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Weekend reflections

December 5th, 2008

It’s time once again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

Death of a President full movie

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  1. gerard
    December 6th, 2008 at 09:31 | #1

    the past week I have been working for the first time in an all-Linux office and getting to know Fedora.

    well it took a bit of getting used to at first, but at the end of the week, coming home and using my Vista PC, I realised that there was no comparison. Especially when you take into account the price factor, it is obvious that Windows (and especially Vista, which routinely crashes out of the blue and has atrocious backwards compatability issues) is a rip-off piece of garbage that nobody in their right mind would purchase if it wasn’t for its market dominance and the fact that it is stuffed down the throat of everybody buying a new computer. Fedora is 100% better and it’s *FREE*!!!

    I recently bought a new laptop (Vista being the MANDATORY os), and while according to the specs this laptop should be very fast, it is actually frustratingly slow due to the mandatory Microsoft bloatware. Is it the case that there is collusion between Intel and Microsoft to keep on upping the ante regarding the speed required – we’ll make more bloated operating systems so that consumers need to buy faster processors, and consumers need to buy faster processors because of bloated operating systems.

    According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, Australia’s universities waste about a squillion dollars a year on Microsoft crapware. Imagine the savings that would result from moving all university (and government) computers to Linux!! It’s a no-brainer.

    If Krudd’s education revolution is going to buy a computer for every high-school student with Windows on it, then add another squillion to the amount of taxpayer money pissed away into this rotten company. Considering that there is a FREE and totally superior product available, it blows my mind that anybody in the Education Department would even using Windows for all these new computers.

    This inferior and ridiculously expensive operating system needs to die, so let us unite to kill it!!

  2. Steve
    December 6th, 2008 at 10:50 | #2

    I agree that people could look in more detail at free OS’s like linux, but thought I would balance out your commentary a bit, though I agree with your frustration at MS.

    I installed ubuntu on my laptop to see how it performed. Trying to get wireless to work was one of the most time consuming puzzles I’ve had with a computer in recent memory. I think linux has a ways to go before it is user-friendly enough to get mass appeal in the developed world.

    On the conspiracy theory about hardware providers and MS colluding: nonsense. The only thing that most 3+ y.o. computers would be missing to run Vista is RAM, not HDD space or CPU power. And given that RAM is incredibly cheap these days, I don’t think its as big an issue as you make out. Perhaps your laptop ran slow because it had only 1GB of RAM, and I think that > 1.5GB is best for Vista. Perhaps thats bloated, but you could buy 4GB these days for about $100 for a laptop, and even cheaper for desktop.

    Universities: perhaps science/engineering faculties would be comfortable with linux, but I think in many of the other faculties, incl law, economics, humanities, psychology, it would simply be too obscure for many (not all) academics, and the 1-person IT department in many schools would struggle to cope. In the psych department i study in, many academics and students actually use Macs, which I think is preposterous, but its because they aren’t computer people, and they are happy to pay an extra $1000 out of their grant money to feel comfortable with their computer. It matters to some people.

    market dominance: this is the challenge that linux will face – everyone uses PC. It is a substantial hurdle to push out on your own with a new OS and all sorts of compatibility issues, even if the OS in question runs faster. Its like the english language – its broken in many respects, and could be cleaned up, but how do you get everyone to change the way they speak? That’s the biggest obstacle to me switching to linux.

    I think even MS would agree that the launch of Vista went very poorly, so its a fair criticism, hopefully Windows 7 will be better.

  3. gerard
    December 6th, 2008 at 11:52 | #3

    I have 2 gig of ram but I think I will still have to get some more to cut down on all the time I waste sitting around waiting. I also hope that Windows 7 will be better, although MS really should give it away for free for anybody who put up with Vista. I’m sure that it would be a hard sell getting Linux in all the non science/engineering faculties, but really for most basic purposes there’s not much difference between Windows and Fedora. I haven’t used Ubuntu but I found Fedora to be great, and I’m not a computer-literate person by ANY means. if you needed more IT people to deal with the transition, you could probably hire more for the money you’d save.

    But what I’m really worried about is the thought that the education revolution will buy a Windows computer for every high school student – that’s just utterly ridiculous – it will totally inflate the cost for no reward. And the benefit of having high school students learn Linux would be that it would then be easier to shift universities and government systems to Linux. It drives me nuts to think of millions of taxpayer dollars going to the company that stuck us with Vista!

