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The non-teccie majority will stay with MS

 
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philipdru



Joined: 02 Mar 2006
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 1:24 am    Post subject: The non-teccie majority will stay with MS Reply with quote

I'm a newcomer and know little or nothing about computers. I'd love to switch from MS to an alternative. I tried once. I even managed it too, although I do not attribute this brief success to being computer savvy. I pulled it off because I discovered commercial Linux distros were gradually getting more user-friendly, a crucial factor given that I am one of those whose brain shuts down at the very mention of anything technical. My choice at the time was Linux Suse 9.1. I chose Suse because it was German and because it promised to all but install itself, which it all but did. Stable, responsive - really top notch and all for under fifty quid. I couldn't believe it.

Then I came to see how narrow was choice of software for Linux, or so it seemed, presumably because developers gear their output to Windows. The security software I rely on for example, the excellent Evidence Eliminator, simply doesn't run on Linux. Then there's the less than impressive Real Player for Linux. Soon after installing Suse there was another shock courtesy of the company website:

"Movie player applications on SuSE Linux are unable to play a number of movie file formats, especially movie DVDs. Due to patented codecs and copy protection, SuSE is not allowed to deliver full-featured movie players with the distribution. The xine lib package is especially affected. It is missing some plug-ins, so all xine-based players (like kaffeine, totem or noatun) are also unable to play these media. Please do not write bug reports to these projects when you are unable to play files, because this is not a bug, but a legal requirement and neither the authors nor SuSE have a chance to fix this. Unfortunately there is, to our knowledge, no legal DVD player for Linux currently sold by anyone.
References:
http://www.xinehq.de/ "

At which point I gave up and returned to XP Pro. I've never experienced the disasters others complain of when it comes to Windows if I'm honest. Nevertheless browser problems are frequent and Linux is definitely more stable. Unfortunately I'm trapped. Like all non-teccies I just want something that works, that can be installed without too much fuss and uses a mouse so there's none of that command line stuff that puts the fear of god in us. I know command-line computing is the Way and the Light, the path to real control of one's machine, and I'd love that sort of expertise myself, knowing women admired and respected me for my priestly-class 'Debian' tee-shirt as much as the toned and muscular physique it concealed (assuming I had one of those as well, which I don't).

But that's precisely why people on my level, unused to 'simple' technical solutions that involve adapting software to fill gaps we think shouldn't be there, are likely to remain stuck with Windows - certainly until the legal logjam is sorted out anyway. It's depressing I know but things with bells and whistles and novelty value make computing fun for retards like me, and hardly any of these work on Linux. Then there's the much vaunted security angle. Isn't it at least partly true that Linux and other minority operating systems have a good security record because their small share of the market discourages hackers, who can't be bothered targetting them?

Microsoft's practices are questionable in the extreme. At the same time an evengelical left-wing element in all this - humble geek versus demonic corporate steamroller - is unmistakable. I don't like Microsoft or Mr Gates. I particularly resent the way his software monitors what I do and reports the information back to HQ irrespective of the measures I take to stop it happening. Indeed I would like to make it stop. I can't. Because I can't I want to change to something else. I just don't know - as yet - of an alternative that will give me what I want, and since this isn't much - access to websites (many still won't accommodate Firefox) and maybe to enjoy a DVD or two - it seems Linux, for now anyway, will probably continue in its role as the technician's, rather than Joe Public's, first-choice operating system.

Sorry to write at such length. I rather think I needed to get this off my chest.
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admin
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 1:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi there,

Yes, there is a bit of a chicken and egg problem when it comes to software availability for alternative operating systems. However, I do think that Linux is perfectly fine for a lot of normal users who just want to do things like send email, browse the web, and edit office documents. If being able to (legally) play DVD movies on your computer is important to you, then Linux may not be the best fit.

