Saturday, 13 December 2008

Microsoft Wishes We hated Everything Not Microsoft!

In a bizarre turn MSNBC has a published a list entitled "Gadgets That Make You Look Like A Jerk". The Black Berry, Sony TiVo, Apple MacBook Air, iPod and Linux all come in for a bashing. Even the band Mars Volta were trashed for some unknown reason?

When talking about Linux they claim it's "a pain to use". What's so hard about booting from a CD clicking one little icon to run the installer, filling in your details and letting Linux do it's thing? Gnome might be a little different from Aero but it's not that hard to use.

I mean when you see a menu at the top of the screen with the title "Applications". What do you think you'll find in that menu? Can it be any easier than that?

This is obviously a very desperate move by Microsoft to try and discreadit some of the competition. Some how I don't think Black Berry users are about to jump ship just yet.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Microsoft Fudge

It's been a while since I've posted anything. So what's changed? Well Windows 7 is practically completed. Something some might pat Microsoft on the back for. After all it's like at least a year ahead of schedule? Well not me.

A quick brows through the various blogs around the net covering Microsofts' latest and greatest OS make one thing undeniably clear. Windows 7 is nothing more than a re-branding of Windows Vista. Something Microsoft beta tested with it Mojave project. Well it seems the beta testing is well and truly over.

The question now is is it fair to be so harsh on Microsoft? After all a new version of Ubuntu is released every six months and the development ethos is to do less but do it better. The answer is a simple yes. Here's why.

Microsoft as a commercial computer operating system developer has a near monopoly in the desktop operating system market. This ensures Microsofts' income will always be in the "billions" so long as it holds on to it's market share. So Microsoft aren't hurting for resources to throw into product development. They can afford to pay beta testers and programmers to do the grunt work of ironing out the bugs and smoothing everything over to guarantee a flawless user experience on supported hardware. But the reality is anything but smooth and flawless.

Microsoft with their near monopoly on the market can coral and influence other companies. Basically Windows should be guaranteed hardware support. But it's not. All the messing around with Vista held things up which meant not everything was ready on Vistas release. Even though Microsoft has seemingly changed very little to the underpinnings of Windows 7 some incompatibilities in software have crept in. Hardware interfaces with the OS via software drivers. If there are broken applications already showing up, what else is broken?

Windows isn't free. While apparently very little changes from one version of Ubuntu to the next, the distributors can get away with this for two primary reasons. It's free and users know what to expect. Considering the differences between Windows Vista and Windows 7 are set to be minimal, one has to wonder how much Microsoft are going to charge for Windows 7? A copy of Windows Vista Ultimate still costs well over £200 from Microsofts own on-line store. We also have to ask what exactly is changing in Windows 7? What are we paying for with this latest upgrade? If the Touch UI from Windows Surface that Microsoft have grafted onto Vista is the big feature then we're basically getting nothing.

How many folks currently have a touch-enabled PC display? Yet again Microsoft have failed to realise that OS upgrades shouldn't mean hardware upgrades. My current display, a Dell Ultrasharp 27", cost me around £900 as new. So if Windows 7s' pricing policy follows that of Windows Vista I'll have to fork out well over £1000 for the privilege of reaping the benefits of Windows 7 and I won't even have bought a new PC.

My prediction is Windows 7 will be another own goal for Microsoft. Like it's predecessor, Windows Vista, Windows 7 will be popular on new PCs only. But not because people actually want it. Because they simply won't have a choice.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Fusion power seeks super steels

I noticed this article on the BBC news page. You can bet it'll raise the question from all the conspiracy theorists. Why don't more skyscrapers collapse during fires then?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Microsoft: Windows 7 for servers to be minor release

"Microsoft said on Monday that the server version of Windows 7 will not be a major release and will bear the name Windows Server 2008 R2.",1000000121,39463010,00.htm

Well that's a shocker! Over on Dells' IdeaStorm forum I've been warning people for months Windows 7 has become nothing more than a re-branding of Vista. This would seem to be the first concrete evidence of that prediction. But then again Microsoft has already said Windows 7 will now be using the Vista kernel and the Vista driver model. Re-branding exercise? You bet it is!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Disney World: The Land of Waiting In Line!

Okay I just spent a whole week in Disney World. It was awesome! But only because my girlfriend was there to. The Disney part wasn't as good as it should have been. It could just be that Disney are victims of their own success. But it seems like most of what we did for the week was wait in line and avoid the shops selling tacky souvenirs.

