Living Ina Monument

So maybe the phrase isn't the best, but it tries to get across what I mean -- that sometimes something is so "right" that people are willing to put up with almost anything to live with it. I'm particularly reminded of how Presidents of the United States put up with all of the problems that living in the ramshackle, constantly rebuilt 180 year-old mess that is the White House.

FallingWater is one example. On the recent documentary on PBS on Wright (that Ken Burns did) they mentioned the problems with FallingWater, but also mentioned that the people that owned the house loved it, despite its drawbacks.

Another story from the documentary in a similar vein was about Wright's Johnson Wax building -- Apparently, the innovative glass skylights that Wright designed for the building leaked like crazy every time it rained. How did the owner of the company deal with this -- by suing Wright? by going to the press about it to let everyone know what a crappy job Wright had done? No. He kept his trashcan on his desk to catch the rainwater.

In fact, he did more than that - he actually hired Wright again to design his house!

We do this with software all the time. Do we refuse to use Linux because you have to understand Unix administration to install and use it? No, we quietly go buy a book on the subject and keep at it because it just feels right.


Hmmm.. I would have used a Mac (or iMaC) as a computer example of LivingInaMonument. Linux/Unix is highly extendable, configurable and adaptable by the "end user". Steve Jobs (and crew) decided that iMac users didn't need a floppy drive, that a hockey-puck mouse had the right "look" and that you really only needed 1 mouse button. Now that is LivingInaMonument.

-- ToddCoram

I think Kyle was right on this. The extensibility of Linux, marvelous as it is, comes at the cost of having to learn its principles, or resigning to yourself to live in only one corner of a room in the house we call Linux. Worse, to get the extensibility, configurability, and adaptability you mention, you must write some HieraticLanguage. Much as I love Linux and BSD, it is because using it makes me feel like I am LivingInaMonument; I have adapted myself to a gorgeous work that others have not.

The Macintosh and Wintel systems, on the other hand, are fairly intuitive and come almost as second nature to children (ha!), which seems to me a true test of using a LivableSystem?.

As for the iMac, if I were to need a floppy drive, I can buy a USB floppy drive. The mouse makes a nice decoration for the shelf, where I tossed it in favor of a configurable three-button USB mouse. How's that for extensible?

(I think I read in ProgrammersAtWork? that Steve Jobs wanted a three-button mouse like the Star he saw at Parc, but the electronic appliance guy who started the Mac project thought it should be one button.)

-- AllanBaruz

I don't think working on Linux is LivingInaMonument at all. I work on Linux because I am measurably more productive as a developer. Effective use of the command line is part of WhatEveryDeveloperShouldKnow. I can see, however, that a non-developer type running Linux might qualify, since they probably would end up living in just one room.

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