Stippled lines in PowerPoint 2007

After posting about PowerPoint’s difficulties with circles and straight lines, I’ve now found it also has a problem with patterns and zoom. See the first image, where the stippling of the two lines is exactly parallel, viewed at 400% zoom. Also note that the arrow is pointing from one “stipple” to another, which is more aesthetically pleasing than having the arrow stuck between stipples, or half on one stipple.


Then see the next figure, where the same scene is viewed at 200% magnification:


Now, the base of the arrow is only half on one stipple. Not what I was seeing before. Why would I bother to look at a higher magnification if what I’m seeing at that magnification is not representative of the final image? Absolute shambles.

Windows is now a software console

Someone commented earlier that Windows is the new Classic, but then I read the comments on this post, where one Mac user says that the graphics DirectX 10 produces are almost cool enough to upgrade for. Of course, the same graphics will play on a Mac via the latest Parallels Desktop or the upcoming VMware Fusion (but, yes, you do need a Windows license), so it looks like Windows is now an expensive software console, just like, erm, ScummVM et al.

And on that note, isn’t it great that I don’t need to buy either Vista or OS X to enjoy them? Screenshots and videos on the web will do as much. Thanks Youtube et al.! (And leave the lawyers at home, please!)

Adobe’s Linux problem

Adobe has a problem. Dell customers have strongly voiced their opposition to pre-installed proprietary software, both the operating system and applications. After painful consideration, Dell will give in to their customers, and see a landslide of sales. HP is going down the same track. Of the big brands favoured by the tech elite, Sony will be last to go, who apparently make a special effort to include their own proprietary software with their PCs in an attempt to draw level with Apple’s functionality (my recent VAIO purchase contains the equivalent of iLife in Adobe products). When all this happens, Adobe will have only begun to port applications to Linux – a platform on which they know it will be hard to compete because the free offerings are competitive. Direct competition from a set of Adobe products that all integrate rather better with each other than existing free Linux products do (I’m discussing price here, not openness) will lead those Linux products to draw even. Note, for instance that with Adobe Atmosphere discontinued, Adobe has no product to compete with Blender, meaning that open source products could conceivably become better integrated with each other than Adobe’s line-up.

Microsoft’s quagmire is deeper still. While Office 2007 is an epiphany in office product usability, it will take years for the Wine project to catch up and let 2007 run on Linux, barring direct involvement for Microsoft (we know they’d rather die, at least while Ballmer is CEO). In fact, a full productivity suite for Windows now exists in open source: OpenOffice, Scribus, GIMP, Inkscape, and PDFCreator. The emergence of freeware Adobe Reader replacement Foxit shows that an open source equivalent can’t be far off. Nothing will stop users from leaving the Windows tax behind once they have embraced platform-independent open source applications such as the aforementioned. Open source software for Windows is already being distributed in several downloadable CD formats, such as OpenCD, and the Open Source Software CD; the Ubuntu install CDs for at least some releases have also contained open source productivity software for Windows.

The Adobe brand lures consumers with the free Adobe Reader and cheap Photoshop Elements, but Google’s free Picasa will be welcomed by many that use even fewer features than Photoshop Elements provides, and the feature-laden Adobe Reader may also be too much for some.

The only remaining disadvantage for open source software is the virtual absence of a marketing budget, meaning that it will spread at the product of the speed of word of mouth and the rate of convincing.

I believe that the reason former developing nations in Asia are emerging as ferocious competitors in the technology arena is that they have less red tape, less vendor lock-in (aka inertia), and strong recent rates of natural selection in the absence of government benefits for the unemployed and sick; therefore selection for intelligence may have been stronger in those countries. By this reasoning, South America and Africa will be next to emerge from the shadow.

Dell’s imaginary Linux problem

Dell has a problem. On the IdeaStorm website, many customers have supported the idea of Dell computers being sold either without an operating system or with Linux pre-installed. They have also asked for Firefox and OpenOffice to be pre-installed, and for an option not to have extra software pre-installed. So Dell has a problem. They have to decide to either satisfy their customers, or to become able to negotiate more favourable terms with Microsoft. The solution to their problem is going to be… er… what was the problem again?

Bill Gates, please check your sources

A lot has been said about misinformation given by Bill Gates in his Newsweek Interview, but I’ll gladly join the ranks here, because it really is so disgraceful. I would advise Mr. Gates to investigate whatever internal staff feed him reports. Any IT consultancy would have firmly told him that his comment, “Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally.” is wide and far off the mark.

In fact, as every IT professional knows, Windows is unique in having excessive security problems, which stem from several sources, which I shall go into here, lest I become accused of similar crimes:

  1. The original Windows codebase was designed for a desktop operating system, not a networked one, and as a single-user OS. While little of this codebase may remain today,
  2. Microsoft doubtless picked up a large number of programmers – or even trained them – unaware of basic network security considerations.
  3. While it is possible that there are people at Microsoft who want to make the best software they can for consumers, it is clear that the security problems have not been inconvenient to Microsoft’s business model, as Microsoft relies on its relationship with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to propagate its license relationships with its “home” customers. OEMs want to sell new computers. Microsoft’s Windows is a CPU hog compared to OS X and Linux, and a memory hog relative to Linux. This drives OEM sales. Security software famously slows down systems even further, so in addition to the ecosystem that Microsoft gains to tout the benefits of its OS through third party makers of security software (because the third party companies depend on the Windows market), the memory and CPU requirements of such software help cement Microsoft’s relationship with its OEMs. Finally, promises of increased security can also drive OS sales per se, i.e. for upgrading existing hardware.

It is understandable that Microsoft is pining about the inconvenience consumers are experiencing with the new security measures (“deny”, “allow”) – these are the same problems that OS X had some four or five years ago. Necessary childhood pains that Apple has already resolved. A number of specific Windows security problems, such as not being able to install software under a non-administrative account (and hence having to run with nearly full privileges at all times to have a usable system; both Linux and OS X have always allowed unprivileged users to install software, unless specifically restricted), seem to have been resolved in Vista, but new breaches have been introduced.

Dishing out grievously incorrect information to customers is not a good basis for mutual respect. Mr. Gates commented, “I don’t think the over 90 percent of the [population] who use Windows PCs think of themselves as dullards, or the kind of klutzes that somebody is trying to say they are.” I wonder who Mr. Gates thinks that somebody is.