Ubuntu and Dell

The word "Ubuntu" may mean a universal bond that unites humanity, but these days it also refers to the tight ties between the Ubuntu desktop version of Linux and Dell, which will preload the OS onto PCs and laptops for any customers who ask.

Desktop Linux has long been maligned for its lack of driver support. Nowadays, that rap is also given to Vista.

I'd love to run a new Dell Ubuntu box alongside Vista and see if that old Linux knock still holds up. If any of you have tried 'em both, give us your verdict at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Microsoft Settlement Far From Excel-lent
Savvysoft isn't so savvy when it comes to trademarks.

The company, realizing that Microsoft hadn't registered Excel as a trademark, launched a product called "TurboExcel," and then tried to finagle Microsoft into paying heaps of dough to keep the name "Excel."

It didn't work, and now TurboExcel, which runs on top of Microsoft Excel, is called "Calc4Web."

Not the catchiest name I've ever heard, but it sure does beat Windows Live Hotmail. Is it Windows, is it Live or is it Hotmail?

The Amiga Is Back -- 15 Years Too Late!
Love is a wonderful thing, except when it clouds your judgment and makes it impossible for you to let go of what you've already lost. And no one loved their computers more than the owners of Commodore Amigas.

The fact that Commodore went utterly bankrupt and that the machines have been pretty much dead for over a decade didn't stop these users from dreaming, and the true believers from plotting a comeback.

The latest scheme comes from Amiga Inc., which promises to deliver two brand-new PowerPC-based models.

Technically speaking, the Amiga never completely went away. A dedicated group of enthusiasts have kept the OS going, and folks have been able to load the AmigaOS onto PowerPC boxes and compute to their hearts' delight.

What's different about the Amiga Inc. news is the preconfigured hardware.

The Amiga is the only computer I've ever had a deep affection for, but even I have to admit it's over.

Doug's Mailbag: Should Ballmer Stay or Go?, More
This Monday, I pointed you to an article from The Register that argued for Steve Ballmer's replacement by someone like former IBM CEO Lou Gerstner -- who, incidentally, had also worked for R.J. Reynolds, a tobacco company. Unnecessary information? Mike thinks so:

I get the joke. Quite "provocatively written" -- if by "provocative" you mean trying to sway the reader with a debatable fact-ette that is completely irrelevant to the point of the Register's article, while simultaneously 'insulting' another media outfit.
-Mike

So, is The Register right, and should Ballmer step down for someone like Gerstner? I say "no" on both counts, but here are some of your thoughts:

The chap who wrote that Register piece has his head up his behind.

Many folks believe Lou Gerstner saved IBM, and maybe in his first year he did. As he started to gut IBM's culture, before he fully understood it, he made such brilliant statements as "The last thing IBM needs right now is another strategy," responding to critics who were asking what the strategy was to return IBM to a position of leadership. As several Wall Street analysts have pointed out, quarter over quarter, IBM has had very few growth plans. IBM knew a great deal about making a lot of money selling expensive equipment, software and services. IBM did not know how to make money on volume, even though it dabbled in many of the markets to emerge in the '90s many years before their time. Gerstner later admitted that it took him years to understand IBM's culture and that he probably went too far in changing it. He was a Fortune 100 business consultant for McKinsey and was always exactly just that. He was not the kind of Silicon Valley entrepreneur that IBM really needed for the long-term.

I think Ballmer is every bit the thug that Gerstner is, but fortunately he knows his limitations -- thanks to Gates, who is smart enough to prevent anyone from ruining his fortune. If Microsoft had listened to its oldest, largest customers, I doubt Vista or Home Server would have even survived a few meetings. Instead, Microsoft would be talking-up Windows XP R4, or something like that.

-Russ

First of all, I'm not the biggest MS proponent, but you are absolutely correct. Although Ballmer tends to be a little overzealous at times, he's a pretty good company spokesman and keeps the spotlight on Microsoft and on himself fairly well. The thought that a magazine in the U.K. with a readership of...what? 30,000 to 50,000? The thought that this magazine is making sweeping statements of the viability of a top-tier executive isn't new or novel (and, in this case, is fairly ineffective in its reasoning).

I would tend to agree with you. Microsoft, while a little full of its own ego, does a 'reasonable' job at technology. It does superbly at marketing, capturing attention and driving brand value into new areas of business interest. It isn't consistent on its delivery in all areas, but overall, it's a powerhouse with virtually unlimited resources that could -- but won't -- write perfect code that works on much higher performance systems than it's doing so today. It's about market acceptability of new technologies. And it has its finger on the pulse of its consumers' desires and wishes, in most cases.
-Steve

It's simple: The Register, like all newspapers in the U.K., is a rag. It reports on some items of interest but, in general, it's just a waste of space, interested only in sensationalism and has no respectability in terms of journalism.
-Des

IMHO, Ballmer has proven to be an embarrassment to Microsoft for a long time. His touting of Vista -- many promises made and not kept -- is enough already. Let's get a real manager running Microsoft instead of a sleazy promoter.
-Lyle

I think Ballmer should take his lead from Paul Allen and buy a professional sports team -– say, the Oakland Raiders or maybe the Dallas Cowboys. In terms of personality, he's a perfect replacement for either owner.

Big Cancer has been replaced by Big Computer and Big Larceny (take your pick (HealthSouth, Enron, WorldCom, etc.). CEOs are sinfully paid and dang if they don't want more. Yes, Bill Gates is doing a whale of a job with his foundation, and he should be praised for that. But Ballmer's attitude (when Dell did the right thing and offered XP to its customers) and his words speak mountains about his concern for the multitude: "That 11,000 was just a ripple. We are still going forth with our plans to stop shipping XP to OEMs in January 2008."

What everyone at Microsoft fails to realize is that not everyone has the desire or the funds to go back to school to learn where Microsoft put everything -- especially in Office! What the hell were the thinking? Yes, we need more secure features, but for goodness' sake, don't hide everything under the mattress. If GM follows the Microsoft mold, next year's models will hide the ignition in the glove box, or maybe under the spare in the trunk.

Ballmer needs a new focus, a new soapbox. If they could swap him and Al Davis (or Jerry Jones) at midnight, it would be weeks before anyone knew.
-Bob

Speaking of Office, add Lin to the list of those having problems with the ribbon interface:

Having used Microsoft Word since the very first version for Windows, like a lot of others, I have become almost instinctively familiar with the standard toolbars and menus. Although there have been minor changes (and relocations of items!) over the years and throughout the versions, I have been able to adapt fairly quickly to each new version: 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003.

Now, I am faced with a very unfamiliar interface that I find both frustrating and time-wasting. I've read Microsoft's claims that the new interface is more "intuitive" (whatever that means) and more productive. That may be true for new Word users, but it is definitely not true for veterans like me and almost all of my clients, a number of whom have asked me to remove the new version from their systems and reinstall an older version. In addition, the amount of wasted on-screen real estate is quite bothersome and the visual impact of the ribbon is cluttered and annoying.

So, my vote is against the new interface. Microsoft would have been wise to include an option to enable the "classic" Word interface, as this would have maximized the appeal and usefulness of Word 2007.
-Lin

As always, I'd like to know what you think. Leave a comment below, or send an e-mail to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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