The grass isn't greener on the other side

Today, I am in beautiful San Diego, at a NSF workshop on active learning and UCSD's Ubiquitous Presenter software. Ubiquitous Presenter lets instructors and students add pen-based markup to slides and share them with each other. It is a nifty tool to engage students in the classroom instead of just lecturing. The student part of the software uses Java, and students can use the mouse or a tablet pen (which just acts as a mouse) to add their notes. The instructor part of the software uses .NET because instructors need to be able to write nicely, and Java doesn't have any support for pens (pressure, erasing, etc.).

So, I install the software. I get this far:


Hmm, this is Windows Vista. It doesn't have .NET??? Whatever, I'll install it. Click "Yes".


Oh, .NET 2 is not backwards compatible with .NET 1.1.4322. Let's install .NET 1 then. That's easier said than done. Googling gets me this link: Get the .NET framework 1.1

General users are advised to install through Windows Update. A fine suggestion, but it doesn't work since Windows Update senses that I already have .NET 2 and therefore couldn't possibly want 1.1.

How about the The Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 Software Development Kit? It includes "the .NET Framework 1.1, as well as everything you need to write, build, test, and deploy applications using the .NET Framework 1.1, including documentation, samples, and command-line tools and compilers." That sounds good. But it isn't.


Oh, it doesn't actually include the .NET framework. I finally find that I can install the "Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 Redistributable" ("If you are developing applications using the .NET Framework 1.1 Software Development Kit (SDK) you can provide the .NET Framework 1.1 to your customers using the .NET Framework 1.1 Redistributable, subject to the conditions you agreed to in the .NET Framework 1.1 SDK End User License Agreement.") It still doesn't work, because that doesn't get me to 1.1.4322. However, installing .NET Framework 1.1 Service Pack 1 gets me tantalizingly close. Now I get this error:


Rebooting the machine takes care of that, and now I get


I am told that the best way to overcome this issue is to repartition my hard disk and install Windows XP instead of Vista. Fortunately, installing an older version of Ubiquitous Presenter finally proved successful.

I was quite amazed. When I get emails from users of my software, I occasionally curse Sun for not auto-updating the JRE (as Flash does without skipping a beat or [gasp] presenting a EULA), but never once did I have to install Java version x next to Java version x-1 and a service pack.

By the way, can someone fill me in on why the site is being "phased out"? I thought that's .NET's equivalent to the site that we all love.

I don't want to say that Sun should be complacent. Consumer Java is a mess, and it needs to be fixed. Keeping these platform installations up to date is a daunting task, apparently beyond the capabilities of the world's largest software company.