Tuesday, 15 July 2008

God give me patience

God give me patience, but give it to me now. This seems to be a saying that more than a few KDE users should think carefully about. I've tried KDE 4 and it, using the phrase of the moment, sucks. The difference however between some of the more vicious KDE poster and bloggers and me is that I actually read the KDE press releases and believed them.

Are any of you out there parents, teachers, aunts and uncles ? If so have you ever been to a school play or recital ? If you have then the following analogy will probably ring true. Next time you sit through a couple of hours of really painful piano or violin playing think of KDE 4. An 8 year old playing a violin is generally a truly painful experience but occasionally you can see talent there. As your ear drums try and catch the bus home before you there is a thought rattling around along with the tortured notes inside your head. This kid will be really good one day given a bit of help and encouragement. While we are in this mental picture, pan around in your minds eye. Somewhere in that audience, will be a face in rapture. Spot the proud mother.

KDE 4 is like this.

For the mother in my story read the KDE developers. To them, their baby is wonderful and they won't hear a word said against it. The rest of us are the audience. Yes, it is a bit awful at the moment but if we remember this is early days. This baby is going to be really good one day, it just needs a bit more practice.

Now to complete my story. The distros ..tut tut You do not put an 8 year old on the stage at the Albert Hall. It will be a disaster and it was. By all means give people a chance to see and hear this child prodigy but make sure everyone knows that it still has to do it's homework and it's chores.

KDE 4 will be amazing. I can see why the KDE people did what they did. I read the press releases and believed them. They screamed from the rooftop that KDE 4.0 was a preview. People just didn't listen and maybe KDE was naive thinking that people would read the small print when the release said 4.0. Calling it 3.99 would have been better.

With the release of RC1 - try it - report bugs - moan if you will. But be polite and constructive, otherwise this kid may give up the piano and move to Redmond. I hope not ...

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Windows just Works

Well, it's that time of the year again, when all the distros brush off their latest and greatest offerings. That's the good news, a sudden plethora of wobbly windows, wonderful applications and whizzy widgets to play with. The bad news is putting up with all of the articles that everyone and their dog seem to feel qualified to write these days. 'Good, but not good enough' or 'Doesn't quite make the grade' seems typical of the latest collection of posts springing up like weeds. I think the 'Windows works perfectly but Linux needs so much tweaking' school of thought has been rather done to death lately. The reason Windows 'just works' is that someone like me has spent ages setting it up for the average end user. Take a vanilla Windows CD/DVD be it XP or Vista and install it and see what happens, nothing, it does practically bugger all. When you buy your nice new computer from Dell, HP or whoever, they have had an army of people who have prepared, installed and tested all of the drivers, applications and nice toys that people assume come with Windows. Most people do not, and in most cases cannot, build a Windows PC from a bag of CD's and a readme file. Why should Linux be any different. To build and configure a Windows PC, install all of the applications and test it takes us about a week. To do the same for a Linux PC takes about a day. That's a hell of a lot better but even that isn't exactly 'out of the box'. Why do people think suppliers give you a restore CD ? If you had to put everything back by yourself you might see why it takes us a week to prep a PC image. Most end users unpack their PC, plug it together and turn it on. That's about the extent of the skill level we are dealing with here. That's not an insult it's a fact. Think of it this way. I like computers, I like fiddling with them. Give me a pile of CD's and a dustbin bag of bits and I'll make you a computer that works ( and maybe a washing machine from the stuff left over ;-). I don't like cars. I expect to get in one turn the key and be off. I don't want to re program the engine management chip or upgrade the radio or even to be honest, change the oil. Lots of people would be quite happy if I gave them a car in pieces and asked them to put it back together, some people like fiddling with cars. I don't, I just want it to work. Linux is great, it's not perfect I admit, but it's good solid engineering. Giving computer users who have only ever seen Windows set up by experts a Linux DVD and saying 'Here you go, honest, it's better than Windows' is like giving me a Porche in bits. I'm sure it would be better than my old clapped out Ford if I only knew how to put it together.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Trying to like Vista

