Monday, 30 July 2007

Of Linux, Holidays and Bluetooth

I've been on holiday. But, like a lot of people I guess, I'm not able to cut myself off from work completely and I still needed to check my emails. However, where I went holiday there is not even a phone, let alone a network. So what to do? What I've done in the past is to connect to the Internet via GPRS on my phone, and connect my laptop to my phone via bluetooth. This is fairly straight forward on XP, trivial on Vista, and on Linux?

The blue bluetooth symbol glows brightly on my D630. The lights are on, but there is no one home. The Dell 360 bluetooth card is not recognized. This is something of a surprise: the 360 card has been around for a while and seems to work with various Linux distros. I can only assume that it is not being discovered correctly by the kernel... So I'm faced yet again with a long hunt for drivers, patches, clues in discussion forums, whatever. Except I'm going on holiday and I really haven't got time for this. Fortunately, I've got an old USB Bluetooth adapter manufactured by a company called Bluetake. When I plug this in Fedora finds it instantly. But despite finding some excellent instructions here I just don't have the time to mess around getting it to work. This is Linux at its most hobbyist; this is Linux the Operating System for people who tinker in sheds. Why can't it just work?

I confess I gave up. I took my old Inspiron 1150 with Vista installed. The bluetooth connection to my phone worked flawlessly.

This is one of the great problems with Linux as a business desktop. Even if you are able to develop a standard loadset image that works with your hardware, there is always going to be some senior manger somewhere who will want to do something slightly out of the ordinary and connect to their PDA or phone or something. When the support call comes in someone is going to have to struggle with Linux to get things to work. Because hardware manufacturers target Windows, working with Windows will always be easier.

So why bother? Why spend your valuable time trying to get stuff to work with Linux when you can just plug it into Windows? Personally, I believe there are a number of reasons why the struggle is worthwhile. Here's just one.

Just before I went on holiday, Microsoft filed a patent for an "advertising framework" that would capture "context data" from your Windows PC so that advertisers could show you targeted adverts in any applications that you were using. According to The Register website: "Microsoft's envisions a "context manager" that would gather data from "various data sources" with a "profile manager" and "profile database" storing data "over a period of time" for use in "refining context data for advertisement selection." (See here.)

Now there are a number of reasons why companies take out patents. Sometimes it is a defensive measure: maybe Microsoft want to get a patent on this before someone else does; someone like Google. However, I can't help thinking of a presentation I attended a few years ago where a Microsoft employee talked about their vision of Office as a service. It could be that there will be more than one way to pay for that service - or maybe you won't get the choice at all. Either way, I don't want a "context manager" monitoring what I do on my own machine. Being able to read, and even compile, the code running on my machine has to be the best way of protecting myself.

No comments: