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» 19 May 2003 » In Rants, Tech »

When I was in Norway this past January, I wanted to get a DVD that had audio tracks in both English and Norwegian, and the subtitles in the same languages as well, so that I could use it as an educational tool in my learning Norwegian. Apparently, the only types of DVDs that could satisfy the requirements were the ones intended for kids, so I purchased Toy Story 2.
Now, my regular DVD player at home is region 1, and the disc would not be recognized by it. “No problem”, I thought, “I’ll just fire up my laptop and use mplayer”. 2 hours, 3 cups of coffee, and an untold number of lost neurons later, I still could not get the subtitles to display. The movie played fine, the on screen display indicated that subtitles were turned on, and yet all my efforts were for naught. I read through the man page, the online forum discussions, and googled for answers. Eventually, a post on some message board revealed that one needs to specify the exact location of the font and the encoding for the subtitles, which proved to be the answer I needed. I could finally watch Buzz express himself in Norwegian.
The point of the story is, those who say that Linux is ready for desktop should check in with Reality from time to time. Now, I am fairly familiar with hardware, software, and other aspects of technology, and still, it took me a better part of the day to figure out what unique combination of options would get the DVD to work, so I don’t see how an average person can be expected to use Linux for any sort of multimedia without experiencing major frustration. And I wasn’t trying to do anything obscure — just turn on the damn subtitles. I’m sorry, Linux desktop-prime-time advocates, but that’s pathetic. Whatever bold proclamations you make, Linux will be relegated to the backend server room until glitches like these are a thing of the past. I will happily use Linux for software development, but on my desktop machine at home I will run Windows and save my neurons for something better.

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