OK, I'll come clean. I am a MCSE for my sins and I also have some other interesting certificates from Sun for that strange UNIX stuff they peddle and 3COM for networking/pluggy cables in the wall/TCP thingys, so hopefully if I say Windows sucks I can do it with modicum of gravitas and a sure and certain belief that I know what most of the cables hanging out of the back of my PC actually do. Anyway, I digress. The other day I found a survey on a web site ( I think it might have been ZDNet ) asking why people weren't using Vista. One of the options was 'Other people have told me it isn't nice' or words to that effect. This made me feel a bit guilty. The last time I really gave Vista a good kicking was a RC version that uncle Bill had kindly supplied. "Maybe". I considered. "That's really why I haven't been rushing out to the hole in the wall machine and hot footing it down to the local PC World to purchase my very own copy of Redmonds finest". So being the cheapskate that I am, I unpacked a copy of Vista Business that came with 5 gallons of 4 star unleaded ( or maybe it was included with our MS agreement, I can't remember which ) fired up a brand new machine and installed the little blighter complete with SP1. Ok, it's very pretty, I'll give it that but the performance compared to Fedora for real world tasks is appalling. My usual work PC is about eighteen months old and is pretty good but not quite the spec of the new ones but it does run Fedora 8. Anyway, after having fun with Vista's shiny windows ( and I admit the fonts do look fantastic ) I was interrupted by a pesky user insisting I actually do what they pay me for! They wanted 14 small movie files on a CD, a ten minute job eh!. So I connected to the network drive and started downloading them to the Vista machine. "OK" I thought. "Maybe I'll do this on my machine at the same time. It's a good test and if I screw up the Vista CD the user won't notice I'm a prat as I'll just give them the CD from the Fedora machine as though nothing had happened". You have to remember here that the Vista machine is already copying the files, so I scoot my chair across the office just like a proper IT teccy and start on the Fedora machine ( before you say anything, copying the files to the local machine is my way of making CDs and goes back to 1x CD burners and machines that were so slow you couldn't do anything else while they were burning. It might not be the best way or the most efficient way but this is my blog and my story so you'll just have to put up with the way I do things ). Now I hardly ever connect to the Windows shares so I do it the hard way. Places, Network, Windows Networks....enter a user,a domain and a password, find a server, find a share... you get the idea, it's a bit of a pain. So finally I find the files and download them, launch K3B burn the CD hand it to the user and scoot back over to the Vista machine. It's still copying !!! and it went on copying for another 3 minutes. After which I finally got to burn the CD ( which didn't work on anything other than the Vista machines which was a bit of a poo ). OK the last bit was sort of my fault but God was it slow and don't get me started on what our group policies did to it when I tried logging in as a normal user. It's so pretty I really, really wanted to like it. When I was younger ( a long time ago ) Miss World wasn't the hot PC potato it is today and gorgeous blond bimbos stood there in full view of the world and to a TV audience of millions and said things like. "I like puppies and I want world peace"... deja vu perhaps

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

The Future

Person A "It's an ISO standard"
Person B "And that means what ?"

Friday, 28 March 2008

How Microsoft killed ODF

Hasn't anyone learned anything over the last few years. It doesn't matter if OOXML is approved or not. All that matters is that the process that gave ODF it's international standing is ruined. ODF got where it is today because it is an international standard, not because it is necessarily the answer to every possible question. People believed in the ISO process and believed that a standard with their seal of approval was actually worth something in the real world. By badgering, bribing and threatening, Microsoft has effectively destroyed the ISO process. So who cares if OOXML becomes a standard or not? No one if there isn't gold standard for it to be judged against. While ODF was a saint, the sinner of OOXML looked very dark and shabby. Now Microsoft has cast doubt on the lineage of ODF everyone is a sinner. If you will excuse an awful analogy, which would you prefer to eat, ice cream or sawdust? Easy choice eh! Now everyone knows that the ISO process can be corrupted the choice can then be portrayed as one dodgy standard versus another. So, what do you want to eat now, sawdust or coal? Not as clear cut any more is it! As soon as one national body fell to the manipulation of Microsoft, OOXML had won. In the world of FUD and dirty deals Microsoft is king. It's made a career out of muddying the waters to hide it's own inadequacies and inconsistencies. There is ( or maybe these days, was ) a saying that says 'My country right or wrong'. For some ISO members maybe we should change it to 'My company, right or wrong'

In this whole sordid tale, some people stood above the crud and for that they should be saluted... and some didn't ....

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Winning Hearts and Minds

It's probably been 10 years since I started playing with Linux and the one thing that has really changed in that time are the forums. Going back to those days a post would usually elicit a helpful pointer or two, even if it was to the man pages, and if not that, at worst, a RTFM. Now days it seems impossible to post a question without some arrogant soul having a go. I recently posted a question or so to a couple of forums and whilst I did get some useful answers I also got the usual selection of comments suggesting I was a complete moron.

Whilst that may be true, it is unlikely that it would be that obvious from my posts. Sometimes situations occur that may not be obvious. I may post a question because of a situation that has a long and complicated history. No one is really interested in how that came about. Maybe a previous admin did something, maybe other factors forced the issue. The bottom line is, the question may seem odd, simple or just plain stupid but what I need are suggestions. Just because you know a lot about Linux doesn't mean you know everything about my place of work and configuration. Knowing grep doesn't mean you can grasp out of the air every nuance of my setup and why I want to do something.