  4. Ian Gould
    December 6th, 2008 at 12:42 | #4

    Even by Microsoft standards Vista is a turkey.

    I generally buy my IT gear second-hand (Australian Computer Traders East Brisbane) and run older OS’s that have had most of the grossest bugs sorted out.

    Currently I’m using XP.

  5. Smiley
    December 6th, 2008 at 12:53 | #5

    I bought a laptop last year and decided to give Ubuntu a go. I have to agree with Steve that getting the wireless device to work took a bit of hunting around on the internet. Whenever the kernel gets upgraded I have to rebuild the drivers for the wireless device. But that takes all of 5 minutes.

    The thing that surprised me was how easy it was to install Ubuntu. I’ve played around with other Linux distributions including Caldera and SUSE, but Ubuntu has been the easiest to install.

    The only reason why I think anyone would want to stay with Windows was if playing 3D games was important or if you have a specific application such as Illustrator that is not available for Linux. But even applications such as this have equivalents on Linux.

  6. Mike Pepperday
    December 6th, 2008 at 13:09 | #6

    Nicholas Gruen asked about Linux and got a large number of expert comments:

    http://clubtroppo.com.au/2008/06/29/why-cant-linux-beat-windows/

  7. jquiggin
    December 6th, 2008 at 14:13 | #7

    “In the psych department i study in, many academics and students actually use Macs, which I think is preposterous, but its because they aren’t computer people, and they are happy to pay an extra $1000 out of their grant money to feel comfortable with their computer. It matters to some people.”

    Unless your value of time is exceptionally low, an extra $1K in capital cost for a computer that will last three years and saves you an hour or two of grief and general inefficiency every week looks like a remarkably good deal.

  8. charles
    December 6th, 2008 at 14:15 | #8

    I watched minis replace mainframes and micros replace minis, and then progess stopped; for years.

    Welcome; mobiles phones.

    It’s not that Linux will replace windows on the desktops, the question is, what will dominate the desktop replacement. I think the market is throwing up a few hints at the moment.

    In my view the next revolution will be over and we can start looking for the one after when people want their desktop to look like their mobile phones.

    As for linux; great os; while Vista really is a disaster. Apple gave up and went to Unix, MS should have done the same instead of subjecting us all to one more round of what has become an unmitigated mess.

  9. MH
    December 6th, 2008 at 15:41 | #9

    Re #1 – This is an old comparative argument. Linux has always had superior performance due to its Unix origins and kernel structure with linear directories and file systems not to mention security. MS bought the Unix company to improve MS-DOS and then attempted to shut down the Linux world, happily they lost that battle, but typical MS they have bullied and fought everybody into a legal quagmire if they could not buy something better outright. If you would like a good example see what they did to the group who actually developed MS Flight Simulator in the late 1990′s. MS have vigorously fought any attempt to use open source and tap into the world wide goodwill to improve things and keep them minimum cost.

    I cannot stand MS Windows but have to keep using it because using windows emulation on a linux system is fraught with problems and unfortunately there is a lot of proprietary software outthere that is only compatible with MS systems. Still if you try hard. I have run a win98 system because my better half insists on using a lotus legacy program that has never been updated beyond win98 and this has been done with 350 megs of ram and a 5 gig hard drive. But even I have to admit defeat with the recent changes even to Java, so I guess it is time to go back to Linux and emulate the lotus program if I can.

    On another note there is a great laptop program running out of the US that provides a laptop to kids in poor countries for a $1 US. So it can be done. More memory saves a lot of recoding and is the lazy out for a lot of soft ware developers who would have to start from scratch. In the end most soft-ware producers go the easy route and provide what is most used in the market and that is MS. Vista is a dog because it tried to combine MS-DOS architecture with unix design, never was going to work due to the daisy chain file sequencing of MS Dos. They have tried to disguise it but a hybrid is a hybrid.

    Linux’s only weakness is that it is very hard to run graphic rich media material based on codecs which are owned by the MS based establishment, so they even had to come up with .png files to deal with the legal issues relating to attempts to prevent the systems using .jpg files.

    Final word in nearly 15 years of linux use never and I mean never had a system crash aka the blue screen of death, runs like a rocket on little memory and is solid as a rock. It just takes a bit of fiddling to get there and that is not a open up a box and let a wizard do it for you job you have to do some of the work yourself and that takes you back into the command line world of vi editor etc.

