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Operating Systems

Journal Journal: Windows, Linux and Drivers

How you can tell it's the first week of the month: the monthly "Linux Isn't Ready for the Desktop Because It Lacks Hardware Drivers" articles pop up all over the Web. It's a sweet deal for writers. You really don't have to do any investigation or comparison with other operating systems/platforms. You just regurgitate the Popular Myth in 1,250 slightly rearranged (from last month's article) words, submit to your Editor and...PROFIT!!!

I'm just wondering why we're not reading the same articles about Windows XP 64-bit. It has really lousy hardware support as well. So lousy, you're really much worse off with 64-bit Windows than 64-bit Linux. I should know; I've got a dual boot Windows 2K Pro/Fedora Core 5 system on an Athlon A64 3200+, happily running the SMP distro of Linux; alas, Windows 64-bit doesn't appear to be in the cards due to the wireless network card (a Belkin F5D8000).

This is from a June 2006 post over at from a hapless XP-64 user with the same card:

No luck here. I have the same problem. I am using XP 64bit and l have most all my programs and hardware running except for a wireless card. The programs that wouldnt run (which are only a few) have been replaced with alternatives that run under 64bit XP. All of the wireless companies that I have contacted claim that they have no plans whatsoever to develop 64bit drivers for their wireless cards. It is not a pretty picture. Most other hardware manufactures at least have plans in the works.

I've been investigating upgrading to 64-bit Windows for a while now; most forums advise you to do the same thing you used to be advised to do 5 years ago with Linux: catalog every bit of hardware in your system and search for a driver before you buy that upgrade from Microsoft. If you can't find a 64-bit driver, thou shalt not pass Go. From the anguished posts on the forums, apparently a lot of hardware is a no-go on XP64. Now, to be fair, a lot of Win64 problems are being rectified literally by the day. But why should I be fair when many of the current Linux Lacks Drivers articles are complaining about issues that were resolved in Fedora a year ago?

Why aren't we reading about the lack of XP64 drivers in the computer press? Well, owning an advertising agency gives me the insight to offer a hint: generally, you don't want to piss off an advertiser who's spending 1.2 mil (U.S.) a year with you, journalistic ethics be damned. That's the reason. There's really no such thing as a completely independent press (spoken as somebody who's been involved in the newspaper/magazine/publishing biz from both inside and outside for 30 years) as long as that press is taking money from those on whom it should be reporting.


Journal Journal: The Jonathan Murray Experience

OK, there's this Jonathan Murray fellow over across the Big Pond, the VP and CTO of Microsoft Europe. And Mr. Murray has been quoted by spouting off about open source: "Not Reliable or Dependable."

This is amusing to me, as just a couple of weeks ago my partner, running Adobe InDesign CS2/Windows, had her project mangled beyond all recognition. Didn't take anything particularly dreadful to cause all this fuss: we merely opened the InDesign document, on the same machine with no hardware/software changes, after a successful save the day before...and voilá!--it's FUBAR. InDesign tried feebly to catch itself as it fell, clawing desperately at the hard drive while leaving a pitiful 46K bloodstained "recovery" file on the way down to the concrete. The unmangled file should have been around 2.5 megs. It did not look good...and remained ungood until we just gave up and rebuilt the file from scratch. Now, THAT's reliability, eh? Any more of this kind of "reliability" and my partner will be off Windows and on Fedora, as I am.

Meanwhile, across the room, I'm doing all my design and publishing work in Scribus (on Fedora Core 4 Linux), one of those "not reliable or dependable" ding-dang open source apps that Mssr. Murray speaks of. To top it off, I'm doing heavy production in the 1.3.3.x development version. Listen, I'm living so dangerously that I'm practically compiling the latest version even before the source gets up to the CVS system, that how dangerously I like to live. And I'll be frank--Scribus is not nearly as polished as Adobe InDesign. A few rough corners on the interface (try marqueeing with the Zoom Tool in the 1.3.x Scribus for a truly freakazoid experience, for instance). But by and large, I'm very impressed with what the Scribus people have done with this tool. Especially considering that it all started with some German college kid a mere 5 years ago who didn't have a few million of Adobe's money to toss around. Scribus does some hard crashing now and then, a lot less now than it did this time last year. But I've never lost a job and it's one of the best DTP programs I've ever experienced at providing usable recovery files in the event of a hard landing. My list includes QuarkXPress, InDesign, PageMaker, Ventura Publisher, my old Itek typesetting system running TOSSv5--anything. It's World Class. Another thing about Scribus: you'll export World Class PDF-X/3 files from that rascal without having to worry about using Acrobat Distiller (or whatever Adobe's calling it these days). Much better output than you'll get trying to distill QuarkXPress EPS files, for instance. The Scribus people like to boast about how it was the first DTP program anywhere, whether open source or closed, to natively export compliant PDF-X/3. I say they deserve some bragging rights. Hey, Adobe--PDF is your format. How did a ragtag little group of open sourcers beat you to it?

OK, that's just one example. Let's take another. A friend of mine is a small business owner. No technological slouch, the man has five software patents to his name after a long career of doin' stuff the Windows Way. Yet, he can't get Microsoft Publisher to spit out an EPS file that is usable by the man down at the print shop so that my friend can get his product catalog (which he's spent countless hours on) printed and distributed. Ouch. This is not some esoteric Postscript bug. This is simply an issue of getting Microsoft Publisher to spit out the stinkin' art oriented correctly to the page setup. This is not particle physics, folks. It really isn't. The Postscript bounding box is simple, well-documented and generally well-understoood. By everyone but Microsoft, apparently. There are numerous little graphics projects over at SourceForge done by the most naive of Programming 101 students which can spit out an EPS with all printable objects contained within a correctly-oriented bounding box. My friend's tried everything he can think of to get Publisher to work like a--you know--"reliable" application. Ain't gonna happen. Next time some imbecile goes on about how proprietary and/or Microsoft products are "reliable" and "dependable," I'm gonna take an air chisel and engrave "MICROSOFT PUBLISHER DIED FOR YOUR SINS" on that person's forehead. And the world will be a better place for it.

Oh, wanna hear about the Publisher 2003 file that a client sent in to us, which was supposedly saved and downcoverted to Publisher 2000 format (partner has it, so sad to say), which was passed around between three Publisher owners and exported twice before somebody could actually open it? Nah, you don't wanna hear about it. I swear, if you're concerned about your company's proprietary information and don't want unauthorized outsiders to view it--do it in Microsoft Publisher. Forget encrypting it with GPG. Do it in Publisher. Nobody will be able to open it. Even other Publisher users.

Have you read the review in the Washington Post back in April of Intel's Viiv combined with Windows Media Center Edition on an HP Pavilion PC? The reviewer, trying to get a taste of Viiv content delivery, was duly informed that he wasn't on a Media Center Edition PC (but of course he really was). Rebooting and attempting to download a Viiv component to enable content play resulted in a seeming stall as the Norton Internet Security firewall warned that the Viiv component was a "high-risk program that it (Norton) should always block." Priceless. Three of the biggies in the Proprietary World produce: utter incompetence.

I've got a new name for the phenomena now. You know what I'm talking about: when that $800 "dependable, reliable" proprietary source Windows program won't do what the manual says it's supposed to be able to do. Or when Windows XP Pro spontaneously reboots when you try to mount a flash card in a reader plugged into the front-panel USB port of a Dell desktop, without so much as a "by your leave, my Liege" (a client has two of them suckers). I'm gonna start calling it the Jonathan Murray Experience.

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