[Beowulf] Sidebar: Vista Rant

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Wed Jul 18 04:10:57 PDT 2007

On Tue, 17 Jul 2007, Tim Cutts wrote:

> On 17 Jul 2007, at 7:15 pm, Robert G. Brown wrote:
>> To GET to another system from XP involves multiple clicks,
>> moving through several data entry windows and either the horror of a
>> brain-dead putty tty
> I think that's a little unnecessarily harsh.  PuTTY isn't bad at all.  Its 
> connection user interface is a bit bizarre, but its terminal emulation is 
> fine, and it supports all the features of ssh that I commonly use.  It was 
> the one thing that made my job bearable back in the days when I had to use a 
> Windows XP laptop.

Usable, yes.  Pretty, no.  Not even compared to a straight xterm.  But
yes, I was speaking in a state of irritation and was too harsh, because
it IS usable.

>> or the equal horror of a vnc or remote desktop into
>> basically the same operating environment (with the certain knowledge
>> that I've just typed my password in the clear or at best crudely
>> encrypted across whatever networks happen to be in the way in some of
>> these cases) -- unless I use a VPN client with its own layers of
>> slowness and multiple mouse clicks interspersed with typing.
> I'm not to worried about VNC on our own LAN.  Outside, I tunnel it through 
> ssh.  OK, that makes it as slow as molasses, but it's reasonably secure.  And 
> its main function in my hands is in emergencies only.

So how do you do a direct ssh connection to a windows machine?  Or do
you mean that you set up an ssh tunnel on a linux box and connect
through that?

One thing that drives me crazy is that companies use VNC to connect to
windows machines all the time over the open internet to help clients.
Sometimes with a VPN connection, sometimes not.  And VNC (unless over
ssh) is not, as its own documentation will tell you, terribly secure.

> Heh, I suspect your metric for "ease of use" may differ from the average 
> computer user (although probably it doesn't differ much from many of us on 
> this list)

I don't think it is THAT different.  The difference if any is that I
consider "easy to learn" and "easy (which ultimately includes efficient)
to use" distinct entities.  Mouse-driven, window-based applications are
easy to learn but ultimately limited and weak because nobody ever
encapsulates ALL the things one might want or need to do, and you cannot
do anything with a GUI that isn't coded right into it.  Text-driven,
shell-based applications are efficient and powerful and can be strung
together in a myriad of ways to become more efficent and more powerful
still, but they aren't necessarily easy to learn.

And it never hurts to remember that 1/2 the population of the world has
an IQ LESS than 100.  That half is never going to learn how to run "ps
auxww | grep frog" to quickly check up on the running task named frog.
Half of that half will have a hard time with the idea of "a running
task" and wouldn't be able to use Windows' task manager without several
hours of personal tutoring and the other half won't be able to learn it
period.  So easy to learn is IMPORTANT for many people, where powerful
and efficient isn't the issue.  The amazing thing about a dancing bear
isn't how gracefully it dances but that it dances at all, as they say.

The think Microsoft has "forgotten" is that it doesn't have to be a
choice.  Even Apple, the original "if it ain't a GUI function it don't
exist" company, has converged on the common model of a powerful
windowing system with all of its advantages and a spanning set of GUI
tools AND a powerful text/shell system with all of ITS advantages and a
spanning set of text based tools.  Apple even had the good sense NOT to
reinvent the latter wheel and adopted Unix as its operational base,
giving it the opportunity to offer its users the best of two worlds --
free access to the universe of open source software AND the ability to
sell its users a functional DVD player as part of the package.

I'll really try to stop now.  I'm about to go on vacation and need to
get some real work done before I leave, and fun as it is to rant...


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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