Music I Like Ubuntu

Goodbye, Cowon; Hello again, Sandisk

My Cowon iAudio 7 crapped out on me after three months. I’m extremely disappointed, since both “official” (CNET and the like) and user reviews for it appear to all be positive. Well, I’m sorry to say that my experience is not. So either I happened to have the fluke lemon unit, or other people are lying.

Yes, there are things I still like about it, even now. The battery life is unmatched by anything else on the market. Officially, it’s supposed to be 60 hours. I’ve never timed it, but I use my player extensively during my commute, and one charge on the iAudio 7 easily lasts a month. It’s a cute size and shape. It can play many formats, although that’s become less of a concern for me since I’ve given up on Ogg and gone back to MP3.

Nevertheless, I can’t say I’ve had an overall positive experience with it over the last three months. The controls were very difficult to figure out and get used to—they are also too sensitive to the touch, especially when I’m trying to skip songs instead of fast-forward. Initially, skipping songs even took two or three seconds to complete, until I did a firmware upgrade.

Sad, garbled Cowon screen This last straw is the screen suddenly crapping out on me. I didn’t drop, crush, or abuse the player in any way, but there appears to be a diagonal crack on the inside (not the outside) of the screen that corrupts the display to the point of being unusable.

I contacted Cowon’s support, and they said they can’t determine if it’s covered by warranty or not until they examine the device. Now they want me to mail it in (at my own expense!). I’m not sure yet whether I think it’s worth the trouble to do so or not. I’ve already bought a new MP3 player (a Sandisk Sansa Clip), and it appears to be much better (simple controls that aren’t too sensitive) for a much cheaper price. And I’ve used Sandisk before; my old Sandisk player lasted me years before breaking. If I did get it fixed, it would be just to see if they’d admit they had shoddy workmanship and cover it under the warranty or blame me even though I didn’t do anything to break it; and then I could just give it away to someone who didn’t mind sensitive controls. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m back to Sandisk and still confused as to why Cowon gets such rave reviews.

Update: I did mail it in, and they said it wasn’t covered under warranty, and I would have to pay US$57 to replace the LCD screen. No thanks. That money was better spent on my Sansa Clip.

Further Reading
Cowon iAudio 7 Review (Ubuntu perspective)
Cowon iAudio 7 Review Addendum

Linux Ubuntu Windows

Linux can be Windows sometimes, can’t it?

Quite frequently on the Ubuntu Forums, someone will make a suggestion that Ubuntu (and/or Linux distros in general) adopt a feature or approach that Windows has to handling a task. Inevitably, someone else will counter that Linux is not Windows and then link to the appropriately titled article “Linux is not Windows.”

The problem is that logically (and I believe the author of the article in question would agree) it doesn’t make sense to say that just because Linux is not Windows that Linux should never under any circumstance adopt features or approaches that Windows has to user interfaces. After all, desktop Linux already does share some features in common with Windows:

  • Alt-Tabbing to switch between windows, bringing minimized windows to the front.
  • Allowing maximizing of windows.
  • Generally closing applications once the last window of the application is closed.
  • Having Alt-F4 be the shortcut to closing a window.
  • Having a menu like the Start menu that allows you to access programs and documents.

The list could go on and on, but these are all features and approaches to user interfaces that Windows and Linux distros have in common that Mac OS X does not. It’s not a question of originality. I don’t really care if Windows copied *nix systems or vice versa. The point is that the two sets of operating systems can and do have some things in common.

To be sensible human beings (and not fanatics), we have to avoid two extremes. I’ll be the first to tell people that Ubuntu (and/or Linux at large) should not be a Windows clone. But we should not make Linux in every respect the antithesis of Windows either, nor can we. The best approach to creating a usable operating system is the adoption of the best of several approaches. If Windows does something right, then Ubuntu should have no problem adopting that approach. If Windows does something wrong, then Ubuntu should avoid adopting that approach. Ubuntu fanatics, please understand, though, that I love Ubuntu a lot, too. Yet, somehow, I’m able to recognize that Windows does some things that Ubuntu should also do. Package management in Ubuntu is a great way to install software—perhaps something Windows could learn from Ubuntu. Previewing photos before you upload them in a web browser is a basic expectation that many desktop users have‐perhaps something Ubuntu could learn from Windows.

Linux is not Windows. We get it. We get it already. But Linux can learn from Windows occasionally, and that would not be a “free software sin.”

Apple and Mac OS X Computers Linux Ubuntu Windows

Without education, it doesn’t matter which OS is “more secure”

In Linux online communities, oftentimes there are debates about which operating is the most secure—Windows or a Linux-based distribution. The debates usually go something like this:
Do I have to worry about security in Linux the way I did in Windows? No, you don’t have to. Linux is much more secure. But isn’t that just because it’s less targeted? If it were as popular as Windows, it would have just as many security problems. No, it wouldn’t. Read this article about how Linux has better security, and don’t forget that Linux servers are huge targets and still more secure than Windows servers.

And it goes on and on. The details of a secure structure, sensible (from a security standpoint) defaults, and frequent patches for exploits are all important parts of security. Ultimately, though, security debates about the structures of the OS are moot when the user does not employ good security practices. It’s a bit like people debating whether kevlar is “more secure” than chainmail armor. Well, what if the attack is through biological warfare rather than a bullet or sword? What if the person you’re trying to secure can be tricked into taking off the kevlar/chainmail? Then it doesn’t really matter which covering is more difficult to penetrate, does it?

And this is also why bringing in servers into desktop security debates doesn’t shed light on whether an increase in user base will lead to more security compromises. Servers tend to be administered by server administrators—professionals whose job it is to constantly battle and prevent online security breaches. On the home desktop (and sometimes even the business workstation), users tend to be less savvy about what to click or not click, what to install or not to install, and when it’s a good idea to type one’s password.

Yes, developers should try to strengthen the security of the OS in terms of structure and defaults. Yes, developers should create patches for newly discovered exploits (buffer overflows, for example). Nevertheless, if the Linux user base does increase to the point where desktop Linux is a significant target for malicious users, and computer users in general remain as uneducated as they are now, then all those security patches will be for naught. Users who can’t discern the difference between a spoofed webpage and a real webpage are the security exploits that can be patched only through education. Users who will give their passwords away to untrustworthy sources are security exploits. Users who will install some “cool” program (yes, in Ubuntu it could be a .deb file you double-click or an added repository) that happens to contain spyware or a rootkit are security exploits.

A larger Linux user base with no better education than computer users as a whole have now is going to be subject to the same social engineering malware attacks that the current larger user base Windows has. No developer-created patch is going to fix that hole.