Saturday, April 24, 2010

PCLinuxOS, I have my eye on you

Very, very interesting. I must say, as a KDE user, after experiencing OpenSuse, I will probably never use Kubuntu until I hear consistent reports that it provides a better experience than OpenSuse. I must say though, the mention of a performance boost in PCLinuxOS and the fact that the author says he has tried OpenSuse (though he does not say what version) has me quite interested. I always suspected that KDE was being held back by other parts of the system and this review confirms my suspicions.

I was planning on trying Win7 for the games, but I think instead I will give this one a shot on a separate partition. Compare it to OpenSuse 11.2, which I have absolutely no complaints about at the moment, except that the UI does get a little jerky when you're moving multiple GBs from various sources on an NTFS partition onto an EXT4 one. Edge case though that I'm willing to live with. However, if PCLinuxOS can nail that part, it will go a long way to convincing me to switch. If it can give me easy to use Samba administration in addition, I will switch. OpenSuse is great, but if I want a no frills setup, the simplest way is still to write a bare bones config file. Finally, if it can install the drivers for my all-in-one Brother DCP-115C (because there are no linux drivers for it - you need to use the DCP-220C drivers instead), label me an evangelist.

It is interesting how things come full circle, even in technology: I started off on Mandrake, moved to RedHat, then to SuseLinux, on to Linux from scratch, then to Debian, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Linux Mint and finally OpenSuse. Having used and lived with each distro, I find myself heading back to a derivative of what I started off with :)

Friday, February 12, 2010

A little tip about Firefox

I use Firefox a lot. I use it because I like the way it works. I also use it because I like the way things I don't know about yet work.

Fan boy you say? Think about it, I say. Here's an example:

I know that pressing the Control key (I'm on a PC) and clicking a link will open that link in a new tab without switching to the new tab. I use it all the time. What I just found out was that holding Control down and clicking the Back or Forward buttons does the same. I like that. Imagine one of those crazy web sites where you have to fill in a form, submit it and then get some results. You like the results. You press the back button to get back to the original page because you want the link to email out to those you want to share it with. When you press Forward again, depending on the site, there is a good chance you may never get back to the results again. Ctrl+Back lets me work in a new tab without affecting the results I already have. Simple. Effective.

And that's my tip of the day to share with you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Software Installation on Linux

Software is only as good as how its perceived to be. The perception of its usefulness is controlled by the user. These days, the user really does not care if the software installation is "user specific" or not. From a user's point of view, it needs to work. That's it.

As a user who doesn't care about how the system works, if you're prompted to enter a password for software installation, that's one more dialog box you have to deal with. If software could be installed on a per user basis, as a user, you'd still see a dialog box that asks you if you want to install it for you or for everyone. Now, does that sound familiar? Windows does it. How many times have you actually stopped to think about the merits vs the demerits of installing the software for others when you answered that question? That's your answer for you right there - the real problem is the additional step of communication required.

What is needed is an App Store for Linux that is distribution agnostic. From a user's point of view, they need one place to search for "an application that does what they want". They need one way to install it. Finally, they need to know how they can access the application they have installed.

What I'm essentially talking about here is reducing the learning curve for Linux. A byproduct of this effort will be making distributions more compatible. Nintendo and Apple have both proven that if you want real market growth, you need to convert new users. Easing installation of applications on Linux will go a long way towards that. What will also help is integrating the functionality of websites that provide the names to the Linux equivalents of popular Windows and Mac software from within the same application installation search box.

A new user is most likely to look for "photoshop for linux" if they're after a good photo editing suite. If they get results that show them equivalents and how they have been rated by others, that will go a long way into boosting the user's confidence that they might actually be able to get what they want done using Krita or The Gimp.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Have your cake and eat it too

If you're building a PC right now, the AMD/Intel choice essentially comes down to two things - your budget and how often you would want to upgrade. I'm assuming here that you want the fastest processing power your budget can buy.

Until now, if speed was a real priority, you were going the Intel i7 route. If you wanted to be reasonably future proof, you'd go the AMD socket AM3 route and sacrifice a little speed for long term compatibility.

