WTF does that mean? How can an icon, a visual representation of something like a file or program, be “unused” if it is sitting there … looking like something? As I sit here writing and grading papers and stalking people on The Facebook and working on a graphic for an upcoming blog post on squid on my Linux box while it updates several applications, installs essential security patches, and downloads a new kernel, all without incident or difficulty, my stupid and annoying windows machine, which has one job … charging my iPod and updating it’s library off in one wing of the Blog Cave … is telling me that there are unused icons on my desktop. There are no unused icons on my desktop. They are all siting there being used. Representing something.

In class the other night as I noticed some student having trouble getting their windows laptop to boot (to play a game, I assume …. a colleague observing my class the other day noted that half the student with laptops were not exactly taking notes) I thanked my lucky stars that I could have four different presentations running at once, an instance of Google Earth, and a couple of browser windows with the latest Archaeology News and stuff all up and running with no fear that my computer was going to ruin everything by doing something like this…..

And welcome back Linux in Exile from your apparent hiatus in blogging! I was beginning to think that the goons from Microsoft came to take you away!


  1. #1 Timberwoof
    April 15, 2011

    My favorite message from Windows is the one I get when I plug in a mouse: loading Human Interface Device drivers. Click here for more information.

    I much prefer the message I get from my Mac when I do that:

  2. #2 itzac
    April 15, 2011

    If all your windows box does is run iTunes, why not move it to a VM and junk the old box? VMWare will even convert it for you. I’m assuming, of course, your Linux box has a moderately recent processor.

    I was going to say that Windows 7 has gotten better, but apparently he’s using Windows 7. You can tell from the way Windows updates that it’s fairly over-engineered under the hood. The nature of linux enforces a discipline by necessity that is sorely lacking in Windows.

    Although I have to give Windows some credit. When my video card was crashing every five minutes, Windows 7 would gingerly reload the driver and try to keep going. Linux would probably have required me to manually unload and reload the kernel module.

  3. #3 HP
    April 15, 2011

    Do you remember when, if you used your mouse to select some characters in a text string, you only selected the characters that you dragged your mouse over? Whatever happened to that?

    Now they have “smart selection,” and it selects the beginning of the word when all I want to do is change “ed” to “ing”. It selects the closing punctuation when I only want to change the word inside the punctuation. I first noticed it in Netscape Navigator’s mail app about ten years ago. Then it became ubiquitous in Windows, but you could at least turn it off in Word. Then Mac computers started doing “smart selection,” then it became an option you couldn’t turn off. I haven’t used a *nix OS in years (the last was, IIRC, Solaris 10[?]).

    Does Linux still support plain-old dumb text selection? I actually know how to select text, and don’t need a smart computer to second guess me. If you tell me I can select the text I want with a mouse, that might push over to Linux.

  4. #4 01jack
    April 15, 2011

    “There are unused icons on your desktop!”

    “Shut up, Clippy.”

  5. #5 HP
    April 15, 2011

    By the way, on both Mac and Windows, “smart selection” now applies in text editors, when editing code. So, I can’t select the string “<uiTerm>blahblah</uiTerm><userInput>blah</userInput>.” The computer forces me to select “<uiTerm>blahblah</uiTerm><userInput”

    This causes me untold grief, yet my bosses are totally sanguine about it.

  6. #6 Greg Laden
    April 15, 2011

    Linux lets you select what you want in most or possibly all apps.

    Linux does not have a marketing department trying to make you want or think you need the new features!

  7. #7 Mike
    April 15, 2011

    I’m forever amazed by how much trouble some people report with Windows. I have Windows 7 on a desktop and a netbook and both run beautifully. I don’t recall even an Explorer crash and restart on either, let alone a full system crash. Peripherals work first go without trouble. The only fault I can find with Windows is the price.

    As for comment #3, I find simple drag selection working even in Microsoft Word (a home user program through work makes the price right… $15). No trouble selecting “ed”.

  8. #8 Timberwoof
    April 15, 2011

    HP, I see you are reminiscing over old computers. Would you like some assistance?