I think I might amend what you wrote to say that Linux is good for people on the ends of the techie spectrum. On the one end, the hard core techies want to be able to customize their machines to do exactly what they want down to every CPU cycle, and Linux is a fantastic choice for that. On the other end of the spectrum, those computer users who have specific tasks that they use their computer for and don't feel compelled to experiment with new software toys can also get great use out of Linux provided that the applications that they need are there (which I think is true for many people). It sounds like you're stuck somewhere in the middle at the moment. Hopefully, Linux saturation will work its way toward the middle from both ends so that you can use Linux for what you want some day.

There is another alternative - Mac OS X. You can play DVDs on it (I think) and software availability is generally second only to Windows. I actually got my first machine with OS X on it not too long ago and I have been very pleasantly surprised with how good it is. It is built on top of BSD, so you can follow the command line "Way and the Light" if you want (and I do), but you can also use the elegant and beautiful interface blissfully unaware of what is underneath. The big drawback is that you can't install it on your existing Intel hardware (not legally, at least).

As for Microsoft alternatives on Windows, I'm curious what websites you are using that don't work in Firefox? It is very rare that I need to pull up Internet Explorer to view a web site - I actually can't remember the last time I had to do that.

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philipdru



Joined: 02 Mar 2006
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 2:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm housebound and shop over the web quite a lot. Firefox problems aren't common but they do occur. The main culprits here in England are supermarkets. That's been my experience anyway. Often their sites positively require IE. That's unfortunate because I get a lot of wobble these days with Explorer - crashes, having to sign-in repeatedly even half way through placing an order, you name it. It isn't the websites. It's the browser.

Like you I hope Linux goes mainstream at some point. It may have no choice. For all the criticism of it Microsoft has certainly set the agenda. It's rare that an OS doesn't strive to emulate the Windows 'look' these days, just as they strive to make things more and more accessible - as they must if they want sales, although the absence of decent media software will be a major drawback in the future if things don't change. A visual culture requires visual stimulii. The promise of the computer age is that it will deliver just that kind of sensation in many and varied ways. A computer that can't play a DVD is a poor choice indeed in today's market. Something will have to give if Linux is to continue yo build its market share. A shame because it IS a fine system and a delight to use.

Actually someone told me a media player and DVD compatibility was now part of the Mandrake package, legal complications having been finally overcome. I don't know how true that is. Personally I'm wary of Mandrake and Red Hat, which are commercial enterprises in a way Suse is not (yet) and are perhaps getting a bit too update-happy for my tastes.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 3:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello,

Have you tried the Firefox User Agent Switcher Extension? If a website is being unruly about you not using Internet Explorer, you can cloak Firefox so that it appears to the website like it is IE. Of course, that won't fix sites which are actually broken, but it will workaround sites that are too clever for their own good by blocking other browsers.

I do think that the DVD example that you give is a very limited case as it is the result of a legal restriction rather than a technical one. Linux is certainly a capable platform for playing and manipulating video in general - TiVo boxes actually run Linux and many movie studies use Linux for movie production. So I don't think the lack of DVD playback can be extrapolated to mean that video support in general is bad. I prefer watching movies on my TV myself, so DVD support isn't something that I've ever missed, though I could see how it's important for you.

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philipdru



Joined: 02 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 4:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for this. I'll try the switcher extension. You have a point too about DVD, but then I don't have a normal DVD player, only my computer. I haven't needed a stand alone player for TV. If I needed one I would only buy a player/recorder, which for anything decent means (for me) a considerable outlay and, since I'm all ready covered on that side of things by my trusty Panasonic VHS recorder (six years together and never a cross word, even though I record or play something every night without fail). It means I might as well stick with my computer for now. Of course video tape is on its way out so that is likely to change within the next year or so.

It wasn't my intention to denigrate Linux. Far from it. I'd switch at the drop of a hat if only there weren't so many limitations on the visual side. It's a while now and I honestly can't recall if there was any CD player catered for by Suse, or what (if any) video and audio files it would actually play, or what additional software I'd need for them. But then that's always been the problem. There have been attempts at a suitable video player for Linux. They're still available many of them, waiting to be downloaded. What no-one mentions, or tries to gloss over, is that they need modifying or customizing in some way or another, technical demands I am not able to meet.

