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Week of 3 January 2005

Latest Update: Friday, 7 January 2005 09:35 -0500

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Monday, 3 January 2005

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08:45 - My office is mostly cleaned up. Some remains to be done, and Barbara hasn't gotten in to vacuum, dust, and mop the floor yet, but it's gone from being a cave with an ever-present risk of avalanche to a clean, open work space. Just the way to start the work year.

While cleaning, I removed a stack of older computers, which are going to Senior Services. Of the six systems I cleaned up, stripped down to bare metal, and installed Xandros Open Circulation Edition on, three are Pentium III boxes, one an Athlon, and two are Pentium 4s. All but one of the systems have CD writers. Two have DDS-3 tape drives, and three have Travan tape drives. One has an elderly DVD-RAM drive. Senior Services will keep the systems they want and donate the remainder to an organization that refurbishes older systems and gives them to elderly people who wouldn't otherwise have a computer.

Barbara's firm is in the process of switching to flat-panel displays, so they have a bunch of surplus 17" Dell CRT monitors. They're selling them to employees for $25 each, which is a reasonable price. Barbara got me the phone number of the guy who's handling the surplus monitors, so I'm going to give him a call and see if they can donate some monitors to go with the systems I'm donating.

16:37 - Here's an interesting article by Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia.

Sanger admits two significant problems exist with Wikipedia, but refuses to discuss the fundamental problem, which is that Wikipedia is worthless. Sanger says Wikipedia is of "uneven reliability", which is to say it cannot be trusted. An encyclopedia that cannot be trusted is about as useful as a parachute that cannot be trusted. Sanger talks about ways to fix the problem, but in fact the problem is unfixable. It's a design flaw.

The concept of a Wiki, wherein anyone is free to modify existing pages, is fundamentally incompatible with the concept of an encyclopedia, where one expects to find authoritative articles written by experts on the subject matter and reviewed by other experts. Even if a Wikipedia article is originally written by someone who truly understands his topic, that article may subsequently be modified by someone who knows little or nothing about the subject.

And even unmodified articles must be taken with a grain of salt, if not an entire truckload. Several months ago, I spent a couple of hours surfing Wikipedia. I checked topics that I knew a bit about, and what I found was not reassuring. Nearly all of the articles were plagued with errors. The analysis, such as it was, was generally on the level I'd expect from a junior high school term paper. Some articles were well-written and appeared to be comprehensive, but how can one know? Others that appeared just as well-written and comprehensive were, to my certain knowledge, full of inaccuracies.

The bazaar approach simply doesn't work for an encyclopedia. The cathedral approach, typified by Encyclopedia Britannica, is the only way to guarantee an authoritative, comprehensive work.


Tuesday, 4 January 2005

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09:05 - Here's a frightening article. I hadn't realized that credit card debt had soared to the extent it has. Apparently, among households that carry a credit card balance, the average balance is more than $7,500. Credit card balances typically incur very high interest rates, so either these people are stupid or they're maxed out on credit and can't get a loan at a reasonable rate.

In the 21 years we've been married, Barbara and I have never carried a balance on any of our credit cards. Well, there was that one month that Barbara transposed two digits when she was writing a check to Visa and we ended up having to pay $1.29 in interest the following month. But that's it.

I simply don't understand the thought processes of someone who routinely carries a large credit card balance. I can understand how someone might get into financial difficulties and use his credit cards as a sort of bridge loan, but this goes far beyond that unless we assume that there are tens of millions of people in that position.

In any event, the article makes that point that we're nearing a breaking point, where people simply cannot assume any more debt. That doesn't bode well for the economy.

Getting caught up on mail...

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Samsung FPD
Date: Sun, 2 Jan 2005 10:51:40 +1000
From: Megarrity
To: Robert Bruce Thompson


You wrote:

"And Samsung has announced a new zero-defect policy for their flat-panel displays. Any Samsung FPD purchased from today on is guaranteed for the first six months to have zero dead pixels. Given my high opinion generally of Samsung FPD models, this change is just about enough for me to recommend them exclusively. Suffice it to say that if you want an FPD I'd recommend buying a Samsung model unless you have a very good reason to buy something else."