Phoronix have posted a series of benchmarks that say that an overclocked AMD Phenom II X3 710 is very similar in performance to an Intel Core i7 920. Further, the overlocking is easy - no hardcore stuff. You can get i7 performance out of an X3 710. The price difference between the two processors alone is about USD100. This is not counting the difference between motherboard costs. Suffice it to say that your budget will not be affected that much - you get the speed of an i7 with the longevity of the AM3 socket with some simple overclocking.

Now you tell me - isn't that cool?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Microsoft Office 2007's OpenOffice Support

In a word - destructive. Microsoft might claim that Office 2007 has support for OpenOffice documents. Here are the facts:
  1. MS Excel 2007 removes formulas from an OpenOffice spreadsheet
  2. Microsoft Office 2007 does not support password protected OpenOffice files.
  3. Microsoft Office 2007 does not support tracked changes in OpenOffice files.
If you're the type of person who, like me, believes in the details, here's a PDF for you. Here is the press release from the ODF Alliance about this issue.

So if you're about to buy Microsoft Office 2007 because you think it will allow you to edit both MS Office and OpenOffice documents perfectly, you know now better.

There was a suggestion on Slashdot not too long ago about the need for an ODF Acid Test. I think its right on the money and the sooner we have one, the better. The fact that Microsoft were even able to get away with it to date points to a problem. There is lack of a transparent mechanism to measure ODF standards compliance. The root of the problem needs to be addressed and an ODF Acid Test is the answer.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Convince me Windows 7 is worth it

Windows 7 is expected to be better than Windows Vista. What I’d like to see are real world performance comparisons with Windows XP. What’s keeping me away from upgrading XP are two things: performance and DRM. So Windows 7 would have to improve on both fronts.

Before you ask, between work and home, on a daily basis, I use flavours of Windows from XP Home to Vista Ultimate, Mac OS X Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard beta and 3 of the latest Linux distros. I do believe that’s sufficient grounds for me to compare.

Guess which ones I end up using the most? Ubuntu with KDE 4.2.2 and Mac OS X Leopard. I’m sorry, but Windows anything looks dated in comparison. The Mac has its uses and between the two, the only place I cannot escape using Windows is to play games (for now). I have found that has actually started affecting the games I choose to buy - I will not buy a game that does not support Linux, unless I really really want it (going by the quality of games these days, that is a rarity). Sure, I’ll fire up Windows to check out a demo if I don’t have anything else to do, but that’s a rarity too.

Honestly, I do not see the need for Windows these days. I have even stopped using Picasa because digiKam is so amazing - it has automatic DSLR lens correction built in! So unless anybody can give me a damn solid reason for Windows 7, I’m going to keep using my combination of Linux (for the most part) and the Mac (for my mobile computing) and will keep recommending that combination to everyone I meet.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A Linux App Store?

This is just an idea, but one whose time might have come. Take the packaging systems that Linux supports and add the ability to purchase software from within it. So in a typical use case, you could filter the applications available in your package manager based on whether you need to pay for them or not, you can choose the applications you'd like to install, pay for ones you need to and download and install in one step. Wouldn't that rule?

There are a lot of side effects, one being that the advantage "free" applications have right now would vanish - that of all being available and searchable from one point. Then there's regulating the descriptions and claims of the commercial software packages - what qualifies as a description and what qualifies as an ad? Speaking of ads, do you let them on? God no! But then with companies, that's a hard sell. How would you do it?

I think the answer is similar to the question, "How do you know which websites you can trust?". I think the solution is similar too - let the community (and the customers) regulate it based on ratings, popularity, etc. Guess what? We already have that built in! Well in Ubuntu at least (that's based on Debian - I'm not sure about other packaging systems though I would be surprised if they did not have something similar).

If any of you guys at Ubuntu are reading this...please do try it out. It has the huge potential of funding other open source projects. Take a small percentage from the application sales (Apple and Android take 30%). Make it self sustaining. Put the profits into the open source projects that matter.