Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Some Vista concerns

It occurred to me that I didn't really give Vista a fair shot, after all it wasn't on my computer and I didn't spend time alone with it. So, my judgment is probably not to be entirely trusted. Still, first impressions do say a lot. I was struck by the fact that Vista is a different animal than XP. They have done things differently in Vista to where us XP users will have to "learn" MS Windows all over again.

How does Vista with Aero stack up against the latest Linux offerings?
I saw in one comparison between Vista and Linux with Beryl a complaint that Beryl was an add-on software and not built into the Linux desktop. Beryl is a very flashy, 3d, animated, desktop interface for Linux. This is really funny because in Linux "everything" is an add-on. But I must say that most people will buy a computer with Vista Home Premium installed, which has the Aero desktop, rather than the Vista Home Basic which does not. I wonder why Microsoft even bothered with Home Basic. Well its all a money thing. Anyway, some versions of Linux do include Beryl as an optional desktop and yes, I have the option to use it(but don't). OK, so there is NOT a comparison between Vista Home Basic and Linux minus the graphic enhancements. That perhaps would show what the real worth the basic operating systems have. Microsoft doesn't show off Vista without the "Wow" factor. That is its' biggest selling point. My point is that Vista can be had without Aero and Linux can be had without Beryl. Is Vista Home Basic really an improvement over XP is what we all want to know? Is "Wow" what we really want? Are you a secret geek at heart? These questions I will have to dig into in the future.

Now, what does all this desktop fuss do to the question, "can my grandma use my computer?" Sorry, grandma will have to "learn" to use it. Computers just are not simple intuitive devices. If and when computers can provide a speech driven interface, then we can perhaps approach that kind of interaction. Still, there are so many problems with speech input and we will have to "learn" that also. I think it is funny that the goal of the intuitive desktop interface equals "does not have to learn". There is no real intuitive interface between man and machines. I don't think we want to have millions of people with Borg like integration with computers. But we will keep trying to find the holy grail of interfaces until one day we are assimilated.

Some additions, it turns out that Vista Home Basic is a slight improvement over XP. Microsoft has done somethings better. What will happen is a cost comparison between Vista Home Premium (with Aero) and Vista Home Basic & pimping it out yourself. There are already a number of free and non-free software packages to pimp out Vista. This simply shows that lots of Microsoft users are already working past what Microsoft offers. But all said and done this compares to what you can get in Linux, probably for free.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

On the Desktop Again!!

As I wrote in my last blog, I pimped my XP desktop. It looks and acts pretty sweet compared to the stock xp desktop. The green and blue start bar is no more and the skin has an Apple flavor. And with RKLauncher, it is a efficient looking, yet very sporty desktop. My Ubuntu Linux desktop looks almost the same but is a little more polished. Microsoft doesn't like you messing with their software. So, without 3rd party add-on software you can't change it very much. Then there is the problem of 3rd party software not being compatible with the security updates, which is why I can't use FlyakiteOSX.

Got a chance to fuss with a laptop with Vista on it. I had to go hunting for all the functions that were up front in XP. I wasn't very comfortable using Vista. People will be glad when there is an arm load of programs to load on it to do regular stuff. My friend who had the laptop was saddled with MS Works for free. This is not even an Office compatible suite. You can change some files to Office file format but it can screw you up. But it beats the trial version of Office I got with my desktop. So I loaded Open Office 2 on the laptop until they could obtain a copy of MS Office. I myself will not buy MS Office for myself. I am very happy with Open Office. So my immediate advice to anyone getting Vista is to go to the library, get the books. Vista is different than XP by a long shot. It looks and feels different and things are in different places. I have witnessed the new boy gleam of a couple of new Vista users. I don't plan to be around them when the wants and needs kick in. The pre-installed OS always gives you a "I don't want anything else" sleep. It will be a while before there is a boatload of hardware drivers and utilities that are Vista compatible. And don't have a 64-bit processor, you will be waiting a long time for support.

