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‘Sliced Bread’ Better Than Athena

In response (and agreement) to Jesse Boehm’s letter [“How About Windows?”, Feb. 29], I’d like to say that you’re not alone in wanting to have a Windows cluster. Even some of us Course 6ers would like to see it happen.

I’ve never understood why MIT hypes the Athena system as the best thing for computing since sliced bread. I run Windows NT 4.0 on one of my computers in my dorm room, and I run Windows 98 and Windows 2000 on the other. I’ve used Unix, sure, and it has its good parts, but as a general-purpose computing environment, I just don’t think Unix cuts it.

The Athena system isn’t even particularly easy to use compared to some of the other options that are available on Unix systems (Gnome, KDE). To make things worse, Athena isn’t compatible with many of the applications I like to use on my computers. I can’t use Outlook to read mail. I can’t use Internet Explorer to access WebSIS. I have to tell friends at other colleges to send e-mails with attachments to a different e-mail address, because otherwise they’re too difficult to extract and view!

Overall, Athena has become nearly useless to me. There is almost nothing I can do on Athena that I can’t do on my own computers, and better. I only use it for class assignments that I can’t do anywhere else, and even then, I hate to trudge down to the cluster. Once in a while, I’ll check e-mail, but that’s it. Browsing the web is a nightmare on Athena; Netscape takes three minutes to start and then crashes every half hour. For comparison, on my computers, IE takes two seconds to start and never crashes.

It’s a shame that an institution like MIT has a computer system that is so obtuse that even CS majors get frustrated with it.

Matt Craighead ’02