Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Best Notebook for Linux

Ever since I rediscovered Linux I wanted to have a dedicated computer to run it on. VMWare and dual boot, even though I use both of them for work, were not good enough for personal matters: I wanted 3D-accelerated desktop, fast boot times and "true" Linux experience (whatever that means). Besides, it felt sick to realize how much time I had been spending in my office while I could have done a lot of work outside of it. I definitely needed a laptop.

Apple Macbook Pro
At first my mind was set on MacBook Pro. I adore Apple OS X and to me it is as much UNIX as Linux claims to be. But there were two major issues with this machine: cost and build. With 7200rpm drive and some mandatory software this setup is pricey: dangerously close to $3K territory but I did not see a $3K build quality in Apple hardware. Just by holding the MacBook in my hands and knowing my usage habits - no cell phone ever survives longer than a year, I simply could not see a happy ending there.

What about Linux notebook?
This brought me back to my original idea of running Linux on a notebook PC. Guess what I did first? I googled "Best Laptop for Linux" and was amazed. Apparently Linux still has a lot of issues with portable hardware, especially with el-cheapo sub-1K mainstream machines from Dell, HP and alike. To keep costs in check while manufacturing those throw-away notebooks, Dell and friends have to jump from one cheapest component to another, chasing the best deal I suppose. The brave souls who write open-source drivers simply cannot keep up with all possible "integrated solutions" found on a typical wallmartized laptop. Power management seems to be a big issue as well.

Apparently, to get Linux running smoothly on a notebook, the trick is not to buy cheap crap and try be be very picky about your hardware. In some cases installer will not even recognize your freakin hard drive.

IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad T60p

I looked at several machines and tried out more than one. At some point I was prepared for a compromise, it seemed obvious that every notebook I looked at had some inherent built-in incompatibilities with Linux, and all I I was doing was to pick which component or functionality I could live without: be it a hibernation feature, poor battery life, sub-par graphics card or not working function keys including those that control the brightness of the LCD screen.

Well, I'm glad to report I was wrong - in the end no compromise was needed. The search for a perfect Linux notebook now is over. There have been an elephant in the room, my friends: a big one. From what I learned, the best Linux laptops ever made have actually been made by IBM, and still are. I know, I know - they are Lenovo now but they still are the same dudes in the same offices doing what they do best: they design great looking notebooks that are great performers and last forever.

The Keyboard
To begin, just pick ThinkPad up, open the lid and type "Hello world" or "I hate you all", depending on your mood. You will feel the difference immediately. The keyboard is simply gorgeous. I have owned full-size PC keyboards that were worse than this! As far as notebooks go ThinkPad keyboard cannot be beaten: it has all the important keys of the right size in the right places: nicely aligned arrows, "Ins", "Del", Home/End cluster - everything is proper. This is a full size PC keyboard without any compromises in form of misplaced buttons. Up until recently they did not even have the retarded "Windows" button but finally gave in...

Linux-compatible Hardware
Secondly, they use fairly common, Linux compatible hardware. I installed Ubuntu 7.04 on ThinkPad T60 without a single glitch. As far as I can tell everything works: even all function keys. It sleeps and hibernates, I can control MP3 playback and screen brightness. In case you are curious, click to see my exact configuration. I was even able to install drivers for a built-in fingerprint reader and integrate it into GNOME login and screensaver. Although I ended up not using this gizmo simply because typing a password takes less time than scanning. Bottom line, however, is that ThinkPad T60 is 100% Linux compatible.

Why not ThinkPad T61?
Notice that I did not buy the latest T61 and for a good reason: this one is simply too new and people report that it will not work as flawlessly as T60 would. For instance one needs to be careful which Wi-Fi card to order (go with older one, Intel 3945). Some function keys reportedly are not working yet and standby/wakeup is not reliable. But not for long though: IBM is very serious about Linux support, they even sell ThinkPads with pre-installed Suse Linux with a full suite of "ThinkAdvantage" applications very similar to their windows counterparts. You cannot order one of those off their web site but you can, if you want, do that over the phone.

