Get off my lawn.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Failed Experiment

A couple of months ago, I attempted to install Linux on my wife's computer (see "Had an abortion today..."). As you'll recall, I had a little trouble (to put it mildly) with the SuSE install program, and it wiped out the partition table for the hard drive. I ended up saving the day by installing Ubuntu Linux on the machine, and everything went normally.

Problem is, my wife hated it. She had all kinds of problems with it, most of them involving her unfamiliarity with the environment (no "Start" button, etc.), and some of them involving a printer that refused to work.

Here is an excerpt of her litany of complaints about her new OS:

  1. When I reply to an e-mail, Ubuntu puts my text at the bottom of the message, not the top.
  2. It won't print color pictures.
  3. It's slow.
  4. I can't find my tax deduction stuff.
  5. My e-mails are missing.
  6. My address book is missing most of its entries.
  7. I can't find anything.

The first "problem" was easily fixed by adjusting Thunderbird's reply setting, which defaults to the "proper" but seldom-used "quote at the top, reply at the bottom" approach to e-mail replies.

The second problem was an Epson Stylus Color 777 printer that eats ink cartridges like candy, and seems to screw up new ones as often as it makes good use of them. It was well-supported by CUPS under Ubuntu, but since it didn't print correctly most of the time, poor Ubuntu got the blame.

Problem #3 was spot-on. Her machine, a poor wretch of a Celeron, pulled Ubuntu along like a Honda Civic pulling a 40ft. camp trailer. Trust me on this: The days of a typical Linux distribution running like lightning on a lightweight machine are long gone.

The rest of the problems relate to data that was forever wiped out by the SuSE installer. The blame for not having an adequate backup can be split equitably between me, and her previous installation of Windows.

Like other operating systems that support the notion of multiple users
(Linux, Unix, MacOS, etc.) Windows has a "home" directory structure in the form of C:\Documents and Settings. But, does Windows store all of a given user's files under that directory structure like other OSes? Nope. Not even close. Your mail is somewhere else, as is your address book, settings for applications, files you downloaded, and other information. A backup of your "home" directory under Windows doesn't even come close to saving all of your
data. The Windows home directory structure is a half-assed attempt to organize information, and is about as close to useless as I've ever seen.

My part of the blame lies in the fact that I knew, going in, that I was backing up a Windows system, and should have poked around for those other files. I didn't do it, the data got wiped out, and the blame and shame is mine. (And Microsoft's.)

So, yesterday I installed her Windows XP back on the machine, wiping out the Ubuntu installation. Sweet Fancy Moses, what a pathetic OS. It does almost NOTHING on its own. Whereas Ubuntu detected and configured my network, installed decent video drivers, a full suite of applications, and came up mostly ready to rock, Windows came up with nothing. You get, let's see... Notepad? Paint? Pinball? Solitaire? It didn't detect the sound card or the video card, so I'm looking at an 800x600 screen and listening to 80's-era beeping noises whenever something goes awry. People pay actual money for this piece of crap? And then pay more actual money to buy applications to run on it? Unbelievable. What exactly am I paying for? Sexy looks? Reliability? Security? Great tools? Someone help me out here.

I installed FireFox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, and the GIMP on it, so it at least has some basic functionality now. If I can find the driver CD that came with the computer, I should be able to get the screen resolution and audio problems addressed. Then it's just a matter of time before I get my wife a Mac.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Today, I got a cappucino short from Starbucks.

The "short" is a relatively little-known size for drinks at Starbucks. They don't put it on the menu, apparently because they prefer that you believe that the "tall" is the smallest size they offer.

Just so we're clear on the Starbucks sizes:

  • "Venti" (which means nothing I can discern) is the largest.
  • "Grande" (which means "large") is the middle size.
  • "Tall" (which means "having greater than ordinary height") is the smallest advertised size.
  • "Short" (meaning "having less than ordinary height") is the shortest available size.

Anyway, the "short" packs all of the power of a "tall" cappucino in a smaller vessel, so it represents good value; A package stripped down to its vital essence and lacking unnecessary filler usually appeals to me, and this is no exception.

I was also pleased to find that the saying on the back of the cup was similarly compressed and packed with value:

The humble improve.

Well, yes, they do. There's no room to make fun of a daily affirmation that conveys its meaning so efficiently. You can't rearrange or strip down this info without damaging it, which means it's as good as it can get.
(Apparently, Starbucks saves the long drawn-out idiocy for the larger cups, having more space to fill.)

The humble improve. The more I think about it, the more I like it. I know people who are open-minded, sincere, and hard-working, and when I see them, they are typically busy accomplishing things that anyone could be proud of. On the other hand: Have you ever known an arrogant jackass who can justify his arrogance? I haven't.