Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tired of Microsoft...

I have recently (Sept '07) switched over to Linux, more specifically to Kubuntu (Feisty Fawn 7.04), which is Ubuntu operating the KDE desktop as a user interface. Linux is not for the computer illiterate, the learning curve is steep, but the rewards far outweigh the complexity IMO.

I was tired of all the BS that surrounds the MS operating system and MS products as a whole. You may wish to compare Linux and MS metaphorically to Beta and VHS. We all know that from inception Beta was far superior as far as quality etc... than VHS. Unfortunately, the popularity/availability of VHS over Beta won the race. Was that a good thing? I believe if Beta's availability was greater the consumer would of had a choice, isn't that what free enterprise is all about ...choice?

Maybe it's because I am getting old (I sound like Andy Rooney), I believe in innovation but do not necessarily believe in following "the" program. Who's program? We are now living in a world where folks are flocking like sheep at the gate to follow "the" program. Instead of we as consumers or just plain human beings voicing our opinions and disgusts wrt what is going on. We have become a generation where convenience is a daily operative word. In doing so many core values are freely exchanged for the minor convenience(s) rendered, whether it be the gun legislation, Sunday shopping or whatever... Statistically speaking far more people are injured talking on their cell phone while driving than non criminal acts of firearm accidents. The gun legislation has not taken guns off the street so to speak. It has indeed increased the difficulty of law abiding citizens in acquiring guns for recreational purposes, but has not hindered criminals. If I, as a law abiding citizen acquire an AK47 in a matter of weeks, what does that say about our gun legislation? Scary isn't it? Hey! but we are all part of "the" program.

I recently had a long debate with some friends on the subject of "the" program. It seems that the younger generation support "the" program, whilst the older generation has misgivings wrt its application. Now, we are not talking about very young and the very old here, we are talking 30 comparative to 50. The most misused word in today's vocabulary IMO is... it's convenient. When a person can no longer discuss the merits of the conversation, they simply reply because it is convenient, not realising the implication surrounding the fallout of such actions.

An example of convenience can be seen with self "check out" found these days in most large stores. What is the ramifications surrounding this convenience? The fallout from this convenience is job loss, beneficial to the company perhaps, but not to the public at large due to employment opportunity loss. Regardless of arguments it can be summarized as "greed" on part of both the consumer and enterprise. Folks use the self check outs to avoid long line ups. The solution open more registers = employment. I had a discussion about a couple of months ago on this very subject, whereas folks could not see the pitfalls. I even had a teller (my age) that stated that self check outs do not necessarily result in job lost, but increase in customer convenience. There we go that word again. To me this word is as repulsive as saying F... Anyway we went on to discuss this observation. I stated "one teller to look after 5 cash registers. Are they paying you more for this service since you are looking after 5 tills vice 1? She said no. Then, 4 people are out of a job, while ensuring customer satisfaction and throughput. This is just an example and I am sure we can argue the merits of both sides until the cows come home, but I'll refrain from this tangent and bring us back to the subject at hand, Linux and the subject of "choice".

Because I believe in innovations (Linux/Unix is not really innovation. It has been around for quite some time, just not in the average household), I got on with "the" program so to speak. Not the mainframe program, but my program, one of which included choice. As a consumer I chose to distance myself from "the" program, so to speak, and the reasons were simple. I was tired of spending copious amounts of money maintaining the convenience of home based PCs.

This tiredness resulted from the frustration of having to constantly upgrade software because of fixes to the MS operating system, that rendered a good portion of software incompatible with the newly fixed MS operating system and so on and so forth. Bill did not build an empire (because that is what it is) by being stupid. I have said for years that the software and hardware industry have been in bed with each other. Build it and they will come! That is something we have all heard. Create a demand, and the consumer has no choice but respond accordingly.

Windows is an extremely user friendly OS, but it stops there IMO. I'm looking for software compatibility enjoyed by Mac users and a stable platform that doesn't require rebuilding every 6 months or so, because of some imposed fix from MS that renders your platform unstable. Mac metaphorically speaking can be compared to Beta and VHS. When Apple created the "Mac" and their operating system, they did it right IMO. When they created their software, they insured it was compatible not only with the OS, but with the other designed software for use on the "Mac".

Now it can be argued that MS is in this pile of "doodoo" because of consumer demands. The one stop shopping syndrome. Regardless of what "what is" as long as I can get it in one package, I am happy. Years ago I used to run a memory manager, that used RAM more efficiently then allowing "Windows" to decide when and where to use it. To the many uninformed, this was indeed a good solution. Was it efficient? No! In days of old, we needed to reboot our systems because of "low resources", do you remember those days? A comparison might be like borrowing money, in this case RAM. Windows used to borrow, but never pay back hence, lack of resources. Memory managers were like debt collectors for the lack of a better word. They knocked on Windows' door demanding payment of said debt, and "windows" obliged. It's not that windows did not honour their debt, they were to busy trying to manage memory to actually take a time out and pay their debt. They appreciated a third party taking part in this interaction, but couldn't really be bothered until pestered. When discussing "choice" this is but one example where IMO a win win situation was not only created but existed. A need was created by "windows", this need was fulfilled by a third party (creating opportunity and sales, not to mention employment) and offered the consumer a "choice", whether they wished to allow the inadequate memory management offered and packaged by "windows" or use a third party in the management process. "Choice" formed an integral part of "convenience" Are you still with me?