Yes, I would recommend Samsung monitors. I've sold a few Samsung FPD, with no failures and no dead pixels either. Their CRTs are also very good, and have proved to be reliable (several hundred sold in the last few years, with only 2 failures fixed under warranty).

Can't say that I agree with your position on aid to the tsunami victims; the scale of this disaster goes beyond political and religious divides.

Australia is fairly close to the disaster area (minor waves reached out west coast) and there are many residents here with close associations with the affected regions. Let's hope the aid gets through to those who need it. Much of the pre-existing aid infrastructure has been washed away, so there are major distribution problems.

At present there are 12 Australians confirmed dead, but around 1000 "uncontactable". -Will make holidaying at Australia's own excellent tourist destinations more attractive in the future.

Actually, I have more information now. It turns out that Samsung is offering that guarantee only in South Korea for now. They haven't decided whether to extend it elsewhere.

As to tsunami relief, I'm all in favor of helping our friends, which is to say the UK, Canada, and Australia. I am not in favor of helping Islamic nations. I remember them celebrating in the streets on 9/11.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: digital cameras, palms, scanners
Date: Sat, 1 Jan 2005 20:01:57 -0600
From: Harlan
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Hi Bob,

I hope everything went well for Christmas and New Years (ok, the dog waking you up everytime the fireworks boomed probably wasn't fun).

Digital cameras:  check out the gphoto2 libraries.  It supports quite a few digital cameras, most through USB.  My digital camera uses floppies so I don't have to use this right now.

Scanners:  Yup, check out SANE.  None of my scanners are supported, but then again, I have low-end units.

Palm Pilots:  Check out jpilot.  I've been using it for a couple of years now.  Make sure to keep backups current.  The performance is fairly decent.  I've only used with one Palm device at a time, I'm not sure if it supports more than one simultaneously.

I hope this helps.


Thanks. I don't have any problems with my digital cameras or scanners, but this may be helpful to the person who asked about his own.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: The reason you don't know
Date: Sat, 1 Jan 2005 20:25:47 -0800
From: Roland Dobbins
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

about the private P2P networks is because they're -private-, heh:


Thanks. That's an excellent article, although it wasn't what I was suggesting, of course.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Samsung FPD models
Date: Mon, 3 Jan 2005 14:12:01 +0100
From: David Thorarinsson
To: Robert Bruce Thompson

Mr. Thompson,

I read your post on the Samsung FPD's with great interest.

My company got me one the other day (Samsung SyncMaster 192v) and I was really surprised when I found information on how to configure the screen under Linux in their documentation. There was no included software like there was for Windows but the documentation information is a first step and so I would like to give them the thumbs up for that too! I bought a high end 20.1" Philips FPD the other day and while the display quality is excellent, the included software and documentation was simply appalling, especially when you consider the fact that this is their top model.

Best regards,

/David Thorarinsson

Yes, I've been careful to point out that some FPDs cannot be used with Linux because the only way they can be configured is to use a Windows application. I'm glad you're pleased with the Samsung FPD.

11:55 - I just looked at my web access logs for December, and the trend continues. After removing data for search engines and such, 18.7% of the traffic to this site was from Linux systems, and 66.8% was with Mozilla or Firefox. Factoring in the fact that many/most Opera users have their browsers set to report themselves as Internet Explorer, that probably means that Internet Explorer has dropped below 30% usage, at least for this site. I'll check again in a couple months, when I expect IE to be at 25% or less.

Dr. Huth said in recent mail to me that he thought Xandros Desktop Linux might have "0.0001% of the overall market share". I think he was kidding, but either way he might be surprised to learn the real numbers. People who read this site are certainly much, much more likely to run Linux and Mozilla/Firefox than the general population, but such a large presence of those products among my readers also implies significant growth among "ordinary" users.

I've already converted many people to Mozilla/Firefox, and more than a few to Xandros Desktop Linux, and from reading mail I know that many of my readers have done the same. I'm on my way shortly to deliver half a dozen older computers to Senior Services. All of those have Xandros OCE and Mozilla installed on them.

