Trying to use Opera as a baseline

I decided that time of day could cause differences, who knows. I did side-by-side comparisons of two of the three ASP pages from this morning. The windows machine had not trouble, my F11 machine with Firefox 3.5 RC4 decided it still wanted to hang around.

I ask my brother who looks into it, and so far has no idea yet. He suggests trying Opera to set a baseline reference. Now that I think of it, I’ll try both firefox and Opera on my business machine, just to really try things out.

So I download and install Opera as a baseline on my computer, figuring that either things will work and I’ll figure out that it’s Firefox 3.5 RC4, or that it’s something else. That licence screen isn’t as scary as other licenses, it appears that I can use it to browse the web and so on — as long as I’m not doing so as part of air traffic management or running my nuclear power plant — but it’s still interesting.

I quickly check two of the websites I had trouble with this morning. And they hang.

Now I’ve just installed firefox on my business computer. To my great surprise, it worked — for the past several months I haven’t bothered on the presumption that somewhere along the line I’d get a message saying that I couldn’t do it without admin rights.

Surprise surprise — the two pages work without a hitch (firefox needs a couple of plugins, but the pages come up no trouble.)

At this point I’m going to let the Opera installation on Windows drop.

For those of you who are curious, the two sites in particular are geocaching.com and pwbrewing.com. The other two sites are not useful references since one is a corporate email server (all Windows, to my chagrin I have received confirmation from the techs there that they have no linux, and I’ve learned from other times not to bother mentioning linux to them, they seem more hostile to linux than I to windows — some say that it threatens their livelihood!) and the other was a survey tailored to my email addy as a customer satisfaction response.

Of course, I have read a few things about the latest Firefox Fiasco but that seems to be about load time and the way Firefox generates “random” numbers.

ASP and Windows centric web pages slow

I am at another hotel on business. (Ho-hum, they have a password, I don’t care at this point to find out how long it’s been in place, I’m sure it’s good odds that it’s been a while. Shall we say that it’s named after a good ship. I suppose I could be wrong.)

Surfing is, often enough, slow. A good number of pages hang and time out. At first, I don’t notice much because the main one I visit is always slow, always hangs and occasionally times out.

At first I was wondering if it’s because I’m in a hotel using their internet — you know, bottlenecks due to lots of people using the internet hookup at the same time (what, at 6AM?), people setting up repeaters in the bushes stealing signal because there is an insecure password that at worst would cost them a night’s stay to figure out, etc.

I also have the company laptop with me, to do company work (of course, I have my own laptop to do personal stuff, the company policy on personal usage of the computers is getting to be much like closed source licences that make you wonder whether you may use the software at all, even for its apparently intended purpose.) It uses windows on a Centrino Core 2 with something like 2.8GHz or more. For the fun of it I type in le web page du jour. It loads quite speedily, while the page load on the same web page on my F11 ACER Aspire One is still hanging.

And I notice something interesting: le web page du jour is in ASP. So is the historically slow site. Last night the site that was impossible to properly log into using my laptop, the work email server — such that I logged into my own web email to send the message to the home office — is, you got it, on a windows server. A fourth site this morning timed out in the middle of a survey I agreed to take; I hope it’s a linux server, it’s for a magazine I subscribe to on a little topic called linux (the publishing house also has a PC magazine, so go figure.)

I’m wondering: Am I having difficulties with these pages because I’m using Firefox? Linux? A slower machine? Is it Fedora’s implementation of Firefox 3.5 Beta 4 or whatever? Some combination of the above? Is this an ASP compatibility problem? Or an ASP discrimination problem? Or are the pages in question themselves biased against non-windows computers? Or non-IE browsers? (Never heard that one before!) (here’s my archive)

À suivre …

The new Google OS

Well for those of you who haven’t heard, internet darling Google announced in the past day or two that it will be releasing a new OS expected in 2010 (here’s my archive).

