Friday, February 27, 2009

Even more font stupidity

Unable to install a nice-looking font on Windows, I figured I should at least make the fonts on Windows be more readable. I went back to a comment a reader had posted at the old blog site:

You might try the ClearType tuner at Note the page uses an ActiveX to do the work, so you'll probably need IE or IE Tab for FF.

Thanks to "Red M@" for that link. It's a Microsoft web site, so I used Internet Explorer instead of Firefox to run the online ClearType Tuner. It's a fairly nice web application, and Microsoft clearly has but some thought into this. (I have a problem with making users go to a web site to tune local settings, though - that doesn't make any sense.)

The problem is that the Tuner doesn't work. I get to step 2, click on RGB, then try to click Next. Nothing happens. The site is frozen at this point. So now I have no way to make fonts look less blurry. Great.

Interestingly, there's some text on this page that talks about a downloadable tool. But you're out of luck if you happen to use Vista. Even Microsoft doesn't support Vista!! Here's what Microsoft has to say:

If you experience problems download Windows XP PowerToy version of the tuner. Please note that the online tuner does not currently work with Windows Vista.

More on why fonts suck

Again, I'm amazed at how a simple task can be made difficult by Microsoft.

Today, I decided I'd like to install the Liberation fonts for use in Windows - I prefer them as default fonts when I browse the web. So I downloaded the distribution file, unzipped it, and proceeded to copy the TTF files into the Fonts directory. I was greeted with a confusing message that Windows was still using the font files, and couldn't copy them.

I rebooted, and tried again. Windows gave me the same message. No luck.

Frustrated, I looked up the instructions and realized that Microsoft wants you to use the menu action File - Install New Font. So I try that - and get the same error.

I'm completely unable to install fonts as a local user on my Windows system. At work, we are not given Administrator access, in case we might mess up our desktop system. That's fine; I never login as root under Linux, so separation of privilege is okay with me. But where this separation just works under Linux, it's broken under Windows.

Why does this need to be so complicated with Windows? I'm just installing a font.

When I ran Linux at work, if I wanted to install fonts as a local user, I just copied the TTF files into my .fonts directory. That's a directory in my home directory, not a system-wide setting. It was always easy! Not so under Windows.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

MS Office is not integrated with itself

I'm working from home today, writing a strategy document. My document pulls from several sources, and at one point I realized I needed to copy/paste some data from a spreadsheet I'd created earlier. So from Word, I tried to open the Excel document.

That doesn't work. Word, not recognizing that this is an Excel spreadsheet that should be opened in Excel, tries to import the file as a document. In short, it's doing the wrong thing.

Under Linux and OpenOffice, everything is integrated. I guess I've taken that kind of behavior for granted. As a Linux user at work, when I was writing a similar document, I sometimes needed to open an Excel spreadsheet when I was in OpenOffice Writer. This worked as expected - OpenOffice realized the Excel file was a spreadsheet, and opened it in OpenOffice Spreadsheet.

I'm continually amazed that Windows and other Microsoft products just don't have the same level of integration and "ease of use" that have been there for years in Linux. Microsoft needs to wake up.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Linux in Exile is moving

It's been suggested that I should move this blog to somewhere off-campus, outside of a work domain. So, that's what I'm doing.

I'm trying to get the current blog entries exported into a format that Blogspot can read. If I can't do that, I'll do the low-tech method of copying & pasting everything by hand. With only 12 posts, that shouldn't be too hard - but the comments may take a while (or may not get moved at all.)

Update: The blog export is incompatible with Blogspot, so I manually copied/pasted all the posts into the new blog. I'll do the same with the old comments, although I think I'll lose the original timestamps.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Not broken

A colleague at work has this quote written on his whiteboard:

Broken gets fixed
Shoddy lasts forever

I think this maxim sums up my experience so far with Windows, compared to my experiences with Linux. In the Free / open source software world (Linux) if something doesn't work the way it should, that's considered "broken" behavior and it gets fixed.

But Windows does it the other way: if something is buggy, but doesn't crash or generally fail, it's "good enough" and doesn't get updated.

Maybe that's why ctrl-backspace is broken. It works, just not consistently and not the way it's supposed to - even in "first party" (Microsoft) applications and in different parts of the operating system.

I suppose that's also why Paint doesn't have basic functionality like the ability to crop an image. Because the program still does the job, even though it's no different from the version released 10 years ago.

All software has bugs; it's a fact of life. What separates my Linux experience and my Windows experience is that any issues I had with Linux got fixed while the shortcomings with Windows will be there for a long, long time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What are you doing?

One thing that continues to annoy me in Windows is that I don't know when I've launched a program or opened a document, or merely selected it.

Under Linux, if you launch an application, a helpful item appears in in your program list (what you might call the "start bar" in Windows) that says "starting Firefox web browser.." You get the same thing if you double-click on a Word document, and get "starting OpenOffice Writer.."

In Windows, I'm always wondering if I've started an application or opened a document. Windows just doesn't tell me anything. Did I really launch Firefox, or merely single-click the desktop icon? Did I really double-click on that document, or just select it?

I've "learned" to do one of two things:

  1. Open Firefox, then look away. It might take a minute or so for the application to open, but it's almost a "watched pot" maxim. If I don't pay attention to how long the application takes to start, I might not notice it as much.
  2. Select a document in Windows Explorer, then use the Enter key to open the document. Then there's no wondering if I opened it - but it still takes a while for Office to open.