Senior Services is a Windows shop right now, with about 50 systems running everything from Windows 98 to Windows XP. Like nearly all Windows shops, they're plagued with viruses, Trojans, worms, and malware. They can't afford to buy new software, including Xandros, but I'm thinking one of the free-as-in-beer distros may be a solution for them. We'll see. If it happens, it won't happen overnight, but then good things come to those who wait.


Wednesday, 5 January 2005

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10:55 - Last night, Barbara shouted from her office, "I hate StarOffice!" I wandered back there to see what the problem was. Barbara had a spreadsheet open in StarOffice and was frustrated because every time she pressed Delete to delete the contents of a cell StarOffice popped up a dialog that asked what she wanted to delete--strings, formulas, formats, and so on. All she wanted to do was delete the contents of the cell without having to acknowledge a dialog each time. "Excel doesn't do this," she said, and she was right. In Excel, pressing Delete deletes the cell's contents.

So I started looking around for a way to change the default behavior of the Delete key to make it do what Barbara wanted it to do. I couldn't find any configuration option for that, so I invoked Help. Being used to Microsoft Help, which is a joke, I didn't expect much. But StarOffice help indeed provided the answer. Pressing Delete invokes the dialog, allowing you to (for example) remove only formatting from the cell while leaving the contents otherwise unchanged. If you want to delete all contents of the cell, you simply press Backspace. When Barbara saw that, she said, "So StarOffice is actually more flexible than Excel." Yep.

I've run into the same situation repeatedly with StarOffice Writer, which I've come to prefer to Microsoft Word 2000. For example, early in my transition from Word to SO Writer, I wanted to change a paragraph style. I knew how to do using the menus in Word, but I couldn't figure out how to do it in SO. Then I happened to right-click on the paragraph, and noticed that the context-sensitive menu had an option "Edit Paragraph Style". Choosing that popped up a dialog that let me make all the changes I wanted to make, and more easily than I could have done in MS Word.

I haven't used any MS Office version later than Office 2000, so I can't comment on them, but I consider StarOffice 7 (and the current OpenOffice.org software) at least as good as Office 2000, and better in many respects. OpenOffice.org is working hard on V 2.0, which is due out later this year. From all reports OOo 2 is much improved in terms of features, functions, and MS Office compatibility. The kicker is that it's also much, much faster than OOo 1.x.

I expect OOo 2.0 and the commercial version, StarOffice 8, to be superior to MS Office in just about every respect. Anyone who uses an office suite should be looking at OOo 1.x or StarOffice 7 now, and planning to upgrade from Microsoft Office once OOo 2.x ships, if not before then. People often raise the issue of macro compatibility. That's a non-issue as far as I'm concerned. Yes, if you depend on macros you'll need to re-write them when you migrate to OOo/SO. So what? That's a one-time effort, and you'll then be free forever after. If you stick with MS Office, you'll be forced at some point to upgrade to a newer version of MS Office whether you want to or not, and at that point you'll need to rewrite your macros anyway.

Breaking free of Microsoft lock-in will cost time, money, and effort, but for most organizations the ROI is very high. As the old commercial for Fram oil filters said, "Pay me now or pay me later."

Speaking of Microsoft lock-in, I happened to look at my journal page from three years ago, where I found this link. The page is titled, "Why I Hate Microsoft", and the author has kept it updated since he originally posted it. The article is nearly book-length, but it's worth your time to read. In my opinion, the article presents a fair, unbiased look at Microsoft as a corporation, its business practices, and its products. I say fair and unbiased despite the fact that the author despises Microsoft and its products. But, although he calls it a rant, it is a factual presentation. I read the entire article, and found no errors of fact. I'm not qualified to speak to the technical accuracy of some of the assertions because I'm not an expert on OS programming or Windows internals, but the technical points the author makes are convincing to me within the limits of my own knowlege.

I have made several of the same points in explaining my decision to abandon Microsoft software, but not at the same level of detail. If you're running Microsoft software, read the entire article and think about it. I suspect you'll find yourself making plans to migrate to Linux and other OSS software, regardless of any temporary inconveniences or one-time costs.