There is another good reason to go with a T60 if you can still find one. Those gems are available with gorgeous LCDs that utilize more professional and useful aspect ratio (i.e. not wide). For instance you can get a T60 with a 15" LCD with native 1600x1200. Unfortunately I ended up with a wide screen display (1680x1050) but at least I got 1050 vertical pixels. Not only that, but some of those screens (check out 15" @1400x1050 model) produce spectacular colors and are great for someone who's into photography. The screens I've seen on T61 are not like that: the colors have "metallic" tint, they're somewhat dimmer and angle of view is much narrower.

Regardless of that, if you are reading this in the 4th quarter of 2007 or later, all those issues with T61 and Linux are probably resolved already. Go with T61 then.

UltraNav and why it rocks.

I may sound silly but this little thing makes all the difference in the world. Unlike others, who supply their laptops with regular touchpads with a couple of buttons, IBM's approach is very much UNIX-like: they want your fingers on a keyboard doing what they do best: typing. To assist you with that IBM added a second row of mouse buttons above the touchpad. Use your thumbs for mouse clicks and use a little red pin to move the cursor around, while keeping your hands in close combat position: always ready for sudden bursts of keystrokes.

I can honestly say that UltraNav coupled with ThinkPad's perfect keyboard nearly eliminates the productivity difference between a notebook and a desktop workstation. I watched enough of colleagues "working" on their Dell Lattitudes - a profoundly disgusting experience, very much like stop-and-go traffic.

What about Performance?
Are you kidding? The software has stagnated behind hardware for nearly ten years (!) - of course the notebook is fast for everything I do. It's a Linux machine, remember? It does not need to run Windows with a typical 182 pre-installed do-nothing junk-processes that you may need 3Gz quad-core CPU for.

Honestly I did not care for CPU speed at all: anything better than PIII 800Hz would do just fine. I was unable to find T60 with 1.6 or 1.8Gz CPU and I view my 2Gz clock speed as a waste: both cores are running at 1Gz 99% of the time, governed by power-saving CPU frequency scaling feature (just like in any other OS). The things I cared for was more RAM and to have a dedicated video card, because "shared memory" solutions put too much strain on the main bus and affect (in my experience) even tasks unrelated to graphics.

The bottom line - the laptop is fast. With 2GB of RAM I am constantly running two VMWare sessions and a bunch of apps as well. After a while everything gets cached up to memory and I don't even see HDD LED blinking anymore. Somehow Linux manages to get the most out of surplus of RAM: Windows caching schemes are way more conservative, but I suspect it has changed in Vista. When running Linux with plenty of RAM, getting a slower, larger and more power-efficient 5200rpm drive seems like a good idea now.

Want a problem-free Linux notebook?
Here you have it. If you wonder which notebook to buy to run Linux on, the answer is simple: get a ThinkPad. The reasons are:

Great build quality.
Excellent Linux hardwre support.
Best keyboard in the industry.
Awesome LCD screens with crazy viewing angles.
Subtle and purposeful business look.
Runs Linux.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Wide Screens and Best Buy

Let me tell you a little something. To begin with, I must confess that I am not claiming this is a true story, I heard it from someone a good while back, but it serves me nicely with my point down the road, so here it goes:

The Tale of Blue Crystals
Once upon a time there was a company in the market to make a laundry detergent. Their name is unknown. What matters, however, is that their R&D department really had no idea how to make a laundry detergent. The kind that works i.e. cleans shirts, jeans and the like. Their detergent sucked. It did not work. Consumers kept buying "Tide" and largely ignored the inferior product despite its smaller price tag.

Being unable to afford good engineering, I can only guess, the company goes ahead and hires a marketing guy soon to become known as "Blue Crystals Dude". The blue crystals idea was simple: he proposed the company cuts production costs by stopping using expensive ingredients in their product, effectively making matters even worse. And to improve sales he suggested adding blue crystals to the "formula": a dirt-cheap and harmless substance that looked kind of blue indeed. The crystals did not do anything. They were just blue. However, magic crystals allowed the company to package a crappy product into a shinier box, slap "Improved! Now with blue crystals!" on it, and sell at a hefty price.