I had a few reactions:

– Google getting headline news should make it interesting, and they have the money and clout to be a real competitor. I saw the news about the new Google OS by watching the morning news and one of the taglines was “Google to launch operating system”. Sorry, Ubuntu only gets headline news within the likes of gearheads like me (see below), and it’s a footnote at best when people talk about that South African Space Tourist.
– What will “it” be? Linux? Google-Hurd? Open-source? GPL? BSD-licence? Apache Licence?
– I wondered what it would be about. Goobuntu? Ahhh, it’ll be an internet-centric linux distro — meaning, even though it’s obvious that it’s meant to be a MS-killer on the netbooks (with the possibility that it could be released, with appropriate changes, for the desktop too), its main comparison will be gOS. (Insert tongue firmly in cheek here. Then bite.)
– It’ll only have any way of working if it A) deals with the problems Fedora has out of the box (flash, mp3, avi, DVD, etc.) by no doubt including such support out of the box, and generally be AS GOOD POINT FOR POINT as MS, and then some, and B) do something better than MS — and be something that people want.
– It’ll have to likely change the computing paradigm. The cloud computing paradigm has been touted for about seven years or more now and has only been taking off in the past year or so. Google has been slowly eroding MS with things like gmail and google docs, alongside Firefox and OpenOffice.org, and generally contributing to opensource and other projects, but I’m wondering when the breakpoint will be when suddenly EVERYBODY drops MS and goes somewhere else, or rather the pie becomes properly split up such that what’s under the hood matters less than what goes on on the screen. Oh, and people don’t like change. Resistance to change is one of Open Source’s, no scratch that, “any alternative to MS”‘s biggest enemies.
– My original take on the above was that Google *would* be the people able to push things beyond the breakpoint.
– I’m wondering if it will have to go on par with MS by pulling a Novell to integrate MS-files nicely.
– Ahh, “machines with it will be sold starting in 2010” — it was but also wasn’t as specific as that … will there be a slice in it for Google? Or will there given away the way other distros are, but have insidious settings that encourage the user without realizing it to go to some web page that has google click ads? Or … what’s in it for them?

Then of course, I’m listening to one of these “deal to the lowest common denominator then add 2 points of intelligence” syndicated talk radio hosts who’s got a guest talking about this subject. To set the stage, the previous topic he discussed was a videoclip on YouTube of a person using both hands to shave his head while driving and whether there should be a law against such a thing, which he caps up with the likes of “there should be an anti-moronification law against such morons.”

To be fair, the stance he and his guest take is targeted at most people who inexplicably (to me, anyway) have no clue that there *is* an (easy) alternative to MS on the PC, besides the Mac, which he rightfully puts in a class of its own. And, Linux *is* mentioned as an available alternative, but “it’s pretty much for the gearheads”.

Here’s what I sent him, I was so riled up:

*****

Forget Ontario hair-shaving idiots making the roads less safe, I wonder about those on the radio who say linux is for “gearheads”.

I suppose I’m a gearhead, I do indeed like computers for their own sake beyond the day to day usefulness they present.

However I’ve been using various versions of linux for the past several years on my PC and take great pleasure in overwriting any existing MS format on any new computer I get — over the past three years, that’s about 5 computers, formatted a few times over on some. Some are older and more archaic than the netbooks your piece mentioned, let alone today’s top of the line desktops, and I’ve been using them for desktop uses, not server applications. On them are full OS’s that are not stripped down — unless, of course, I were to have chosen one of the minimalist versions — and interestingly are not all that slow.

There are several versions which are geared toward the “average” user. Most of the more common versions can do all of the day to day uses that were mentioned in your piece and are on par with — sometimes superior to — MS. I use a version that is a cross between the “gearhead” market and day to day usage. I recommend to newcomers Ubuntu, which I do not use. Virtually all users of MS however would be able to use Ubuntu, available at ubuntu.com, with no difficulty, and it is the most popular of the linux versions and is not aimed at the “gearheads”.

I was incredulous listening to the show to hear that people still think that MS is the only option for their PCs. I suppose that the few who have heard of linux figure that something given away for free is worth the money paid for it. Au contraire, MS is less configurable and as you know virus prone as compared to linux; for the virus part, you have to pay more to get properly protected. Linux on the other hand is safer, faster, and free compared to MS.

