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April 8, 2007

openSUSE Linux : Helping the world avoid unnecessary agony

by @ 2:51 pm. Filed under General Linux, My Opinion, review, War

Every once in awhile, something surprises me. Take Friday night, for example. I knocked the 1-Liter bottle of Coke over and emptied half of it into my keyboard, then got it all over the wall behind me, then all over the underside of my desk, all over my monitor, and all over about 40 square feet of carpet, all within about 12 seconds. I was surprised that none got on my laptop.

Saturday, however, was not a day of much surprise in my life. I woke up and set up three domains with Drupal installations which went exactly as planned. I ate some lunch, and drove from Eagle Mountain to Logan, which trip was totally uneventful. My brother and I presented our father with a new AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 3800+ machine that we got him for his birthday. He was excited and surprised, which came as no surprise.

The information was then passed on to me that I would be setting up the box for him. As the one who had originally set up the network, my initial reaction was, “No surprise there. Who else would be doing it? Of course I am.” It then dawned on me that this machine came with Vista pre-installed. OK. Little surprise. After I got over my evil thoughts of formatting it and installing Linux on it outright, I got started

I fired the machine up, yawning in boredom at the new look (as interesting as watching paint peel when I have compiz/beryl on my Linux laptop with all the transparencies and stacking and burning effects). After waiting about 20 minutes for the machine to get to the desktop (if it comes installed, what the hell am I waiting for?), it assaulted me with virus definition updates, windows updates, the welcome screen, and a migration wizard. After freeing up about 200 Meg of RAM by closing all these windows, I decided to go ahead with the Easy Transfer window. I wanted to tranfer all of the files, data, settings, email, etc., from the old machine to the new one. It prompted me how I wanted to do the transfer and if I was on the old computer or the new one, and if I had the Easy Transfer app installed on the other computer, which I did not.

No problem, it gave me the choice of putting the Easy Transfer app onto a USB stick and putting it on the old machine, which was on the same network as the one. Getting it over onto the old box and running it was fairly painless. After about 25 minutes it just gave me this error, “Easy Transfer Failed: permission denied”. Permission to what? From where? What were we trying to do? Which program was denied the permission? On which computer? Regular old questions such as these which are very easily answerable on a Linux system were apparently not even considered by the Windows developers. They were probably all like, “Dude, you can’t even fix it, anyway, so why do you even care what went wrong?” Seriously, that is a great point.

I tried it twice, each with the same result. Yes, I had all usernames and passwords typed in correctly (yes, caps-lock was off). Obviously I had erred as an operator (You should see this great PEBKAC shirt that I have. I wore it to work on Friday). Fine. HOW!?! Give me something useful so I can make it work as it should on its own anyway.

So I hopped on the new box and logged into my dad’s account. It had gotten at least some of the data transferred because all of the files littering the old computer’s desktop now showed on the new computer’s desktop.

I then went in and searched through the START menu (recently added feature in Vista, Linux has had this for over a year) for Outlook Express. A result came up. I clicked it to run it. I actually got an error. From a link that came with the computer. Which pointed to Outlook, not OE, as the error clearly stated:

Outlook Error

Verify the switch I am using, huh? Nice. Oh, and apparently, OE doesn’t even come with the OS anymore. All I had was some time-limited trial of the latest Office that would expire in June. Which means that I had to try and work with Outlook. Fine.

(So dad, are you sure I can’t just throw Linux on here?)

When I did finally find the actual executable for Outlook so I could run it directly (as according to this error that came up, basic things such as SHORTCUTS don’t work properly), again, an onslaught of prompt boxes appeared. They were warning me that this was a time-limited trial and that I had to put in some registration key and that I had to agree to the EULA, and if I wanted Outlook to be my default mail client, and if I wanted to check for and install updates. After mopping up the screen, yet again, of the plethora of windows, I went to try and import the Outlook Express accounts, messages, and contacts.

