Monday, December 17, 2007

Biggest #1 Tech Disappointment of 2007 - Vista

No Wow, No How.
It's just that Vista isn't all that good. Many of the innovations the operating system was supposed to bring--like more efficient file and communications systems--got tossed overboard as Microsoft struggled to get the OS out the door, some three years after it was first promised. Despite its hefty hardware requirements, Vista is slower than XP.

When it debuted last January, incompatibilities were rampant--in part because hardware and software makers didn't feel any urgency to revamp their products to work with the new OS. The user account controls that were supposed to make users feel safer just made them feel irritated. And at $399 ($299 upgrade) for Windows Ultimate, we couldn't help feeling more than a little gouged.

No wonder so many users are clinging to XP like shipwrecked sailors to a life raft, while others who made the upgrade are switching back. And when the fastest Vista notebook PC World has ever tested is an Apple MacBook Pro, there's something deeply wrong with the universe.

We have no doubt Vista will come to dominate the PC landscape, if only because it will become increasingly hard to buy a new machine that doesn't have it pre-installed. And that's disappointing in its own right.
Welcome to the Monopoly.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Utah, Scam Capital of America

  • "Their religious belief is that they'll bleed the beast, meaning the government," said Mark Shurtleff, Utah's attorney general. "They hate the government, so they'll bleed it for everything they can through welfare, tax evasion and fraud.

    Anderson Cooper 360 Blog, CNN

  • Utah's Reputation as America's "Scam Capital" Grows

    The Utah state legislature has passed a "safe harbor" amendment to its anti-pyramid scheme statute that legalizes the types of schemes that have been prosecuted by the FTC and other states over the last 30 years. Utah has the highest concentration of multi-level marketing scheme headquarters per capita of any state in America.

  • Utah Company's 'Mortgage Scam'

    The Salt Lake City headquarters of the big mortgage company, Fairbanks Capital, seems almost under siege, with accusations the company has been cheating some of America's most vulnerable homeowners...

    Fairbanks charged Jill Potts hundreds of dollars for house insurance, even though she contacted them by phone, fax and certified mail telling them she was already insured.

    "I was pulling my hair out, going, ‘You have got to help me.'" But Potts said the company would not acknowledge that she already had homeowners insurance.

    The reason is revealed in a legal declaration by a former Fairbanks employee: "It was Fairbanks' practice to ignore such correspondence and leave the insurance on the account."

    But now, with two federal investigations underway and lawsuits piling up, Fairbanks' biggest shareholder, PMI Capital in California, promises a cleanup - beginning with the removal of Fairbanks senior management.

And you wonder how the SCOX scam ever got started, let alone how it's lasted this long. Wonder no longer. And one more thing. This country isn't ready for a Mormon president, and I hope it never will be.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Alpha spotting: Mandriva Spring 2008 Alpha 1

Mandriva Alpha 1 was released today. So I downloaded the ISO onto europa and booted 'er up. Mandriva Spring 2008 fired up without any issues on this hardware. Overall it's quite usable and stable for an alpha.

What's more, I'm encouraged by the evolutionary polish that this release exhibits. Consider, as one example, how text is rendered.

Call me silly, but I really do pay attention to how text is rendered by all the applications that run on top of Linux, especially Firefox. I find I'm spending quite a bit of time reading on-line, and with my bad (and aging) eyesight I find that crisp, clear readable text is of great importance. Firefox (2.0.0.11) running on this release of Mandriva provides the best readability experience by far of any Linux distribution I've touched to date. Every difficult web site I know about that fails to render well under older distributions renders perfectly with this combination. Consider, for example, the Eweek site. You see how it renders on Firefox and Mandriva Spring 2008. It is, in a word, perfect.


Now look below at the same version of Firefox on europa's currently installed Linux distribution, Ubuntu 7.10. No amount of tweaking on my part can get this site (and others of equivalent complexity) to render correctly (check the menu bar across the top). With Mandriva and Firefox there was nothing that had to be tweaked. It Just Worked.

The only other combination of browser and OS that renders as well as Mandriva is Windows XP SP2 and the same version of Firefox.

This is an excellent start for a development cycle, especially with an alpha. It's as much a gut feeling on my part as it is a technical check of its capabilities, but I personally believe that Mandriva 2008 for the desktop has the potential to turn into a truly magnificent release for 2008. It's certainly worth following and checking as it moves towards final release.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Today's Firefox 3 pre Beta 2 is a keeper

Well, on a whim I decided to download today's Firefox Beta 3 latest trunk (http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/latest-trunk) and give it a whirl. And guess what? That annoying little problem with adding links to text under Blogger is now fixed. A lot of other items work well enough for me to use this version of Firefox 3 beta for the foreseeable future. One of the nicer touches is that Firefox 3 uses the same scheme (Nodoka) that the rest of the Ubuntu desktop uses. Look below at the tabs.


Now I just need to pay attention to the memory usage. Although to be honest memory usage has never been a big deal for me with Firefox 2.

To the Firefox 3 developers, thanks! This is (as usual) great stuff!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A look at KDE 4 RC1

I pulled down the latest KDE 4 RC1 ISO (0.7.1), burned a copy, and went around the house trying to boot it. Turns out it won't boot on old europa, but it did boot on algol (the Gateway M685).

The KDE 4 RC1 CDROM contains the latest version of Open Suse 10.3 with current updates. I was surprised that it would only boot on the notebook and not the older desktop. That's a complete reversal from past behaviours. What's more, KDE 4 RC1 booted with complete screen resolution and full multimedia. What didn't work was graphic acceleration. What also didn't work was wireless networking.

I'm not sure what to make of KDE4 at this point. I know a lot of work has gone into the internals, so it's very hard to be overly critical. But if this is a release candidate then the visual aspects are still quite rough. I also had this release's desktop lock up once, which has never occurred with any prior live CD I've booted. I'm real curious to see how this continues to evolve up until its formal release in January.