This last week I've been busily applying my tech support skills around the house. We recently purchased an HP Photosmart C309a printer to replace our old Photosmart C7100. Upon its entering the house, I was tasked with setting it up. The technology must be rapidly advancing, because this new printer was able to connect to our router wirelessly, as opposed to the older model, which was only able to broadcast via wired connection to the gateway.
My laptop (a solid Linux machine) was the first to find the new printer, and so the first to send a victorious test page. The Linux printing utilities (ie, System > Administration > Printing) are remarkably advanced.
My parents' machines (a Windows Vista desktop and XP laptop, respectively) were not so able-bodied. My mom (using the Vista desktop) installed the new printer (with the included disk, and none of the auto-detection or online download utilities native to Linux) on her machine and was (after an inordinate amount of time) able to print.
My dad (on his XP laptop) was entirely unable to connect. He put the disk into his machine and followed all the same steps as my mom, but the installation consistently stalled out about halfway there. All of my attempts to remedy the situation failed, and so we took the drastic route of hosing his computer, which was filthy with Windows malware. After the reformatting, we were faced with an opportunity to upgrade him to Vista (Linux was apparently out of the question). My mom has wanted him to do this for a while, so we took the opportunity as it presented itself.
Vista (looked like it) worked. The install was painless enough, and my dad was able to print, but he had lost all of his audio capabilities. "No Audio Devices Installed" is a particularly disturbing notice, especially when the speakers are sitting in plain sight on either side of the screen.
Utterly baffled, we turned to Dell's Tech Support, which was surprisingly helpful. We were told, plainly and simply, that there were no device drivers written for Vista that worked on my dad's particular laptop. Saddening as this was, it did prevent several hours of painstaking patch-hunting. Once again, we hosed his laptop. 32-Bit XP was probably the sturdiest OS Micro$oft ever wrote.
Trouble follows my dad.
This time, we've got printing, we've got sound, and have no Internet. This is eventually solved by a call to Earthlink, but is nonetheless disconcerting. From this point on, my dad's computer is (basically) okay. My mom's, of course, takes a nosedive, losing Internet. She fixed this herself, though.
In other news, I've put Ubuntu to the test DJ-ing a dance. This last Friday, we held a dance in the cafeteria and operated entirely off of my laptop. This experience has brought several pieces of software to my attention:
First and foremost, Rhythmbox, which is solid as a rock and basically cruft-free. I've fallen head-over-heels for this music player, which will not only play but visualize music files (I assume in every filetype, though I haven't had an opportunity to test this).
Mixxx, the Linux DJ-ing instrument of choice, which is actually cross-platform. This mixer was able to give me total control over the mixing of my songs, though DJ-ing directly from this turned out to be overly labor-intensive.
Ubuntu screensavers are by far the best I've ever seen. The reason I found this out was because I was unable to project the visuals from Rhythmbox through the school projector we were using.
Our original plan was to project Rhythmbox visuals over a serial cable through a standard school projector. We had already made a final playlist with all of our desired songs on it and set it to shuffle while the Visualization function was engaged. What happened was my screen was projected entirely, except for the actual visual. The Rhythmbox window was there, but no visual, only a blank space. I tried to adjust what screen was projected, but this was of no use, and we eventually scrapped the Rhythmbox visuals and backed up on a couple of especially flashy Ubuntu screensavers. I believe that this projection problem was an X-related issue, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to fix it.