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Archive for the ‘O/S’ Category

Minor Bugs and Critical Bugs

Dynamite Monkey

There are bugs that bug the user and bugs that lead to catastrophe. Below lie two examples of critically-buggy applications, which I recently decided are worth listing.

1. Windows 95 – Blue Screen of Death

I still remember, as a most classical example, the days of Windows 95. The operating system failed to cope with unhandled, misunderstood packets that ultimately gave the blue screen and required a reboot in most cases. Sooner or later people got hold of so-called ‘nuking’ software — one among virtually dozens of GUI-based free downloads. That little tool gave its owner the ability to unleash upon others the infamous ‘blue screen of death’.

IP address of the target computer was all one needed. It was easy to determine one’s IP address even when dynamically allocated by a dial-up ISP. Instant messengers (ICQ was new and hot at the time) simplified the process tremendously and tools that interacted with the IM existed as well. This gave your friends and foes the ability to ‘take you down’ whenever they desired.

Sooner or later, anti-nuke software was becoming mandatory. Yet another application to run in the background if you want to survive without rebooting and losing some invaluable work. Not good.

During the holiday, yet another critical flaw with Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 was found. Lessons have not been learned even 10 years later. The promise and efforts to make Windows more modular seem unfruitful.

2. Timely Example: WordPress 2.0 Bugs

I previously said that the release of WordPress would be premature. I said so as soon as rumours emerged. Matt Mullenweg spoke about an undetermined release that precedes Christmas. Boxing Day was the point when things took a gentle dive.

I now write about 40 messages a day in the WordPress support forums, making a voluntary contribution throughout the holidays, as promised. The pace of bug reports is worrisome. That aside, the WordPress Web site was not prepared for the demand either. There was a site migration issue on the very same date as the release and coding bugs emerged all too soon in the forums where they continue to resurface.

WordPress 2.0 was intended to be named after a Jazz musician, as always. ‘Stan Getz‘ was among the top contenders. I believe that WordPress should not be called Getz because it might give a favoured artist of mine a bad name. WordPress 2.0 is more like Milli Vanilli (sarcasm and an overstatement).

Earlier today a version database downgrader for WordPress was released. A few people regret the upgrade, but many are very happy with the new features. Whether the frustration supercedes the benefits is an important question. The answer is yet difficult to deliver and the situation hard to judge.

Bill Gates Workaholism

Bill Gates dancing
Hurry! Hurry! Lotsa’ work to do, guys!

I have found the following old page, from which I would like to borrow a snippet.

He’s (Bill Gates) a ferocious workaholic, who regularly puts in 80-hour weeks, and expects his employees to do the same. And although he’s something of a visionary, he’s not a particularly reliable one; he never meets product deadlines, and the goods he so tirelessly promotes are mostly vaporware. God, like Gates, owes his power and success less to the quality of his product than to his ruthless business sense. He’s created a near monopoly by outmuscling the competition. You might not like this universe, just as you might not like Microsoft’s clunky programs; but pragmatically speaking, where else do you have to go?

Related item: Roots of Authority

Virtual Desktops & Dual-Head

3-D Desktop
A 3-D visualisation of virtual desktops
switching under 3-D Desktop (click image above for homepage)

VIRTUAL desktops are means of extending one’s workspace. Given the finite size of a monitor, one wonders if that size also imposes strict limits on the (in)visible window environment. Well, it does not. It is possible to treat the monitor as just a rectagular box or a a ‘sliding window’, which metaphrically glances at something much larger. It enables the user to view smaller segments of the whole at any one time. Most commonly, the user would watch only a quarter of the workspace at any one time.

Virtual desktop environments have been available for a long time to Linux user. They will also be officially introduced in Windows Vista, having encountered third-party software that achieved this in the past. Apple Macs have commercial add-ons that achieve the same thing — presenting the users with a pager to control multiple virtual desktops.

The Pager is a small widget which enables the user to select which segment of the screen should be viewed. More specifically, it enables switching from one virtual desktop to another. It often reflects on the content in all virtual desktops. In KDE, for example, the pager contains a schematic of active windows and their positions. In GNOME, it appears to even embed application icons. I used the Pager with virtual desktops about 4 years ago, but not excessively. I needed them when doing some programming jobs, but wasn’t competent with the corresponding CTRL+[1-4] shortcuts, which make the transition between one desktop to another very smooth and rapid.

On to page 2

The Era of Bundled Open Source

Firefox in the dock
Milestone reached: Firefox to be pre-installed rather than downloaded

EARLIER this week I mentioned Blake Ross; The context: the demise of the Windows brand name. Apart from this thought-inspiring quote from Blake, I now come to discover that Hewlett-Packard began bundling Netscape. More recently it was confirmed that Dell pre-install Firefox in the UK.

Next milstone: OpenOffice bundling with all desktops and laptops. This would enable users to work on documents and spreadsheets ‘out of the box’.

Linux on the Palm LifeDrive and T3

Linux on the Palm

PALM have intended, for quite some time in fact, to ditch Palm OS in favour of the Linux kernel.Then again, there are independent efforts by individuals to boot and run Linux on Palm devices, regardless of Palm’s mainstream initiatives.

Two new examples:

Related (older) items: Linux on the Tungsten E

The User Interfaces of Tomorrow

Spherical desktop

Wallpaper from Houghi (click image above
to enlarge; non-lossy PNG version)

Below is the summary of an article on user interface revolution. It has motivated me to post links to relevant items of mine.

Will we be stuck with flat rectangles on our desktop forever or will we finally live in a 3D desktop? This article discusses some alternatives and proposes a framework in which future interface designs may be evaluated.

On 3-D desktops, interaction, and display:

A few related ‘leftovers’:

The Fight Over the Internet

Map of EuropeTime and time again, Bill Gates is urging his engineers to push harder towards successful penetration into the Web. His main rival has been identified already and it has a name: Google. Now begins the fight to win over large corporations that can give an exposure boost and yet more marketing pipes. After talks and negotiations with both sides, AOL appear to be getting close to Google. In stake: communication, media, and more.

Under the deal, Google would pay $1bn (£565m) for a 5% stake in AOL, the Wall Street Journal website has reported. The two firms have declined to comment.

Here is an interesting quote comes from Blake Ross on the state-of-affairs between Google and Microsoft Windows. In particular, emphasis is put on the decline of the Windows brand.

As a user, how many times a day do I see “Windows” versus “Google”? My generation doesn’t know or care about “Windows,” and why should they? For all the talk about Google trying to “get onto the desktop,” you rarely hear about the incredible brand strengthening that takes place every time a user types “”. Users go to Google and know it; Windows is a foam peanut that comes in the computer box. More than Google trying to get onto the desktop, Microsoft is trying to get onto the Web.

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