I found your guest informative but I found the bias toward linux not being a competitive alternative on the desktop — which it has been for years — compared to Windows “very interesting”.

*****

Oh, I do think that the driver in Ontario is a complete moron. 🙂

And Mr. Shuttleworth, please note that I *will* recommend Ubuntu to the general public since the learning curve is easier than even Fedora’s.

Wireless under Fedora 11

Back in September, I cried for joy that wireless worked out of the box in F9, even if it was only 2 bars out of 4, inches away from the wireless router, and surmised that this might be due to a presumed lack of Ndiswrapper in the Fedora kernel, expecially since a plain old vanilla kernel downloaded from kernel.org gave me 4 bars. The number of bars and signal strength on my PIII 450 laptop varies from about 10% (zero bars but still connected) to about whatever 2 bars represents. On rare occasion I get 4 bars, which usually drops back down in seconds.

Under F11, things seem to be the same. No complaints.

Seems that I might not haven Fedora enough credit, if you can believe it.

On my new Acer Aspire One, I have 4 bars, all the time. And it’s about a foot or two further from the router than the PIII 450.

So it seems that it could be my card, the drivers available, and the age of the technology.

Good going Fedora!

Fedora 11 finally released!

The past 2.5 weeks have been a little hairy for me, I finally came back from a month long business trip and, well, I had some computers to update. And another to update at the same time to sync it with the other two instead of updating every 6 months. And, a birthday gift to reformat.

First, the old PIII 450 laptop was a breeze to update; a bit peppier on just about everything, except videos are now completely out of sync instead of occasionally just a bit. Maybe changing from Gnome to XFCE will do the trick … but, obsolescence moves on, my outright need for videos has been … well shifted back to the DVD player at the cottage is back in service with a “new” tv. And, well, read on. In the meantime, the bootup sequence is slightly different from the other systems, the line with the three advancing “line heads” à la F10 is there instead of the advancing line on the Fedora logo on the other systems.

Next was my P4 2.8. Funny thing happened, the Palimpsest Disk Utility said that there were some fatal errors on my HD. So before doing anything, I got another used HD and reformatted it. What fun to eradicate Ubun… to have an opportunity to enjoy a new installation. 🙂 Palimpsest again comes around and says that the new drive has fatal errors. A quick net search reveals that this apparently isn’t a bug, it’s working like it should and well I have two used drives with “fatal errors”.

Next is a new Acer Aspire One. This one was fun. Over about 6 hours, my brother and I tried to get F11 on the machine; no, my 512meg usb ramstick was not big enough for a CD, and it we couldn’t make it bootable to put in the net install. Couldn’t get his 1gig mp3 player to boot. Several other ways later, we finally tracked down a USB dock and put in a CD player, and it worked.

Then my PIII 550 used-to-be-a-casino-server-then-a-printer’s-server-then-my-main-desktop server formatted nicely on the 80gig drive … which died about 100 packages out of 1100 from the end of the install. Hey, I still have that HD with an install that Palimpsest says has bad errors; things boot up nicely. I still have to put in some of the daemons, my brother is interested.

In between I’ve bought a 16gig usb memory stick. Nice story: The price is $49.99, ok I’ll buy it. The cash register says $67 with tax … hey, that’s not right, and lower down the price says $59.99 before taxes. I show the clerk the price tag on the shelf … and thanks to Quebec’s consumer protection laws, the new price is $10 off the “correct” (lower in this case) price at $39.99. Including all taxes, that’s less than the $49.99 price.

Then I ran out of space on the Acer trying to add Google Earth … what’s the deal? Seems maybe I made a typo or something during the setup, the system said 5.9gig drive when another utility recognizes the full 160gigs. So I decide to reformat today, and I finally get a bootable image onto the USB memory stick and after 3 attempts (the first was good but I had a snag in the setup, something about I can’t do an ext3 filesystem given the existing ext4 on the usb stick, and I can’t do an install under ext4 — I think I forgot to uncheck the usb stick as a target) I finally get the net install iso on the stick. The repo? Duke University. Really good, since a yum update only had ONE update; they keep their images up to date!