Were I forced to replace my video with a DVD player/recorder I would probably be in a position to overlook the absence of DVD on my computer - but you'd have to remind me that there were other, fairly straightforward solutions to weaknesses on the video/audio side, solutions which would allow me to play my favourites, like radio broadcasts, for example, or video news items and video interviews from sports websites (almost always the preserve of Real Player), that kind of thing. As I say it's been a while and I may have reverted to XP with excessive haste for all I can remember, but I'd just spent quite a sum on an overhaul, including installing a DVD-RW drive, so a deficiency in an OS of that magnitude would have struck me quite forcibly as rendering expensive improvements a complete waste of money.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 3:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello,

Keep in mind that it doesn't need to be an all or nothing choice. You can install both Linux and Windows on your computer at the same time. So if you wanted to find out if Mandriva (a.k.a. Mandrake) can play DVDs now, for instance, you can download it and try it without having to reinstall Windows if it doesn't do what you want (provided the Windows partition is safely reduced beforehand).

Something which also might be of interest to you is the recent proliferation of Linux distributions which boot off of CD or DVD and require no installation at all. This is a really great way to try things out to see if you want to commit to a full install (they also make excellent rescue and troubleshooting tools). Knoppix is the one that I have used before, but there are a ton of other ones listed at http://www.frozentech.com/content/livecd.php - you might be interested in the Home Entertainment list, among others. Even if they don't do everything you want, you may find something that is fun to play with and there is nothing to install, so the effort is substantially lower. Many of these are also updated frequently, so it makes it easy that you can just download them and burn them to CD/DVD every once in awhile to try out the new stuff.

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philipdru



Joined: 02 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I very much appreciate that you have gone out of your way to help. I've heard of Knoppix. In fact I think I have an earlier Knoppix CD somewhere. Knowing me I probably booted up, then wondered what to do next before giving up. My impression of the site you link to is of how much there is to choose from for those who know their stuff and are capable of a little improvisation - and of how little I understand. It's the nitty-gritty 'how to' part - all the talk of 'frontend' and 'backend', of sitting on top of Windows - that intimidates me. That said it's amazing to think so much is on offer for less than the price of a pint of beer. Given the overall quality, too, and the neat size of many programmes, open source not so much begs your attention as commands it. I need to learn more if I'm to overcome my limitations. That's the nub of it. Waiting for Linux and the eternal beginner to meet halfway just isn't a tenable approach. At my age, however, and with my temperment, neither is a dunce like me trying to understand what he's unlikely ever to grasp in a hundred lifetimes.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello,

Yes, there is a dizzying array of options to choose from. They are generally free as well if you download them, apart from the cost of the CD/DVD that you burn them to.

It might help if you start with a goal in mind and pick a distribution based on that. It sounds like one goal could be to monitor the state of video in Linux for the types of video that you use. To that end, you could check out the list of live CD/DVD distributions targeted at Home Entertainment and see if any of them include RealPlayer. If they do, then download the distribution, burn it to CD/DVD, reboot with the CD in the drive, and see if RealPlayer has improved since you last tried Linux.

Another goal could be to monitor the state of DVD movie playback support in Linux. In fact, DVD playback is listed in the feature set for MythTV which is free and runs on top of Linux. It has some really nice features. While MythTV does look like it could be a bit of a chore to install, there is actually a live CD distribution of it whose goal is to make it as easy as possible. Check out KnoppMyth - it looks to be a combination of Knoppix and MythTV. I haven't used it myself so I don't know how easy it really makes things, but it could conceivably be as easy as booting off the CD and immediately having all the MythTV features at your disposal (though in reality I would expect at least some of the features to require a Linux partition on your hard drive).

If the install gets too involved, don't sweat it - just try again in a year or so. I've been using Linux since 1994 and the ease of installation and setup keeps making incredible progress. I know it may not seem that way when you get stuck on something, but trust me it is worlds apart from where it was just a few years ago and I see no reason why it won't continue on that path.

