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Re: [OT, FLAME] Linux Sucks

On Fri, Apr 11, 2003 at 08:12:03AM -0500, Nathan E Norman wrote:
> On Fri, Apr 11, 2003 at 05:41:22AM -0700, Steve Lamb wrote:
> > The only reason floppies still exist in PCs is because the computer
> > companies are too scared to yank them out.

They just put so much silly bulgy plastic moulding around the slot
that you can't get your fingers in there to take the disk out...

> Fortunately this is changing; several PC makers have either announced
> that new machines will not have floppies ot they just started making
> them that way with no fanfare.

Why is this "fortunate"? Sounds like a restriction of choice to me. I
hope there's still an FDD interface on the motherboard.

The fact that a floppy drive may no longer be necessary for the
purpose of installing Debian is a long way from saying that it has no
use at all. It isn't even an irrelevance here yet. There are still
plenty of secondhand motherboards about which are plenty powerful
enough to run Debian but don't have a BIOS capable of booting from
CD-ROM. They cost practically nothing. Zero-cost computing is entirely
possible these days, and surely it is in accordance with the Debian
philosophy to support it?

I use floppies to exchange small amounts of data - text files, etc -
with friends who don't have an Internet connection. I use bootable
floppies for checking out old machines. I have a boot floppy for my
gateway box with just enough code on it that I can sort of still use
the modem if the hard disk dies.

When it comes to writing, writing floppies is a lot easier than writing
CDs, making bootable ones more so.

I find it surprising that so many people are saying that they can't
get reliable floppies these days. I don't find it a problem. Maybe the
real problem is that if you haven't used your floppy drive since 1995
the head's gone rusty? :-) Or are you using 5.25" floppies? :-) The
only seriously bad box of floppies I've had was a box of WH Smiths own
brand that were so cheap and nasty that they went "kschhsscchhsscchh"
as they went round.

I am not seeking to deny that the usefulness of floppies is limited by
their low capacity. But looking at what's on my machine, apart from
multimedia files and source tarballs, there aren't many files which
are too big to go on a floppy. Most of them will fit several times
over. So in practice it's not actually that serious, I find.

<SWITCH WHENIWEREALAD> I remember paying 100 quid for an 800k capacity
5.25" floppy drive for my BBC Micro and thinking it was the absolute
dog's bollocks, especially as the year before prices had been more like
2-300 quid for 100k. "If only IBM had used the 68000 in the PC..."
"Yeah, and got Acorn to write the OS" </SWITCH WHENIWEREALAD>

More worrying than the disappearance of floppies is the loss of
parallel, serial and PS/2 ports in favour of USB. For one thing, USB
support doesn't seem to be very solid in Windoze yet, and quite a few
posts to this list are from people having USB problems. Nobody ever
heard of a standard keyboard port not working...

Low data rate peripherals, like keyboards, mice, modems, data loggers
and quite a few similar instrumentation-control type applications, not
only have no need for USB, but are positively disadvantaged by it. For
the commonplace peripherals, the interface for a keyboard or mouse
needs to be absolutely rock solid. For the more specialised
applications USB is an utter pain in the butt. Coding an RS232
interface on a PIC microcontroller is dead easy. Coding a USB
interface is probably impossible because the PIC is neither fast
enough nor possessed of enough memory to leave room for the rest of
the application. (An alternative solution exists in the form of a
hardware module to convert USB to a more microcontroller-friendly
format, which costs more than the rest of the components in the
peripheral put together. {Though one extremely cool fact is that the
standard Linux kernel includes drivers for said module.}) 

Perhaps actually programming the PIC (ie. transferring code from the
PC into the PIC's EEPROM) is a good example here... if you
have a parallel port the interface may be no more than a few
resistors, if you only have USB you're fscked.


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