What do you think happened? Customers loved it!

Cost Cutting in LCD Market.
Similar thing just happened in the market for LCD panels for notebooks, and the disease of blue crystals is steadily spreading onto desktop monitors as well. The disease is called "Wide Screen" and this is how it was born:

Apparently some marketing genius picked up his high school math book and found out that the area of a square is significantly larger than area of a rectangle given an identical diagonal width of the two. In practice is means that the area of 14" LCD panel with an aspect ratio of 4:3 is larger than the area of 14" LCD with a ratio of 9:6.

That translates into this: a 9:6 display is cheaper to make than a 4:3 display of the same diagonal width.

Wide Screens - the Blue Crystals of LCDs
Blue crystals ruthlessly strike again, while it is unknown which company hit first, but the decision was made to take a full size SXGA screen (1280 x 1024) and simply chop off some pixels at the top, reducing overall display area to save on manufacturing costs. That means making a display smaller: only 1280x800.

To make sure consumers won't revolt, the marketing term of "Wide Screen" was born, to make suckers feel like they are gaining something from this cost-cutting exercise. Never mind that horizontal resolution did not get any "wider", only vertical pixels disappeared, forcing consumers scroll down on pretty much any web site, any document, any photo or anything not tiny. The world largely went back in time to pathetic 800 vertical pixels.

Usability Issues and WebSites running Wide
Eight hundred is your new total display height. Now, if you subtract the pixels needed for your browser’s mandatory menu, title bar and status bar, you will end up with roughly 650 pixels available for a web site you happened to open. However all web sites must have their own top level menu, a logo and such. CNN.com takes 130 pixels for those, so even after you maximize your browser window, you end up with only 520 pixels left for the actual content. Welcome to 2007.

How about TVs?
Every time I bitch about this to my friends I hear nonsense that goes like "wide screens are the future: look at the TVs for god's sake!". Come on, dudes: you cannot compare TV screens to computer monitors. You watch moving picture on a TV, and you read text on a computer. Well... most of us and most of the time. Video and text are very much different in how people perceive and consume them. Books are not wide, folks. Your eyes cannot follow lines that are longer than just a couple of inches: that is why newspapers, the only paper media in "wide" format, use freakin columns. And not only that: newspapers have plenty of "vertical pixels" as well.

Therefore do not kid yourself: N diagonal inches in 4:3 gives you much more usable real eastate than 9:6 of the same width.

It is interesting to note, that most web designers keep producing vertically oriented designs one after another. It became almost a norm to only see a site's top-level navigation in default browser window: to get a glimpse of what's on there you're forced to maximize, enjoy empty "ears" on both sides of your wide screen and, of course, scroll down.

Marketing at Work
Did customers fight back? Nope. They loved blue crystals again. Today it is virtually impossible to buy a notebook with a full-sized LCD display. Believe it or not, I even saw software people write in their blogs "... First thing I want for my new laptop is to have a wide screen, cuz I like to watch movies on a plane..." Whoever you are, the blue crystals dude, you are Genius - I must give it to you. Making college educated folks to blog "I want my next laptop to miss roughly 200 pixels" is something you can proudly report back to your marketing professor.

I looked for a notebook with a full-sized 1280x1024 LCD. It does not exist. Or maybe I did not look long enough. I played with newegg and pricegrabber, I googled, I even propelled myself to a nearest friendly "Best Buy", to no avail.

Which brings me to my second, smaller rant for today.

What the Hell is BestBuy selling?
My experience with Best Buy has always been limited to rare and isolated events whenever I needed to buy some blank CDs urgently enough to pass on newegg.com and other internet shops. Basically it means I opened my wallet at Best Buy... well... maybe once in my life.

Jesus motherloving GOD!!! Have you been to Best Buy lately? Five or maybe seven years ago it used to be a place where cool geeky teens would go to find out what new and exciting is out there. Best Buy was a perfect place to waste you lunch drooling over some newest gadget they happened to put up on display that day. Not anymore.