Thursday, 6 January 2005

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09:23 - My primary desktop system, a Northwood Pentium 4/2.8 in an Antec Aria case, is running hot and loud. When I came into my office last night on the way back to bed, it was whining loudly. I restarted it to get the temperatures and then shut it down for the night. When I came in this morning at 0730, I started it and recorded the cold-start temperatures, and then restarted it a couple times to check temperatures again. Here are the results:

Last night
CPU Zone
36° 45° 48°
Zone 1
40° 27° 36° 38°
Zone 2
41° 26° 37° 39°
5,630 RPM
2,855 RPM
3,915 RPM
4,564 RPM
PS Fan
1,611 RPM
1,055 RPM
1,441 RPM
1,525 RPM
Noise Level
very loud
very quiet

I'm not sure why it's running so hot and noisy. I think when I get a chance I'll tear it down, replace the thermal compound with Antec Silver, and perhaps replace the stock HSF with a high-efficiency heatsink and an 80mm or 92mm fan. (The Aria comes with a mounting bracket that attaches to the power supply case and allows you to use a standard 80mm or 92mm case fan to replace the smaller, faster-running, noisier heatsink fan.) If I can get the steady-state CPU temperature down to 36°, I'll be delighted. At that temperature, the loudest noise the system makes is the Seagate Barracuda hard drive seeking, and that's not much.

I have an ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe in for testing. Judging from appearance and specifications, this is a superb Socket 939 board. It uses the nVIDIA nForce4-SLI chipset, which introduces PCI Express for the Athlon 64. Gamers will particularly like the SLI (Scalable Link Interface) feature. Instead of buying one expensive video adapter, with SLI you can install two less expensive adapters and use them simultaneously for gaming. For example, rather than buy one $800 nVIDIA 6800 Ultra Extreme (assuming you can find one for sale), you can buy a pair of $200 nVIDIA 6600 GT boards and end up with faster gaming video at half the price.

Once I finish testing, I'll use the ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe with a 90 nm Athlon 64 3500+ as the foundation of my new primary desktop system. With an Antec Phantom fanless power supply and a Thermalright XP-120 heatsink the new system should be, if not silent, at least extremely quiet.

I got a call yesterday afternoon from Richard Bradford, a relative on my mother's side of the family. He said that when he last spoke to my mother she'd mentioned that she had a photograph of David Bradford, who died at age 21 in 1944 when he was shot by a German sniper during the Battle of the Bulge. Richard asked if I could send him a copy if I could locate and identify the photo. I told him I'd be happy to give it my best try. The problem is that we have a large drawer full of photos, documents, and other artifacts that my mother had saved. Some are labeled. Many, to my regret, are not. I'm hoping that I'll recognize the photo when I see it.

Richard commented that my mother was the last of her generation in our family. That was driven home to me a week or so ago, when I was thinking about a question that mom would have known the answer to. I realized that with mom gone there was no one left to ask.

I've never had much interest in genealogy. I wish now that I'd paid closer attention when my mother and her mother talked to me about our family history, much of which is now lost. That got me to thinking about my ancestors, so I spent some time with Google trying to track things down. My mother's mother was a Bradford who married a Fulkerson. I remember my grandmother telling me that she was descended from Governor Bradford of the Mayflower Colony on one side and on the other from Dirk Volkertson, a Norwegian who was one of the original settlers of the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam.

So I started with them and worked forward, not realizing until later that that was exactly the opposite of the usual method of tracing a family tree. By the time Barbara arrived home, I'd traced the Volkertson/Fulkerson side of things from 17th-century New Amsterdam to 19th-century Western Pennsylvania. I'd also traced the family tree of Volkertson's wife, a Vigne, down through the years to Thomas Alva Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Roosevelt.

When Barbara arrived home, she told me that she'd sat down with mom some years ago and gotten all that information recorded. Oh, well. It was an interesting hunt, anyway.

But as I was tracing things, I was struck by the photographs and documents that others had posted on their web sites. Those were helpful to me, so it seems only fair that I should try to be helpful to others. So I plan to scan all the photographs and documents I have and post them on this site. There's a lot of interesting stuff, or at least interesting to my extended family. Some of the documents I'd never seen, such as my father's list of B-17 missions and his father's Army discharge papers from WWI. All of them should be up on the web.

