Tuesday, 22 February 2011

KWorld UB499-2T vs Windows

This is a total rant, I'm not even going to apologise.

I bought my Girlfriend a USB FreeView (DVB-T) device for Christmas. I was a cheap one from Maplin, and it was half price - a KWorld UB499-2T. I thought this was mainstream enough to have Mac OS X support, so that she could use it with her laptop when she was away from home. It didn't. No Worries, we used it in our bedroom with a laptop rebooted into Windows. The software that came with it was ugly, really poor HCI, but it worked. Since Christmas, day by day, the performance has become worse and worse. Each day the video got choppier, more artefacts appeared, skipped keyframes etc. I put this down to atmospherics since we've had quite a lot of foggy weather, snow etc...

I was aware of a driver for Linux, but it needed the module compiling, and laziness stopped me getting round to installing it. Tonight I gave in, the video under Windows was unwatchable. So I followed the instructions here

Pretty painless really. Modprobed the driver, set Kaffeine to scan, and up popped the channels, plus a couple of extra ones...shweet...

I use Windows and Mac OS X as little as possible these days, and you tend to forget just how bad they are. I've been using Windows since 3.11 and supporting Windows since NT3.51, and Mac OS since 7.6 and Mac OS X since the public beta. Maybe because my work covers so many domains and software I notice it more. If you just do a bit of word processing + email and internet then it doesn't matter which platform you use. I use combinations of Gimp, Hugin, Blender, Yafaray, VTK, Panda3D, OSG, Ardour, CLAM, Bristol, JACK, C/C++/Python, Gwyddion (for AFM data), Latex and latterly Mandelbulber almost every day. Each of these has replaced proprietary alternatives one by one - things such as Photoshop, AfterEffects, 3DS Max/Maya, MOTU Digital Performer etc. Usually I've tried open source software while waiting for funding or orders for proprietary software to turn up. It used to be the case that the interface was rarely as comfortable as the Windows/Mac OS X alternative. But don a hair shirt, and the benefits in stability outweigh a pretty interface. This isn't actually the case any more - Ardour, Blender 2.5 actually have better interfaces than their paid for counterparts.

The thing I've noticed is that open source software only gets better, whereas with proprietary software each version is a crap shoot - depending on how busy the marketing department for Adobe, MOTU, MS etc have been, each version will have more features, which may or may not be useful, but will generally introduce new bugs, make interfaces harder to navigate, and generally make software worse! Just to satisfy a revenue cycle.

...And that's before you start with support. Most community interaction I've had has been excellent, people have even added features just for me. You'd have to have a big turnover to get that out of Adobe or MOTU.

I'm not really an open source evangelist, but I'm becoming one. I came for the price, but stayed because it was better...