Wednesday, August 20, 2008

THIS BLOG HAS BEEN MOVED

Yes, This blog has been moved to http://parrymathur.wordpress.com. Please check the new site for postings after this. Thanks!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to all countrymen! In this post, I'll tell you about the world's best chicken biryani. If you love chicken biryani and happen to live in New Delhi, then go to Jamia. I don't remember the name of the shop, but ask anyone down there about the famous chicken biryani shop, and they'll ket you know. Try some. I assure you that you won't be dissappointed. If I'm writing about it on a blog, then it must be good.

Free with Command Line on a PC: A Time Machine to Take you Back to 1971

Do you love Linux? Do you use it on your PC? If you do, you must have adopted the Command Line Interface (CLI) too. It's kind of sad that whatever Linux has to force upon its users has to be accepted. Some of these users who develop an unnatural love for Linux just for the sake of being different also start propagating and popularising the loony idea, just to make sure they aren't shunned by other people; and that's how the Linux propaganda works. So back to the CLI on PCs. Okay, a reality-check. We're living in the year 2008. While software corporations are designing more feature-rich, easy to use GUI-based applications for the PC user, linux propagandists are comfortable using the CLI. It's human nature and more intuitive to respond to graphical output by triggering events such as clicks. It speeds up tasks, which is probably not what your neighbourhood linux propagandist told you. He probably told you that doing click.... click.... click.... is slower than typing:

sudo apt-get install bullshitte-1
(Entering a password)
(Waiting for some time)
(Entering Y or N)

Lie.


Users of PC versions of Linux distros tell you this because there aren't alternatives that are good enough to replace their old CLI method. Synaptic and its likes are the only steps that they seem to have taken, and they too show package listings as if they're doing a big favour by looking for them in the first place.
Let's do a comparative check on relative usabilities of both interfaces. Let's say I want to install Google Earth on my PC. On Windows, I visit earth.google.com, download the setup file on to my hard drive, open the .exe file, click install, next.... next.... next.... and I'm done; I enjoy looking at the Eiffel Tower from 50 miles above.
On Ubuntu Linux, I visit earth.google.com, download the setup file on to my hard drive, open the .bin file and wonder why it doesn't install. I then google the query: installing google earth on ubuntu and submit it to ubuntu forums. I get bombarded by many results and finally find one, which tells me to fo the following:

Open a terminal and change to the directory where the installer downloaded to. If it’s on your desktop you can use this command:
cd ~/Desktop

Change the permissions on the installer so you can run it:
chmod +x GoogleEarthLinux.bin

Run the installer as the root user:
sudo ./GoogleEarthLinux.bin

The installer dialog will open. The default install paths work fine. Click Begin Install.

Once the installation is finished you can click Start to launch Google Earth.

Want to add Google Earth to the Application menu? Open the menu editor in System->Preferences->Main Menu.

Select the submenu you want to use and click New Item. The command value needs to be googleearth.

You can now launch Google Earth from the Application menu.


Wow! Did you hear that? A 10 minute type-out on the command line, where a user is prone to make typos, which irritate him, and then end up with an install that doesn't even put the application in a menu for him. He has to manually add it through a launcher.

So what if usability is sacrificed for inflating a little linux ego?At least I'm LEET now. I am a geek, and can use the Command Line. Awesome!

Today, I wanted to edit my GRUB configuration file. In Linux, it's a protected file. So the only way to run it was, you guessed it, command line. This what I had to type just to edit a text file:

sudo gedit /boot/grub/menu.lst

The file then opened and I proceeded to edit it and then save it.
Thanks for wasting my time, Ubuntu.

I think we should give these CLI enthusiasts something that they truly deserve. Let's not give them a graphical desktop environment at all. Let's just give them the terminal. It'll be fun to watch them copy and paste 100 music files, compile source codes for applications, connect to a phone via bluetooth and set up wifi all through a CLI. Come on, now Mr. Tux-fanatic. I'm sure clicka.... clicka.... is terribly slow compared to a fast, sword slashing command on good old BASH.

So many people who opt for using a CLI on a PC also get a time machine free. It transports them to the year 1971, where they'll start preaching them how usable GUI's are and how their stone-age CLI is so outdated.

Have you Read the First Post of this Blog?

