Microsoft

What Microsoft Linux Would Mean

Posted on 2010/11/05. Filed under: Apple, Computing General, Linux General, Microsoft, Operating Systems |

Telling me that it is a bad idea does no good. Like that bad song you hear on your clock radio first thing in the morning and it stays in your head all day, it is an idea that won’t go away. My son who is a Linux user and advocate and I had this conversation about five years ago. I think that it was even before Microsoft and Novell struck a deal. It was pre-Vista because we thought that Microsoft’s next OS could be Linux-based. We thought that it would happen, but are still waiting. (I’m being a Devil’s advocate, so don’t take me seriously or send hate messages)

So, this is just a pretend game. What would happen if…?

Instant credibility

Let’s face it. Desktop Linux is a bit of a joke. They cannot even agree on a name. Some call it GNU/Linux? How silly is that? Linux plateaued along time ago.We have little credibility in the board rooms of the world. Game developers don’t take us seriously.  We are stuck and going nowhere fast.

Microsoft has credibility. It isn’t what it once was, but it would certainly elevate our low standing. There would be Linux games at last and Linux versions of Photoshop and Microsoft Office. We would feel wanted. We would feel important. When the word Linux was mentioned people would suddenly think Microsoft and all of the great associations that brings to mind. We would be right next to all of their great operating systems, Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, Windows 95, Windows 98 SE, Windows ME, Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and Windows Linux. We would rate an entry in Wikipedia.

Market Presence

Linux has no market presence. We have no advertising budget. We have no retail experience. We are not even has beens; we are never have beens.

Microsoft Linux would mean that we would be in the stores, under Christmas trees, on TV ads, and come with every new PC. Can’t you just see it now? Apple would make commercials against us. We would be worthy of being dissed on network TV.

Status

Tell somebody now that you use Linux and people ask, “Linux, What’s that?” They act as if you have some disease and promptly change the subject. It isn’t something that you can talk about and expect many people to be able to hold up their side of the conversation. Linux has no status. It is less than zero. Using Linux marks you as someone one who can can read binary numbers which is about as socially useful as having two heads.

But if there was a Microsoft Linux, all of a sudden you would ahead of the curve. You were ahead of your time. Prescient.  You were misunderstood and mistreated in the past, but now we would get sympathy. People would feel sorry for all of those nasty things they’ve said and thought and want to make it up to you. Suddenly, everybody would want to be your friend.

People Would Write Viruses For Us

Admit it. You feel left out. We are unworthy of people writing viruses and putting trojans on our computers because we use Linux. It is like never getting invited to a party. We know they exist because other people tell us they go to parties, but we’ve not actually been to one.

But if there was Microsoft Linux, people would want to write viruses for us. They would want to infect us and we would be honoured to have them do it. It would mean that we had made the big time at last.

Leadership

We have a leadership crisis. We are a captainless ship, adrift in the sea with no destination in mind. But that would all change if there would be a Microsoft Linux. They would step up and fill that void. We would have a worthy captain in Steve Ballmer and more importantly we would have direction. We would be able to tell all of the other distributions to fall into line or better still to just go away.

We could change standards and Linux practices, if we only had an able captain who would be able to explain it all in terms that we could understand. We would see the error of our ways and fall into line. We would no longer be a diverse and fractious lot. We would be unified under a strong leader and there would peace at last in the Linux community.

Money

Come on you’ve thought about it. Everybody needs money. Why not Linux? We could buy the best developers. We could take over companies and kill innovation. We could write bloated code and nobody would question us. We could force users into buying new computers whenever we chose not to support old hardware. Why are we giving it away when we can charge good money for it?

Not only that. We could be on the stock exchange. We would see LNX drift across the screen when we watch the business news and our heart would leap with joy.

Power

They say that power corrupts, but who cares? The corrupt have power and don’t seem to mind. Because we will now be the powerful and nobody will dare to question us. It is only the peons that worry about trivialities like corruption. Once you have power you are above the fray. You can pay off politicians. You can change laws. You can force your will on lesser individuals.

You become respectable because you hang around with better quality people, not because you have high ideals. If you got convicted of a felony it would not stick. You would become made of Teflon, because you have power.

Ahh! Microsoft Linux. It goes together like peanut butter and bacon. Mmmm Good.

