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Saturday January 24 2009

As mentioned in the comments here, I had to take Jesus the Micro Laptop around to Michael J’s the other night, to get it to work with my laser printer.  But something tells me that another visit to MJ’s may soon be necessary (would Monday evening be okay MJ?) because Jesus is now refusing to acknowledge the existence of the SD cards that I put in.  There are a mass of things that look as if they might be the SD card I have put in, but none of them are.  Basically, Jesus doesn’t seem to be able to get its tiny mind around the notion that I might possess more than one SD card.  When I stuffed the first one in, fine.  But when I stuffed another one in later, as you do, Jesus stopped being intelligent.  It refused to realise that there was a new card in there and tried to pretend it was the old one, but the old one misbehaving.  Since half the point of Jesus is to enable me to receive pictures with an SD card, this is serious misbehaviour.

I blame Linux.  Back when I first got interested in these tiny little laptops, I believed that Linux was poised to conquer the world.  But Linux has had its chance and has now surely fluffed it.  Now that mini laptops are getting big and strong, in everything but size, that tiny moment, when a small but serviceable OS could elbow big and clunky Windows aside and into the history books, has passed.  Microsoft seems to have dropped its prices, and Gates-world now lumbers on.  Linux, if my experience, is anything to go by, is just not good enough.  It mostly works, but mostly means: not.  Getting that printer to work required an expert.  Now, getting Linux to respond to whichever SD card has been stuck in is going to require an expert again.

The other day, MJ said he might be able to download XP onto Jesus.  I just might take him up on that.  Trouble is, I can’t help thinking that might be a huge unpheaval, and huge upheavals are absolutely not what I need right now.  Would I, for example, be obliged to install some anti-virus software?  And generally, will Jesus’s tiny little brain be able to handle whatever extra load is involved?

The idea of getting Jesus was not that all my laptop demands would be answered.  It was to find out, relatively cheaply, what kind of laptop I really wanted.  It’s working.  What I want is a laptop that works better than Jesus.  And which has a slightly bigger keyboard, and a better screen, and which just works, for everything.

The tech kvetching mixed up with “Jesus! Jesus!” sets me into a laughing mode which may last hours. Nice :)

Posted by Mike Gogulski on 25 January 2009

I agree that Linux may not be ready in its present forms (I use the plural because of the many different distributions “out there") for the masses, but it’s come a long way...and is getting better.  I imagine that Jesus has it’s own special version of Linux, but I’d recommend trying a Ubuntu distribution before going “evil empire.” I’ve personally installed KUbuntu 8.10 ( on one of my desktops at work with great success.  It did take a little while to set it up so that it could access the company’s LAN and networked printers, but it wasn’t anything that a little Googling couldn’t solve.  I’m fairly tech-savy AND persistant AND (most importantly) I know how to Google, so I’ll admit that it’s easier for someone like me.  However, I’ll give the good Ubuntu folks a couple more interations and they’ll have a product that rivals the Windows operating system for the common user.  I must emphasize the importance of using Google to help you solve your problems.  I take a “free-word association” approch (just like at the psychiatrist’s office)...think of 3, 4 or 5 words that you’d associate with your issue and type them into Google---keep trying different variations of words until you hit on something helpful.  Many times I’ve found answers to my problems on page 10 of the Google results, so persitance and the ability to quickly vet the results is a must.  Best of luck with Linux (and if necessary, XP) and Jesus.  Let us know the outcome!

Posted by Brian Mullins on 25 January 2009

Just an afterthought...if Jesus can’t hack XP, why not try installing Windows 2000?

Posted by Brian Mullins on 25 January 2009

I’ve had similar problems.

Linux is all very well if you’re already tech savvy and quite like solving computer-related problems but if you’re not it’s a nightmare.

It’s a bit like buying a car from the 1970s.  It’s going to go wrong and technical ignorance is not an option.

Having said that my most recent install of Ubuntu has been just fine.

Posted by Patrick Crozier on 25 January 2009

I have a couple of these netbook PCs (10” screens), one running Linux with a 40GB flash drive (+ 20GB online storage), the other runs XP with an 80GB hard-drive. I have a 16GB SD card for each machine and regularly switch them with no problems.

With the Linux unit I have had occasional problems saving files, but have usually managed to do a work-around to get it to do what I want.

As for printer compatibility with the Linux unit, I did initially have major problems and couldn’t get it to work, despite down-loading what I thought were the appropriate drivers. However, about 2 months ago there was an automatic download of a software update from Asus (both my Netbooks are that brand), specifically to solve this problem and since then I’ve had no problem, once I settled on an appropriate printer model to use the driver for my exact printer model wasn’t included (it’s an Epson), but another of the Epson printer drivers has it working very satisfactorily.