Best Buy sells... How do I put it nicely? Well... they sell obsolete shit. I am serious, I am not joking. Check this out: they sell portable CD players! "How would a CD by itself be portable?" you ask, but that is beyond me. Best Buy sells them. Yes, these antiques from the 80s and they call them portable. Sure. Anyone can easily load one of those into a sizeable male purse. (I have semi-European roots). In case you're still not convinced that Best Buy turned into a history museum, I have another one for you: they have a dedicated isle for telephones. The kinds you plug into wall-mounted outlets. Remember those? Just like the ones grandmother used to curse at before she passed away in 1988...

I honestly do not know anybody who still uses land lines to talk or rides a horse to work.

By the way, 1GB of decent DDR2 RAM is about $140 at Best Buy. Which is roughly 250% more than newegg.com is selling it for. Maintaining an isle dedicated to land line phones would cost you, I reckon...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Linux in 2007

Every now and then I like to take a break from my typical PC routine and install Linux, as any self-respecting geek should.

I started playing with Linux back in 98, without any particular goal in mind, and kept doing that just for kicks about once every two years. Frankly, Windows has always felt good enough to me and I never really dreamed of switching to something better. After all it is not the OS I use, it's all about the applications.

So every couple of years I install Linux, I look at its somewhat rough desktop, my eyes immediately get fried by its awful, unreadable fonts and usually I quickly retreat to the black and mysterious world of the text console. I may spend a day or two playing with some command line toys and call it a nice try. Unreadable text by itself served me as a powerful motivation to get back to Windows, every time. However, crappy fonts and primitive font rendering were not all.

Linux GUI and X
Linux X-system has always looked like a giant architectural mistake to me: you don't want to build your GUI subsystem as a "server" that "serves requests" from the clients. UNIX guys made matters even worse by implementing other GUI components in this manner, like the font server, for instance. Frankly I can only theorize on why Linux UI has been so painfully unresponsive. Even the mouse has always felt awkward on Linux, so too has choppy window resizing. Maybe those "servers" are not it. Well, let's get back (or move forward) to 2007.
I am happy to report that in 2007, Ubuntu, one of the many Debian-based distributions, looks fine. No, don't get me wrong: the fonts are still screwed by default, but at least there is Google and great support from the community of Ubuntu fans. Apparently, in 2007 Linux knows how to render fonts properly, with anti-aliasing and font hinting, but due to patent issues with Microsoft, Adobe and Apple, those features are disabled by default. Lucky me, I know how to edit an ASCII file, copy those gorgeous Windows True Type fonts into Linux fonts folder and restart my X server. Nice! Not quite Vista/XP quality, but very much usable, especially on modern XZ-something-VGA resolutions we all are accustomed to.

Oh! The fonts!
I wish I could close the issue of fonts, but I can't. As it turns out, many applications simply ignore system-wide font settings and render their own. How the heck is that possible - would be my question, coming from years of Win32 GDI programming, but apparently you can do that in X. OpenOffice happily makes itself totally useless by rendering its own crappy fonts that are as hard to read as they were back in 98, worse than Windows was in 1991. I guess OpenOffice in 2007 compares favorably to something "graphical" from the 70s that I am not familiar with. Heck, I'm only 30. FireFox seems to have its own ideas about fonts, but at least they look much better.

Hardware support and Gnome
But guess what - I don't need OpenOffice, GVim works fine in GNOME, thank you. Oh, speaking of GNOME. I have not tried modern KDE yet, but GNOME has definitely evolved. Overall look and feel are very polished and professional. Everything that I expected to work just worked. Ubuntu even allowed me to use a proprietary, binary nVidia driver for my video card, and everything was responsive. Not quite XP-level responsive, where windows and other graphical objects have almost physical, real-world feel when you move them around, but certainly more responsive than Vista. When I plugged my fairly basic Motorola phone into USB, a little iPod icon appeared on the desktop and all MP3 files from the phone showed up in GNOME's music player. Sweet. XP doesn't do that! Well, of couse it does, but I never noticed it before...