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Why Windows is Better Than Linux

Posted on 2010/11/03. Filed under: Apple, Computing General, Linux General, Microsoft, Operating Systems |

Don’t be fooled by the title. I use Linux. I avoid Windows. However, all is not rosy in the Linux world. I am active on many Linux help forums. I know the types of problems that most new Linux users face. This is my list of things that could make Linux better, courtesy of Windows users that I have encountered.

Pre-installation

This is the big one. Windows comes pre-installed. Everything is working perfectly at the time of purchase. The user does not have to do anything, but use it. Things may go downhill from there, but at least the user starts off with a clean slate.

Often times new users to Linux face barriers. Most can be overcome, but in a few cases, not. The question is, will these users go to the time and effort? It, of course, depends on the user and the skill of those trying to help them.

These problems could be avoided if Linux came pre-installed. It doesn’t come that way for most users. They buy from major retailers in the hopes of getting the best deal or using equipment from a name brand. But it is not a level playing field. Windows or Mac OS is pre-installed. There is no reason that the same could not be done for Linux, but that is not the case. You need to search around and go to much trouble to find someone selling Linux computers. It is not worth the effort for many users.

Compatibility

Most hardware is made to work on one of two platforms, Windows or Macs. Equipment often ships with disks for one or both of these two platforms. Seldom, if ever, do you find a Linux disk. This has nothing to do with Linux not being able to run said equipment, but rather speaks to the size of the market. Linux is small time.

There usually is not a problem finding Linux compatible equipment. Almost anything relatively new is Linux compatible. But when you buy new equipment, it is a bit of a crap shoot. You don’t know for sure unless you do your homework, but you know that Windows and Mac OS will likely work, so if you are choosing an OS on that basis you are likely to be happier.

Games

Most games are written for Windows. There is no reason why Linux cannot run games, but the sad fact is that if you are a gamer, then you must use Windows for PC gaming. The only other alternative is to buy a console or to try to find a Linux solution. This again requires much effort on the part of the user and in many cases more skill than many Linux newbies have.

Specialised Software

If you use AutoCAD, QuickBooks, Photoshop or other specialised software then you have likely found that it is made to work specifically for one or two platforms, neither of which is Linux. Most of us do not fall into this category, but many users do. Some users also find that there are some barriers to using Linux equivalent software, such as trouble with files or formatting, so you prefer to use applications such as Microsoft Office because you use that at work and know that you will have consistency.

Community Issues

Other OSes do not have the same community issues. They can be seen as a strength or a weakness. We are a fragmented community. What distribution should companies support? What package format should they release their software in? What happens when you upgrade your Linux distribution? Does the software need to be upgraded, too? Surely, that means more work for developers.

We are also a fractious lot. Whenever someone takes the bull by the horns and tries to deal realistically with any of these concerns as Mark Shuttleworth has done at times, then he is accused of trying to speak for the Linux community at large and having ulterior motives ascribed to him. He is after all, trying to push his own agenda, so his detractors say. But, isn’t it in every Linux user’s best interest to deal with these issues? Why should he or anyone else step forward if he is going to be subjected to scorn and abuse?

The problem is that we have no history of working together. Everything that does work together is on a project by project basis. By its nature this creates divisions. There are insiders and outsiders where those on the inside fear or don’t respect those on the outside.  If someone does step forward and try to create a new project then they get labeled and frequently raked over the coals by people who have their own agenda. We hear, you could be helping us, instead you are doing your own thing, therefore, you do not support us and must therefore be against us. It is even worse, if you try to join an existing project and work from the inside. You are branded as someone wanting to take over and a despot. You become the enemy, just for trying to be an agent of change.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemy and I sometimes think that Linux is what is and will never be any different. I am okay with that. As long as people understand what that entails. We will remain divided. We will remain on the margins of the PC world and that will always be the case. Everything will continue to be an uphill struggle, as it has been for a long time.

Meanwhile we will have to continue welcoming new users and fight fires as they get used to Linux and our peculiar ways. We will have to continue to buy our own computers with Windows or Mac OS pre-installed and fight to get refunds or build our own computers or accept second rate ones with Linux pre-installed. We will have to face limitations such as not having games or big commercial programmes. Some of us say, hooray. We do not need either, but we may be shooting ourselves in the foot the process. In getting our way, we isolate ourselves and limit our options.

