.

And the problem isn’t one of “I know best” — that would be a conscious approach. No, it’s worse than that: it’s an unconscious failure to even consider that there might be any other way to do things than how they do them. It’s the ultimate in authoritarianism — other ways of thinking about things aren’t simply haughtily dismissed … they don’t even exist in their minds!

But, you know what?

I don’t think authoritarianism is the problem after all.

Until fairly recently, I could still install an app on my computer and, with a bit of poking around in the settings, configure it how I wanted … make it do what what I needed in exactly the way I wanted it to.

Then, about four years ago, everything started getting dumbed down: fewer options, less configurability — bright, mobile/touch-friendly interfaces that allowed you to do ever less.

For a while, I thought it was all being dumbed down for userbase that was fundamentally mentally impaired — computers no longer the preserve of the intellectually curious, every halfwit has one in their pocket and they poke it with their fingers when they want to use it …

But, if my recent experience is anything to go by, that’s not the problem at all.

I don’t really know whom to blame … I mean, sure, it’s the millennials doing it, but who brought them up to be like that? The very people who, themselves, designed the more flexible solutions that went before. The disconnect between how their grand/parents went about things themselves and how their offspring turned out is mindblowing — it’s like suffering from cognitive dissonance on someone else’s behalf!

You hear a lot of fuss made about how millennials are the first generation to grow up with the Internet/Web and are, therefore, ‘digital natives’ who understand it better than any other generation.

Well, I beg to differ.

I was twelve when the first video games machines appeared as a commercially viable enterprise … got my hands on my own computer and started programming when I was fifteen — computers and related technology have been an everyday part of my life for approaching forty years.

I’ve lived it and breathed it every day of my life for (probably) longer than most millennials have even been alive, let alone able to comprehend what the Internet/Web is any better than a baby knows how the little people get inside the television.

Do you really think that technology is more a part of your life than that … simply because you were born with it and didn’t have to wait the first 12 years?

I grew up with the telephone … but, whilst I know a bit more about it than two paper cups and a bit of string, I’m no telecomms engineer.

I grew up with the television … but I‘m not a producer as a result, I was just more susceptible to advertising as a child.

I grew up with the VCR, but I’ve no idea how to edit a movie, I’m just confused when the [Fast Forward] button doesn’t work on live TV.

The television hasn’t educated us and turned us all into Nobel laureates, the telephone hasn’t made us all great orators nor the computer made us all playwrites (word-processors, yes: Wordsworths, no) — you won’t be receiving a Pulitzer for the snaps on your mobile phone, a Booker for your blog, nor a knighthood for your performance in some console/computer game.

Growing up with the Internet doesn’t mean you aren’t a clueless moron with a million ‘followers’ and no real friends.

No … if my recent experience is anything to go by, the problem isn’t simply a dumbed down userbase … it’s that the people developing the solutions are no more clued in themselves!

Just try finding where, in the settings for Nero Platinum Suite (2019 or 2020), you set the output format of ripped audio files, for instance.

Is it in Nero ControlCenter?

No.

Is it Nero Tools then?

No.

How about Nero DiscToDevice?

Not, if you want to rip to .wav, it isn’t, no.

Nero Backup?

No.

Erm …

What’s this Audials Music Recorder thing?

Nope … it’s not that.

*sigh*

Nero MediaHome?

Nope.

Getting desperate now … what about Nero Burning ROM?

No, that’ll copy a disc, but not individual tracks — you knew that already, but you’re running out of ideas now and wondering, if you didn’t overlook something.

Nero Express?

Yes.

If you want to rip individual audio tracks at all (let alone decide on what output format you want other than mp3, wma or flac), you use Nero Express.

WtF!?

You’ve installed Nero Platinum … the whole shebang … more stuff than you could ever want, never mind need … why on Earth would it occur to you to use Nero Express for anything, let alone something as core as ripping stuff?

And as for DiscToDevice only allowing three formats (two of which are lossy), well … quite apart from the ‘wtf?’ … a more inappropriately named app would be hard to imagine — 67% of the time, there’s no fidelity … and the other 33% of the time, the copy won’t play on the technology the original was designed for!

Technology in the 21st Century: for idiots … by retards.

Right, well, what I’m personally in the mood for right now is probably a teensy bit dark/aggressive for most people … so here’s an aptly titled lighthearted blast from the Past instead. Enjoy.

There he goes. One of God's own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live and too rare to die.