Vista Networking – Hell on Earth

As I have a perfectly functioning set of computers at home (running XP, Ubuntu, SuSE and PCLinuxOS) who all network quite nicely and share files as you would expect. This meant, I had thought the move to Vista was in the dim and distant future.

However, a few weeks ago my laptop underwent some toddler-inspired “maintenance” and I was forced to buy a new one. All the available laptops came with Vista pre-installed so my choices were limited.

Now, over all the laptop is fantastic – new technology items are always nice to play with. It is fast (an order of magnitude faster than the 3 year old one it replaced!), it is user friendly and, for most tasks, Vista is quite usable.

I say most tasks.

One of the critical things this laptop is required to do is to be able to access the network where the rest of the PCs share files. Without this it is, largely, pointless. Sadly, vista stubbornly refuses to connect to any other computer on the network and refuses to share its own files. The hand-holding interface of vista makes trying to trouble shoot interminably difficult (I have the Windows Vista Home Premium version), and it manages to hide pretty much all the functions underneath many, many layers of “wizard” interfaces. It is, in short, a nightmare.

After a week of trying, I can now get the Vista laptop to “see” the XP machines when it draws the network map (although this involved finding and installing updates on the XP machines) but every time I try to map a network drive or connect to the networked printer, Vista decides it can no longer see any other machines on the network. It is hellish. Without being able to access the shares, the Vista laptop is largely pointless. It may end up getting hit with a sledge hammer simply to relieve frustration.

I am somewhat bemused by the way the new OS from MS is so incompatible with previous ones that you need to add a hotfix to the older machines to let Vista talk to them, but I suspect MS has its reasons.

If you are thinking of “upgrading” your MS Windows XP (or older) machines, then I STRONGLY suggest you upgrade to a better OS like Linux or even (shock, horror) Mac OS X. If you want to go for Linux, then certainly consider PCLinuxOS as it is very easy to use, offers all the benefits of Vista with none of the problems. If you go for Vista then it will cost you money and you will need to learn a new user interface – if you want to do that, go the whole hog and Linux yourself. (Hell, I’d even say go for Solaris and I’ve had many a problem with that in the past)

I really, really hate vista. [tags]Technology, Windows, Vista, XP, Operating Systems, OS, Linux, Mac, PCLinuxOS, Networking, Protocols, Microsoft, MS, Ubuntu, SuSE, Solaris, Rant[/tags]

Linux for morons needed

(An aside on the posts about TW’s Linux problems and the really helpful comments people have posted.)

When they are working, new forms of Linux are great for the user and they make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the possibility of voluntary co-operation.

I love Linux when I can get on a machine that someone else has set up.

A few years ago, setting up Linux was a fantastic challenge. (It took two days to configure it to even see a screen display on a bog-standard monitor.)

Modern versions set themselves up on a stand-alone machine perfectly, while you are having a cup of coffee. But modern hardware and our expectations of having things like networked wireless broadband access can make the set up process just as intransigent. It’s great to use a pre-configured and working Linux system. It’s harrowing to set one up when something goes wrong.

Not least because you need net access to even start to find a solution. Hmm. How exactly do you manage this if you haven’t got another working machine with an Internet connection? Pretty unsurmountable problem there.

Surmount it and you find an infinite number of forums that offer access to other people’s expertise. Assume you are lucky enough to find one where you aren’t laughed out of the place for saying “what’s the root directory?” You find that the people who know what they are doing and are really trying to be helpful expect you to be able to adapt their instructions to edit the source code and recompile binaries for your PearlDropsElectric 4-USB-hub adapter on the basis of a slightly similar driver for the Dolcis 2-USBII adapter. (Yes, I made them up)

At this point, you already know you will reduce a potentially working PC to a new form of electronic landfill if you even open the file in a code editor.

At the same time, a fair number of Linux distros still seem to call for you to use a floppy disk, when it’s unlikely your case even has one, let alone that you have spare disks that haven’t degraded into the dust from which they sprang.

You slink off back to Windows, shamefaced, until you have taken a post-graduate course in computer science. In Swedish.

If only someone would bring out a version of Linux for morons… This blog has always whined about technology books that claim to be for “newbs” or “dummies” or “idiots” and turn out to mean “slightly below par rocket scientists who do brainsurgery in their spare time”.

It has to be for real Linux morons.

People who can’t even untar distros (or understand what that means.)

(The FireStats for this blog – which makes its fair share of LInux posts – show that about twice as many visitors use a Mac than use Linux. A Mac, ffs. )

Linux Hates Me

Seriously. I now believe linux is a collective conciousness which has taken steps to punish me on a constant basis. You can take your weak monotheistic religions which offer some abstract punishment in an afterlife and shove them, the LinuxGod is punishing me on a daily basis. For hours at a time.

Today, on prompting by Michal, I downloaded SimplyMepis 6.5rc3 (64bit version), burned it to CD and tried to install it – hoping that its claimed hardware detection abilities would solve the problem with the USB WiFi dongle. Did it work? Not a chance. Mepis was good enough to not even be able to get a graphical interface working (I use a WinFast PX7600 GS which most other distros get working instantly). For some crazy reason, Mepis demands you log in as username:root password:root on first install (as if that provides any security..) but when I tried this from a console login, all I kept getting was “login incorrect.” After doing this for about 15 mins, I finally gave up. Yes, I am a glutton for the LinuxGod’s punishments.

As I was in a *Nix frame of mind now, I gave openSUSE (still installed) another shot. I wish I hadn’t.