I’m finally in the process of doing all the little details and transfers and installs, and all just under the wire — I’m off on another business trip tomorrow!

Well Hallelujah! Big Brother has finally acted!

I just checked into a motel today that not only has a password for its internet access, and not only a good, secure password, but — get this — it was automatically generated when I checked in and asked about internet access, and that everyone gets an unique password. They told me that it has an expiry time that I could choose when I first logged on; if I mistakenly chose one too short, I just would have to call the front desk for a new one. I know it’s unique to “me” because I’m using two laptops on this trip, my company machine for company business, and my personal laptop for personal stuff, and when I tested the original password on my personal machine after having used my company machine, I was told that the limit of accounts attached to the password had been reached, so I called the front desk and they gave me another one, no questions asked.

Some would say that the unique passwords could be a violation of my privacy. Possibly, if they happened to tie the password to my room; I don’t know if they have, but in this case … well, the conspiracy theorist in me has not been awakened (I know, famous last words. 🙂 ) I suppose I’m not fond of the notion that the unique password could be used to against me, including wrongly and/or maliciously.

However, I suspect that I’m safe; hotels are generally in the business of being discrete as part of their profit motive, so keeping track of who gets which password or derivative information about my internet use is, well, not generally in their interest. Then again, perhaps I should also be worried about the key card hotels give me and whether they are keeping track of how often I go in and out of the room, or use the pool, hot tub, exercise room or laundry room protected by the key cards. Ooops, they took down my name, address, and phone number, and they have credit card information linked to me when I signed in! My privacy has already been thrown out the window!

I shouldn’t be — I figure that this should be the norm — but I’m sincerely impressed that this hotel protects its business resources much the same way they they protect the others, such as the aforementioned rooms, pools, hot tubs, exercise rooms, laundry rooms, and the like.

Hotel internet access passwords — Here’s a case for Captain Obvious

In the past 4 weeks I have spent as much time in my own bed at home as I normally spend in hotels for business over 6-12 months (about 4 nights.) As such I have been using a few hotel internet hookups.

First, the good news from Captain Obvious is that most hotels and motels in North America these days seem to have wireless internet. I know, I’ve been using hotel/motel wireless for about three years now, but now it’s so commonplace, that my experience last fall near Boston at an otherwise charming New England Inn where they used a large group of computer savvy geocachers as guinea pigs for their new wireless internet setup seems odd.

Next, to set the stage, Captain Obvious is observing that several years ago when people started getting wireless routers in their homes and offices and anywhere else, after a while people learned that they had to lock down their router with a password that nobody knows except, well, those with whom they wanted to share their bandwidth (and only those with whom they wanted to share their bandwidth), so that, well, you know, the neighbours don’t decide to save a few bucks on a cable modem and piggyback on yours. Or use so much of it that you start getting overage charges, assuming that their theft of your signal doesn’t significantly affect your use of your internet. Or that strange looking people don’t park in front of your house for hours on end for no apparent reason. Or worse yet, do so while doing things that would have the cops knocking down your door for doing things like, oh, who knows, downloading kiddie porn or spamming or hacking into financial institutions and stealing large sums of money.

Which makes me wonder about the all the hotels I’ve been staying at over the past month:

– The first one had a great, really secure password, that hadn’t been changed in over a year and a half.

– The next one used the hotel’s name with a few numbers added to the end. I don’t expect that they change it very often, if at all; I’ve used that hotel a couple of times over the past three weeks and I haven’t been told that the password has changed. The signals just work fine, and at the end of the week I think it’s even money that it still won’t have changed when I likely will go back to that hotel.

– The next one didn’t even have a password.

– The next one used its fax number as its password. Apparently the owner just recently acquired the establishment and at least has gotten to the point of pulling the plug on the router for a few minutes whenever he notices a suspicious character in his parking lot. There were anywhere from two to four other insecure networks in range, although one called itself “free public wireless”, and the other was a nearby internet café.

