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LETTER

How About Windows?

I don’t know how to use Athena. I don’t understand Linux, Unix, Sun Solaris, SGI IRIX, and Red Hat and can’t explain the differences between them. I don’t take advantage of MIT’s “superior” computing facilities, and I’m not alone. I’ve heard MIT described as having one of the “most wired” campuses in the world, yet I can’t print a file, write an essay, transfer files, or even read and send e-mail without learning an entire new language.

I will immediately concede that Unix is probably more powerful and more useful than Windows for certain tasks once you are forced to learn how to use it for some class. For this reason having some (or even most) clusters be Unix-based is essential. But the 95 percent of us who came here using Windows are not even given a more familiar option. I honestly believe that MIT does its students a great injustice by “forcing” them to learn how to use Unix if they want to utilize the MIT’s “fantastic” computing resources for which they pay top dollar.

What if all rental car agencies in Boston switched to 100 percent manual transmission cars? After all, some people like stick better, and stick shifting is essential for high performance driving. However, everyone who grew up driving automatic would have to learn to drive stick just to cruise around the block. So the result? Only some would be able to rent cars. Those that could wouldn’t even need to purchase their own cars, but those that weren’t planning on driving race cars would be stuck.

For some, it’s easy, interesting, and extremely useful to learn Unix. But after attending mini-courses, asking friends, and reading pamphlets, my biology-oriented mind is not easily making the transition. Ultimately, I don’t care because I know that after MIT, I’ll never need to use anything but Windows. Although many MIT graduates will need to know how to program in other languages, many will never again use “inc” or “rmm.”

I heard that over IAP some Windows clusters were being tested out. What happened to them? Why can’t there be at least a few computers on campus where the rest of us can print a file or write a paper like we could at every other college in the country?



Jesse S. Boehm ’01