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December 2008 Archives

Cussing and Praising Kubuntu

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I took the plunge and decided to upgrade my two Gutsy boxes to Hardy. These are real working PCs, not experimental test boxes, so I was hoping for a straightforward dist-upgrade that preserved all of my settings and applications. Doing a complete wipe-n-reinstall on real working PCs is for Windows luzers; real geeks dist-upgrade forever.

I have never had a successful Ubuntu dist-upgrade, so I had low expectations. Amazingly, it was successful on my computer...

I saw this story over at LXer.com, and I'm a bit surprised that there isn't more fuss. Alan Cox is the Number Two kernel developer after Linus, though he hasn't been as visible in recent years as he used to be. He's been a fixture at Red Hat for nearly a decade. The good news is he is moving to Intel, which should mean bringing a welcome breath of sanity, vision, and good sense to Intel's FOSS development. Best wishes to you, Alan, I hope it works out well for you!

The British Royal Navy is actually boasting of rolling out a new "next generation" installation of Windows 2000 and XP on their entire fleet of 11 nuclear submarines, and they're so pleased with it they want to do the same to their battleships. I am not making this up-- they are boasting and they are happy, and they are saying "next generation" with straight faces.

In my younger days I had big dreams of being a successful fiction writer. As you can see, real life is far stranger and more implausible. This has to be a hoax. Please, make it be a hoax.

The Wrong Way To Sell Linux

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It seems that anymore all we hear about Linux and FOSS is it's free of cost, and that desktop Linux is just as good as Windows because it's all pointy-clicky and you don't have to touch the nasty command line which is frightening and must be avoided, and "just like Mac and Windows" you don't have to learn a thing because it's all magic. That software should be selected purely on its technical merits, and leave all that silly religious fanboy idealism out of it.

This is a weird and counter-productive way to promote Linux, because it treats all of its advantages as liabilities. It sets up new users for disappointment and failure, and it makes me wonder about the real motivations of everyone who is spreading this party line.

I never tell anyone that I'm a writer, because then I get bombarded with requests to edit their manuscripts and find them paying gigs and all kinds of things I would rather not do. Or they bore me with how they have all these ideas that they are really going to write someday, but for now they prefer to bore me with them. For those of you who are serious and not afraid to work hard, it is possible to get paid to write computer howtos. So as long as you promise to not come to my house and pester me, I will share some tips with you.

Last week we learned a few tips for writing better documentation, and talked about why good documentation is so important. Which seems self-evident, but some folks aren't getting the message :). Today we'll talk about letting clear, precise examples do the talking, and why being strictly literal is so important.

The Internet is full of software and hardware forums, tips, tricks, and howtos from all kinds of people. It is a wonderful thing that there are so many generous users sharing what they have learned. Chances are you'll find better information from these outside sources than on the official project sites.

Naturally the quality is pretty uneven because it's people from all walks of life contributing-- young, old, non-native language speakers, and so forth. Nobody expects Nobel-winning literary excellence, but there are a few simple techniques for writing better documentation that anyone can learn.

Ever notice how Microsoft plasters the Windows name on everything it can reach? Splash screens, stickers on computers, and advertising everywhere. There is no escaping it. Except when it's yet another malware outbreak-- then all the news organizations go inexplicably deaf, dumb, and blind, as this latest story demonstrates:

Virus hits nearly 75% of systems on Afghanistan military base.

Is it serious? Well....

"...the intrusion was severe enough to raise the INFOCON status, the information security equivalent of the DEFCON alert, and also necessitate the briefing of the president."

And yet nobody is yelling "Why the heck are they using Windows?"