Thursday, 24 April 2008
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
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