Well, this refers to way back. A year back, in fact. I wrote a little, obscure article titled, "The Perfect Oscar". Actually, this is a sly reference to the OS wars by comparing OSs with cars; hence the title: "The Perfect OScar". Anagrams are used, wherever applicable, and I leave it up to you to figure out what they mean. Do have a look and tell me which is your favorite OScar.

Ubuntu bundles software too!

I was wondering why people accuse Microsoft of bundling their proprietary software along with their OS. Doesn't Linux Ubuntu do that too? All right, let's make a few things clear beforehand. I understand that the software that Microsoft bundles is closed source. That's the answer to my question, isn't it? Well, not really. My question means something else. But before I pose the real question, let's have a heads up on what is bundled along with what. Please remember that the list is, obviously, incomplete and can be expanded by several degrees for both OSs.

Microsoft Windows Vista:

  • Microsoft Internet Explorer: This is probably the easiest to spot villian. The issue arises from the United States vs. Microsoft antitrust case, where the United States Department of Justice and twenty U.S. states filed a a set of consolidated civil actions against Microsoft Corporation. People claim that by bundling IE with its OS, Microsoft killed competition in the browser market.
  • Windows Media Player 11: Microsoft's default media player. Doesn't come along with .avi codecs by default, making many people switch to VLC.
  • Windows Movie Maker: Microsoft's default software for editing videos.
  • Windows Live Messenger: Microsoft's official messenger. Supports Windows Live IDs.
Linux Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron):
  • Mozilla Firefox 3 BETA 5: A very popular browser, which at times crashes whenever you try to play flash content (Remember, this happens on Ubuntu only. Not on Windows).
  • Pidgin Internet Messenger: A multi-protocol chat client, which supports Yahoo, MSN, Gtalk, ICQ, AIM, etc. It currently doesn't support otherwise commonly supported features like Voice chat, video conferencing and internet telephony.
  • Totem Player: A basic media player.
  • Open Office.org: A fairly decent office suite consisting of a word processor, a spreadsheet application, a database management tool and a presentation manager.
That was a roundup of the applications that both the OSs come bundled with. So let's come to the real question.

Windows, doesn't allow you to uninstall its bundled software, giving rise to the Linux supporters' argument of
constriction of freedom. However, what most Linux defenders claim is that Microsoft kills competition by doing this. My question is: how? Windows doesn't prohibit you from installing Firefox or Opera. It doesn't lock your machine when you install VLC media player, and it doesn't threaten to throw you off a cliff when you chat with a friend on Yahoo messenger. You can set all of these as default applications. Windows doesn't restrict you in any way to using a particular application by default. You can override all settings and set your favorite application as the default. Doesn't Ubuntu stand on the same ground in terms of killing competition? Most of these applications are available for free download now days. So where is the question of browser vendors suffering? In fact, Ubuntu kills Microsoft Office's competition by bundling a free office suite. Windows doesn't come with Microsoft Office Installed. You have to purchase it separately. Isn't this analogous to the USA vs Microsoft antitrust case? Back then, vendors were selling their browsers, and Microsoft was not playing fair by giving its users IE for free. So should we also file civil actions against Canonical? It basically amounts to hypocrisy and paradox when free software enthusiasts call bundling free software a constricition of choices when it comes to Windows, and an increase in usability and productivity when it comes to Ubuntu. It is not a fair comparison; done just to defame Microsoft and its products. People complain about the lack of an office suite in Windows and jokingly call it a barebones distro. They complain that once they install the OS, they cannot do anything productive. The same people are quick to point out that Windows forces IE and Windows Media Player upon its users. This is plain hypocrisy.
How does the following sound to Linux enthusiasts?


"Windows gives you freedom of choice by not bundling an Office Suite along with its operating system. You can choose from hundreds of office suites, which include proprietary ones like Microsoft Office, and non-proprietary and free ones like OpenOffice.org, which can be downloaded from the internet. Linux Ubuntu however, comes installed with Open Office.org. It kills competition by not allowing people to become aware of other office suites. So please support Windows, and support freedom of choice."

So the question I ask, in clear terms is, "How does Microsoft kill competition? It does not prohibit you from installing free software on your computer, and why is the same argument called giving you the most when it comes to Ubuntu? Following that logic, Ubuntu also restricts competition."

So please, Ubuntu lovers. Answer this question convincingly to clear this apparent paradox of both limiting and giving choices to the user.