    Yes, Windows text selection is annoying. I really hate the way Windows thinks it’s smarter than I am, especially when it snot. Sometimes I want to select cdesign proponentsists out of the middle of a piece of text.

    OS X lets me do that: click-drag selects characters so I can lect the text I want with a mou

    Doubeclick-drag selects words: I can select the text I want with a mouse.

    Tripleclick-drag selects the whole paragraph.

  9. #9 HP
    April 16, 2011

    See, Timberwoof, that’s all I want. To lect the text I want with a mou. But my last OSX Leopard box wouldn’t do it OOTB. Windows 7 isn’t terrible, but again. All my life, I’ve used whatever was cheap and easy, or what was required for work. I mean, my Dad wrote assembler for system/360, so who am I to be an OS prima donna?

    For all the griping I hear about OSs, no one complains about smart selection, and while it’s a small thing, it pisses me off no end. Grrr. I’ll survive, but at least I got that off my chest.

  10. #10 Mike
    April 16, 2011

    If you want to do a selection of cdesign proponentsists with “smart select” in Word, just click between the c and the d, drag over to pr, back to gn, then to proponents. You will now have the text you want. It’s just a mouse wobble away.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2011

    In linux select, you … select it.

  12. #12 Mike Haubrich
    April 16, 2011

    As for comment #3, I find simple drag selection working even in Microsoft Word (a home user program through work makes the price right… $15). No trouble selecting “ed”.

    The price is right? That is still $15 dollars more than I spent for my office suite. Legally.

    That may be the difference between Mac/Window and Linux users: M/W users are perfectly all right with spending money on things for which there is a free and fully functional alternative.

    Linux users find good stuff for free.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2011

    I fully support Open Source but I see no reason to not pay for some things. I would happily pay 15 bucks for a word processor that is better than Writer, but I have not seen one yet. But I don’t use a word processor enough to pay, say, 20 bucks.

    One of the problems with Word is the very thing we are talking about: Some/many features are added for marketing purposes (or, at least, for some purpose that can not be understood from the point of view of functionality), which is very annoying.

    I’m not a huge fan of .. it is too overblown and word-like, but I use it for one thing: Track changes when editing other people’s work. For formatting where I will use the same procedure again and again and want good results, I use emacs for composition and TeX-based systems for production (often, just going from org-mode to PDF). For one-off formatting jobs when one might use a word processor, I use Abiword if the job is small because it loads fast, or if appropriate.

    By the way, Oracle is dropping commercial and going full community-support. Will there be a de-forking?

  14. #14 Mike Haubrich
    April 16, 2011

    I am sure that there are much better suites and word processors than; and you have pointed out some that are likely much better (and are still available for my stated price range. My point is that there are a large portion of users that are willing to pay for Microsoft Office when they can do just as much (and a bit more) with OpenOffice. The learning curve switching from a paid-for suite like Office to an unpaid-for suite like open-office is very flat. Even when I was on a Windows machine I de-installed Office and installed OpenOffice, something I have been using since it was StarOffice. It does what I need for my favorite price.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2011

    Mike I agree … the learning curve is near zero. I’ll just add that a lot of work with words that people do can be done on a text editor and there are great advantages to doing that.

  16. #16 Mike Haubrich
    April 16, 2011

    I agree that text editors can do much cleaner work because they are not loaded with assumptions as to what the user wants to do. When I used to do website editing with FrontPage, I would often switch over to a text editor to “clean up” the code that I hadn’t wanted. I seem to have some limitations as to being able to use text commands to bring about what I want to do visually. I am the sort of person for whom wysiwig was invented, and for whom word processing programs are useful. I have started writing most of my blog posts in gedit, copying and pasting them into WordPress and then adding the elements that I want within the WordPress visual MCE, and still switching over to the html editor to clean them up a bit.

    There are a great many skill levels among users. Word and OpenOffice Write serve the needs of a large portion of the userbase, but I just don’t see spending money on applications for which close equivalents are available at no charge.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    April 16, 2011

    IBM has just started to support an open source HTML 5.0 editor that is WYSIWYG.