In a blog post Editorial: Thoughts on the MSI Wind Linux return rates…
the author asks:
Thirdly.. how is the netbook being marketed? Do consumers realize they are getting a netbook system with Linux? If so, is it perhaps the flavor of Linux being distributed with the netbook that’s the problem? What exactly are the problems people are witnessing? Are there not enough bundled applications for the netbook to make it useful out of the box? Are return rates different for different aged groups? Do older consumers return the netbook more often than younger consumers?
Since my fiance owns a MSI Wind netbook with Novell Suse Linux Enterprise Desktop I'll try to answer some of them.
First of all some background.
I am not an uninformed user, and so is she. We carefully evaluated pros and cons before buying this netbook and finally decided to go for it. We heard that people had problems with the setup but we are tech savvy users and should be able to handle most if not all encountered problems.
So, here is a short summary of the problems we found with MSI Wind + SLED SP1/SP2. You may want to have the photo album
containing the screenshots open in another browser window to see screenshots of the issues described here.
First there are problems that should be taken care of by MSI and problems that Novell should address.
I'll start with the ones caused by MSI.
1. Quality Assurance at MSI?
It seems that no one ever
tried to run this system on this netbook. To back up this conclusion with some facts. Would it be possible to miss these problems:
- A Novell SLED cdrom was provided, but the netbook doesn't include a cdrom drive.
- Many applications display too big modal and non resizable windows that can't be moved outside the screen border. This makes it hard to configure and use some applications.
pidgin - instant messanger preferences dialog
evolution - wizard to wide window
evolution - wizard after selecting IMAP, forward/back buttons outside of screen - no way to continue.
evolution - no way to skip the wizard
FreeCiv - launcher screen, the exit button is slightly out of screen space
- The system came with the HDD partitioned as:
/dev/sda1 (/) 20G
/dev/sda4 (/media/data) 80G
Now the funny part. The /media/data drive by default doesn't allow write access to users. There is no hint how to change this setting. I seriously doubt that a regular user would fireup the terminal, sudo su to superuser and chown the group for the drive to users. And living without 80G of space from 120G total (from which a part is taken for the automatic restore functionality) is in it's own a very good reason to return the netbook.
- MSI Wind doesn't have a numeric keypad so You can't move diagonal in FreeCiv.
2. Upgrade to SP2 breaks the camera (no drivers?)
Novell or upstream
1. Novell Customer Registration
- There is no information that registration is required to get updates and how to register. This is only explained in Yast or on the firefox start page. The start page is located on the network so if Your run firefox beign offline You will see no information.
- MSI Wind provided a 30 day evaluation period SLED installation. It can be extended by 60 days which we recently did. Information about buying or the current state of our licensing is hard to locate. This is another reason why typical users could back off.
- If You restore the system and try to register again with Yast, chances are that the update repository might not be added back. This can also happen when Your evaluation period expires and You extend it. In my case extending the evaluation didn't restore the update repository.
2. Network problems
- network tools hangs and goes gray if there are network problems and You try to ping. Isn't this ridiculus?
- The NetworkManager applet takes long to connet, and often asks for the network key even though it retrieves it from the gnome key-ring.
- SMB file sharing doesn't work out of the box. It also displays an error message that is to verbose for a typical user and gives no hints how to solve the issue. Here is the error msg: "'net usershare' returned error 255: net usershare: usershares are currently disabled"
- Warning about too long name for the shared resource is displayed constantly even after changing the name. Also true for other errors displayed in this dialog.
3. Usability and Quality
- Totem and RealPlayer have problems with some media formats. Software repository from the customer center doesn't contain any codecs to solve the issue. There is no *easy* way to make it work. Another reason most people would return the netbook.
- Games start in a centered window, the borders (chrome) of the window are not surrounding the game window. The cursor focus is taken by the window. Again, is it possible that anyone tried to run this OS on Wind at MSI?
- Battle of Westnoth is unplayable. Parts of the desktop overlay on parts of the game. Also the game doesn't fill the whole screen. No comment.
- The system doesn't contain any hints how to report errors in a convinient manner. As You see, there are many to report.
- Beagle is not started by default. And starting it by hand doesn't get remembered between reboots. So each time You do a search in the Computer menu You have to tell beagle to start and wait a while longer for the results.
- User switching doesn't work. I can select the other user account but after confirming the screen goes dark for a moment and brings me back to my own desktop. This is a really important feature and it should work. At least nested logins work.
- Wrong encoding for polish characters in directory->sharing tab.
- PrintScreen doesn't launch the screenshot applet
- Context menu for applications in application browser is not translated.
I didn't find a way to change the spellchecking language. Had to disable it if I wanted to write in english.
I also encountered some other bugs:
Enable wiki markup.
In a note enter text "MSIRrelatedProblems".
Create a note MSIRrelatedProblems.
Open it and type something in.
Rename the opened note to MSIRelatedProblems.
Go back to the previous note and rename the link to MSIRelatedProblems.
The link will be gray even though the note exists.
Click it. Another note will appear and a dialog box with the warning that a note with the name 'MSIRelatedProblems' already exists.
Indent a path like /dev/sda1 on a newline with tab. The tab used to indent will become a clickable part of the hyperlink.
Highlight one bullet list item along with the bullet.
Ctrl-Copy/Cut and paste it into another note. Pressing the control key often reverts highlight from the bullet.
The bullet is lost because of that.
Here are the bugs related to the Planner application.
Open a new Planner project.
Create some work resources (2 rows in my example)
Fill them in.
Save to disk.
Double-click the file created by planner.
The system throws a warning that it can't open the name.planner file. Because its filetype indicates that it is a planner file but the content is XML. It instructs the user how to open the file anyways. But this is a valid file created by planner...
Add some tasks to the Planner.
Try to save the file again.
"Error could not write XML"
No indication what caused the problem.
All in all. We really like this netbook and we are able to handle those problems.
My fiance wouldn't exchange this netbook for anything else.
This rant was supposed to shed some light on the possible reasons why people could consider returning the netbook. I think that recently we too often focus on 'lack of kwnoledge' to justify the fact that OEM installed Linux still lags behind what a medicore Linux enthusiast could achieved on his own. This needs to change if You want to see a wider adoption of the OS.