What is the Deal with WiFi and Linux?

JokuSpoit Fail

Two and a half years ago when Apple made their infamous switch to Intel processors I called bullshit and got myself a cheap generic laptop to join the growing user base of Ubuntu Linux.

Everything worked as advertised, except for the built-in WiFi card. After jumping through many hoops I found a cheap plug-in WiFi adapter on eBay, but the whole experience left me feeling, well… something like this.

Cut to present day, and I’m the proud new owner (if a bit behind the curve) of a new Eee PC.

Just like a Mac, this Asus is a thing of beauty. It fits (barely) into my awesome Japanese man-bag and is a much better technological fit for me than Nokia’s Internet Tablet.

And everything works as advertised, except for one thing: The built-in WiFi.

See, I’ve got this awesome app on my Nokia called JoikuSpot, which basically turns my phone into a WiFi hotspot. It a great way to plow through at least some of my 6GB/month mobile data plan, and works amazingly well with both Mac and Windows computers.

But not, for some reason, with Linux — or at least this otherwise excellent implementation of it.

A kind soul has posted a helpful if kludgy solution which didn’t work at all for me. After almost an entire day of Googling, tweaking and frustration I’ve left a last-ditch call for help on the EeeUser forums. From there I’ll hopefully get some direction on how to proceed, but the whole experience has left me feeling… well, you know.

Despite the folks at Asus coming up with possibly the most user-friendly Linux UI yet, it doesn’t take much to pull back the curtain and find yourself face to face with a screen-full of indecipherable command-line gibberish as in the screen grab above.

What’s your verdict? Am I a total n00b who should just STFU and start learning terminal prompts, or is Linux still not ready for prime time?

Towards a Microsoft-free Mac, Part I

MS Expression Engine Logo

Having freed my phone line from the monopolistic clutches of Bell Canada a few years back I’ve set my sights on my next technological feat, to rid my computers of anything bearing the Microsoft logo.

The big hurdle has been finding a replacement for Office, which I’ll detail in part two of this series. But a surprising hiccup in my plan came when iView Multimedia, my favourite media cataloguing software, was purchased by Steve Ballmer and co. in 2006.

Microsoft immediately re-badged its acquisition as Expression Media and gave it quite possibly the worst start-up logo EVAR!!1! Ordinarily I’m quite happy to stare at a woman’s behind, but this thing is hideous and makes no sense!

Fortunately Microsoft has done little if anything to the actual app, so downgrading to last official release of iView Multimedia Pro — version 3.1.3 if you’re interested — was a relatively painless affair. It’s a Universal Binary, so it will run natively on any Intel Mac. And it works nicely with PhotoSync, a nifty bulk uploader for Flickr and the like.

It’s true that Adobe Bridge or even iPhoto will do much of what iView does for me, but if you don’t want photos loading up in RAM every time you open a folder (Bridge) or your RAW automatically converted to JPGs (iPhoto) then you’ll be interested in giving iView a try.

Expression Media is okay too, I guess… If you can stand that horrible splash screen!

The Quest for PIM 2.0: Plaxo 3.0

Online PIM purveyors Plaxo used to have a pretty bad reputation for spamming people from your uploaded address book and pressuring them to join the service. I’m happy to report that this is no longer the case, as I’ve been testing Plaxo for a few weeks now and have yet to receive a single complaint about it from any of my five hundred-plus contacts. With their new “3.0” service I can’t quite say that Plaxo meets the gold standard for “everything available on every device”, but it does look like they are the best of what’s out there if you’re not an ideal candidate for Microsoft Exchange.

For a quick overview of the service I’ll refer you to this online demo:

One big plus for Plaxo on the Mac is that I can use it to sync my Apple Address book and local copy of Thunderbird. You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal but the two apps use completely different file formats, yet somehow Plaxo is able to seemlessly read and write between them.

Another benefit of using Plaxo comes from their partnership with LinkedIn (aka Facebook for business-types). If you’re on Facebook then you’ll already know that its value correlates directly to how many of your friends are there. It’s the same deal with Plaxo and LinkedIn — whenever my colleagues there update their contact info the changes propagate through Plaxo to the Address Book on my Mac, and I know enough folks who are listed on one or the other to make it worthwhile.

Where Plaxo stumbles is with its lack of support for iCal tasks. It might actually be due to Nokia’s own SyncML implementation; I know from previous PIM 2.0 tests that my events and to-dos are lumped together in the same database on my phone… But if Apple’s calendaring app can read them, surely Plaxo can too?

Oh, and about Plaxo Pulse… It’s this new whiz-bang feature where you can dump all your RSS feeds onto one page for all your friends to follow, but there are lots of other sites jumping on the same bandwagon. More on that in another post…

The Worst Shortcomings of Windows and OS X Laid Bare!

So Robert Scoble, the go-to tech blogger on WordPress.com, has just released two hours of video documenting an expert debate of Windows Vista vs. Mac OS X. I’ll save you the two hours and get right to the point.

I should point out that I’ve been a Windows user since last summer, a Linux user since the spring and a Mac user since, well… About 1995. But I’m not as biased as you might think. Read on for proof…

As a Windows user, the single most irritating thing about OS X is that the ‘maximize window’ button doesn’t maximize on-screen windows.

Mac's misnomered maximize button

When I hit that little green button in the top left corner of a window in OS X it’s because I want whatever I’m working on to fill the entire screen and get any other distractions out of the way. Instead I get a window that, depending on the app I’m using, is slightly to sizably bigger, but still doesn’t fill the damn screen like I want it to. And this is productive how?

As a Mac user, the single most annoying thing about Windows is that I can’t use the ‘up’ cursor key to get back to the beginning of a line.

My Lenovo laptop's inferior cursor layout

If you’ve never used this feature you simply don’t know what you’re missing. Even the best of us touch-typists make the occasional boo-boo, and there’s no better or more intuitive time-saver than jumping back to the top of a line with a single press of the ‘up’ key.

Yes, I know I can use the ‘function’ and ‘PgUp’ combo on my Lenovo laptop, but that’s one key too many, and I’ve important blogging to do, dagnabbit!

… And honestly, that’s pretty much it. Both Windows and OS X are otherwise identical, in what they accomplish anyway. Both allow you to use email, the web, and a plethora of other document and multimedia filetypes found therein. If Windows would just fix their obviously broken cursor key, and Mac their obviously broken maximize button then there’d be nothing left to argue about, and we could all move on to some other pointless debate…