Installing Software
Ahhrr, it turns out that MP3 is a proprietary protocol therefore Ubuntu cannot legally install an MP3 codec for you, but it conveniently offers you an option of installing it yourself with 3 mouse clicks. Same applies to video codecs as well. Downloading and installing the missing codecs worked a lot smoother than it did in XP, which due to its age also comes without DivX.
Most of curious souls who try to compare Linux to Windows usually start by picking Windows features one by one and comparing them to how Linux does that. That's just wrong. Because there are things (at least in Ubuntu/Debian) that Windows simply doesn't do. Take their package management system for instance. Finding free software and installing/removing it from a central repository is awesome. Windows, with its always broken registry and freakish MSI, makes it scary and generally "not safe" to install new software. In fact, Windows gradually gets more and more broken as you install something. Hey, computer geeks, how often do you get a call from a friend, complaining that "My Windows computer got a lot slower"? And what can be said about an OS that discourages you from installing software on it?

And that is the most beautiful part of the Linux experience: there is lots of free software. One can spend days browsing Ubuntu/Debian repositories, installing, playing, removing and comparing all kinds of programs. Let's start with software Ubuntu comes pre-installed with. It was carefully pre-selected and it shows: standard programs are very well-made. Almost every component is better than its Windows counterpart; Instant Messenger is better, it supports all IM protocols I care to remember, default Image Editor is a lot better, default "Notepad" is also nicer, the list goes on. My favorite one is Rhythmbox, GNOME's music player. It has a very clean and intuitive UI that easly eats Windows Media Player for lunch. Somehow, even though I've been using Media Player for years, I am guilty to admit that I STILL have very little idea how to DO anything in it. Rhythmbox is intuitive, simple and powerful. Rhythmbox is usable right away.

Is Ubuntu Good Enough for You?
So... is Ubuntu ready for a typical average user? I don't know, I am not average, moreover - I am nearly a computer genius, right? :) But I seriously do not know. As it appears, most people spend their time in their browsers lately listening to MP3s playing in the background. They may download their digital photos from their camera, organize them into albums and possibly email them to their friends. What else? Rip music CSs into MP3s? - check! Burn MP3s onto CDs? - check! Backup files to external USB drive? - check! Write simple basic documents - check! Hmmm... it appears that Ubuntu will work just fine for them, once they figure out the font madness.

But hey, I am not an average user. I am a software developer. And you know what? For software people Linux is a dream OS these days. It wasn't the case in 98 though. I do not believe it was the case in 2002 either. But in 2007 it is definitely an OS for software people. Why? I don't know where to begin! But haven't you noticed that most of the newest and coolest stuff that people rave about in their blogs is Linux-native? Seriously, look around. It is much easier to try and play with Ruby, Python, Haskell, LISP, Squeak, OCaml, D Language, Rails and Django, PHP and friends - all are first-class Linux citizens that do not "feel good" on Windows. Even Java does not feel as native on Windows. Do you read tech books or you are 9-to-5 kind of programmer? In case you do read and care to recall, what OS is most commonly used to produce screen shots for tech books these days? Or whenever you find an interesting piece of open source code, I bet it's tgz file, isn't it?

Who is it For?
What I think is happening, is that many bright minds in computer field are moving away from Windows. And for "computer people" who like to keep up, UNIX *is* the system of choice. I said UNIX, not necessarily Linux, because Mac OS X is a nice programmer's OS too. In fact OS X is probably the *only* OS for guys who like to build really nice GUIs and get paid for it.

Ahrr... the mandatory conclusion... Here we go: Linux has become a gorgeous OS for "computer people", and a very good alternative to Vista for average+ users who don't have very specific Windows-only needs, like Photoshop or DSLR RAW converters. All they have to do is to enable readable fonts. But truth be told, if my mom asks me which computer/OS to buy I will have to send her to http://apple.com

Notebook Support
Meanwhile I am returning my sweet DELL Vostro 1400 because Ubuntu would not run on it well and getting somewhat obsolete ThinkPad T60 with linux-friendly hardware. But, on a side note, in case you absolutely need to log into Vista prison every day, Vostro 1400 is one sweet&cheap piece of hardware - easily the most pleasing item Dell has ever sold to me. I will keep looking for a perfect Linux notebook and I'll be back with my findings.

