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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The day with the apathy with Windows...again.

My faith towards use of Linux further strengthened yesteray with Windows performing horribly, if not hopelessly, on every quarter. The situation was something like this:

My institute admits students based on the results of the AIEEE exam, for which the results were out some days back. Our placements officer had retured from Delhi with a CD containing the scanned labels of addresses of the first 5000 all-india-rank holders. The institute intended to send the brochure to the first 2000 or something students, and since there needed to be some preprocessing done to get the material in the right order before printing, the matter was redirected to the server room of which my sys-admin colleague Sunil Mohan Ranta and I are a part. The address-labels were arranged in several directories based on the region of the applicant. We needed to bring all of them in a single folder, with a minor manipulation with the filename (needed to remove an unnecessary 'A' from the filename). The thrill begins now. We began wondering how much it'd cost if Microsoft made such a software to do this sort of a manipulation of filenames and locations (If such a thing already exists, it means that they've not marketed it well-enought, for otherwise I'd have known it for sure). Rightfully enough, I turned to Linux and the job was done withing a few minutes of juggling with the shell commands (We have poor memory and often make syntax mistakes).

The bigger excitement, however, was yet to come. Each of the address labels were such that we could have four of them on one A4 sheet before printing. (Why?.. shall I say--To save paper!) We began huting for the printing preferences on the Windows machine and many a test-pages went martyr to the gesture, but to no avail. Photoshop, Painshop, MSPaint, etc proved no better. We had in mind that we could hunt for some Windows-printing formatting software which could do our job. However, we decided to give a second lease to Linux and Ranta played around with some image manipulation commands (convert, montage, mogrify, to name a few) and in a few minutes we were able to devise a command (yes a single command) by which to get the labels in the right format on a single page. In fact, we were even able to sharpen the image a bit (we didn't want to overdo it). That being done, we were using the Windows system back again to send each page to the printer for printing. After some time, the machine showed its colors againa and we realized that the laser printer was being given a lot of rest between successive prints as the Windows was slogging hard to pump data to it. We promptly added 2 and 2 together and shifted all printing to be done from the Linux system instead. This worked the required magic for us and we were able to finish the herculean work (the work was exhaustive) in no time thereafter.

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