[Beowulf] Sidebar: Vista Rant

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue Jul 17 15:08:31 PDT 2007

On Tue, 17 Jul 2007, Jon Forrest wrote:

> Dell is now offering Vista without any craplets installed. I hope
> other vendors get the word and start this too. But, I agree
> with you that fixing vendor-supplied versions of Windows is a
> necessary dark art.

They also provide the "Dell DeCrappifier", which has to be one of the
brightest recent software inventions, to strip a new system back to
virginal without having to do a reinstall.  I haven't tried it as it
postdates my last Dell purchase, but I sure wish Lenovo had one...;-)

> Me too. I hardly ever use Word. But, what I use most is Firefox,
> Thunderbird, and SSH, all of which look much better on Windows
> than they do on Linux. The difference between Firefox on Windows
> as compared to Linux is striking.

SSH looks like something?  To me it looks like something invisible,
almost all of the of the time.  If I ssh to a place often I automate it
so that it disappears.  I should really publish my MAKEHOSTS setup as a
little package somewhere, as it is a lost art I think since it
disappeared from ssh proper.

I actually use galeon (long story) instead of firefox, but then, I just
browse -- I don't actually "work" at a browser if I can help it.
Stateless connections lose work too damn easily. Thunderbird -- well I
explained that I consider non-tty mail clients Evil, and why.  I am a
bit of an atavist, I know...:-)

> I don't do this but there are all kinds of desktop managers
> on Windows that you can install that do these kinds of things.
> What you should do sometime is to sit down with a well informed
> Windows person who knows how to do these kinds of customizations.
> I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.

If I had the slightest incentive to do so, I might, but what might that
be?  The ability to work more cheaply?  Not possible.  The ability to
work faster, or more conveniently?  Not possible.  Seriously.  The
ability to write programs more easily?  In my atavistic context, not
possible.  The ability to write prose text more easily, manage mail more
easily, be secure in my interactions with the network more easily, be
secure against virus or outside invasion more easily, be able to keep my
system up to date more easily, be able to select and install software
and libraries on demand more easily?  No, no, no.

I can think of three benefits to running Windows, and two of them are
the only reason I occasionlly do.  First and foremost is to run some
program that is only available for Windows.  Second, there are hardware
devices that just won't work under Linux because the drivers aren't
there.  I almost always can avoid this, though, by controlling the
hardware I purchase and selecting linux compatible stuff.  It's hard
with laptops, though, as they change so much, prices and all.  Third...
well, I'm having a hard time remembering the third.  Oh yeah, games.
Really a subcategory of the first, but its a damn large subcategory.

>> What I gain in XP is the ability to run one or two Windows-only
>> applications.  What I give up is the ability to run one or two HUNDRED
>> applications (all of them free) and more importantly the ability to
>> navigate, switch applications, enjoy the convenience of a rich
>> environment tightly and securely coupled to the network.
> I'm not arguing in favor of abandoning Linux for Windows. That
> would be insane. I'm only saying that to an old pair of eyes
> like mine, Windows looks better on LCD screens. With a good
> ssh client and a good X server, I can have the best of both
> worlds.

My eyes are getting up there too -- as I said, big, high contrast fonts
are a good choice, as are displays capable of at least 1280x1024 with
graphics cards to match.  And yes, people have been thinking about the
lack of really good fonts in linux for a while, and I hope to see that
improve.  In the meantime, it is pretty easy (and legal!) to install
Microsoft's truetype fonts, and I'm guessing that in the fullness of
time we'll see fonts improve.

I'm curious: what is a "good ssh client" for Windows?  I've tried at
least three and they all basically suck.  Putty is free and primitive to
the point of being primeval -- talk about your "basic" illegible tty.
Duke has site licenses for a couple more -- maybe teraterm and one other
-- and I've tried them both and found them mightily flawed.  Since I
>>do<< need to ssh back from Win to Lin on occasion (to facilitate a
file transfer, for example) I'd be interested in hearing what you
consider a nice interface.

>> It may be happy, but it probably is slow...
> The vast majority of the time, when something seems slow to me,
> it's because either my fingers or my brain are slow, often both,
> not my computer. Note that I'm not talking the HPC applications
> themselves. I always run those on Linux.

I'm speaking of entire work methodologies of course -- Vista is likely a
special case and sure, maybe with enough work and decrappification it
would even work smoothly for me -- but the fundamental "slowness" I
describe is methodological.  Windows does certain things a certain way,
and that way is designed to be "easy enough to learn in a day, and you
pay for that knowledge for the rest of time".


Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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