I’d say Linux (I believe the version I use is an Ubuntu version) is pretty good, although for someone used to Windows in recent years it takes a while to adapt to the different way Linux operates, but for me the main advantage with the Linux machine is that it has that 40GB flash drive, meaning that it is likely to be much more robust than machines with a hard-drive; it also doesn’t get nearly so hot as hard-drive laptops do. The only thing I haven’t managed to get working yet is the FTP upload part of the web-design software for Linux; I use my XP-equipped (and other Vista-equipped laptops - yuck, I hate Vista) for that with my preferred FTP-client sooftware Ipswitch.

Posted by Bill (Scotland) on 25 January 2009

I find that I get the same thing with my eternal HD in Win XP. The problem is that I forget to unmount it. Probably you are not unmounting your SD card, either.

Changing operating systems will not fix that. Changing habits will.

Posted by BillinDetroit on 26 January 2009

BillinDetroit: Does your eternal HD come with a lifetime guarantee? ;@)

Posted by 6000 on 26 January 2009

Linux can be a pain, although you could blame a lot of the problems on device manufacturers who won’t support Linux.

Net books are young. There’s many problems for all OS’s on them, I think that Google’s Android (mobile phone OS) may scale up to them rather than desktop OSs scale down - but that might have the same device problems since it is based upon a Linux Kernel (although Google’s clout would be an advantage).

The thing about Linux is its the kernel, the rest of the OS is built up by distributions, and they are trying to make things easier for normal people (especially Ubuntu), but there’s still problems. Then again, I have problems with Windows as much as I do with Linux (I use them both about the same amount, but for different things).

Microsoft are struggling to respond to the changing technology world, they’re so huge they have the knowledge and calculation problems of economic planners and the technology is changing faster than ever (even a relative youngster like myself is having trouble keeping up), trying to predict the future is increasingly difficult…

Posted by Tristan Mills on 26 January 2009

Interesting.  I’m probably about to buy a Samsung NC-10, which is only slightly bigger and more powerful than Jesus, and it has Windows XP.

I love Linux; use it at work all the time for work-like things, and I would hate to have to use Windows for those things.  But even I think Windows is likely to be easier for web browsing and messing about with photos.

So if Windows works well on a Jesus-sized device, you’re probably right.  I will soon find out for myself.

Posted by Rob Fisher on 26 January 2009

Microsoft’s strategy over the last 15 years has been to produce a new version of Windows every so often (meaning every couple of years up until XP, but they then took five and a half years to then give us Vista), and for the new version to be more expensive than the old version, and for the new version to require new, powerful hardware to run on. In order to run the new version, people would buy, new, more powerful computers, and this would make the hardware vendors happy. People who bought new hardware would buy the new version of Windows with it, and people who bought the new version of Windows would buy the new hardware with it.

However, Vista did not force this kind of cycle. There were not enough new, compelling features, the first versions of Vista were not stable enough and did not have good enough driver support, and people were perfectly happy with their existing hardware. Windows XP was supposed to go off sale at the end of January 2008, meaning that as of the end of January 2008 Microsoft was intending to discontinue its only product that would actually run on EeePC class machines.

This meant that Asus, who were inventing the EeePC, pretty much had to use Linux, as Microsoft apparently did not offer a product. They may have gone with Linux anyway, particularly given that Asus is a nerds’ company, in that they have long been a huge manufacturer of PC components and white label laptops and things like that, but dealing with ordinary consumers directly was a new thing to them.

We now know that the netbook category machine was of huge appeal to general consumers as well as nerds, and suddenly they were being offered in high street electrical stores and selling in huge numbers. (They are also being offered in mobile phone stores along with a dongle for “free” if you buy a vastle overpriced data contract). Microsoft figured this out fairly quickly once it started happening, and Windows XP Home remains available for netbooks only, and Microsoft have said it will remain so at least until June 2010. The high street retailers and mobile phone stores started selling Linux netbooks but have stopped doing so, because they found that the number of returns and the amount of service that they had to offer for Linux was much greater than for XP, and that the cost of this was more than the saving from having to pay for Windows. Retailers want to sell the XP versions and most customers want to buy them.

Whether this is more an issue of familiarity or more whether XP is genuinely easier to use, I don’t know. Probably a bit of both. I think though that the number of different versions of Linux is a big deal though. There is no common effort on a unified interface, and so you end up with not much consistency. I agree with Rob that for most technical and scientific uses, Linux is vastly superior. But that is not what most PC buyers are looking for.

It is still possible to buy a regular PC with Windows XP, but to do this it is necessary to take advantage of “downgrade rights” that allow anyone who buys one of the “business” (ie more expensive) editions of Vista to downgrade the machine to XP Pro. Thus if you do this Microsoft collects the higher price for Vista and books a sale of vista rather than a sale of XP, even if XP is what has actually been sold.

Microsoft has promised that there will be a netbook compatible version of the next version of Windows, which we will likely see mid to late 2009. It will be interesting to see how good it is.