So why did I switch? Elementary my Dear Watson! I was sick and tired of daily crashes, sometimes up to 20 a day, because of incompatibility issues, not only between "windows" and software, but incomparability issues between "windows" and hardware. Some of the fixes were no longer compatible with your hardware configuration, so you were forced to shell out more dollars to fix the associated problems. Allot of the fixes were security related, therefore the need to constantly update your OS. At times these updates rendered your Virus software incompatible or worst inoperative, leaving you with 2 choices, become vulnerable or upgrade. The biggest incompatibility issue lies with IE6 and better and Mc Afee. There are indeed better virus software out there than Mc Afee, but they all have their faults, some more than others. Talk to the gurus and you will get a 10 to the power of, answer.

For years I enjoyed the luxury of a corporate license, permitting the use of the software in the home, for business related issues. Now that I am retired, I no longer fall under this luxurious umbrella. When software is no longer compatible, I need to fork out money. The only reason I still maintain MS products on my PC, is because I still have kids in school. The missus and I do not need any related MS products for our daily computer interactions. That's one of the reason I did the switch.

I updated my tower (built myself) under supervision and decided that Ruth and I do not need MS or any other product in our lives for what we use a PC for. The old system was reformatted and a clean install of Windows XP Pro, was carried out. During initial installation before I could get around to putting Virus software and spy killers on the machine, I was attacked by 117 robots of which 2 were viruses, not harmful viruses, but viruses nonetheless that would not allow me to install McAfee. I couldn't get rid of the virus, so it forced me to start anew. The following day, I disconnected the NIC card and reinstalled everything prior to registration and activation. I was fortunate and now have a clean system. For how long? God only knows! To reformat this PC takes hours, vice minutes. I require 168 updates every time I reformat, this is only going to get worst as time goes on.

To further exacerbate my computer woes, as of January 2008, "windows" will no longer be supporting previous software releases so they can concentrate on Vista. It is not that updates will no longer be available, but new problems, security or otherwise will no longer be fixed. Talking to the public at large, and the gurus, Vista is probably the worst OS that MS has released. Because of what has been discussed herein, now you now why I decided it was time to make a switch, where I can at least control my destiny. I had a "choice"

Don't get me wrong, Linux is not for everyone, especially to folks who have basked in the luxury that Windows and GUI (graphic user interface) offered the public at large but, De gustibus et coloribus non disputandum est , there is a Linux flavour for everyone.

As I mentioned "the" program and its "convenience" made the average PC user lazy because of GUI. When our systems fail we take them to the shop for repair at $85/hr, a "convenience" that was mentioned in the discussion I had last WE. I would rather fix my own problems then shell out hard earned cash to someone else. I would rather spend this money on something else, bonsai for instance (since this is a bonsai forum) which brings me greater pleasure and less frustrations than maintaining a PC. By all means computer shops are needed as this not only creates employment opportunities, but remains a useful resource when all else fails.

GUI has rendered us lazy and therefore the need for PC repair shops was created. When we take our PCs to the shop, isn't it funny that they seldom use GUI to troubleshoot your system, but rather command line entries (DOS or programming language of one flavour or the other). Not everyone is interested nor has the capability of operating in this fashion, for sake of convenience if nothing else.

My switch was rather seamless, because of previously learned basic computer skills. The learning curve is not as steep to me because of previous experience using command line functions, and hence why I chose the "flavour" I am now operating, which permits a large portion of GUI and has the ability for those inclined to use the "shell" (Command Prompt). It is a hell of allot easier to correct "a file" vice reformatting the whole system. You can argue that this is also possible with "windows" and you are absolutely right. However, it seemed to me it would become a weekly task.

So you might ask why would one switch over? Stability! and the growing popularity of the OS from industry, to the common household. I believe that open source software is the way of the future. It not only allows the consumer a choice, but because of "open source" provides the consumer with multiple choices of what OS is better suited to meet "their" PC demands. The alternate sollution? Vista! sorry that is all that will remain after January, so I jumped on the band wagon now rather then be forced later. It was my "choice"

What I have seen so far (1 month) is a OS that is stable, does not require to be rebooted (some systems haven't been rebooted for years), can you say that categorically with "windows". We have become accustomed to: when all else fails reboot, a neat way of realigning your OS. A good OS system does not require continual alignment of its components IMO. The downside of switching? MS software for the most part is obsolete. It can be run through emulation, but not all is compatible for emulation, for the time being. The flip side of this argument, is that one would need to upgrade MS software regardless in the future to maintain compatibility with the OS. My freedom! I do not need to change software, update it, or upgrade it if all is well. Once again it comes down to choice and the freedom thereof.

This is an example of why I believe in Linux's future:

My step-daughter created homework on her father's PC operating Vista which runs MS Office 2007 out of the box, which in turn you will need to purchase after X times used from MS, how convenient. Anyway her PPT could not be opened at school. She should have saved it as a 97-2003 file and it would have worked fine, but. Anyway I opened the file in OpenOffice (Linux version of MS Office) I was not only able to open it, but also save it as a PPT 97-03 file. Her homework can now be run at school. I ran it under MS Office 2000 at home (other PC) not a problem. All my old MS files are accessible in OpenOffice. She was thrilled I was capable of saving the day, and so was I with the power of Linux. As you know you can open older version on newer versions, but not the other way around, at least that is my understanding. I was pleased with what I was capable of doing. I am sure as time goes by that I will be enlightened further wrt this OS. To date I am tickled pink!

Because the core of Linux allows you to build upon the "kernel" to suit your PC needs, it doesn't have all the extra baggage "windows" bundles just in case user X requires it. The payback, a super fast and stable system. Oh! I almost forgot. Are you frustrated these days of constantly having to reopen help files or whatever, because of only one desktop? I can operate up to 20 from one monitor. Now that is a nice feature for what I do. Like cut and paste from various parts of the Net into one document. I only have my system set up with 4, but isn't it nice to know that I have another 16 available should the need arise, and the best of all, it's free and a button click away. Now! not only is that performance, but Choice...

PS: What is "the" program again?

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