You would think that since the same company wrote both programs, and that since both programs have similar functionality, and that one is supposedly the EXPRESS version of the other one, that it JUST MIGHT be able to perform such an import. You would think.

It allowed me to begin the import wizard and go all the way through to the actual import, at which point it immediately refused to do anything else resembling anything useful, for example importing the accounts and messages, instead displaying yet another error:

Outlook Error 2

Unknown error. Reinstall. Yep, no surprise. Exactly what I expected from M$.

After screwing around with that for another 15 minutes only to get the same error no matter what, I had a thought: “Why not use Thunderbird? It does the trick on Linux!” So I grabbed the Thunderbird installer, threw it on there, and ran it. It installed just as I expected it to. Before it was completely finished with the installation, it asked me if I wanted to import accounts, messages, and address book from Outlook Express accounts. I sat there and stared for a moment, until I realized that, of course Thunderbird would do this. It is open-source and designed to work. No surprise there.

Before I had even run it the first time, it had already done everything I wanted it to do.

Let’s see here, to transfer personal settings and data from one Linux box to another one… what would I do? Copy the /home folder over from the old Linux machine to the new one. The end.

This is reminiscent of an experience I had awhile back where my co-worker needed Linux to fix a broken Windows box.

I’ve heard that Microsoft has started some kind of “WOW” campaign with Vista. It must be something like, “WOW, this is the worst operating system I’ve ever seen.” Or “WOW, this is a complete waste of money.” Or “WOW, I wouldn’t take this if it was free.” Or “WOW, how many ways can one thing be useless?” Or “WOW, no wonder no one cares about upgrading to this class A certifiable failed attempt at coming even close to usable.” Or “WOW, if I had to use this every day, I’d probably gouge out my eyes with radioactive sticks of weapons-grade Uranium.”

This provides the perfect transition into my next point.

It used to be that you wouldn’t really see articles like this one, called “Microsoft is Dead.” He has a point. When was the last time you heard about some ruthless, hostile takeover by Microsoft like back in the good old days when they’d do anything to destroy the competition? They’ve had their day, and Vista is their first debilitating (albeit self-inflicted) blow. Nothing like a monopolistic company whose arrogance and complacency causes them to kneecap themselves.

I love the author’s comments when referring to Microsoft’s approach to JavaScript. He says, “But eventually the open source world won, by producing Javascript libraries that grew over the brokenness of Explorer the way a tree grows over barbed wire.”

He explains further, “All the computer people use Macs or Linux now. Windows is for grandmas, like Macs used to be in the 90s. So not only does the desktop no longer matter, no one who cares about computers uses Microsoft’s anyway.”

The proof is in the numbers, too. It seems that, while Microsoft is doing everything possible to inflate true sales numbers of Vista, polls taken of the community attitude towards it are not unclear. As of 4 months ago, half of computer users didn’t even know what Vista was. Merely one-fifth of those people said that they’d likely upgrade. A month ago, things were even bleaker, so the article states, “According to Harris, as familiarity with Vista grew, its appeal lessened. When respondents were asked again in March, a full 87 percent knew of the new operating system. This time, however, only 12 percent said they would upgrade, while the number who said they would stick with their current operating system shot up to 67 percent. 20 percent remained unsure of their plans.”

Surprising? Nope.

Your best bet is to just forget about Vista and try out openSUSE or some Linux distribution for your desktop and server needs. Yes, Linux has gotten much better over the past few years. Remember that it’s advancement is accelerating more and more while Windows’ has all but flat-lined.

What makes this all even funnier is my brother. He is a Windows user. He is behind me, working on my dad’s freshly-installed machine. Not really a surprise to me that he has been swearing at it the entire time I have been writing this, complaining at how he can’t find this, and how hard it is to do that. He says, “Using this makes me feel like a one-legged elephant hopping through a tar pit.”