I'm not sure exactly how I'll go about scanning all of these. I think I'll do high-resolution scans, perhaps 2400 dpi, and save them as TIFFs. I'll then do web-resolution JPEG versions for display on web pages, and link those to 600 dpi JPEGs for routine downloads, with a note that offers to provide the monster original TIFF files to anyone who requests them.

I need to find out what information can be embedded in the digital images. Looks like I need to install the GIMP and learn to use it...

13:05 - Well, here's good news. According to this ExtremeTech article, your DVD players and DVD burners may soon be obsolete.

Without a player and disc using the new Video Content Protection Scheme (VTCS), DVD burners won't be able to record digital video under the new regulations. That will mean that the enormous installed base of DVD players and burners may be forced into obsolescence, executives said.

which makes me wonder how long it will be before new DVDs will replace the useless CSS copy protection with VTCS, rendering all our existing DVD drives and players obsolete.

And poor Bill Gates was severely embarrassed during his keynote speech at CES.

During a demonstration of digital photography with a soon-to-be-released Nikon camera, a Windows Media Center PC froze and wouldn't respond to Gates' pushing of the remote control.

Later in the 90-minute presentation, a product manager demonstrated the ostensible user-friendliness of a video game expected to hit retail stores in April, Forza Motor Sport. But instead of configuring a custom-designed race car, the computer monitor displayed the dreaded "blue screen of death" and warned, "out of system memory."

which is pretty much par for the course. That's what happens when you build your house of straw.

And, according to Gates, the Red Threat is still with us...

There are some new modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They don't think that those incentives should exist.

And here I thought that I and others who think as I do simply want to fix a badly-broken copyright and patent law system to rein in  corporate pigopolists like Microsoft, the RIAA, and the MPAA. Not so, says Gates. We're communists. You'd think Bill would be smart enough to learn from watching Ballmer's foot-in-mouth problems.

Finally, PJ over on Groklaw has an interesting article about RMS on SCO. Not the RMS/SCO part. Gates may in fact have been labeling Stallman a communist. If he isn't, he's the next closest thing. I no longer pay any attention to Stallman's bizarre rants. No, what I found interesting were the extracts PJ posted from the Windows XP EULA, along with her commentary. If you've never read the XP EULA, go read PJ's article. It should be enough to give pause to even the biggest Microsoft fanboys.

14:35 - I hate it when this happens. Five or eight years ago we had an ice storm that caused us to lose power for several days. No furnace, no heat except the fireplaces. After things returned to normal, the first thing we did was call Piedmont Natural Gas and tell them to come out and install natural gas fireplace logs.

We had our choice of several models, vented versus unvented, in different capacities. We elected to get a pretty substantial set that would run vented or unvented. Running them vented sends most of the heat up the chimney but the flames are very similar to a real log fire. Running them unvented delivers 100% of the heat indoors, but the flames are much smaller. If I recall correctly, the unit we got delivers something like 8,000 BTUs vented versus 40,000 BTUs unvented. Unvented, the gas logs put out about the same amount of heat as our main furnace.

As it turned out, we've had to use them to keep warm during several power failures, and they worked well. Without a fan to spread the heat throughout the house, the den ends up with sauna-like temperatures but the heat does spread enough to keep the rest of the house at a reasonable temperature even when it's extremely cold outdoors.

So it went until two or three years ago, when we had another ice storm and another power failure. I attempted to turn on the gas logs and nothing happened. Fortunately, that power failure lasted only a couple of hours, by which time it had become quite cool in the house. So I called PNG, and they sent someone out to look at the gas logs. It turned out there was dust in the pilot light tube or something. The guy blew it out and everything was back to normal. We again used our gas logs from time to time with no problems.

Then, a couple weeks ago, we had a cold snap. The low temperatures were in the 10°F to 14°F range, call it -12°C to -10°C. We didn't have an icestorm or a power failure, which was fortunate as it turned out. I fired up the gas logs just to test them. They ran normally for half an hour or so, as I sat reading in the den. I noticed a ticking noise, and looked over to find that the gas logs had gone out on their own, including the pilot light. I couldn't restart them.

