Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Geek Wednesday: Dell For Human Beings

I've made myself fairly clear about my lack of tender feelings for Dell, but the news today is all warm and fuzzy: Dell will begin selling computers bundled with Ubuntu Linux, starting later this month.

Or is it? What will happen when Joe WindowsUser decides to buy one of these things, and then finds out that it's not everything he'd bargained for? That the OS will ask him to set up his own browser plugins; that he won't be able to see IE by default; that his beloved Windows games won't play nicely with Ubuntu; that there's no Start menu or taskbar or system tray in there; or that the GNOME music player (Rhythm Box) won't play his m4a files from iTunes without a bit of command line geekery?

This indicates where Dell, as laudable as their intentions may be, might have miscalculated. My experience has been that MEPIS Linux fills most or even all of the missing gaps in Ubuntu, particularly for Windows switchers. Of course, it is reasonable to assume that Dell, with all its money and resources, applied some of their own geeks to the task of making Ubuntu more amenable to Windows switchers, in which case the prospects for success with the Linux machines may be good. We'll have more to say about this in future posts, but a quick look at the graphic below may help to show the differences between Ubuntu and MEPIS (click picture to enlarge). My experience has been that MEPIS has the edge, certainly in terms of helping former Windows users feel more comfortable.

Upate: Extreme Tech has a mixed review of Feisty Fawn, here.

Quote of the day, from MS CEO Steve Ballmer: " 85-year-old uncle probably will never own an iPod, and I hope we'll get him to own a Zune." Wow, Steve, that's so cool: you'll have those Boomers all locked up into Zunes within 20 years, wont' you? Steve, what can I say? You're such a visionary multi-billionaire corporate executive—not like that other guy in Cupertino, who's always designing his products for young urban professionals not living on Social Security...

Update: Our own Nearly Redmond Nick has the following comment on the recent delusions of Barmy Ballmer:

If I had any MS stock, I would have dumped it long ago. There must be someone within that company that realizes the "denial" strategy is not working out. Just like it didn't with Windows v. Linux, and MS Office v. OpenOffice, and IE v. Firefox, and iPod v. Zune, and crappy Windows-based phones v. Blackberry, and Office Live v. Google Apps, and ... well, you get the picture. The past is set to repeat itself.

I posted an update on my Helium experience at my Daily Kos diary. It's titled, "Is the Celebration of Murder Free Speech?" Note in particular the comments to the piece, which reveal that lefties, too, can occasionally be lazy readers and intemperate writers.

The Webby winners have been announced, and, as it was last year, lefty sites and blogs predominate. Salon, Save the Internet, and Truthdig are among the winners.

I happened to revisit the myspace page I'd created a while back. As you can see, things haven't changed there. That graphic of the lady sucking the lollipop is actually a Flash movie. Teach your children well...

Back to software, Panic Software's Coda is a great-looking product for html developers and hard-core Mac geeks. Take a look at the demo and download the trial; we'll do the same here and report back in the near future. (Alex R. Thomas & Co)

Slashdot, which deserves a Webby every year, has this report on more troubling findings from scientists studying ice patterns in the Antarctic. Incidentally, you can add Al Gore to our earlier list of people being branded as Nazis by mass media pundits.

My experience with geeks has been that, far from being asocial propellor-heads juiced on Red Bull, they are very socially aware, and that they care about what's really going on, a lot more than the so-called leaders of the civilized world do. One such geek is the excellent C-Net journalist Declan McCullagh, whose expose on politicians who fail to take clear positions on tech is a must-read for anyone who follows issues like Net Neutrality.

But then again, we here in the blogosphere are, after all, guilty of a "vituperation toxicity"—just ask Joe and his friends at the American Enterprise Institute. But if you spend five minutes scrolling down this site, I think you'll see where the poison's really coming from.

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