Lessons from XP

Daniel Stone daniel.stone at canonical.com
Thu Oct 7 04:19:23 CDT 2004

Hi guys,
As I burst in the door today, a shiny new package[0] or two from IBM
awaited me.  I ripped open my X40, and have been playing with it ever
since.  Unfortunately, I have to wait until tomorrow to burn an Ubuntu
install CD, so I've been playing with XP for a while.  Here are some

Firstly, their installer is, visually, very nice; the total antithesis
to Anaconda.  The screen was very sparse and uncluttered, and I very
much appreciated being able to immediately spot what I needed to do.  Of
course, telling it whether I had a static/dynamic IP/DNS wasn't terribly
intuitive (and defaulted to static!), but that aside, the install
process wasn't too bad.  There was an incredibly annoying background
sound, so the first button I ever pressed after power was mute.
Multimedia keyboards do, it seems, have a use after all.

The panel is so cluttered.  Oh my god.  A huge plug and battery status
icon, and 12 panel icons (four of which were network-related), plus the
clock.  There's something to be said about the beauty of simplicity, no?

Secondly, it was very clear who OEMed this -- there were myriad Windows
apps and configurations, but also some very custom, IBM-specific apps
and configurations, and branded as such.  The disconnect between the two
was very, very ugly.

However, there was one thing I did like about their networking: roaming
profiles.  I've been messing with the idea for a while, and got a
half-arsed Python script together a while ago that I've since lots.
Simply put, you tell it where you are, and you can specify everything
there: the wireless network to stick to, proxy/VPN settings, IPs, DNS,
everything.  As someone who requires a proxy at uni (and it can be one
of three, depending on where at uni I am; but they all require SSH
ProxyCommand loving and some tunnels), and sometimes SSH ProxyCommand
love, this feature was massively appreciated.  Sort of like OS X, except
a little more extensive, I suspect.

I would kill for this feature.

That aside, I don't think there was really anything else that I noticed
that I really liked.  Lots of things I didn't like (pining for GNOME!),
but the network profiles were totally killer for me.  I did like the way
they did the graphical install (they even managed to sneak a keyboard
layout question in there without too much hassle -- I suspect this will
become a lot easier when we go graphical as we can just lump it in with
the language/locale questions, so it's not a full prompting screen),
design-wise -- it was quite immediately obvious what needed to be done.

-d, happily sighing over his shiny new laptop

[0]: As shiny as a cardboard box can be.

Daniel Stone                                        <daniel.stone at canonical.com>
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