Desktop Applications are Dead

You think I am speaking old news here? After all, everybody and his sister have been screaming on the street lately about the death of desktop programming.

The majority, if not all, of those screamers have always been "web app" developers. Who listens to those? They aren't even real developers, right? They don't know any better. They don't even know how to use malloc() and free() properly! Poor souls... writing foreach loops in their toy languages, acting like little girls trying mom's makeup while she's at work. Surely they have been naturally pissed at us, real engineers, creating real applications, allocating and releasing our own memory, passing pointer-to-pointer parameters.

Sure we've been looking down at web-app "developers", rumor has it that some of them are known to be ex-taxi drivers. Do you trust those folks proclaiming that the desktop was dead? Besides, tell me this, what has been MORE glamorous in IT, more than web apps, since the rise of Yahoo? However, get this: the desktop is dead.

Who is Ev?
You are hearing this from a seasoned desktop developer. Yes, from one of those cynical dudes who always puts "online applications" in quotes, because, you know, they are not "real" apps. Oh! Another classic: I am someone who never considered JavaScript to be a "real language". How about that?

Even more! I've been in love with Microsoft as long as I care to remember! (still reading?) I used to jump on every new technology coming out of Redmond. Heck, I even seriously believed that every programmer should have a good understanding of his hardware and have some assembly language credentials. Moreover, I believed that C++ was a godfather of all programming languages and Java was just a simplistic subset of it, meant to be used by the average Joe with an average degree in something remotely technical, a language created by a corporation for other corporations to have their pathetic RDBMS-wrapping software development done cheaply by armies of disposable chimps. Well, while the former still holds true, the desktop is dead anyway.

Who Killed the Desktop?
Do you know who killed it? Microsoft did. Yes, I am pointing my finger at Redmond, and I am neglecting the advances in HTTP-based approaches to problem solving. The desktop is dead not because the Web is great. Nope. The Web still sucks. After all, the majority of it was created by non-real developers, remember?

The desktop used to be very much alive, but it has been getting worse and worse. It took a long time, but finally the desktop has gotten so bad, that *even Web-based* UI now looks decent and usable!

Forget for a second about collaboration, information sharing and all those other goodies that the Web gives you. They are not important in this context. I am talking about overall user experience; User Interface, primarily. Besides, you can collaborate, share and do whatever you please by using your favorite desktop application - there isn't a technical obstacle in doing that. Take any 1st person shooter and its multiplayer capabilities, people have been killing each other online for years. Need another example? One word: iTunes.

Standard Runtime Support.
Why has the desktop gotten so much worse? What's broken? Well, try installing something on it. Actually, you should dig a bit deeper: try to develop something for it and then have people to download, install and use it. Do you know what kind of runtime support you get *standard*? Old school circa 1991! Yep, that is what you get. Do not point your finger at .NET, it is still a subset of Win32. It is built mostly on top of Win32, and it is still not available for us to use! Yes, .NET runtime is not part of the most popular Desktop out there - Windows XP.

Microsoft made a strategic mistake by NOT bundling .NET 1.0 into the initial XP release. Moreover, even jumbo-sized Service Pack 2 did not include the newest .NET.

Here we go folks: The only standard runtime available to a desktop application is still old and rusty Win32 API. Otherwise...

Otherwise your poor users, those who still prefer desktop apps, they will have to download and install that fat .NET runtime just to try out your little piece of software. Easy to do, you say? We'll get to downloading and installing in a second.

Downloading Software
The downloading! My favorite area where Desktops suck. Have you noticed how scary the downloading process got lately? In some cases your users will face 3 (three!) scary dialog boxes, warning them that they are about to (potentially) screw themselves in the butt by installing your "potentially dangerous" software. Well... let's hope our users are brave and they will make their way through.

Let them run the installer. But where is it? I mean, where did it go?

