Week in Review - 2010-12

I've been using Remote Desktop Viewer to administer and set up my parents computer (running Ubuntu 9.10) in another country. Although functional - it's exactly what I want - I've had lots of trouble with usability, most likely attributed to the bandwidth between the 2 locations. The main issue is responsiveness – the mouse movement is terrible, almost unusable, taking ages to accurately position the mouse where you want.

I couldn't find much in the way of settings to play with when using the Remote Desktop Viewer that comes installed by default with Ubuntu. But when I installed Remmina Remote Desktop Client, I noticed that there were options for Colour Depth and Quality. Changing the colours to 256 and using poorest quality, I can now control the remote desktop much better. Now it is usable and much less frustrating!

I've been working with Netbeans Platform 6.8, making a desktop GUI for an application I've been working on. I got off to a slow start, but after a wee bit of encouragement from Geertjan I picked up speed and started making progress.

For this application, I first wrote most of the services, had them working via tests, and then to make it useful to me, I put a command line interface on it. Now I had an application that I could use and get value from, I started working on the GUI. Its a whole different ballgame - working with Swing and an rich client platform. Its going to take much longer than writing the core application – just because of the challenges with UI design!

I'm really only writing this application to practice my craft, so its been a good experience. Writing the minimum services and getting them working with tests, adding a CLI, and then a GUI is an extremely good way to develop I've found. From now on it will be small incremental enhancements, directed by user feedback.

I've had 3 bad experiences with retail/consumer support recently that just reiterates to me that its never worth calling that number, sending that email, or even trying to help most companies:

  • Apparently DELL all-in-one printers aren't supported under Linux (http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=798188 http://forum.freespire.org/showthread.php?t=15035), and when I commented about this on Twitter, a DELL representative asked me to contact support. So I sent the make and model, explained that there didn't seem to be any Linux drivers for it, to which I got the response: “Now the warranty has expired, you need to extend the warranty to get the printer fixed.”

  • After buying an MP3 album from BigPond music, the download software couldn't contact the servers and marked the first 4 tracks as having been downloaded even though they weren't (zero size files). Another day I managed to download the rest of the album successfully, but the first 4 tracks are lost to me. A month after I sent an email to support I've had no response.

  • After replacing my DELL printer with a Brother printer (very well supported under Linux - http://welcome.solutions.brother.com/bsc/public_s/id/linux/en/index.html) I sent an email to Brother support detailing a quirk with their website that confused me and no doubt will confuse others. They came back to me with a link to the correct page (which as stated in my email I'd already found) and apparently no interest in making the site more user friendly.

So it always makes me wince when 'management' buy into some technology or product and force it on us poor developers just because it came with an excellent support contract. That costs a fortune. That we'll never use. Which even if we did use it wouldn't help. And wouldn't be needed if we went with a decent open source system.

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