Still no connected network.Once more, I went through the farce of trying to configure the Belkin USB dongle. I manually entered the WEP key numerous times. I deleted the Network card setting and re-entered it numerous times. The end result? Well, the little red “x” says it all…

When I try to view the connection information window, despite it thinking it is working (and it claims the Router wants me to enter the WEP Key…), I get this:

Screenshot - Active Connection Information

Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it? For completeness I gave recompiling the driver another shot. Following the steps as given on the Wiki, with the RT73 source files and on numerous other sites, I still only get as a far as:

make

which results in this page of nonsense:

Output of make command

As you can see, the LinuxGod truly, truly hates me. I might have to get a copy of OSX and install that instead… Either that or just allow the impending nervous breakdown take its toll… (Will try Solaris 10 next week, just for kicks)

[tags]Linux, SUSE, openSUSE, Mepis, SimplyMepis, Operating System, Technology, Wifi, Networking, Belkin, Open Source, Computers, OS X, Mac, Router, Solaris, Unix[/tags]

Technological Breakdown

Well, it seems I have been thouroughly defeated by both Ubuntu and openSUSE (64bit versions). I pretty much spent all day Friday trying to get an openSUSE install connected via a Belkin WiFi USB dongle – which, incidentally worked instantly with the 10.1 32 bit. This failed to the extent the XServer died and I had to do a complete re-install. It appears openSUSE is not as tolerant for “hot swapping” USB devices as you would hope 🙂

On Saturday I cracked and tried an Ubuntu 6.10 install. I dislike Ubuntu because I feel the hand holding is over the top and personally find it next to impossible to get anything done on it. In the past, however, Unbuntu has been better than SuSE at finding devices and getting them working.

Not this time.

Ubuntu, in the case, was even worse than SuSE because of how difficult it is to get administrative commands working. After four hours, although I hadn’t destroyed the install, I gave up and reinstalled openSUSE.

Today, I have spent another five hours trying to get the WiFi dongle working – all to no avail. SUSE claims it is trying to connect to the router, but there is no activity shown on the dongle (it has an LED which blinks when it is working), so I suspect SUSE is lying. I spent two hours trying various methods of building the drivers – namely:

./Configure

make all

as suggested at LinuxQuestions.org. I tried the versions that come with the RT73 file. I tried the method shown by GIDForums and even followed the steps at http://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/RT73_Wireless. All were good and seemed to make sense…. but none worked. At all. Each time I ran “make” it failed with millions and millions of errors.

Screen shot of old set up In the past, when I have tried to configure WiFi cards in SUSE I have been presented with a screen like this one (on the left – hopefully), but for some reason this is all changed in the 10.2 (at least the 64 bit version). This change is not helping matters. The old layout, while it could be confusing, at least allowed you edit the bits which needed editing. The new version is some what different.

Now, the screens I get look like this:

New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 2 New WIFI manager - Screen 3

Now they appear “better” but they are pretty much useless when it comes to trying to “problem solve” the WiFi issues.

So far, nothing I have tried in three days has worked. When I look at the modules loaded, I have rt2500usb and rt73usb running in openSUSE. I tried to kill either of them with

modprobe -r name

But this did nothing either – openSUSE claimed modprobe didn’t exist (although it would show me the man page for it).

Eventually (i.e. now), I have given up for a while. Most of the solutions I can find require me to be connected to the internet to enable a fix – seems to defeat the purpose but…. Next weekend I plan to go to PCWorld and buy a Cat5 cable long enough to reach from the router to the linux box, hopefully this will allow an internet connection and enable the fixes. Until then, I am staying Windozed. Sadly.

Now, I love linux. I really do. However, until it is possible for people to use it out of the box with common store bought components it really is going to remain a niche product. This is a shame because for basically free you can get a fully functioned PC which runs a powerfull, easy to use and capable office package, web servers, graphics manipulators and much more. To run a similar system using the MS products everyone is so used to would cost thousands. With the advent of crap vista, and the change to “look and feel” you would think this is an excellent time for people to migrate to Linux. Sadly, at least in the case of SuSE and Ubuntu, Linux is not ready for this task. Can you imagine going to a shop and buying a television which required three days of recompiling before it would show a picture?

[tags]Linux, SUSE, Ubuntu, Wifi, Wireless, LAN, Networking, Technology, Computers, Society, Rants, YAST, openSUSE, Belkin[/tags]

Tags untagging themselves

Blog posts here keep randomly losing their UTW tags today. We’ve got used to wierd weekend errors. We probably cause half of them ourselves. Is this the Technorati monster or something I’m doing? Any ideas, welcome.
While your at it, maybe someone can suggest how TW can get openSUSE to work in 64bit. Make command get error 2, as far as I can determine.

Vista Pricing – Shamefull

Although we have mentioned MS Vista in the past on this blog, it was always unlikely that we would upgrade to it in the very near future. A recent check of the technology news helps confirm this.

It seems that Vista has been released in the US with an MRP of $99.95 (Upgrade version of Home Basic). Given the current exchange rates and using Reuters currency converter this works out at £51.23,

For some reason, it has been decided to sell Vista in the UK at £85 + VAT, which works out at about £99.88.

What madness is this! According to Reuters this is the same as US customers paying $194.72. I cant imagine MS would ship many boxes at that rate.

Just goes to show, you can pay nearly a hundred pounds, have to upgrade your hardware and learn a brand new way of working, or you can get linux for free. I think I can honestly say the only way Why Dont You will upgrade to vista will be when we get new computers and it comes pre-loaded with no alternatives.