At least two thirds of the buildings in Disney World are shops selling Disney merchandise. Disney World isn't a theme park. It's an expansive open air shopping mall that sells nothing but Disney merchandise.

If it hadn't been for the fast pass system we'd have spent even more time waiting in line. If that wasn't bad enough the rides are all too short. You wait for well over an hour in some cases for a ride that's over in seconds. Literally 2 seconds. Summit Plummet at Blizzard Beach is one such example. Great ride. Long cue. Over far too quickly.

basically more rides are needed. Yes that will draw in more punters. But they'll be more widely dispersed around the parks. And the bus transportation system? Needs huge improvements. More buses would be a good start.

On a brighter note, the Magical Express was excellent. Disney World actually laid on a Magical Express coach just to take my girlfriend and I back to the airport in the wee early hours of the morning. Just for the two of us. That i can't fault. Neither can I fault the friendliness of all of the Disney staff. They were all top notch. From cleaners to dancers and actors.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Dell Studio Hybrid!

Dell Studio Hybrid
I like the styling of the Hybrid. It's almost like my stackable multimedia rack idea over on IdeaStorm. Okay I might be stretching that a bit. But it's almost like it.

I like the interchangeable sleeves. The fashion conscious will love that feature. The slot loading DVD drive is another nice touch. In fact there are quite a few storage options packed into the hybrid. Including USB ports for flash drives and an SD card reader.

The inclusion of a HDMI port is also a nice touch. It will allow consumers to integrate the Hybrid seamlessly right into the home entertainment experience. I didn't notice it on the UK page, but apparently there's a TV decoder option as well. So people can use one machine for watching TV, listening to music, surfing the web, dealing with e-mail, recording/pausing live TV, playing DVDs (don't know about Blue-ray) and playing casual games. Tetris, Solitaire that sort of thing.

The Studio Hybrid only gets Intel X3100 graphics and a 5400RPM hard drive. The Intel graphics rule out high caliber resource hungry PC games. The slow hard drive might impact on recording Live TV. I guess it'll depend on what sort of quality you're willing to accept. But if you're plugging your Hybrid into a large LCD I'd say forget recording from the TV.

Overall I think Dell have made a good attempt here. It's a better option than previous attempts to build a desktop from laptop components. The XPS One and the XPS M2010 are more capable in the graphics department. But they're also tethered to their displays making them less adaptable and less able to integrate into the home environment. They were essentially still desktop PCs.

The hybrid is a device. A set-top box almost.

The final drawback is Windows Vista. Dell insists on selling the Hybrid with Vista because as we all know Dell "Recommends Vista". Which is of course nothing to do with how good Windows Vista is.

Well selling it with Vista means you need to take the most powerful configuration you can afford to get the best performance out of it. If it were being sold with Ubuntu we could get away with maybe 1GB of RAM instead of a minimum of 2GB. For Vista I'd recommend taking the full 4GB which of course will only give you 3.5GB because the "Wintel" feature that's meant to get you the rest doesn't work. But in fairness Dell do point out only 3.5GB will be available.

Dell Studio Hybrid
All things considered the Dell Studio Hybrid is a capable machine that will more than meet the needs of it's target audience at a reasonable price point. It's just a shame about the graphics and hard drive.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Teaching my nephew about Linux

My nephew has been hanging around me all night. He's been pestering me for a game of the penguine racing game. He'll play it for a while then get bored. What he really wants to do is play with the Fire and Rain effects in Compiz-Fusion. They keep him amused for hours. He loves drawing with Fire.

Of course he can't understand why his grandpa's Windows XP PC can't do those things. He's only 4!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Dell: Microsofts Poodle?

Using the new "Top Ideas" feature on Dell IdeaStorm I tracked all the top rated ideas from the highest voted to 0 points. From page 1 to page 400. On every single page there were a healthy number of ideas relating to Linux, Ubuntu,, Firefox and free open source software in general.

The highest voted Linux/FOSS idea had 151870 points and the lowest had 9 points. I'm sure there are other with negative votes in the remaining 79 pages. But most of those ideas were about Microsoft products. Windows XP, Vista, Microsoft Works and Office. The remainder were hardware related, things Dell just can't do or non-idea threads.