The next day, I pulled the fake logs out from the frame of the unit and vacuumed things out. I looked for something that looked like it needed to be blown out, but couldn't find anything. So I called PNG, but it was the Monday after Christmas, which they apparently have as a holiday. Emergency service was available, but not routine service. So I tried again periodically over the next several days, but was never able to get through. During the cold snap, they're overwhelmed, with hold times as long as an hour for non-emergency calls.

With the warmer weather we've been having--temperatures as high as 78°F (26°C)--we figured they might not be as busy. Indeed, when I called PNG yesterday they said they'd have someone out after 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. The guy showed up at 2:00 on the button. When he tried firing up the gas logs, they fired right up for him. Hmmmm.

I apologized and he said not to worry about it. The pilot light was burning yellow instead of blue, so he got a can of compressed air and blew out the pilot light and oxygen-depletion sensor area. We should be good to go if we need the gas logs to stay warm the next time there's an ice storm, which I'm expecting any time now.

Actually, I confess that I enjoy having an ice storm and power failure from time to time. It's kind of fun to camp out in the den, read by kerosene lantern, cook on the Coleman stove, and so on. Everything is so quiet and peaceful.

16:00 - The Democrats, sore loosers as always, are contesting the Ohio vote. At least one part of the article is seriously wrong, though. It states:

Bush carried Ohio by more than 118,000 votes, with the Buckeye State win providing the margin of victory in the Electoral College race. The president received 286 to Kerry's 252 electoral votes.

It's true that George W. Bush received 286 electoral votes, but John F. Kerry received only 221. The remaining 31 electoral votes were cast by New York electors for John L. Kerry, whoever he may be. Regardless of what they might have intended to do, the New York electors voted for someone other than the Democratic Party candidate and certified those results, so there's no going back now.

Even if the Ohio results were reversed, which there's no chance of, John F. Kerry would still have lost the election with only 241 electoral votes. George W. Bush would not have the required 270 electoral votes, so the election would be thrown to the House of Representatives, where Bush still wins.

And speaking of articles that are seriously wrong, Tom's Hardware just ran a review of microATX cases, including the Antec Aria. They criticize the Antec Aria harshly, saying:

Unfortunately, only one 3.5" and 5.25" drive each fit into the Aria despite its oversized dimensions.

The trouble is, the Antec Aria has one 5.25" bay and three 3.5" internal bays. I know. I've built systems in Aria cases. In fact, I'm typing this on one of them. Had the reviewer taken the trouble even to read the Aria manual, he'd have known that. It makes me wonder just how much credence to give any review on Tom's Hardware. Probably not much. AnandTech runs fewer reviews, and does get a bit overenthusiastic from time to time, but I trust AnandTech reviews more than I do those from Thomas Pabst's site.


Friday, 7 January 2005

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09:35 - I've been corresponding with Frank van Wensveen, who wrote the "I Hate Microsoft" rant I posted a link to earlier this week. Frank is less optimistic than I am about desktop Linux. Here's a message I sent him this morning.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: I Hate Microsoft too
Date: Fri, 07 Jan 2005 09:11:29 -0500
From: Robert Bruce Thompson
To: Frank van Wensveen

Hi, Frank

> Be that as it may, Linux (in whatever distribution or form) hasn't
> even made a small dent in Windows' control of the desktop. Linux has
> been around for years, has been stable, sporting a fully capable GUI
> and a lot of user-friendly tools, since well before the turn of the
> century.

I disagree. Linux is making progress on the desktop. It currently has a small but significant share of desktops, and is growing fast. Don't forget that Mozilla/Firefox until very recently had only a tiny share of desktops, but is currently growing at an explosive rate. My own web server logs show Internet Explorer down to about 30%, with Mozilla/Firefox at 67%, and everything else (Opera, Konqueror, etc.) at 3% or so. Even the most conservative numbers I've seen show that IE has dropped from 95% to 70% over the last few months.