– The next one has two routers without a password, and there’s another insecure signal in range.

At each place I have implored the people at the front desk to please install a password and change it at least monthly if not weekly, or even have an unique key generated for each guest or at least each hour for whoever comes in during that period (OK, this is a bit too much Big Brother, but the day may come), and not use a dictionary word; of course two of the five are staffed by employees without any real influence over such matters, and at another I suspect much the same.

In general I wonder how hard it is to have a control panel to their router to change the password, that they remind themselves to do according to a schedule they can mark on their calendar, or they can ask their IT guy to set up a script to do it automatically according to whatever schedule the innkeeper chooses, and they just need a quick reference note to show up on their guest registration screen with the “internet password”. I know, I can’t do it, but I could even figure out how to do a cron job; surely in the MS world it’s easier than that.

I congratulated the first place for their excellent password but said that after a while all someone has to do is stay a night or speak with someone who has and they can get the password. Then they could easily set up a router in the bushes nearby and a few repeaters or a wire to their house a few doors down and bingo, who cares about the cops banging down the innkeeper’s door. The cops *know* that hotel guests will often use their trips to hotels to download things they might never do at home. However, the innkeeper is paying for some thief to reduce the service he’s supplying to his customers just to remain competitive. All he needs is the bad publicity from the cops knocking down his door or those of his clients because of someone in a van with a laptop, who can drive away when the sirens are heard down the street, is conducting some illicit business using a hijacked connection.

I can put up with the nuisance of a fist-time password challenge web page at a hotel. I understand that Friday evenings to Sunday mornings — and possibly other times during the week — there are a lot of guests at a hotel and the speed is likely to be slower as a result. But I wonder about how much slower it is because some industrious person may be hidden somewhere in the bushes or the parking lot, or have a series of repeaters running down the block and slowing down the access I’m paying for through my room rate. Or temporarily losing a connection because the innkeeper is “scaring off” a suspicious character in the parking lot by unplugging his router for a few minutes.

And the notion that my door conceivably *could* be knocked down for someone in the parking lot, or at least, I could be a spectator to such a thing and still be questioned, is less than savoury.

My complaints *are* rather petty compared to world hunger. But that’s not the point: It seems to me to be a good combination of due diligence and, well, good business sense, just to change the passwords on the first of the month, or every Monday. They put key-card locks to the pool, the whirlpool, the exercise room, and even the laundry room (that is coin-operated!) to limit access to their guests.

Why not do the same for their wireless internet?

Sigh … Bill Kurtis *is* consistent

In my last post I mentioned that Bill Kurtis, in his “I’m Bill Kurtis, and I’m faster than …” commercial series, didn’t appear to be consistent with the laptops the techies were supplying him with.

Obviously, I have seen the original commercial several times since and have been paying attention.

Well apparently he has been consistent, I again demonstrated my general incompetence by, in this case, wanting to see brown (ughh!) in the form of the Gnome desktop. In fact, it was much closer to the greenish blue of the second “Andy Roddick” commercial. And, there is the disclaimer at the bottom of the screen: “Simulated images”

This bugs me a lot. I’ve said it before, I say it again: it seems that for something as simple as these commercials, the screenshot doesn’t matter; all they are trying to do is avoid having some software developer demand royalties for the screenshot, so they make a generic desktop screenshot in-house. Too bad, the techies in the back usually would love to see their laptop in a (inter)nationally broadcast commercial and have the bragging rights.

Of course, putting aside my conspiracy theory about the TV producers not wanting to pay royalties for the on-screen use of copyrighted software or the legal department not wanting to risk depicting a “real, live OS” (like it or not that’s what MS is) and making potential customers think that what is being advertised will *actually*work* with their computer (hey, there’s a new conspiracy theory for me!), there is probably a much more logical explanation, along the lines of the difference in cycles between a screen and a TV camera (flickering), or simply maybe it’s difficult to get a good screen resolution off a computer in the shot on TV.