Surely this must tell Dell something about the demand for free open source software on Dell PCs? The highest voted idea of all time here on IdeaStorm is Pre-Installed Linux | Ubuntu | Fedora | OpenSUSE | Multi-Boot with 151870 points. In fact the entire first page is all about Linux, FOSS and no trial ware. That theme continues all the way through IdeaStorm to page 400.

So why then is it that Dell still insists there isn't enough consumer demand to warrant treating Ubuntu as an equal to Microsoft Windows? Remember Dell told it's consumers "if they voted for it on IdeaStorm, they would get it". Why are Dell taking so long?

Firefox, Thunderbird and are all free open source applications. Firefox 3 even supports branding! Dell doesn't need permission to distribute these applications. It simply chooses not to. Even though we voted for them.

Monday, 21 July 2008

I'm OLD!!!

I turned 30 today. So now I'm old. Officially old. But being old is good. I got a digital camera and an SD card to go with it!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Dell Points The Finger

The above link contains a post from Direct2Dell. Dells main blogging site. Dell would like to point the finger at HP for shipping 32 pages of A4 paper in 17 boxes. Well no wonder they continued to sell the defective W2600 and W3000 LCD TVs for so long. No wonder it's taking an age to get a product recall put into force.

Dell clearly has other priorities other than providing proper customer service. "We can all learn a lot by listening to customers and uncovering ways we can improve ...". Before we inprove the planet, could just try and get customer service right?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Ubuntu Tip

Looks like a half decent site. It's still in "beta" but there's a lot of good stuff there to help the beginner.

Of course my real tip here for Ubuntu users or indeed any PC user is to use the web to it's maximum potential. There's so much "free" information out there. There's really no excuse save being dead for not knowing how to do things for yourself.

Here's another great page.

Select Systems Now Available with Ubuntu 8.04

Select Systems Now Available with Ubuntu 8.04

About time too. We're really not that far away from Intrepid Ibex assuming it arrives on time. And why wouldn't it?

I am impressed with the inclusion of something from Dells new Studio line. Perhaps Dell are starting to take consumer Linux more seriously. The XPS M1530 is also a welcome addition. I just wish Dell would make Ubuntu available from the OS options list when building a "normal" PC. It would be much better than doing shady back ally deals out of sight of Microsoft.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Recall All Dell w2600 LCD TVs and Displays With the No Power Problem

This was an idea submitted to Dells IdeaStorm web site by me. The idea is to get hese faulty displays recalled as they should have been all along. Dell has now marked this idea as reviewed in record time. Well record time for IdeaStorm anyway. Which probably means it's not going to happen. We'll have to wait and see.

From the IdeaStorm moderators blog.

REVIEWED: This idea has been tagged "Under Review," sent to the business for evaluation, and reviewed. This status tag will require a response from the business that includes a summary of the review process and any outcomes of the idea discussion.

UNDER REVIEW: Dell is reviewing the idea and evaluating it against criteria that include, but aren’t limited to: market impact, regional demand, feasibility, timing, and vendor/supplier availability, etc. In some cases, the idea review process may take only a few weeks, and in others it make take several months to determine its feasibility and market impact.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Ubuntu Tip - Intel PowerTop

PowerTop is a nifty little command line application that takes a look at what's running on your PC and can recommend and implement changes to help you save power.

Installation is quite simple. Open a terminal windows and do the following.

1) Type sudo apt-install powertop

That's it. In a terminal window type sudo powertop. Powertop need admin privileges to make changes.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Ubuntu Tip - Say Cheese For Your Web Cam

A quick and very simple way to get web cams working in Ubuntu is to install a Gnome application called Cheese. Installation is very simple.

1. Open a terminal window.
2. Type sudo apt-get install cheese
3. Let the installer run and that’s it.

This works for Ubuntu 7.10 and 8.04. I’m not sure about earlier versions. But it won’t hurt to try it.

Dell Customer Service - Part 2 - Dell Hell.

Over the years a certain phrase has been introduced in to the English language. The phrase is “Dell Hell”. It refers to the monstrous task of getting Dell to take responsibility for it's mistakes and problems encountered with it's products and services. In fact the phrase is so widely used many people suspect it's the reason “hell” is banned from Dell Forums and Idea Storm.

In my first post to Dell Your Blog I touched on issues like the XPS 700 upgrades and the missing XPS M1330/M1330n remote controls. Both issues that affected me and my experience with Dell. But happily both issues that were solved relatively quickly. Relative that is compared to the Dell W2600 LCD TV NO POWER problem.