One of the major problems with desktop Linux until recently was that Windows users who wanted to migrate ran into many showstoppers. There was no Linux distro that "played nice" with Windows, as for example by automatically detecting shared Windows Networking resources such as shared drives and printers and offering to connect to them. With modern distros like Xandros, that's no longer true. It's as easy or easier to connect a Xandros client to shared Windows Networking resources as it is to connect a Windows client.

> Part of the problem is that people generally won't be motivated to
> move away from Windows until they experience that there's something
> better. But they won't get that experience before they try it. Windows
> is all they know: it came with their PC, the neighbour has it as well,
> and even few people know it's not the only game in town. Face it: to
> most of these sheep, a computer is something that runs Windows.

Yep. Of course, we can help change that. Recently, for example, I helped my sister-in-law and her husband clean up their Windows PC, which was hag-ridden by spyware. I installed Xandros for them, and they're happier with it than they ever were with Windows. Similarly, I helped some friends of ours build a new PC. We installed Xandros on it, and they are content.

> Another part of the problem is that the Linux market is too
> fragmented. I know Linux very well, but I have never heard of the
> Xandros distribution or its advantages, for example. Windows on the
> other hand is just Windows. And since most people confuse lack of
> options with ease of choice, that's a definite point in favor of
> Windows, marketing-wise.

Ah, in that case you're missing the best distro out there for Windows refugees. You should give it a try. The Xandros Open Circulation Edition (OCE) is free for personal use. You can download it for free from the Xandros site <http://www.xandros.com> using BitTorrent.

> Microsoft understands their average end users very well, and for years
> have been feeding them the right picture to keep them nicely ignorant
> and docile. Do not underestimate the inertial of a worldwide user
> community that has been brought up to remain ignorant about computer
> technology and to think that clicking icons on a familiar-looking
> desktop is all there is to know about computers.

Sheep do what the Border Collie tells them to do. I, and a lot of others like me, am a Border Collie. When I tell friends who are not computer experts, "Stop using IE and start using Mozilla/Firefox," they do what I tell them to do, because they know I understand the issues and they don't. Similarly, when I tell them that, except for gaming, Xandros is an ideal operating system for them, much more secure than Windows, they listen.

Many of my website readers--who are generally technology opinion leaders and certainly not sheep--have already switched to Xandros, and many more are dual-booting it or otherwise evaluating it.

> Hm. Then why don't you write one (assuming that you aren't already
> doing that) about the advantages of your move to Linux?

So many books to write, so little time. But my daily journal page is read by thousands of people, and I'm certainly not shy about advocating Linux in general and Xandros in particular.

> So what happens if someone hands you an Excel spreadsheet with macros
> in it, or a multi-file Word document with complex formatting? How do
> you handle, say, Photoshop bitmaps or Illustrator vector files? What
> do you use to play streaming multimedia content in an MS proprietary
> format? How do you connect to your company's Exchange server?

Although I pretty much live in Mozilla/Mozilla Mail/StarOffice, if someone sends me such a document I simply fire up Excel or Word under Xandros. I use Xandros Business Edition, which comes with Crossover Office. That runs popular Windows software, such as MS Office, Windows Media Player, Quicktime, Photoshop, Quicken, etc. etc. If I needed to access an Exchange Server, which I don't, I'd simply fire up Evolution with the Novell/Ximian Exchange Connector or just run Outlook under Xandros.

> I'm seeing the beginnings of a change in the market. It's starting on
> the server end. But in the foreseeable future (say, ten years ahead) I
> can't see Microsoft loosing any substantial ground on the desktop. No
> matter how much I'd love to see that happen.

I'm also seeing a change, but I'm more optimistic than you are. I expect Linux to hit double digits in desktop market share in the next year or two. At some point, which may be 10% or 15% share, we'll hit the tipover point, when desktop Linux reaches critical mass. At that point, the desktop Linux market will simply be too big for application developers to ignore and we'll see a flood of ports, such as native Linux versions of Photoshop, Quicken, and other popular Windows desktop apps. Once that happens, it's all downhill for Windows.


Saturday, 8 January 2005

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Sunday, 9 January 2005

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