back to article While waiting for the Linux train, Bork pays a visit to Geordieland with Windows 10

As the UK tentatively returns to work and those who must venture back onto public transport, we were happy to learn that even in these changed times, Windows remains as wobbly as ever. Today's entry comes from Register reader Dan. Snapped last week, the Newcastle Station Info Point is terribly poorly, with three pop-ups …

  1. GreenJimll

    Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

    Always amuses me that people pay a fortune for digital signage when a Raspberry Pi and a bit of OSS software can usually accomplish the same thing more cheaply, using less energy (Pi's sip juice compared to some Windows digital signage PCs I've come across) and with less tendency to spectacularly blow up in public.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

      The problem with that is are there MDM systems that can manage an entire fleet of Raspberry Pis (or any Linux machines) from one keyboard/mouse?

      I am genuinely interested in this as at work, we have a need for a lot of digital signs, and my own preference would be for RPis rather than some windows PC built into the display. Windows has System Center, which, while it's often a strange beast, and also a pain in the arse, does make it relatively easy to manage a fleet of machines, whether your fleet is 1,000 or 1,000,000.

      The reason I say this is that I've noticed a lot of people suggest various Linux based solutions when El Reg posts something like this, but these companies don't just need a solution that is cheap. They need a solution they can distribute to thousands of places with little or no technician involvement, They need a solution they can also monitor and maintain in those thousands of places with little or no technician involvement. System center does offer that.

      It's also worth remembering that if you buy (or licence) a product from someone, the law offers you a lot of protection in the event that product doesn't deliver what you requested. Protection which you may not get if you go for any open source product (you will get some protection if you hire an outside contractor to install/support it, but that will likely only apply to the services they provide and may not provide any help in the event the product itself fails).

      I am not knocking Linux, the Pi, or Open Source at all. I am fans of all three, but making the point that when specifying a system for Enterprise use, you have to think of a lot more than just the cost and OS. You do have to think of things like scalability, will the project still be active in 5 years, ten years or event longer. I've seen various open source projects just stop with no warning when the lead maintainer does something else. When installing a system across thousands of computers, you can't just switch to another product if support for yours is terminated, and you can't keep using the same product because if there are security flaws, they will likely not be patched.

      Companies supporting large installations of their products tend not to do that, often giving month or years notice before ending support for a major product, because they know their clientele can't switch quickly. New versions need to be tested properly before roll out.

      1. Mike 125

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        >New versions need to be tested properly before roll out.

        Ermmm... BORK?? You had me, up to that point. I think you'll find testing any new version or patch is generally... a good idea.

        "but "we're about to upgrade all of our production machines to a custom Linux build to improve their stability and generally operate with more efficiency." "

        Excellent!

      2. ChipsforBreakfast

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        I'm sure there are MDM solutions for Linux if you really need them but I'd personally question why you would need them for something like digital signage.

        To my mind, a sign is effectively a static black box. It's installed with exactly the build of software it needs to do it's job and nothing else. It's run on a secure network, far from the shark infested waters of the internet. It shouldn't need updating, upgrading or managing at all really, all it needs is a constant supply of electricity & fresh content.

        Decent designs will incorporate a watchdog or two to make sure that when they bork (as they all inevitably will) they both try to fix themselves and tell you they're broken so you can give them a hand if needed.

        What does it matter if the project you based it on stops development - it's not as if you can't still install the software or use the software... and if you really need something fixed, you CAN fix it.

        And there's one plus point for the PI... the software & OS live on a flash card - a wholesale upgrade to the system is only a card-swap away. Not so easy with windows-based systems, even with MDM.

      3. LeoP

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        We do support a large number of appliances in really remote (to us, as behind doors with gun-carrying guards around them, who always - and I really mean always - look annoyed) places.

        Of course they are Linux based.

        Of course they shit themselves from time to time (TBH basically only with hardware faults)

        Our "Fleet Management" is a device/software/version-personalized script on the appliance that phones home every so-and-so telling e.g. "I am fine" or "I'd rather have a new disk in slot 3" (they carry a largish cache each, but no genuinly original data apart from the system-generated config). And that "phone home box" is of course a cluster and of course keeps track of missed calls.

        The "dashboard" is ugly as hell, but nobody ever bothered to have the designers put a lick of paint on something, where the "show last 100 events with lever warning or worse" logtable is the page that gets 99% of the hits.

        If such an event occurs from a not-yet signalled device-id, a list of e-mail addresses will be pinged once an hour until they log in and display details for this device id.

        If they log a warning+ event or if ordered to do so when phoning home, they will also open a reverse SSH tunnel to the watchdog server, so that the admins can log in.

        The whole setup took less than 2 days to create and hasn't failed us in many thousands of deviceyears.

        And: It is no subscription, belongs to us, isn't tied into some "cloud service" and moving it is a DNS record away.

        And: it is ISO123456789-certified to exactly 125ml of Pinot Grigio

      4. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        It's also worth remembering that if you buy (or licence) a product from someone, the law offers you a lot of protection in the event that product doesn't deliver what you requested.

        Whoo hooo! When was the last time that anyone successfully sued Microsoft for bugs in their stuff ?

        1. tin 2

          Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

          I came here specifically to say this. The "protection" is an illusion.