  10. Ikonoclast
    December 6th, 2008 at 15:55 | #10

    My Windows XP (SP3) runs all right. Note, I said all right, not great. The Vista stories are scaring me so much I am putting off buying a new PC out of fear of the Vista operating system.

    I’d be tempted to try an iMac for my next PC but the Trouble and Strife is saying she has to have Vista. As I always get in the last words (“Yes, dear.”) I guess we will get… ugh… urk… gag… Vista.

    I’ve kind of adopted a fatalistic, buddhist-like approach to all this now. All reality is a kind of illusion you know, especially our wishes and hopes.

    Yes, the world is real, the physics is real and our feeling of consciousness is real but what does it all mean? It’s a bit of a joke in the end. I bet MS Corporation (and even human computer systems) will last a much shorter time than dinosaurs. Pfft! In the cosmic time scale this kerfuffle will be over very soon.

  11. gerard
    December 6th, 2008 at 16:18 | #11

    it’s ironic that you mention the blue screen crash of death MH, because while I was reading your comment, that’s exactly what happened to me. I don’t know if there’s something I installed that Vista doesn’t like, but I’m getting blue screen crashes of death virtually every day lately, up from about once a week when I first got this laptop (which I immediately had to get fixed by my ASUS warrently because my computer was freezing every second time it had to load Vista). Plus, as I just discovered last night, my Vista can’t even manage to install its own 500MB service pack. all I can say to Ike is DON’T DO IT!

  12. Ian Gould
    December 6th, 2008 at 17:26 | #12

    “it’s ironic that you mention the blue screen crash of death MH, because while I was reading your comment, that’s exactly what happened to me.”

    Double irony – it happened to me too.

  13. Zarquon
    December 6th, 2008 at 19:30 | #13

    Hi MH,

    Try running Win98 in Sun’s Virtualbox under Linux.

  14. Socrates
    December 7th, 2008 at 10:03 | #14

    I agree with the comments on Vista. It isn’t just terrible for occcaisional users. The new Office suite has new format Excel and database files that weren’t backwards compatible with previous versions of Excel. For anyone doing lots of quantitiative analysis with programs linked to previous Excel sheets or Databsees this was a disaster. They have a patch out now but the damage was already done. We had several large demand models (each over a GB) in which all the macros were rendered useless. Now we keep a PC with the old Windows and Excel vesions in service to run them. Otherwise our work would stop.

    We haven’t looked at Linux. From what I gather it is quite good, but again all our existing work databases are set up for software written i Windows, so the monopoly continues. After the Vista experience though, several vendors in our field are already starting to offer analysis software written for Macs and Linux. When they are bug free we may well switch.

    I also agree that Macs are increasingly good buying. Even though I do all my computational work on a PC, I happily use a mac at home and for my thesis. The time saving makes it easily worth it, quite apart form the security advantages.

  15. Socrates
    December 7th, 2008 at 10:18 | #15

    A change of topic – regarding the credit/economic crunch/crisis, is inflation the solution? I saw this in The Age today worrying about the possibility, but it doesn’t seem so silly to me:
    http://business.theage.com.au/business/central-banks-go-nuclear-20081206-6swd.html

    Apologies if others have already discussed this. I remember that back in the 80s, a higher rate of underlying inflation made it easier to adjust wages and prices over time. Real average wages actually fell a lot under Hawke, but inflation eased the pain a little. Oldies will grumble that their savings are eroded, but they are going to have to face that reality anyway, because it seems to me that many of our investment valuations in recent years were fiction.

  16. nanks
    December 7th, 2008 at 10:19 | #16

    @socrates – isn’t backwards compatibility a bigger problem with Macs? I thought backwards compatibility was one of the advantages of WinPCs.
    I’ve used MS, Mac and Linux and found Mac the buggiest as far as hardware and software went – this was at the time of the introduction of OSX(at the time in Brisbane the service support we had at our University was comparatively poor for Mac but I understand it is much better now). I know this is not what is usually reported but it was my experience.
    Windows – win2k and now XP – has been very stable for me. I have not changed to Vista – even if it was trouble free there is no advantage for me.

