Monday, July 9, 2007

The State of Internet Cafes

"Money won't change you ... but time will take you out."
------ James Brown lyric

I have been travelling without a laptop. More and more "Internet Cafes" seem to be WiFi Hotspots. Connections are fast in many places I have been. In Dumaguete, Scooby''s has an extremely fast connection, and decently fast machines. I rarely found an Internet cafe too slow for comfort, but some of them were. Some remarks on my experiences.

The biggest surprize was the lack of Firefox on over 2/3 of the machines I tried. I expected Linux to be at least represented; but I didn't encounter a single machine that had GNU/Linux installed! I truly expected people to be using Firefox. IE was almost always of such a vintage that tabbed browsing was impossible: I only encountered one machine that was up to date in that regard.

The biggest PITA in the Internet cafes I encountered was the keyboards. I am on a lucky streak and for the last several days, all the keyboards were at least useable.

CD Drives. Most of the machines have CD drives removed. Some have no floppy drives. The Internet cafe in Las Pinas had no CD drives, but the operator was kind, willing to mount the 128KB SD flash memory unit from my old Minolta digital camera on his own machine, using my personal memory card reader, and burn it to a CD. I was in that way able to post some pictures from, for example, the Las Pinas bamboo organ. Most of the machines I have seen lately have had to CD drive, or perhaps one or two machines in a shop may have a CD drive. When CD drives were found in Dumaguete at the Why Not, it was not a burner.

USB functionality. I have seen machines with USB sockets gutted. In only one instance did I find USB sockets useable. However, that has little meaning when I am trying to copy photos on an SD card over to a flash drive (a good reason to leave one flash drive with a FAT32 filesystem).

I wrote before that operators of some Internet cafes seem to have a convoluted idea of how to get things done. Some shops, if they can print, require the operator to intervene, save the WWw page as a file, open it in M$Word, and print. This convoluted procedure leaves a copy of my bank statement on the machine in question, and it's quite a chore to ask the operator to remove the file, or to remove it myself.

I have had to save pictures from time to time, preparatory to uploading them to this blog. I have found it a simple matter in all cases (when tried) to make a new folder (used to called subdirectories) named "alan" and save any necessary files there. I have almost always cleaned up these folders when I left the machine.

At Balanghai Hotel in Butuan City, a single pretty decent, if aged machine served guests and staff for Internet purposes. It was set up with Google Earth, one of the programs I've missed the most on the machines I've been forced to use by circumstance.

The dream of booting GNU/Linux from a USB Flash Drive is a moot one, when we are dealing with Pentium III or Pentium IV machines, with often an outdated version of Windoze. Programs like IE or Google Earth are likely not up-to-date. Again, seldom does one find Firefox. And, by the way, mice are not uniform of type. Many have wheels, many others do not.

Games are sometimes found in massive amounts. Chat, IM, Skype, and other video conferencing programs are often found. Almst always.

So, why don't we find GNU/Linux in wide use in the PI? I spoke with Linricon Absuelo of the Butuan National Museum, who also writes database access programs in Visual Basic. He cited some reasons for not going to GNU/Linux.
  • Windows in dirt cheap.
  • Even the most expensive programs (ie, Photoshop) are available for 50 Pesos.
  • Interactivity: he writes programs for offices where users have to interact with databases, and all machines are set up with the same GUI program. How would you do this with multiple operating systems.
  • Programs would not accept, if I understand this, a business model like charging for services, or hiring a programmer to write custom modifications to, say, MySQL
  • He called MYSQL a windows program. I am confused.
  • Possibly the most important: People have learned from the gitgo, in school and inet cafes, to use Windows. This is a flawed argument, I believe, where some of the GNU/Linux distributions are now just as intuitive, possibly more so than Windows.
  • He recounted a shop he worked in some years ago, when he was using Lotus123. At some point, an M$ program was available, and everyone was using it, in almost notime. He had to switch because of interoperability issues.

I have to admit, at the end of the day, that I found some of the Windoze programs, like a windows image editor, nicely set up, and I liked some aspects of Photoshop, but NOT all. GNU/Linux is improving by leaps and bounds.

Now, how am I going to access pictures in my new Motorola V3 Cell Phone?

No comments: