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Archive for June, 2011

Back on Windows again

June 16, 2011 2 comments

Ok, I’m back on Windows, this time it’s Win7 though, the old laptop just went from bad to worse and even Linux couldn’t help it. Now it’s been relegated to the status of a family machine for playing solitaire and other simple games. it’s now running Open Suse and the thing is really slow. Unfortunately it would appear that KDE is a bit too resource heavy in its current incarnation. And that’s really a pity because I still remember the time when it wasn’t

Anyway, I originally planned to install linux on this new laptop too, but none of the distros I got off the internet and tried installing on it were able to get the wireless card up and running. Ubuntu detected it but failed to install the proprietary drivers properly. I tried ubuntu, then mint, then open suse, none of them worked, eventually I gave up and installed Win7. I simply didn’t fell like recompiling the kernel or whatever you’re supposed to do in linux when you hit a wall.

So it’s back to Windows, at least for the time being. I tried to make it a bit more linux-like by creating a separate user with no admin privileges and only working as this limited user when I’m surfing the net and do other stuff which may end in getting viruses and malware. and naturally, this being Windows I’m also running an antivirus – commodo security, it’s got some sort of a rudimentary HIPS so supposedly it should be marginally better than your average run of the mill anti-virus software for mere mortals.

So how does Windows stack up against Linux after going back and forth between the two?

The interface is sleeker in Windows, which is to be expected since Windows, to an extent, is the interface (as in the media is the message, Windows is the interface), and apart from just being sleek it kind of makes sense. The drawback is that it’s just one interface, you’re stuck with it. Well, I hear there are various themes out there and I vaguely remember seeing this really crazy WinXP theme a few years back that made WinXP look and feel like Mac OS, a custom designed theme for die-hard mac fans who found themselves stuck with a windows machine. Whatever.

Linux offers lots of choice as a far as interface is concerned,  but compared to Windows seven all of those choices, and especially KDE are slower, sometimes plain comatose. Well they still beat Vista of course.

Ubuntu comes bundled with all sorts of drivers and software. Sure it couldn’t get my wireless card to work properly but in principle I think they’re on the right track. Installing Windows was a bit of a letdown since after having installed the OS proper I then had to go and install productivity software and before that all the drivers and what not. Plus in Windows there’s no such thing as software repositories so you have to download each package separately and install it separately.

The ubuntu way is more seamless, all applications behave like part of the system. the problem is that a lot of them are still bug ridden and slow and they sometimes crash or worse yet, freeze on you and then to kill it, there’s no handy tool like Windows’ task manager, you’ve got to open the terminal, then enter a command that displays all the processes in memory with their numbers and then you’ve got to enter the kill command, again in the terminal, identifying the process you want killed by its number rather than by its name. Well, I know some people get a kick out of doing everything through the terminal but when a program freezes on you and gets stuck in memory, in Windows you can dispose of it much faster via the task manager.

So what else, – flash kind of sucks in linux, maybe flash is evil or I don’t know but on my old laptop with 3 gigabytes of RAM it showed video in slow motion when in full screen mode, which isn’t cool. Maybe it’s just that the laptop in question is on the verge of death or something but still. It was even worse in KDE in open suse.

Well that’s about it for now, just a rant

connectedness is not just about the web

Some of you might have seen the graph that’s recently been circulating on the web, which shows how over the past decade the number of people using the Internet has been growing (no surprise there) but the percentage of people using the world wide web in the total number of Internet users  has in fact fallen dramatically. Sorry I don’t have a link to that graph so you’ll have to just trust me on this one. Now, just to make things clear and in case anyone’s wondering – the Internet and the World Wide Web are not the same thing. The world wide web is the hypertext thingy that you access through a web browser. Essentially is the sum total of all the static and dynamically generated html pages served by http servers (like apache) all over the world. The Internet, on the other hand, is what the world wide web runs on top of. And on the Internet http (which stands for hyper text transfer protocol) is just one of many communications protocols that can be used to share and transmit bits and bytes over the global network known as the Internet.

Now, for someone who was introduced to the Internet in the 1990’s, it’s easy to confuse the Internet and the world wide web. Back then if you were a geek you knew there was also ftp, and you probably knew about smtp and pop3 (those are the protocols commonly used by email clients and servers to this day) and then there was also telnet and so on and so forth but let me just say it again, only geeks knew about those things. 90% of the people that used the Internet in fact only ever used the world wide web – they surfed, which is a fancy way of saying that they basically opened a web browser and stared at web pages.