  17. Socrates
    December 7th, 2008 at 10:43 | #17

    Nanks

    Try changing to Vista and you may revise that opinion. I can’t comment on Macs in the far past but the ones I have used in recent years (ever since reasonable ability to run PC files on them) are fine.

    The problem I referred to on PCs relates specifically to Vista. I am not a Bill Gates hater and happily used PCs running Windows previously, accepting their clunkiness and need for firewalls in retunr for pretty good stability in XP and great functionality in Excel. We have many large specialist software and spreadsheet- based models that simply didn’t work in Vista. They have new file formats for databases and spreadsheets. Our IT people said why can’t you convert the models? A bit difficult when some of them are the amalgamation of 2 or 3 years work. Technically speaking, Vista sucks.

  18. December 7th, 2008 at 12:10 | #18

    Here is a great interview that can be enjoyed by the political Left, Right, centre, up and down alike:

    http://antiwar.com/radio/2008/12/03/thomas-woods-2/

  19. David Irving (no relation)
    December 7th, 2008 at 12:41 | #19

    Apparently Vista has such poor backward compatibility because Microsoft finally bit the bullet on fixing all the security holes entailed by backward compatibility of their earlier OSs.

    I’ve got no interest in upgrading, though. Ubuntu works quite well.

  20. Charlie Bell
    December 7th, 2008 at 13:27 | #20

    Socrates,

    My work PC is running XP, not Vista, but I have both Excel2003 and Excel2007 installed and can run them quite separately. I wanted to use Excel2007 to overcome the old Excel limitation of 256 columns. I can still run Excel2003 and my old macros. Each version does a file convert if necessary, but generally I just have to remember to open files from within Excel rather than double-clicking.

  21. Donald Oats
    December 7th, 2008 at 15:24 | #21

    Sorry all but the Compucolor computer and its version of Basic beats all hands down. The basic code to Startrek fit entirely into the 32K RAM, although they had to put code (on the same line) after GOTO commands. Some wiley machine code was used to access that basic code hiding beyond the gotos. Other programs would steal the video RAM (12K, I think) to use in extra big calculations, leading to some rather psychadelic displays…

    Anything else since then is just derivative :-)

  22. Michael of Summer Hill
    December 7th, 2008 at 15:43 | #22

    John, it seems like the circus is back in town for if Craig Emerson is correct and Turnbull has been given the two-fingered salute by the Richard Craniums in the Coalition then sparks are set to fly within the Liberal ranks.

  23. Ian Gould
    December 7th, 2008 at 16:42 | #23

    Re,member the changes to the solar panel rebate that were supposedly going to wipe out the industry in Australia?

    http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/renewable/pv/pubs/installedbystate-oct08.xls

    The number of residential systems installed by month from May (when the budget changes were announced0 to October are running almost double the number for the same period in 2007.

    Measured in watts, the increase in capacity is “only” around 50%.

  24. MH
    December 8th, 2008 at 17:58 | #24

    #13-Thanks for the tip, a little xmas project I think.For others I highly recommend Sun’s Open Office for spreadsheet work, it’s free and like Firefox etc., runs rings around MS software. I cannot comment on Macs as I have never had one JQ recently went the Mac way maybe could advise how it crunches numbers.

  25. BilB
    December 9th, 2008 at 07:33 | #25

    DO 21,
    My favourite basic was the sharp handheld computer basic that came out in the late 70′s. The feature that worked for me was GOTO(value). There may be other basics that did this but that is only one that I found. Being able to branch to a destination based on calculation directly allowed fuzzy logic like programming capability, well before fuzzy logic became popular. But the most enjoyable programming for me, not that I get to do enough of it, is mixing a full featured programming language with CNC and motion commands. Having the ability to make a programme that goes to work in a physical way is a real buzz.

  26. BilB
    December 9th, 2008 at 07:40 | #26

    That should have been GOTO expression where the expression evaluates to a line number.

  27. Socrates
    December 9th, 2008 at 09:21 | #27

    BilB

    I had a HP15C programmable calculator for many years that was fantastically useful and efficient. With RPN, statistics, matrix maths and a SOLVE function I could analyse data on it very quickly; I often think that for smaller calculations such devices are still unbeatable becasue you can finish the calc on them before your PC has booted up. Unless you are doing analysis of very large volumes of data they are still the best IMO. Mine recently stopped working (after 23 years) and I was very dissappointed to find they no longer make them.

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