Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bing Fail

I needed to look up some anti-Linux comments (specifically, about Linux's user interface) as a reference for a new Linux in Exile post. I went to the best search engine for pro-Microsoft anti-Linux stuff - Microsoft's Bing. Because you can google with Bing.

Unfortunately, I got completely distracted by a Bing Fail, so I never wrote the post. Next week, I promise.

I don't know if you've used Bing, but they like to load a random image as a background, then highlight certain areas as clickable notes that reveal themselves when you mouse over each one (think "comments" in Flickr.) Today, I got a panda: (click to see larger version)

Why they highlighted the eye in reference to the panda's wrist bone continues to baffle me. Note to Microsoft: the panda's wrist is that thing below his head in the photo, the one with the paw attached to it. Had to share.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vista fonts suck

I know I've complained about this before, but it's been really getting to me. The font rendering under Windows is killing me. Or making me go blind. Possibly both.

Under Linux, I had 4 methods of font rendering to choose from: "Monochrome", "Best Shape", "Best Contrast", "Subpixel smoothing (LCDs)". I think I used subpixel smoothing, which gave me great-looking fonts that were very readable on my flat-panel display. I had installed Microsoft's core fonts, and usually wrote documents using Times New Roman and Arial.

Now, on Windows Vista with the same Dell 1905FP flat-panel display, those same fonts are giving me a headache.

Why is Microsoft so limited with fonts? Under Windows, there are only two methods to smooth fonts: Standard (not smoothed, hard to read) and ClearType (blurry but smooth, and hard to read.) But note that this is not obvious to change under Windows Vista.

After writing a Word document, or browsing the web for any amount of time, I get a headache from squinting at the screen. Sure, I've increased my zoom level in Word, and increased the minimum font size in Firefox, but the fonts look out of focus and are just plain hard to work with. Not so under Linux.

Any tips for what I can do about fonts under Windows Vista? How do I get smooth easy-to-read fonts, like happens "out of the box" in Linux?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Linux Update does not own my machine

In an earlier post, I compared boot times between Windows Vista and Fedora 11 (Linux) on the same laptop, a Dell D430. In that post, Linux was booting from a Live USB.

Since then, I've realized that if I can boot a Live USB on this laptop, I can certainly boot a USB drive with Linux installed on it. And that is what I have done. I am using an 8GB USB flash drive, about the same capacity as you'd find in a netbook, for example. (I boot into Linux on weekends, on my own time.) Works great! So I hope to use this as a way to directly show the differences between Linux and Windows.

Here's an example: remember a few weeks ago when I discussed how Windows Update isn't finished installing updates even after it's installed the updates? At the end of my post, I wrote:
In stark contrast, when I ran Linux at work, I could install updates while using the system. If the system update tool wanted to reboot afterward, it was usually because I'd received a kernel update, and you do need to reboot for the new kernel to take effect. But on Linux, you can keep using the old kernel until you're ready to shutdown/reboot. And I always had the option to shutdown or reboot later, when I was ready to.

And in Linux, when you reboot or shutdown, you actually reboot or shutdown. None of this "let me install a few updates before you really get to shut down your system." Reboot means "reboot", and shutdown means "shutdown".

I guess I got spoiled for how cleanly Linux systems apply updates. Microsoft sure could take a lesson from that.
I'd like to demonstrate this in action: This morning, I booted my laptop using the Linux USB drive. Not long after I'd booted, I was greeted with a message that I needed to install updates. (This is not surprising, since I only get to boot Linux on weekends, so there's a week or more of patches to install.) As usual, I let the system install updates while I was working.

After the updates were installed, I got another message saying that some of the updates would take effect after I logged out and logged back in:

It's rare to have to do anything in Linux after installing updates. Usually it's only when I install kernel updates, which always needs a reboot unless you use something like Ksplice.* But there were several gvfs updates in there (gvfs allows you to access a network resource as a virtual file system) and I suspect gvfs needed to be reloaded for the changes to be visible. gvfs runs at the user level, so the system only needed to log out / log in for the changes to take effect.

I wasn't really finished working, so I could have clicked "Close" and continued my work. But I realized that this was an excellent opportunity to directly compare the difference between installing updates in Linux, versus in Windows. So I opted to log out and shut down, just like in Windows.

And when I clicked "Log Out", I got the usual dialog:

Care to guess what happened after I clicked "Shut Down"? My Linux system actually let me shut down. Like, right then. None of this "let me install a few updates before you really get to shut down your system", like in Windows. I wasn't held hostage by an update process that insisted on owning my machine for another hour. The system just shut down, normally.

Linux "System Update" was done when it said it was done. That is how modern systems are supposed to work!