Microsoft still feel that they are being squeezed though. Microsoft released disappointing financial results last week, and there were lots of comments about how the only growth segment was this new “netbook” area where they were selling low cost copies of XP rather than high cost copies of Vista.

Whether they have actually dropped the cost of XP Home, I don’t know, as the details of their contracts with big computer makers are confidential. I rather doubt it, though. Conventional wisdom was that big retailers like Dell were being charged about $50 a copy for XP Home, and I suspect the netbook makers are still paying something like that. There is still of course a market for really, really low cost netbooks - the cheapest I have seen is about £120 - and there is no way the maker is going to be able to include the cost of Windows at that price level. I think these are aimed at the same sort of tinkerer niche that have always used Linux though. One final issue is that netbooks may at some point depart from the Intel x86 architecture that Windows requires to run on. If they do, then the question of what OS they run on becomes open again. It could be something Linux based like Android or one of the existing Linux distributions. Apple seems to have no difficulty running OS-X on devices with different CPU architectures, but I don’t expect them to license the OS to anyone other than themselves. If this does happen it spells difficulties for Microsoft again.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 26 January 2009

Were you properly unmounting it before pulling the card?

Unixes (like linux) tend to get very tetchy if you just pull a drive they’re using.

Especially if you put in another one on the same notional “device”; it might throw a bit of a fit.

Posted by Sigivald on 27 January 2009

No, he wasn’t unmounting it before pulling the card.

If he had come over to my place, that is what I would have told him to do.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 27 January 2009

> Apple seems to have no difficulty running OS-X on devices with different CPU architectures

I don’t know about “no difficulty”, but yes: OS X has been sold on two major CPU architectures. Three if you count the iPhone OS as “OS X” - I have no idea how much of it is common with what runs on bigger Macs. The iPhone (version of the) OS would probably be what would ship on a Netbook.

Apple commentator John Gruber recently said something like “Apple are with Netbooks now about where they were with smartphones in 2006” - i.e. waiting until they can come up with something devastating. I’m almost inclined to wait for it - I’d like a lighter, more disposable laptop, but am not keen on either Windows or some of what I hear from people like Brian about Linux.

But yes, even Apple’s Unix developers forgot to switch off the “Go catatonic if a drive unexpectedly goes away” setting, and it’s one of the major irritations of life with a Mac.

Posted by Alan Little on 27 January 2009

Fair enough. I honestly don’t know how much trouble they had, but in any event they were able to do it. I am not sure of Microsoft’s ability to do the same thing with Windows. NT was originally supposed to be a cross platform thing, and they ended up retreating to x86.

There is a fair bit in common between the iPhone version of OS-X and the Mac version. Basically the Mac version still includes a lot of legacy stuff from the pre OS-X days (notably the Carbon API) and the iPhone doesn’t, and the iPhone has a simpler user interface, but most of what is underlying that is more or less the same. In truth, if Apple are to port OS-X to some other platform for netbooks, we are likely talking ARM, and the experience with the iPhone will definitely help in that case.

I doubt Apple’s first netbook (or whatever they choose to call it) will be ARM though. There are lots of rumours about Apple doing things with the Intel Atom and the nVidia Ion chipset. Many of the rumours have suggested that Apple will use it on existing products (mostly the Mac Mini) but I don’t really buy this - that would mean the new Mac Mini is less powerful than the old, and I don’t expect that. I think that the rumours really mean that Apple is playing around with potential netbooks, but is trying for something better than what is out there now. The comments they have made have been along the lines of “We are watching, but we think present netbooks are crap”. So they will release one when they think they have a product which is not crap.  I agree that there is a good chance that it will be worth the wait.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 27 January 2009

On the other hand, I am not sure that it is Apple failing to turn off the “Go catatonic if a drive unexpectedly goes away” setting from Unix, as Macs have always been like this, and have been like this since long before OS-X. (Apple floppy drives were famous for not having eject buttons, so that it was not possible for the drive to unexpectedly go away). I think it is because this is just one of those cases where Apple thinks that this is the way things should be. Heaven knows why, in this case.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 27 January 2009

Michael: Windows Server still supports Itaniums; I think they abandoned being cross platform only because the market dried up, what with x86 taking over the world.

(And I remember running NT 4 on a tiny little Alpha, back around 1999...)

I recall reading that Apple actually developed OSX as a crossplatform deisgn from the beginning; every build always ran on their very secret x86 development machines as well as the PowerPCs.

Doubtless made easier by the fact that NeXTStep had long been ported to x86…

Posted by Sigivald on 28 January 2009

Although you could blame a lot of problems on the devices manufactures it will support it with the Linux..
Interesting article..
Great job..
I really enjoyed reading it and have a lot of information about the topic..

Posted by George@IDE Drivers on 04 June 2010

Linux is fast but many incompatible problem. No like the other brand.

Posted by Odd Jobs on 19 March 2012