Monday, March 23, 2009

Linux, the future? (Updated 16/01/2010)

Alright, so we’ve all heard about Linux, its the great free operating system that charges you nothing and can perform miracles. Well that may be overstating it a bit, but the truth to the matter is its actually quite useable. I’ve been going into 2 main operating systems; Ubuntu 9.10 and Linux Mint 8 for some time now and I have been playing around with them. To be honest both are fantastic. The KDE4 desktop environment in Mint is really good, and it feels a lot like Windows in a very good way Gnome looks a bit homely. Gnome in Ubuntu is really customisable and it works really well espically after I tweaked it how you want.

Off the bat, Mint has more codec's than you can shake a mentos filled bottle of soda at. Even X.264 video can be played natively in the operating system and even preview thumbnail are generated. (I managed to do this without a video driver installed by the way) After i installed the restricted extras on Ubuntu, everything worked pretty well. Open office and some other apps are included along with an array of descent well featured programs.

So i got my new desktop and i put Linux, specifically Ubuntu 9.10 on my Vostro 1500. I was really surprised at how quickly files copied because on Windows Vista/7, files copied to my USB Memory Stick at 10mb/s, but on Ubuntu it was 25mb/s .I got rid of it after a week. But the real reason was beacuse, not that the system performed badly or was lacking, but the bundled apps like open office and the media player, were if anything functional, but not very good. They are not really well refined or interesting and Open Office seriously corrupted the Indents and bullet points in all my .docx files when i edited them. I find the fact that the Open Ofiice team is busy tring to emulate the ribbon UI of MS Office 2007 when they cant even get the interoperability of MSO O7 and OO as seamless as possible.

The OS is fine for the most part but Its when the drivers can’t install or a program gives trouble, what do all the help sites say? go to the TERMINAL. Nothing against the terminal, but who wants to use the command line in this day and age? In windows most problems do not require you to use the command prompt, however there are the rare few occasions where you would need to. For the most part, the Linux community is too confusing. At this point they should all get behind one interface and one platform and stay there. As it gains ground then branch off and introduce users to the different flavours. At this point the Linux community needs to create a eye-catching tasteful interface that will draw the user in. Both OS10 and Vista/7 have achieved that, now only Linux is left. PS why is right click drag and drop absent?

Its not that Linux is bad but more like its still lacking and needs work. I tried finding at least one app on Linux to replace each app i use on Windows….not happening. No apps were must have apps and usability and functionality are somewhere between Windows 2000 and Windows XP. It needs work and i hope things with the next release of Ubuntu.

Biggest thing, there needs to be a singular standardised way to install applications and drivers and it must be easy to run the setup with root/admin privileges without going into the terminal.

Peace Out

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

WTF Winamp?

I remember the first computer i ever got, it was a Windows 98 machine running some odd AMD CPU with an awesome 56mbs of RAM and a whole 8 gig hdd. It even has a 52x CROM!!!

The first thing the happened was my uncle, the family tech guru came over and installed a tonne of software. One of the applications he installed was this odd application that had 3 parts and one of the parts was an equalizer like the one in my dad’s car.


What made it even better was that we had a 2.1 speaker system with the computer so it kicked quite a bit. Winamp was a slick app; quick to start up and ready to blast tunes and let me turn the bass up wayyyy toooo loud.

WTF happened to it?

Now its this bloated app with adds from AOL and excessive features that don’t really work well if at all. All the features seem almost like they were designed without Winamp in mind and were slapped on just to say they’re there. Interestingly enough after all this time it still doesn’t differentiate between videos with a .mp4 extension and audio with a .mp4 extension; freakin c'mon!!! Video playback still seems like an after thought even though its been there since Winamp 2. Windows Media Player, you remember that lil ole’ box from windows 95? Yeah that, is actually a better Media Player than Winamp now. While Winamp continued to slap on garbage, WMP focused on the main thing, allowing the user to effectively manage media on their PC. Now look at it, a major media player in the market. Right now Microsoft is refining the formula and making Windows Media Player 12 for Windows 7 which is shaping up to be a potentially lethal contender in the Media Player Market.

Some of the great things about Winamp revolved around 2 things, the plug-ins and the skins. The skins weren’t all that but some skins really made Winamp feel like a brand new application, MMD3 for instance,  Multi Pass and EMP/EMP2 were just amazing to use. The new Bento Skin just makes me want to rip my hair out. For heaven’s sake does everything from the last iteration need to fit into one interface? BLOODY HELL. One of the things that made the original Winamp popular was the flexibility of the interface and the free form factor. At this point i would tell Nullsoft that they should strip Winamp down to a core player leave it as is and develop Winamp 4/6/7 from scratch without any obligations to the previous player or accessories. Hell… why don’t the Nullsoft guys build a new Winamp on the WPF, like Blu did? Not only would they be able to do something unlike anything on the market, they could even return as the innovator and the market leader.

Another big factor was the plug-ins. Every kind of visualization and DSP program you could imagine was there. Sadly now, after windows XP, a lot of them got broke. Iconic plug-ins like DEE and a few others just couldn’t run onthe new OS’. Now we have to use DFX (yuck) and rarely does anyone do anything innovative any more. Yeah there are some equally, if not better plug-ins left; but still, i want the oldies i know and love to work. Maybe, just maybe they should have a hall of fame for plug-ins and the null soft guys should make sure all these oldie Goldie's work on the newest platforms? (Just a random thought)

Honestly, WTF Winamp? Once you were the cool kid setting trends and you were the Media Player everyone wanted to be. Even the haterz loved you. Now you’re fat and old, chugging ice cream on your couch in your middle age all saggy and sad.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Windows 7, Neutered?

After a lot of hardships and complaints by our European brethren, the ‘big M’ is finally making quite a few applications detachable in Windows.

This is a God-sent for some. The ability to remove a Windows application you don’t like is a change for the better with so many other applications on the market that can do the exact same job as the integrated Windows applications, but much better. Google’s Picasa rips past Windows Photo Gallery in terms of speed and capability. Firefox, Chrome and all the other alternative browsers give you so many reasons to leave Internet Explorer as a standby, on both security and speed.

So why then is Microsoft spending money to develop applications which people can get for free from the web with comparable or better features and functionality than the integrated widows apps, well its because the consumer expects a base level of functionality. For example, you say Microsoft is monopolising the web browser market by bundling IE with windows, but if there isn’t a web browser integrated into windows, then how will you be able to browse the net to get another browser?

It’s a sad day for good ole common sense, however unlike Windows XP, that sad hodge-podge Operating System, where the update system was tied into the browser and the DLNA stream services were a part of Windows Media Player 11, Windows Vista and 7 both have these systems untied from any individual applications, minus DLNA media streaming with was tied to Media Player in Vista. In 7 the DLNA system is linked to the Libraries System for data aggregation. Essentially any folder that is added to a library can be shared along with the other items through the DLNA server which can be enabled form the Network and Sharing Centre, and not Windows Media Player hence untying it from a application.

By untying these applications Microsoft can potentially distribute windows without any applications and have the hardware distributor choose a software suite such as the Google suite i.e Picasa GTalk and Chrome or the Windows Live Suite to replace the integrated apps that come with Windows. What happens next is completely up to chance and dumb luck if you ask me , but i will say this, when Microsoft released Windows Live Photo Gallery, I wanted to remove the Windows Photo Gallery and Fax and Photo Viewer in Vista but i couldn’t. Going into the future, for techies like me to be able to remove applications that we will never use and out clients will never use will be a great help. What would be more interesting is if Microsoft allowed us to easily add third party application to the installations disc. Now that would be interesting!

Oh well, Peace Out!!!!!!!