By the way, I don't know what the legal status of the DVD playback functionality in MythTV is, but the functionality appears to be there. I'm kind of hazy on what was illegal about the playback to begin with, though I think it might have had to do with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, in which case people outside the US might not be directly affected at all. However, the law is not my expertise, so please don't take what I say as guide to what is legal or illegal in your country.

A slightly broader goal could be to monitor the state of Windows compatibility in Linux. If you can use your Windows programs in Linux, then you have essentially solved all of the problems that you have mentioned (apart from the ease of setup, but that separate problem is reduced by live CD/DVD distributions). Wine and its derivatives are progressing well and I think compatibility may be particularly good for you because you have a legitimate copy of Windows installed so Wine can probably use the actual Windows DLLs to run programs with more accuracy. I don't know if there are any live CD/DVD distributions which bundle Wine and make it easy to use, but that might be something to look for. If no distributions do this, I sense an opportunity as that seems like it would be a very useful feature and those distributions that are open to feature suggestions might appreciate this one.

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philipdru



Joined: 02 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree. Best take my time and just keep a weather eye on developments. I'd like to get away from MS altogether if possible though. I know it doesn't have to be all or nothing, as you say, but I'd rather it were. The thought of being monitored, my every move logged, is what I resent most about the MS operating system. The day I get rid of Windows will be the day I get my privacy back so far as I am concerned (not wholly true but you know what I mean). I wouldn't risk partitioning. I tried it once. The result was one OS almost bleeding into the other, although since then I've installed two hard-drives. I keep one as my back-up filing system for when Windows goes all female on me. I'll see how things pan out, maybe try a few bits and pieces here and there as I go along. I've bookmarked the links. Incidentally there appears to be no download page at the user agent switcher extension site you recommend, or at least not for that particular item of software at any rate.
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philipdru



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 4:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just a quick update: I found the old Knoppix CD. Through it I discovered something called VideoLAN. This is a cross-platform media player, but open source so it's bound to be okay for most Linux distros (obviously), although I'm running Windows XP, and in spite of all the claims to infinite adaptability I suspect this may be the reason I'm prevented from installing the software on my hard disk (to launch I have to open my WinRAR manager and double-click the .exe file).

Promising news however. I ran a couple of lengthy audio files (old political speeches) and have just watched a standard Hollywood film on DVD ('A River Runs Through It' - c.1994). There's so much you can do yourself, and perhaps are expected to do yourself, to customize it, that I'm not certain to find out if it'll take radio broadcasts or television news website videos (these tend to confine themselves to Real Player; VideoLAN does not support Real Player files), but it claims to 'stream' in a variety of formats (I assume they just mean live or real time by that word?) so there seems no reason why not. If it does I may be able to move back to linux sooner than I expected, assuming that isn't being too optimistic. Have you any knowledge of videoLAN? How do you rate it?
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philipdru



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another update: it seems there is something called a 'libdvdcss library' you have to download to play DVDs in Linux. The media player included in Mandrake (why 'Mandriva' - or are we going fashionably ethnic here?) is called Totem. It's been taken up by other distros too, like Suse. Only thing is that having downloaded the libdvdcss library you also have to compile it yourself! Looks like I was being too optimistic after all - unless VideoLAN will get us out of jail. I gather VideoLAN used on Windows can out-perform Power DVD and Media Player.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 04, 2006 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi,

No, I haven't used VideoLAN myself. It sounds to me like the legal restriction is still there, based on what you ran into. You could try out the KnoppMyth distribution if you think that would be legitimate in your country.

Regarding the user agent switcher extension for Firefox, if you click the "Download" link on the main page the installation will automatically begin.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2006 2:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WINE, wine wine wine wine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
http://www.winehq.com/
libdvdcss
libdvdcss2
libdecss
w32 codecs
found here
http://ubuntu.wordpress.com/2005/12/04/libdvdcss2-and-w32codecs-for-ubuntu/
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