August 18th, 2005

Why Linux on the desktop is nowhere.

I need to start collecting anecdotes about why nobody but us zealots uses Linux on the desktop. I just bumped into another one.

I have a resume in html. I'm trying to convert it to a .doc file because that's the format everybody keeps asking for it in. Naturally, I'm trying to use OpenOffice. This actually worked a year or two back, for a certain value of "worked".

By "worked", I mean I could fire up OpenOffice writer, load the .html file, and save it in another format. Of course it wasn't one of the formats in "file->save as", that just let me save it back as HTML, or convert it to text, or to an "HTML template" (whatever that is). Apparently, OpenOffice cared too much about where the data came from, and would only let me save it in a rough approximation of the format I'd loaded it in. But there was a "file->export" option. That didn't let me save it as a .doc file either, but it let me save it as a "Star Office Writer" file, and then I could exit openoffice, open it up again, load the resume.sxw file, and save it as a doc file. And that worked. (Yeah, we're already into "zealot" territory, I know.)

As you can tell, I doubt this functionality was ever properly _supported_. I'm not even sure it was intentional. But it _worked_, and I used it. (Just for this one thing: recruiters always want Word files. Even for a Linux position, the recruiting company neither knows no cares what the job is. They just shovel paperwork, and they want all the paperwork in the same format.)

So I'm using Ubuntu. It has OpenOffice 1.1.3. I go through my little song and dance to turn the html (which I create by hand in a text editor, of course), and it produces a .doc file. It even has the text in it. With a newline between _every_single_character_.



Sigh. Obviously, the ability to save data as a .doc file isn't something they cared to regression test...

I can cut and paste to raw ascii if I don't mind losing all the formatting. (I've got bullet point lists, underline, bold, and a couple different font sizes in there. There's a slightly stale version at to see what I mean.) The formatting is to make it easier for somebody who has seen 1000 resumes today to grab the relevant information out of mine in the 5-15 seconds of attention the recruiter is going to give it. I consider it important.

Converting to RTF sort of worked (at least it only has the newlines I put in), but the text is now uniformly boldface, only one font, and for some reason all the spaces after end-of-newline got eaten. (I have no idea why.) Of course, rtf isn't .doc, is it?

I may actually have to boot up my fiance's computer and use her copy of Word so I can send out resumes for Linux jobs. That's just crazy.

P.S. Konqueror crashed on me again yesterday, losing all my open tabs. Its' crash dialog has a "show backtrace" option, which opens a window that thinks for a minute and then informs me there's no debugging symbols. So why give me the darn option then? No biggie. Yeah, I should switch over to FireFox, but its file download interface sucks so badly it makes the rest of the UI stink by association. Konqueror's a marvelous little browser. Too bad it's gratuitously bound hand and foot to KDE.

Why did all the Linux distros retreat to the server market? Without desktop Linux we'll never have good support for 3D hardware, 802-11g wireless, DVD playing with decss, non-IE browsers, non-Word word processors... There are too few of us for anybody to care about right now, and it really seems like nobody's _trying_ to do this anymore...
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