I post questions for lots of reasons, often because I don't have time to research the problem myself. Often because I need some feedback as a sounding board. Sometimes suggestions that are totally wrong are helpful because they put you on a train of thought that eventually leads to an answer.

I thought that after 10 years I was immune to 'experts' arrogant replies but I am not. The last few posts have finally convinced me to seriously consider not asking for help anymore, I'll just do it myself even if it takes ten times longer. That's OK for me, I have been playing this game long enough to know that I will solve the problem on my own eventually. Despite being told several times that I am an idiot I do believe that Linux is a better base than Windows but I am not a newbie. If I were coming to Linux today I think I would last about 10 minutes before some 'Linux guru' was so rude to me that I just gave up and went back to Windows.

As my mother said. 'If you can't say something nice...'

Friday, 22 February 2008

Breakin' the law

...and we actually elected these bozos.

The government will on Friday tell Internet service providers they will be hit with legal sanctions from April next year unless they take concrete steps to curb illegal downloads of music and films. (quote from ft.com)

Doesn't this practically make the Internet illegal? It certainly puts sites like YouTube on very dodgy ground. Are ISP suppose to go through the millions of videos and decide which ones violate copyright ? Wikipedia says there are about 75 million video on YouTube alone, so searching that lot is going to be slightly more than a lunchtime job. The only practical solution would be for ISPs to ban whole sites. But wait, what about my quote above. It's lifted straight out of the FT's web page. Is that legal? Well, yes in this case, since it's easy to argue that it is 'fair use' but what if I had nicked half the page or the whole page? Should an ISP be interested? Is this a copyright issue or is it the movie and record industry again trying to protect their golden goose? Even if I had pinched the whole article from the FT no one would care. OK, it's stealing and if I did over and over eventually I would almost certainly get a very nasty letter in the post ( or email ) but that would be between me and the FT. ( or at least some nice gentlemen representing the FT in very sharp suits ). If I stole a car, the Highways agency isn't liable for me making my getaway on the public roads.

Don't get me wrong, using other people work is wrong but it seems ( and I quote quite loosely and badly ) 'Some things are wronger than others'. If I download a film I will be pursued to the ends of the earth. My ISP will be locked up and flogged and I alone will be responsible for the downfall of the capitalist system. If I steal anything else no one cares. No, that's not fair, people do care but they don't see it as an opportunity to make disproportionate amounts of money. I speak from experience here. Some years ago I ran a fairly popular web site. One day I discovered a very, very similar web site. After a short investigation I found that the site even contained my spelling mistakes. The miscreant involved had lifted the whole site and just changed the logo on the title bar. After a few very icy phone calls the site went away. OK, I was really annoyed that my hard work had been pinched ( and my abysmal spelling made even more public ) but that was between me and the evil doer. Did it ever occur to me that the ISP's that carried that site were to blame? No, don't be bloody stupid! Where does this stop. If I call my mate on the phone and suggest something illegal is the phone company liable. What happens if I rent a video from Blockbuster and then stick in on the Internet? Are they responsible since they are the supplier of the service. If you follow this logic to the bitter end the Internet and practically half the world would grind to a stand still.

The article goes on to say that 6 million users illegally download files. So what, it wouldn't matter if the number was 50 million. I bet there isn't one of you reading this article that hasn't at some time broken a copyright agreement. You haven't? Well next time you lend your friend that great novel you have just finished or give a old book to a charity shop, read the copyright agreement in the front. What would these tyrannical companies prefer? If I download a few tracks ( illegally ) listen to them and decide to go and buy the album on CD is that wrong? If I thought for one minute that a record would come after me in that scenario I wouldn't download and check out the tracks. I also wouldn't pay fifteen quid and hope that the CD was good.

Record and music companies loose very little acquirable revenue from online stealing as opposed to organised bootleg gangs. Bringing the whole weight of the judicial system against some poor sod in the middle of nowhere because their son or daughter has pilfered 200 mp3s is very very counter productive. It makes them look like bullies and discourages people from helping them. What they want is for people to shop the dodgy characters selling knock off DVDs at car boot sales or markets.

Stealing material is wrong both from a economic stand point since it does reduce the available return for other projects and from a philosophical point, as in, you won't go to Heaven.

Well, I seem to have worn out the question mark key in this article and I think that says a lot. The Internet is still relatively new ( ish ) and the majority of the people in positions of power are relatively old ( ish ) but this approach just shows that a) politicians are idiots and b) most people now wouldn't pee on people like the RIAA if they were on fire. Laws like this is about as useful as legislating against the sun coming up in the morning.