          1. eionmac

            Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

            Not to the user. Fault is outside our control, is a considerable defence to some in front of their boss.

      5. GreenJimll

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        > The problem with that is are there MDM systems that can manage an entire fleet of Raspberry Pis

        > (or any Linux machines) from one keyboard/mouse?

        Yes. We use the open source Screenly OSE controlled by our own web fronted management system to run Pi's all over our (large) campus, but if you buy the Screenly commercial offering it gives you could based display fleet management too. See https://www.screenly.io/features/

      6. no user left unlocked

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        This seems to be a perspective issue more than anything, companies offering Linux based solutions have matured now. Take Redhat with Ansible as an example, is that corporate enough? I would say it meets all your criteria.

      7. Rob Daglish

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        I know of a few large installs in UK government agencies where RPis have been used - I used to work for the company doing the hardware support. They seem to have built/bought some kind of management portal for them, but I'm not sure what it is as I only ever spoke to people that used it, I never got to see it in action.

        Incidentally, for a multi-national company with lots of employees at all levels of IT, the company I worked for knew F-all about RPi. I had to explain very carefully to my colleagues what to do/expect/change with them if they went out to one...

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

      The Raspberry Pi is great for 'Mom and Pop' shops and small deployments but not so great for commercial use at scale. Only the Compute Modules are recommended by the Raspberry Pi Foundation for commercial and industrial use and it requires manufacturing carrier and interface boards to use them. Some have embraced that, NEC in particular, but most manufacturers have a tendency to stick with tried and tested hardware and software they know works - well, except when it borks!

      Fixing what's 'not broken' is usually a lot more than a matter of how much the processor board costs.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

        The problem is that Windows comes with a built-in bork generator in the form of constant updates and changes that modify its behavior. It fills its disk with data it doesn't need, then ends up borking because it doesn't have enough space to function.

        A Pi is good enough for a stupid infomercial screen, and doesn't modify its behavior from one day to the next. Just get a product to manage a million of them at a time, and maybe Windows will finally get out of places it never should be in the first place.

        And maybe I'll win the Lottery this week. I think I know which has a better chance of happening.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Need a bit of Raspberry Pi action

      yes, an RPi 3 with the official screen and chromium in kiosk mode can usually do everything a simple digital sign actually needs to do. If you need more, you can use a bigger screen with HDMI output and USB touch screen. RPi 4 also works but consumes a bit more power.

      been there, done that, didn't write the book but many others are doing this, too. Yet, if it weren't for SystemD and a few other OS quirks that need SHUTTING OFF (but SystemD makes more difficult to do), it'd be pretty easy for even a NOVICE to make a touch screen system. So like everyone else, you spend time reading Stack Overflow and other places, piece the usual hacks together, and voila!

  2. Sherminator
    WTF?

    ISO27.... So what?

    Why do the PR/Media people seem to think rolling out the obligatory "We have ISO 27001 accreditation" some how exonerates them from the borking faux pas displayed ?

    Having a basic understanding of what ISO27001 is would probably make them think about publishing said nonsense..... Wait? What am I thinking??

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ISO27.... So what?

      See also "our customers data security is our number one priority"

    2. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: ISO27.... So what?

      In fairness, they probably don't have a scooby what ISO 27001 is (I'll wager most of the population don't) and it does sound official, and potentially impressive.

      .

    3. JohnG Silver badge

      Re: ISO27.... So what?

      Maybe their point is that they put so much time and effort into getting their ISO 27001 accreditation that they did not have enough resources/time to adequately test and fix the bugs in their products.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ISO27.... So what?

        My computer has three ISO 9660 next to it, that's more or less the same...

  3. nematoad Silver badge
    Happy

    Ah, yes.

    "... a custom Linux build to improve their stability and generally operate with more efficiency."

    Luke 15:7

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, yes.

      I think for IT in general a better biblical quotation would be James 1:22

      "But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves"

      NASV translation

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical for public transport, you wait for one bork and three come along at once.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In geordie town, we dont even have 3 trains.

      We do have 3 busses though. The 1 service from central station to the student digs is terrible for having 3 or 4 turn up at once.

  5. AdendHy

    Surely if that fault message is in Geodieland it should be "WorFault" not WerFault.

  6. Teiwaz Silver badge

    I've often boggled at why use a windows base for application such as this (or any platform based on a user interface premise - really not sure the likes of Xwindows would be any better, but possibly)

    The basic premise that there is a user sitting in front to interface with when something unexpected happens is totally inappropriate.

    It's not even as if digital signage is an edge use case at best and not big enough for more than a cobbled together make-do affair. They're all around.

    Perhaps they're not cobbled. Yet if you see these, it just looks amateurish.

  7. macjules Silver badge

    Oh dear

    "Microsoft Corporation: Putting the POS into Point of Sale software."

  8. Chris Fox

    The year of Linux ...

    Given the migration plans, does this mean it's year of Linux platform platform on the platform?

  9. BenDwire Bronze badge
    Meh

    Reader reflection cunningly removed

    If I'd known you were going to do that, then I'd have sent you another borked Barclays ATM a few months back when they were often in trouble. The sun was particularly bright, but low in the sky, making it imposible to get a decent picture. Better luck next time ...

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