Windows users have things handed to them (although they pay money up front for the privilege). But we are in control of our own destiny. We create our own world through our actions and many times impose limitations on ourselves by the decisions we make. We need to be clear on that.

Final thought. Technologically there is no reason why Linux cannot do all the things that Windows or Mac OD does. Things are the way they are for many reasons. Linux in itself is not the limiting factor.

Note: I am playing  a bit of Devil’s advocate here. I use mainly free software and do not long for Photoshop. However, I sometimes wince at what sometimes comes out of the Linux community (and even at some of the things that I write in trying to speak out). 🙂

We risk being seen as crusaders for speaking out one way or the other. The silent majority sits back and wonders as both sides try to sort it out. I don’t think that we are creating division by speaking out, but we are certainly drawing attention to division that already exists. These conversations do not occur in other communities and most people are not even aware of debates that rage within the community. The GNOME and Ubuntu Unity debate springs to mind, but there are others.  Mono. Qt or GTK.  Package manager. Release cycles. Desktop environments. Number of distributions. Forks of all kinds. Basically where there is an issue we divide and become even more split.

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A Tale of Two Computers

Posted on 2010/11/02. Filed under: Apple, Computing General, Kubuntu, Linux General, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Ubuntu, Windows |

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times … (Sorry I could not resist. It has to be the best opening ever for a novel. Kudos to Mr. Dickens.)

My wife and I bought two computers at the same time. Hers was a laptop and mine was a desktop computer. Both came with Windows XP pre-installed. She uses Windows every day and I never use Windows, but instead have run a version of Kubuntu or Ubuntu since the day that I bought it, almost five years ago. Those are the facts.

In all of that time I have but one problem with my desktop computer; I had to replace the power supply and bumped up the RAM to run VMs. I have had no software issues. I have re-installed Ubuntu every six months or gone the upgrade route once or twice. I have run alpha versions to final releases of many distributions including the above mentioned.

My wife has had problems with several viruses, trojans and the like. She has used anti-virus software from all of the major distributors, Symantic, AVG, Panda, Avast, Kaspersky, and Trend. In addition, she runs anti-malware and anti-hijacking software that detects changes to the registry. She does not indulge in any risky practices. She uses lots of email and clicks on links that people send her. In short, she is a typical user with average skills.

Her computer slows down to a crawl much to her frustration every month or two and it needs to be defragmented, the system tray needs to be cleaned out, her desktop needs tidying, her menu need to be cleaned up, her temporary files need to be wiped, and her registry tidied up. I am not making that up. She cannot do these things herself, so I do it.

In comparison, my computer which runs Linux needs none of that. I run no anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-torjan, anti hijacking software in the background. My system tray has no applications running in memory that did not come with the OS. My desktop is clean of shortcuts. My menu does not need to be re-ordered. My computer runs as fast as it did when I got it almost five years ago.

When I have had to re-install Windows on my wife’s computer after say a virus infection which trashed the computer, I was able to back up all of the data (using a Linux Live CD, BTW) and get it back in running order. After dedicating a full day to do it.

Each time I had to re-install Windows. It takes at least three times as long to install Windows XP, as it takes Ubuntu and Ubuntu comes with much of the software that I use. I must add to my Windows installation time it takes to install drivers, install four years of Windows updates, download and install anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-trojan software, and re-boot countless times. Then I must install all of her applications and add updates to those. Yes, re-booting even more. Finally I have to put all of her data back in place.

When I re-install Kubuntu, I download the ISO, put it on a usb stick. I only back up my package list. I re-boot. I re-install Kubuntu to the same partition. I keep my home partition unchanged and re-use my user name and home folder. I re-boot. I do updates which are at best a few days old, so there are few of them. I do not have to play with any driver disks. Everything works out of the box. I open my package manager and point it to my text file of the software that I had installed before the re-installation. I hit Apply and it does its work. While it is doing that, I can use my computer with no problems and not once did I have to re-boot. The process is completed in an hour and a half or less. No fuss, no muss, no pain.