For those that are unaware of this particular issue basically it refers to a situation where Dells W2600 LCD TV fails to power up. Sometimes the TV can be coaxed into life. But sooner or later the TV just dies.

Now most people would expect a TV to last a good few years. Most would accept 5 years of loyal dutiful service. The W2600 was supposed to last around 10 years. But in reality many customers have been lucky to get past 2 and a half years, while some Dell customers have gotten as little as a year.

One single solitary year of proper use from an LCD TV. Oh and Dells customers like me who bought the W2600 paid £800+ GBP. That's $1520 USD on the current exchange rate.

Dells response to this issue thus far has been to repair or replace these faulty TVs with refurbished models. Which might sound like a good deal. But there's a catch. This offer is only valid for up to 3 years from the start of the original warranty. If you miss it, too bad. You're on your own. And Dell hasn't exactly gone out of it's way to publicize this offer or contact customers. In fact this problem has been dragging on since 2002. I bought my W2600 in 2005 and it's now 2008. Count the years slipping by.

So if Dell had known about this problem for 3 years before I bought my W2600. Why didn't they issued a product recall? Why didn't they pull the whole product line sooner? Yes that would have been expensive. But Dells reputation would have been intact. They would have been a company that cared. They would have been a company that put it's consumers first. Instead of a company that seems to be washing it's hands of a problem only they can really fix.

Now if you think a product recall is a bit drastic. Consider that the W2600 is a product with a premium price tag. It's also just one of several Dell LCD TVs to suffer from this problem. Also affected was the W3000 and several other models.

Thanks for reading this blog. Please visit IdeaStorm and vote up or down for a product recall.

Dell Customer Service - Part 1 - Simplify IT.

Customer service is an emotive issue for many Dell consumers. My experience on IdeaStorm and Dell Forums has shown me that many consumers have encountered problems with Dells customer service. Inconsistent short term special deals, poorly designed marketing and poor telephone support have left many customers feeling disgruntled and ripped off. The following is my opinion of what Dell needs to do to correct these issues.

Dell has made much noise about it's campaign to "simplify IT". What a shame it is then that this campaign was never extended to the consumer market. This is in fact the first step Dell needs to take. Not because Dells customers are stupid. But because communication is so much easier when it is kept simple.

Rather than telling the consumer the potential for the product. Tell them what it is actually for. Tell them what they can actually do with it. Rather than show off all the potential things we could have with the product. Show us what we are actually getting.

Too many times in the past has Dell made promises about products it never intended to keep. The XPS 700 upgrades, the M1330 remote controls and recently LightFX to name a few. Dell needs to focus it's message to the consumer. Dells consumers shouldn't have to campaign to make Dell keep these promises.

After Sales Support

People hate call centers. They make us feel like we're children getting into trouble for doing something naughty. And when they are over seas call centers the language barrier takes the frustration to intolerable levels.

Dell needs to ditch the over seas call centers in favor of more local call centers. Web based support should be utilized whenever and where ever possible. Develop a proper on-line knowledge base. I believe customers actually prefer to solve problems on their own. Ditch the Microsoft Internet Explorer centric support tools. Go with open source technologies for support. Adopt open standards on your web sites. ActiveX does not work for Linux customers! PHP does!

Use e-mail support more often. E-mails give everybody time to calm down and think. Customers can communicate more clearly what they want to say. Tech support can take a little more time to investigate the problem. They can even request log files for examination. Implement an instant on OS like Splashtop. If the main OS goes belly up, then at least the consumer can still get help. There are so many more tools Dell could use but don't use.

Borrow a few ideas from Linux. Package repositories for drivers and pre-installed applications! How much easier life could be if Dell was more imaginative with it's tech support.

The call center in the 21st century should be the last resort.


aikiwolfie is the ID, tag, name whatever you want to call it that I go by on-line. I don't actually have a problem using my real name. It's just that I studied IT in college and the need for security was really drummed into us.

My reason for starting this blog is very simple. To have a little more freedom when blogging.

Recently I started contributing to Dells blog site. But I've found it very restrictive. There's no real blogging interface. Blogs are submitted by e-mail. Unless I'm doing something wrong. Just like all the other Dell sites with moderation. Moderation seems to go overboard here.

Another great site where you can find me is

So I'll be reposting my posts from Dells blog site and I'll hopefully be adding new content here. Enjoy.