Hmmm … Bill Kurtis isn’t being consistent

I just saw a new commercial in the “I’m Bill Kurtis, and I’m faster than …” ad campaign advertising the AT&T 3G internet dongle, this time with Andy Roddick.

The last one I saw, in which Bill Kurtis was in a boxing ring, I was convinced that his laptops were using Ubuntu because I saw what appeared to be a brown desktop that clearly seemed to be the Gnome desktop.

In the Andy Roddick commercial, the computers appear to be using MovieOS, it’s a greenish blueish background (somewhat reminiscent to the default background for Win98) with next to no distinguishing features.

I’m disappointed … short of the likely probability that it costs a production company less to have a few stock photoshopped MovieOS “desktops”, and that obviously it’s likely easier and cheaper to just “make a movie” (or an interactive one, so that it fits in with the script) than to make *any* OS do exactly what you want to do, the way you want to do it, exactly when you want to do it, it seems to me that the easiest thing to do when all you really want is a half second, generic screenshot is just ask the computer geeks in the back room to format a computer with Ubuntu or whatever else, and there aren’t any licensing fees.

Hmmm … unless the various backers of distros have these “commercial use” clauses in their distribution licenses that I haven’t bothered to look up.

Of course, this now reminds me of another conversation I had recently: It “started” in 2006 with the person I convinced to reformat my systems with Linux on the premise “that I just want something to believe in” — something that has bugged me over the past couple of years of being both too corny and not quite what I really meant — and that “ended” a few weeks ago with someone else covering all the basic linux topics, particularly the convoluted licenses making you cynically wonder whether or not you may use a given piece of software even for its intended purpose, concluding with me saying “I just want to use my computer” — which I realized is pretty much what I really meant to say in 2006.

Linux, the mainstream, and market penetration

Back in January, I related a story of a billboard I’d seen in October and how the software being advertised happened to be available for Windows, Mac, AND Linux.

Everyone who cares (that’s about, what, five of us) knows about “MovieOS” or “Hollywod OS” — computer sceenshots that are obviously custom shots that are in-house artwork. You know, either the animated PlaySkool shots showing people to click on the “GO” button regarding going to their store to spend lots of money on their wares, or, it’s a screenshot that “looks” like it’s a functional computer screen but doesn’t look like any computer desktop people are familiar with or any other computer desktop on the next show or movie you watch.

I’ve been noticing things on occasion in the mainstream media for a couple of years regarding computer screenshots: Not only is it not Windows or Mac, it’s not “MovieOS” either. What you see is a variant of the Gnome desktop, usually on Ubuntu (for those of you who have no clue what to look for, watch for two white lines on the screen, one on the top of the screen, and one on the bottom, and a light brown background to the rest of the screen.)

Listen up folks, here’s one of the moments that I think Mr. Shuttleworth’s little darling is doing some good.

In late 2007, there was a CBC Marketplace report on the various download speeds of the various high-speed internet suppliers across Canada. A closeup of the download progress window made it clear that each participant was downloading the Ubuntu CD of the day.

Just today on CNN I noticed in an ad for AT&T 3G USB key for highspeed mobile internet — this is the one with Bill Curtis in a boxing ring bragging about how fast he is — and the laptops appear to be running Ubuntu.

These are the two that come to mind. However, every couple of months, what do I see? An Ubuntu screen. I rather suspect that the reason for this trend as well as most instances of “MovieOS” is that it’s cheaper — including the cost of paying the computer technician in the back the time to reformat a computer, assuming that they didn’t just ask the guys in back to lend them their laptop, or of course asking the art department to make up something that looks nice — than paying any licensing fees to MS, Apple, or anyone else. Or, they didn’t get a sweet enough product placement deal from MS or Apple or whatever computer manufacturer in the advertising department’s rolodex.

I’d say that Linux — be it Linux in general, Ubuntu, any other distro, or the fact that there is a wide choice out there, in this case I don’t care — seems to be making some headway. Here’s one of the examples where I’ll concede the point that if people think Linux, they think Ubuntu, and that that’s OK.