Well, that was my small Vista adventure. Did discover Oxygen Office Premium. It is a version of Open Office that has extensions, clip-art, extras and I think Visual Basic programming. I got the MS Windows version running in XP and Vista, but I could not get the Linux version to run because it is 32-bit and I have a 64-bit processor. But I still have Open Office in 64-bit. Yes, there are 64-bit problems in Linux too. Also I discovered the famous Linux program Evolution, which is a email/calender/PIM program, has been ported over to MS Windows. The package installer works in XP and eariler only. So Vista users will have to deal with Outlook and security holes, I mean patches.

So, is there any big differences between MS XP/Vista and Linux that stick out? I know you can add a very slick, graphic intensive, 3d, moving display in Linux but Linux has always had a little program called a pager. It can be assigned any number of desktop spaces. You could open programs in one space, switch to another while the original program is still running. Plus you get a tiny graphic of each desktop in the task bar. It is very handy and practical. XP doesn't have this and Vista, if you get the higher priced fancier versions, has the 3d rotating stack of windows. Sorry, but it is not very much advanced over a non-rotating stack of over laying windows. In Linux you can move open windows between desktops. I just don't think MS has created something cool enough to warrant a new operating system. It may take a while for the tweak geeks to take Vista off-road. So, again, if you buy a new computer you most likely are saddled with Vista, good luck and have fun. I am still dual-booting XP and Ubuntu Linux. They are neck and neck in many aspects but I like and prefer the look and feel of Ubuntu Linux with the latest KDE desktop. MS XP is very workable in its older state, except for the security patches. Vista is too new to be practical yet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

MS vs Linux steps up a notch

Well, I got tired of bitching about how my Windows XP desktop was cluttered and unresponsive. So I put most of the desktop shortcut icons in a desktop folder, that way I could get at them when I needed them. They weren't being used regularly anyway. Then I installed something called RKLauncher (RKDock). This handy item places a few most accessed icons on the desktop for fast easy access. It looks just like the icon tool bar on the Mac. When you hover over the icon with your mouse, the icon magnifies.
I tried out a few other freebies but they were buggy because of all the security fixes to XP. The best one was called FlyakiteOSX. It looked very, very nice compared to what I could do to the standard XP desktop. It had a DLL relocation problem that I couldn't fix. I really liked the Mac look but would have settled just for the better functionality. All in all I like my XP desktop again. I think it is amazing that some inventive programmers have figured out how to change the look and feel of MS Windows by adding on some software.

My next major shakeup was what to do with the Linux desktop. I have been a Gnome desktop fan since I first installed Red Hat years ago. I didn't like KDE because it was complicated in its look and feel. The little dragon symbol I also thought was hoke. KDE users bragged about the ability to reconfigure the look and feel of the desktop. All I saw was menu after nested menu, especially in the control panel. Gnome was simple to set up, my grandmother could use it. I guess even Linus T. himself had something to say about the simplicity of Gnome. But he was questioning the attitude of its programmers. They were, according to him, underestimating the mental capacity of the users of their desktop. I thought simple was nice so I didn't have a problem. A funny thing happened to KDE, it was improved for the better. So I backed up my personal files and bookmarks, my address book. I installed Kubuntu (with KDE) over Ubuntu (with Gnome). I like what I see of KDE, the convoluted double nested menus are gone. It has a nicer look and feel. It is still tweakable. I am not head over heels satisfied yet, there are some differences to get used to. I want to say out loud that KDE is not like MS Windows and people who say that are smoking something. I thought Gnome was more like MS Windows but thats my opinion. So, I am tweaking my KDE desktop to get the best out of it. I miss the Synaptic Application Manager that was in Gnome, but the Apt-get interface works quite well. KDE seem to have a better variety of programs written for it that integrate well into it. I installed a little program called KoolDock. It again is like the Mac icon toolbar that sits at the bottom of the screen. It is very handy and works with KDE. Change is good and it all seems to get better.