However, the Internet offers a lot more than just staring at web pages( even if they’re rich content web pages), at the most basic, fundamental level it offers connectedness. Enter smart phones with their apps and smart consumer electronics placing groceries orders for you online. The thing about all these new gadgets is that they don’t use the world wide web, they use their own other protocols, often proprietary, to talk to their servers and do stuff behind the scenes, like placing those orders for groceries I already mentioned or upgrading their firmware on the fly in the background without you even noticing.

And ironically as far as geeks are concerned – they’ve already had a truly connected system for quite some time – I’m talking about linux here. A good linux distro is several orders of magnitude more connected than even the latest version of Windows, Win7. I mean in Windows when your system detects hardware it doesn’t recognize it tries to find drivers for it online but, at least in my case, it has invariably failed to find any suitable drivers. It’s a completely different story in Ubuntu – it’s got huge online repositories of all sorts of software and it actually finds stuff in those repositories, downloads and installs it for you, without splashing those ridiculous install shields all across the screen.

Now here’s an illustration – a fresh Windows install doesn’t have Adobe Reader, naturally. So how do you go about installing Adobe Reader on a new Windows system – you open a browser, you go to http://www.google.com and search for Adobe Reader, or you may go straight to http://www.adobe.com, but the point is that you’ve got to use the world wide web in Windows, you’ve got to use a browser.

You can do that in Ubuntu also, but you don’t have to, you can go to the Software Centre and install it from there without even opening a browser. Now that’s what I call connectedness. Ubuntu, like any Linux distro worth its salt, is a true Internet operating system, unlike Windows. Windows may look nice and shiny but it’s a thing of the past, it’s not connected in the sense that Linux is always connected. If anything Windows, especially WinXP, breaks and soon becomes unusable if you use it to even just surf the Internet, unless you’ve got all sorts of anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on it and running twenty four seven, but even then it still breaks occasionally.  The only thing Windows is reasonably good for is gaming.

So what’s my point – it is this, if you considering getting a new computer, (especially if it’s a laptop for surfing the web and doing other stuff other than playing resource hungry video games) then you should really think about installing a free Linux distro on it instead of shelling out upward of 100 bucks on that old software relic of the 20th century known as Windows.

Categories: IT

Vista Sucks – Ubuntu Rules

Towards the end of last week Windows Vista on my laptop just stopped loading. I was still able to load it in safe mode, which allowed me to save information to a portable hard drive but each time I tried to load it normally it would freeze on the start-up screen and then nothing would happen.

It was really frustrating because the particular laptop in question was designed with Vista in mind and it came with Vista Home Basic pre-installed on it. Vista still sucked big time. Like when I wanted to listen to an audio file in Windows media it would take forever to load. iTunes would sometimes stop loading for no apparent reason. It would be showing in the processes in the task manager but there would be no window so I had to reinstall it practically every week.  The laptop is old and there is something wrong with the hardware which manifests in that when you press it too hard on one particular corner (and I sometimes forget about this vulnerability) it just reboots. Now with Vista a reboot is suckage major as it takes forever to boot on this laptop. Like maybe five or seven minutes.

Anyone to cut a long story short, I made two decisions. One is to buy a new laptop so I’m looking and waiting for cash and the second was to install Ubuntu on the old laptop. The first decision, like I said, I haven’t gone through with yet, but the second one was a breeze to implement – I simply had my partner download the Ubuntu CD image on our other laptop and burn it onto a DVDR and then stuck it into my old laptop and installed Ubuntu. As has always been my experience with Ubuntu, the installation went without a hitch and was over and done with in probably half the time it would have taken me to install Widnows.

Another nice thing about Ubuntu is that you don’t have to search for any drivers, it searches for them for you in its online repositories, downloads and installs them. I didn’t particularly like the new Unity desktop. It’s interesting and pleasing on the eye but not very practical for my purposes so I switched back to the tried and true gnome and I’ve been a much calmer and confident man ever since. The hardware glitch is still there so I still sometimes accidentally force an unexpected reboot on the poor old thing but Ubuntu takes less than a minute to load. I no longer have to reinstall iTunes I use Rythmbox for podcasts and so far it’s been much better than iTunes on Windows at ‘just working’ and just getting the job done, without getting in the way. And I don’t even want to go comparing Windows Media Player with the sound playing software available in Ubuntu. Once again, I just double click an audio file and a second or two later it’s playing in my headphones.

Once again the rhetorical question – how come an operating system that retails at 100 bucks totally sucks ass next to an operating system that you can download totally free off the Internet?

And another rhetorical question is – are people really that stupid that so many of them are still using windows, when there are not just cheaper but free and far better alternatives?

Categories: IT