- "I just downloaded it and it went somewhere. Where?".

Sounds familiar? No? If not, you just haven't developed any desktop software yet. A lot, and I mean it, tons of users are not capable of figuring out where your little precious installer goes. This is why big desktop software companies have step-by-step instructions up on their sites, on how to well... check this out, on how to download an installer and find out where it goes.

Desktop Security.
If Microsoft really wanted us all to develop more desktop applications for Windows, why wouldn't Internet Explorer let you drag&drop our awesome desktop applications from a page to... well... to the desktop? After all, people have managed to learn how not to put everything they see in their mouth, learned how to stop on red and go on green, how to find a restroom in an unknown restaraunt and wipe off their little popas when they're done. They'll learn not to drop viruses on their desktops.

Ok, a user finds your installer, clicks or double clicks... Waits...

-"Did you download this binary off the Internet?! Are you crazy!? It's me, Vista, talking to you, stupid person! Do you trust this software you just downloaded? How about I make your screen go dark and you type your administrative password? I would also like to play a gunshot in your speakers at maximum volume, but some people here in Redmond figured it was a bit too much."

Buying desktop software versus using online apps these days looks like if you were going to a supermarket to buy "Exedrin" (desktop) and to accept the trouble of staying in line to a register, only to have a cashier bitch-slap you, hysterically screaming in your face:

- "Are you sure you want these pills!?!? Are you sure?! What if they cause testicular cancer?!"

... Meanwhile, less effective "Advil" (online apps) is free and you don't need to go anywhere... Do you want to be in business making Exedrin? Me - not anymore. Exedrin is dead.

- User: "Here! Here! Shut up, you crazy OS that came preloaded on my laptop! Take my password! I still want to install that scary desktop app!"

- Vista: "The password is correct, so if you insist... Oh, in order to protect you better, may I ask you to wear a condom, while using that desktop app? It came from the Internet, by the way..."

Windows Installer and New Computers in US
Pretty easy, huh? Well... easy that is, assuming your user does not happen to be one of those victimized PC owners, who purchased their PCs somewhere on US soil, where most computers come pre-damaged with sacks of crapware, such as 3rd party software firewalls, "internet security" suites, anti-spyware and adware programs and other internet-disabling, I/O consuming, eating-your-dual-Gz-for-lunch junk. Those programs intercept and twist the calls of your application into the same old and rusty Win32 API, throwing more and more scary and confusing dialog boxes at your user.

And the poor bastard (assuming you still haven't lost the sucker at this point) has to deal and calm down this zoo of monsters that infected his PC to look after the "safety" of his Desktop.

Do you still want to be on the market to make Exedrin? Seriously. Would you? In case you still not convinced, let me remind you what's ahead.

For starters, you'll hear about some strange application, called "Windows Installer" (MSI), that mysteriously would try to pop up and "repair" your application later on for no apparent reason? That, perhaps, is a side effect of your poor user trying to install more than one (!) application on his desktop, causing MSI to keep things running properly. Secondly, the state of most Windows machines, especially those that have been running for a while, say 2 years, without professional "assistance" is absurdly bad: registry is a mess, reboot times are ridiculously long and (real life example) Windows Installer tries to repair Microsoft Office every time a user touches your application.

And you know what? A User is getting tired of this crap. He finds that clunky and slow Ajax-spiced UI of most web sites is by leaps and bounds far less annoying. He likes to maximize the browser window and never having to face all this ugly and slow shit that Microsoft, Dell and friends have put for him in there. My point is that Windows is a very fragile platform that people are learning to avoid messing with. Windows makes it hard for users to explore various software options. Can you honestly say that you would be comfortable installing and uninstalling 50 random desktop apps in one day? Personally I use VMWare for that.

The Finale
Stupid user... Using those inferior clunky web apps... Ignoring the superior "user experience" provided by "rich" desktop applications.

And you know what, I can't blame him. Although I could not resist the urge to use desktop-based notepad.exe to rant about this crappy deal. Blogstop's HTML "editor" (yet more quotes) is kind of... not quite ready to have a text typed in.