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September 2008 Archives

Keyboards Must Die

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The computer of the future is almost here. It's a small handheld device with some pretty good built-in muscle and storage, and that depends on the network for most of its functionality. But it won't really be practical until the keyboard goes away and we can talk to our computers.

Both Google and the Mozilla Foundation have teams of lawyers at their disposal, and presumably these fine assemblages of legal talent cost a pretty penny. Yet both companies received public spankings recently because of EULAs that apparently got drunk and placed themselves in the wrong applications. Then alert users actually read them, became justifiably outraged, and in minutes worked up umbrages all over the globe.

Remember Apple's famous 1984 commercial? That is one of the most brilliant TV commercials of all time, which isn't surprising- Ridley Scott directed it, and Chiat/Day produced it. It is a superb piece of filmmaking that still gives me chills, even in the lo-fi YouTube version.

And then the spell wears off, and I remember that Orwell was a prophet, and the athlete wearing the Apple shirt should have a penguin logo on it instead of the Macintosh logo.

It is often said that Linux and FOSS need some slick marketing. But do they? I think this is another example of wanting to copy the wrong things, like EULAs and activation keys. The popular Apple vs. PC commercials, so beloved of so many, to me are "Two Dweebs Meet." They deserve each other. Microsoft's Bill and Jerry commercials are clever and a radical departure from their traditional amazingly inept and stupid TV commercials (Lordamercy, what genius gave the OK to those pervy guys in blue butterfly suits?), but they're still advertising dung polish.

I think maybe we're doing fine down here in the grassroots.

I've been using KMail for several years, but I get in ruts and don't notice new features until I trip over them by accident. One such feature is Templates, which has become one of my biggest time-savers.

Lenovo caused a small furor when it announced that it was no longer selling Linux on Thinkpads to us unwashed masses. Though it was news to me that they had ever started- I've been visiting lenovo.com on a regular basis since they made their first timid announcement back in January that they were selling SUSE Linux on Thinkpads. Remember Dell's first few insincere forays into the Linux desktop market, where you had to have the cunning and skills of a Yeti hunter to find Linux boxes on Dell.com? Lenovo was even worse- I never did find their alleged Linux offerings.

I used to think that Gnome 1.4 was the Last Good Gnome. Because when Gnome 2.0 came along, everything I liked was gone. It was dumbed-down to the point of unusability, and the roadmap called for yet more dumbing-down. So I switched to KDE for my main workstation, and IceWM, XFCE, and Blackbox for lower-powered PCs. For all these years I haven't seen much to like in Gnome. Not until Ubuntu Hardy Heron, that is.

This True IT Tale of Horror takes place in an American public school district. It is my hope that this reassures parents everywhere that their precious future generations are being well-prepared for life by the finest and most dedicated minds in education. Dedicated to what, you ask? Well...um...

Dell, ASUS, Acer, and all the other bandwagoning coattail riders are getting all the headlines for selling desktop Linux preinstalls, especially on this new netbook wave. Sure, having Tier 1 vendors on board means wider exposure for Linux, and for a lot of people more legitimacy. It's exciting and cool, and the price and feature competition is a nice thing.

But let's not forget that these Linux-come-lately party-crashers are very late to the party, and have been whining and foot-dragging and making excuses for years why they couldn't sell Linux PCs, or even bare PCs with no operating systems. If you wanted to buy Linux preinstalled on a computer, you had to find an independent shop. Which wasn't easy, because if they also sold Windows then they were under the eye of Sauron just like the big vendors, and were punished for selling Linux.