I could be accused of being a fanboy of Linux for mentioning the obvious differences. It could be just my imagination that Linux is better. Or it could be just my subjective opinion. But if anybody could choose to have Windows behave the same way, then my money would be on that they would choose to have Windows behave like Linux. They would love to have there computer run without anti this or anti that. They would love to have to not worry about viruses and the like. They would love it if their computer did not degrade in performance over time. They would love it if Microsoft actually improved things when they released an new version.

With all of the money that Microsoft has, they keep on doing things the same way. They churn out a product that is only marginally better and in some cases (Vista) worse than its predecessor. They do not fix the problem of lax security, but add glitz and add a few features to disguise it. Their code is bloated and still there exploits built in.

Once a security hole is discovered, it takes them days to admit it and weeks to plug it. Meanwhile it has travelled half way around the world and caused untold hardship. Yesterday, they discovered a security flaw in Firefox. It was fixed the same day. It is not Linux, but it is open source and follows the open source model which is collaborative. Things are shared. They are out in the open and fixed in a timely fashion.

In my opinion, this points to the glaring weakness in using proprietary software. You are paying for something that essentially belongs to someone else. They do not have to fix it. They can take their sweet time about it. And there is little that you can do about it.

Users have free choice and I would never deny them that. Use Windows if you want. Pay for the privilege. Just don’t cry and whine when you have problems. And don’t tell someone who makes a different choice that he is being a fanboy for telling people that it does not have to be this way.

The problem is that most users are prisoners. They do not know that there is such a thing a software freedom. They are denied that information. It is partly the fault of the software freedom community. We do not have an advertising budget. We tend to be quiet and just do our own thing for the most part. As a consequence people do not know of our existence.

It is also because those who sell proprietary solutions do not want the truth to get out. They launch FUD campaigns at great expense to counter anything that we might say. They pay bloggers and writers to deny the truth and to strengthen their own position. They use their muscle on hardware manufacturers to make sure that Linux does not come pre-installed.

Some people would say that desktop Linux is where it was several years ago. I say, no, it is much farther ahead. Its user base is much larger in absolute numbers, but it is proportionately the same. We have not grown in terms of percentage, but we are not going away either. But for me, progress isn’t in the numbers, but in the experience.

There was a time when you needed to be a total geek to use Linux. Now anybody can try it by putting the disk in your computer with the advent of Live CDs, and now DVDs. You can run it from a usb stick. You can install it from inside Windows  without having to partition, through the wonder of WUBI. If you choose to install it, it can share a drive with another operating system. It takes care of shrinking and partitioning. But that does not tell the full story.

Linux is on par with any OS in terms of its features. It can be incredibly stable if you opt for something like Debian stable. It can be bleeding edge if you opt for Fedora or Ubuntu. It can be in between. It can be a rolling release that you never have to upgrade or one that you can make new every six months. It can be a very basic system that you build from ground up yourself or a complete working system that is easy to install and use. There is nothing to compare with it. If I was a company that produced anything less than this, then I would be scared, too. I would set in motion FUD like you could not believe since ignoring has not worked.

Some people want us to be quiet. They cry foul when we mention the problems with other OSes. It is rude of us to gloat about the superiority of Linux. They denounce us as fanboys. There are trolls who masquerade as one of us and say that we are letting the side down, or worse.

But if people are to know about Linux in the face of the all of the FUD that comes out of Redmond and Cupertino, then how do we get the word out? If we stay silent then we are playing into the hands of people who want us to do just that.

My wife is not about to use Linux, just because I say that it is better. She has heard all of what I have written here. Sadly, for her. Windows is all that she needs and she does not have the time to try anything else. She uses Windows because that is what she uses at work. One operating system is enough to handle for her and many others. I get that.  I am not speaking to users like her when I write these things. People who are happy with Windows should continue to use it.

I am wring to people who are unhappy with Windows and want to try something different. I am writing about not only a different operating system, but  a different way of doing things. Many people accept the Windows experience because they think that everything has to be that way. They know that Macs exist, but are too expensive. They don’t know that they can transform their own PCs and enjoy a totally different experience.

You do not have to accept the status quo as normal. You have real choice. Some people will investigate. Others will not. Each is fine. After all, I believe in freedom to choose. But I won’t be quiet. It is not in my nature.

Note: This posting was prompted by criticisms of a previous post that accused me of being a Linux fanboy and that there is no problem with Windows or that Linux has no advantage or some such thing. 🙂

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