9 Responses to “openSUSE Linux : Helping the world avoid unnecessary agony”

  1. Robin Says:

    Mhh.. afaik theres a link to “Internet” and “Email” at the top of Vista’s start menu.
    Just for the case you are still wondering where Outlook Express has gone – it has been renamed to “Windows Mail”.
    That might have saved you some frustrating minutes or hours 😉

  2. Me Says:

    “Dude, you can’t even fix it, anyway, so why do you even care what went wrong?”
    Oh, how I hate Windows error messages!!! Linus was so inspired when he said “If you think your users are idiots, only idiots will use it”.

    But well, these are still better than the “Windows couldn’t unmount the USB device, try again later” from XP. Come on!!! Try again later? They really thought that putting this error message was equivalent to correct the bug that avoids the unmount??? And no, I’m not talking about the “an application is using the USB, close it and try again” message.

  3. JS Says:

    lolz, I know a whole bunch of people at my university who have no trouble at all with Vista. Either you are unlucky or you are exaggerating. However I do agree that Vista is starting slowly in the sales of standalone copies department. It will sell plenty of copies with new prebuilt computers though.

  4. Richard Edward Horner Says:

    ‘They were probably all like, “Dude, you can’t even fix it, anyway, so why do you even care what went wrong?” Seriously, that is a great point.’

    This is hilarious and sums up how I feel every time I get an error message on one of the OS X boxes I’m forced to maintain for my job. It usually says something to the effect of “An error occurred during processing.” More often than not though, stuff just freezes or quits with no notification.

    I don’t understand why these OSes don’t have better error reporting or logging facilities. I mean, if you don’t tell ppl to check the log, it won’t scare them and the rest of us can go look…and be mortified.

  5. Scott Morris Says:

    Hey, thanks all for stopping by. Yeah, I do like to kind of spice things up a bit when I describe stuff. However, the actual errors, events, and the points that I make are all real. In my case, I can figure out the interface because I’ve been on so many different operating systems. For my dad, though, and other regular people, they won’t like the changes. I guess what I’m saying with all that is that people like what they are used to.

  6. FameWolf Says:

    Nice article. Did you ever get that Creative Live webcam you recommended working with linux? All my personal machines run opensuse 10.2 but I’m the first to admit it still needs work in fringe areas such as webcams…for average desktop (use the web, email, listen to music) use Linux has matured quite nicely.

  7. Scott Morris Says:

    FameWolf,
    I haven’t had too much time to work on that. You’re right, though. Linux has some room for improvement, but from here it will only get better, where I feel that I’ve already seen the best OS to come out of Redmond, and that wasn’t recently. Good stuff, some good direction, and some nice momentum. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Matt Says:

    Well, I am laughing my head off as I am reading this. Especially with the “WOW” (vista is a piece of s***) taglines! I have never read anyone bag Windows like that! It proves why we all have tried to abandon Win\dows like the plague. If u didn’t know, u are on digg! (not by me)

  9. Gordon Reed Says:

    I am a Windows XP user right now but my wife recently bought new laptop. As usual I am her tech
    support so I got to set it up for her. It came with the beautiful new Vista system so I expected
    some learning curve for me. The first thing I learned was that it took this new 64 bit machine
    over 2 minutes to boot while my 3 year old 32 bit machine boots XP in about 20 seconds. It has
    plenty of useless animation stuff when you try to work with it and so I had to discover that
    the mouse clicks and keystrokes did not work as I expected. So here I am 5 days later using my
    old desktop and cruising to look for a real operating system for her. I had heard of Linux but
    had never really looked at it. Today I am reading comparisons between Unbuntu and SuSE and don’t
    really understand the technical references to command structures and GUIs that seem to all exist
    for Linux. I would love to switch to an open structure but how do I use things like my CAD
    program that is a pure windows item and my Access files? These are things I would miss terribly
    if I converted in both cases, ny personnaly developed libraries are too big to replicate easily
    with a new system. I presently refuse to buy any upgrade or new program that can’t bring in my
    old files because of the time invested in getting everything just right in the files I have.

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