Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Linux vs. WinMacTel

I have, for years, been a reluctant but stalwart user of Microsoft products. From Windows 1.0 - 98/ME a collection of nightmares on any dark rainy night.

Then came XP, and XP SP1 (Service Pack 1), which were on a completely different level of operability and usability. For a while I even liked using it and stopped trying out alternative Operating Systems (OSs). Not that the infant Linux, wobbling OS/2 or BeOS who, were any worse, it was just not been able to use the printer, or modem, or something else which I'd just purchased so it was back to the monolith.

But as with all things Microsoft, they had to go and shoot themselves in the foot. The second service pack came out, and everything had to be authenticated and validated, and briefly I managed to toy with XP SP2.

Then one day, my home built machine decided to come to blows with XP SP2 and up popped the infamous BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) raspberry and it refused to restart in any mode let alone Safe.

As much as I hated doing it, I called it a day and began the dreaded reinstall process. Not only of the OS, but the myriad other programs cluttering up my 20GB (partitioned) drive, effectively rendering me incommunicado, unable to do anything for 48 wasted hours, whilst I also tried to find that slip of paper which had the order that applications should be re-installed as well as whether they should be upgraded before continuing onto the next.

Believe me there have been many occasions over the years, I have felt like invoicing Microsoft (and other companies that sell exceptionally buggy software) for so effectively wasting time.

If, for example, banks can charge exorbitant amounts for sending out a computerised letter, I don't see why we the end users, can't charge big business for wasting of our time. Especially when there are no real alternatives.

After the reinstall and activation, it seemed as if things were getting back onto the right track. Then came the validation, and it failed! So dialing the Validation number (thankfully a free phone number) and going through the process, I am informed that it's not a valid copy of XP. I said it was, before it had fallen over; I had installed, activated and validated it only six months ago. But no they were not having any of it, and refused to validate. Fumingly I headed back to the now very much hated XP.

That was it, I was almost there. Ubuntu 6.04 popped its head onto the scene; except the mouse wouldn't work properly, jumping to the top or bottom of the screen. The brief time that it did, it never found my two external drives, neither was I able to log onto the internet. Then version seven arrived, which I promptly downloaded a couple of weeks ago, but never thought it would be worth it, just to create another drinks coaster.

So I waited, and sure enough Windows, yet again, started playing up. So on a system restart I loaded the Ubuntu CD and waited...

The improvement! The difference! I think I'm in love! Everything works! All my peripherals were seen, found. Even logged onto the net without me realising I'd been logged on without a security breach. No annoying anything popping up asking for this, querying that. It was velvety nice and straightforward but more importantly, usable straight from a bootable CD. It was also fast from the CD, as fast as XP using the hard drive. Can't imagine how much faster it will be once installed on the hard-drive, with a much nicer GUI than XP any day of the week.

Suffice to say, I shall not be upgrading to SP2 of XP, neither shall I be getting Vista in any of its myriad expensive flavours. If I do purchase an upgraded laptop you can rest assured it will be Linux based. If I do need to run a program, and the only thing I can think of, at this moment, is my one vice of Eve-Online, then I'll just stick the game on a laptop with an emulation program and run it from there – although must check there is one.

Over the years it has been a fraught and overall a very unsatisfying relationship with the Redmond giant, which I'll glad to see the back of, and shall not be renewing, ever again!

So finally adieu and farewell to you Microsoft, as I tap away using OpenOffice, upload to the blog using Firefox (hopefully via an Apache based server). Make a backup of all my data, format the C:\ drive and finally install Ubuntu...

But Microsoft isn't the only technological behemoth out there, in danger of losing its crown (it will happen). Well look at the situation now, yes Microsoft's a behemoth, but a behemoth beset by problems, with most people cursing the day they have to use their software. So was it a missed opportunity for IBM all those years ago? With that good old rear vision, probably not. Google on the other hand, are in danger of losing their plucky little underdog image and turn into another corporate monolithic entity, which will have just as many snipers, detractors, saboteurs and in the end people will just stop using them. In droves they will peer eagerly towards the horizon for the next new thing.

So Google and the Linux, continue to innovate, don't attempt to stifle criticism (especially if well deserved), there's a wealth of talented people wishing you to succeed and wanting to have an alternative to the WinMacTel alliance!

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