Windows 3.1: Geeks’ New Choice for Graphics?

They say everything old is new again, and it would be difficult to find a better example than a post on Slashdot last week.

“Why a Linux User Is Using Windows 3.1” is the title of said post, which refers to a recent NetworkWorld story by the same name.

“About two weeks back, I was using my Android tablet and looking for a good graphics editor,” author and said Linux user Bryan Lunduke began. “I wanted something with layers and good text drawing tools. There were some options, but nothing that compared to the Gimp, Inkscape, or Photoshop for the Desktop. Man, wouldn’t it be great to have a full version of one of those running on my Nexus 7?

“That’s when it hit me,” Lunduke recounted. “We already have that. Photoshop used to run on Windows 3.1. And Windows 3.1 runs great under both DOSBox and QEMU, both of which are Open Source emulators available for Android and every other platform under the sun.”

‘Astoundingly Functional’

Linux Girl

Throw in one old copy of Photoshop and some tweaking on Lunduke’s part, and what do you get? “I ended up with an astoundingly functional copy of Photoshop that I can now run on absolutely every device I own,” he wrote.

Now, to say that the story has caused a few raised eyebrows in the Linux blogosphere is perhaps the understatement of the year — particularly given that Lunduke also penned a two-part series on switching to DOS (yes, DOS) last fall.

Nevertheless, the shock wasn’t enough to render bloggers speechless — not by a long shot. Linux Girl took a small sampling of some of the comments down at the blogosphere’s Punchy Penguin Cafe.

‘What’s So Bad About It?’

“Well, that is the awesomeness of Virtual Machines,” began Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol.

“Seriously, there are lots of programs that were only put to rest because of the software companies’ greed,” Ebersol said. “They worked well and got the job done. Why retire them?

“IMHO, the best Office suite (from Microsoft) was Office 2003 — from that version on, it only went downhill,” he added.

“So, if that version of Photoshop suits the needs of that user, I’m happy to know he can use it,” Ebersol concluded. “And, better, in a Linux (non GNU) operating system. So, what’s so bad about it? Nothing IMO.”

‘That’s Pretty Sad’

Slashdot blogger hairyfeet wasn’t so sure.

“That’s pretty sad, when the tools for graphics editing under Linux are so poor that somebody would go through all the hoop jumping just to get an ancient version of PS up and running,” hairyfeet opined. “If you are gonna go to that much trouble, why not just run a VM of XP at home and SSH into the thing?

“Or at least run Win98SE — it’s been supported by DOSBox since version 7 IIRC, and while you may have it crash once in awhile, frankly you can run a lot newer version of PS on Win98SE than you can Win 3.1, and it’s just a nicer experience all around,” he added.

“Windows frankly was pathetically unstable until Win95 OSR2, while Win98SE was actually decently stable, especially considering it was a 16/32bit hybrid,” hairyfeet concluded.

‘I Salute His Inventive Hackerness’

Others took a more moderate view.

“While it not something I would do, I salute his inventive hackerness,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien offered, for example. “I am actually more likely to use DOS than Windows 3.1 — though Windows 3.1 is just shell that runs on DOS.”

Similarly, “all I can say is he is one very enterprising fellow,” agreed Robin Lim, a lawyer and blogger on Mobile Raptor.

‘A Cute Trick’

“I am not sure if the old version of Adobe Photoshop has any advantages, but Adobe Photoshop Touch costs just under US$10,” Lim added. “Some food for thought.”

And again: “I’ve done much the same thing for some old Windows games I always found interesting,” consultant and Slashdot blogger Gerhard Mack admitted.

“It’s a cute trick, but when it comes down to it, not particularly useful,” Google+ blogger Linux Rants told Linux Girl. “The average user would see more and better functionality from using alternative software (like GIMP) or just running modern software in a virtual environment.

“I’ve got to give the guy props for ingenuity, but I don’t see this starting a new trend,” Linux Rants added.

‘Learn to Use the GIMP’

“Surrendering to any older version of MS Windows (pre-W7) before a modern GNU/Linux distro to run other proprietary software is just crazy!” exclaimed Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. “Windows 3.1?? What can I say? Call the doctors :-D”

On a more serious note, though, “there is a huge work by WINE people, VMWare and Oracle to make other OSes’ programs run under Linux,” he pointed out. “If they are usable, do use them. A sandbox is better than that OS controlling your machine.

“By the way: Learn to use the GIMP, InkScape and other great FOSS packages!” Gonzalo Velasco C. added.

‘Think of the Children’

“Using Lose 3.1 instead of GNU/Linux is silly, but it works on legacy hardware,” blogger Robert Pogson told Linux Girl. “There won’t be drivers for that OS for a lot of new equipment, but apparently some virtual machines are backwards-compatible.”

Of course, “using GNU/Linux and Wine or GNU/Linux and native applications would be better in the long run,” Pogson opined. “It is easier and less costly for the world to make its own Free Software than to use non-Free software.

“I have twice helped schools using a non-Free library suite,” he recalled. “They paid $thousands for the privilege of having software that would not run on their systems thanks to DRM. I demonstrated Free Software equivalents and magically the non-Free software was made to work by the suppliers.”

In another case, “an authorization key was lost and thousands of dollars worth of software became useless,” Pogson recounted. “The supplier would not help fix the problem, but their software would no longer run. I switched to GNU/Linux for $0 and we had the function my employer required at no cost.”

Bottom line? “Non-Free software is painful enough; when the slave-master is M$, the pain is worse, being passed on to the next generation,” Pogson concluded. “Think of the children…”

Katherine Noyes has been writing from behind Linux Girl's cape since late 2007, but she knows how to be a reporter in real life, too. She's particularly interested in space, science, open source software and geeky things in general. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.

1 Comment

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

E-Commerce Times Channels