Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We're waiting, Promethean...we're waiting....

This year I was awarded an Interactive Whiteboard made by Promethean. Sounds great, huh?

Not so fast.

Promethean is a for-profit company. Their products run on either Windows or Macs, but not Linux. The Linux community is frustrated by this, especially since Promethean has supposedly been on the verge of releasing a Linux version for several years now. Here, I'll show you what I mean....

Back in 2004 Promethean announced they were working on a Linux version. These rumors continued for a while, but with little detail.

This is what Stephen Walder blogged about in October of 2007:

"It's been almost a year now since Promethean revealed that they're working on Linux drivers for their range of ActivBoards and still no news of when and if it's to be released to the public."
Then, in January of this year, ACTIV employee Stuart Collins wrote this in a forum:

"Well I'm posting this from Ubuntu, which is on my main work laptop. So that should tell you that yes, we're taking Linux seriously. From what I've seen of the software so far it's looking good."
Wonderful, Stuart. It's now friggin' August and the best I've ever heard is "we're working on it!" Then you hear the usual excuses: there are far too many different distributions of Linux to work on, we want it to work on all of them.

Do you really think any Slackware users are going to applaud you for including them in the great world of interactive whiteboards? Or how about Yellow Dog--be nice to run Promethean through a PS3! Will it run on Damn Small Linux or Puppy? Will you have support for the Khmer language?

Here's a hint for Promethean: Just go to Distrowatch and pick some of the top distros. Hell, even Stuart has been charmed by Ubuntu, so pick Ubuntu. Pick Debian. Pick something like, say, Mepis or Fedora or Open Suse. Or just pick any two of those. If you get your software to run on them, I'll install one of them.


So I begin the school year with two laptops. Old Faithful, running Ubuntu Linux, which I use for EVERYTHING, and Little Crappy, a Dell running Windows XP that ... well ... I don't use. However, Little Crappy is the only choice I have for my Promethean board software.

To be honest, I'll probably just connect Old Faithful most of the time and use the whole setup as a glorified projector.

The sad part about this, though, is that Promethean is too wrapped up in its proprietary ways to realize that there is a community of Linux users that could help them to actually develop the Linux version. But Promethean won't budge. Smartboards have Linux support.

I think askvictor made the best statement about Promethean:

"With all due respect, I've heard it before, and it'll be too late by then. You've been saying 'real soon now' for well over a year... If the linux driver that is supposed to be in development actually exists, release it now and let us linux geeks play with it... Linux development works very differently to windows and mac development (at this stage anyway) - many linux users are OK with drivers or apps that don't quite work perfectly all the time - it doesn't give a bad impression of your product. What does give a bad impression of your product is not releasing anything (driver/specs/etc)."


P.S. If you really explore all the links in this post, you get an A.


squidinkcalligraphy said...

I share your pain (in fact I'm the askvictor you refer to). My current workaround has been to install virtualbox (the personal/evaluation edition - not the OSS one in the repositories) on my ubuntu machine, install windows in a virtual machine, and use the whiteboard from there. It works fine (virtualbox can 'grab' usb devices so they bypass linux); it's a minor hassle and needs a hunk of RAM for the VM, but works for now. Bring on the common interactive whiteboard format which should shake up those vendors still deluded by the idea that keeping their file format and software proprietary gives them an edge.

RichSkyline said...

Thanks for that! Couldn't agree more that we need a common format. We're living in a weird time right now. I believe when people look back to this period ten years from now they'll be surprised by how inefficient proprietary strategies were....