Un fricking believable .. I can’t believe I’m actually writing this, and I know I’m going to get flamed mercilessly by a certain crowd later .. but .. I’m using Microsoft Windows tonight and actually liking it. There, I said it.
Some of you here may already know of my longstanding and fairly hardcore Linux activism. I quit using the craptastic MS operating systems back when Win98SE ruled the dinosaurs and three-finger salutes were as ubiquitous as Mustang GTs. Like anyone else, I was pissed off about the lack of security, stability, focus control, etc. I fled to Linux and stayed there, entranced and pleased by the way it behaved like computers were supposed to, like the old mini’s I first used, back in the 1970s, and like the early HD-less PC’s like the TRS-80, C64, etc. You can leave a Linux system running (and hooked to the net) and come back months later and it will still be there waiting.
Newcomers to computers would hardly know it these days, but malware was at best an academic oddity until Microsoft products flooded the market, and some genius in Redmond thought it might be “cool” for people to be able to send an executable to another, so, gosh, it would run when the recipient clicks on the message. Naturally, it didn’t take long for this “feature” to get put to other uses, thus spooling off a whole new industry devoted to add-on products for buggy & insecure but widely-used operating systems.
There’s something bad about marketing a product so incomplete that to use it without certain other add-on products practically guarantees failure of the primary product later. MS Windows is one such. Like a car without wheels, a house without a roof, or clothing that’s missing its fasteners, this is a marketing faux pas which screams out its presence but which everyone dutifully ignores as they shuffle into OfficeMax to pay for a copy of Symantek.
Anyway this Linux activism has been useful at work. We dumped MS years ago and moved the whole biz over to RHEL4 desktops, for the office, and Spotline terminals for the manufacturing posts. We write our own server-based apps to handle billing & inventory & accounting functions. Everything runs well, and none of it is malware-susceptible. Some of our servers (all Unix or Linux of course) have uptimes in the thousand-day-plus range. Our users are no longer installing all their own crap on the desktops (and hosing them) and our network is pretty watertight. Also, I got to brag to the boss later how much money we saved. Like Bill Gates’ grandkids won’t have enough in their trust funds anyway.
The activism went well, but entropy and cheapness caught up with me this past year. Within the space of a few months, a series of catastrophic hardware failures took out first the old Tecra laptop and then a newer desktop computer. For awhile now I have been using nothing but a Nokia N800 for accessing the net. (obligatory linkage: http://www.nseries.com/products/n800 ) The funny part, however, was that there was honest-to-goodness peer pressure (of all things) to get a real computer, if only to be able to write more (and more often) and participate in what the net is slowly becoming. Some of this pressure came from friends, some came from family, and some came from folks I know among our little cluster of blog-heads. Names will be kept confidential of course.
As luck would have it, I had a chance recently to help a friend upgrade from his failing-badly XPee desktop system (which he had since set up for dual boot and was using Ubuntu almost exclusively on) to a newer Windoze and a newer laptop as well. At first he wanted a refurbished Dell in the sub-$1K range, but a quick perusal of the new offerings showed it would be better to skip the refurb scene entirely. Why? Because Microsoft followed its usual game plan (Bloatware Maximus) and released an OS so disgustingly heavy that it requires a real beast of a computer just to run. So, thanks to Mr. Gates and his merry crew, you can now buy new, for around $500, the sort of hardware you could not find anywhere for less than $2000 or more as recently as 18 months back. They have pushed the “minimum acceptable hardware config for Vista” practically out to Lunar orbit distance.
So when we finally settled on a model my friend liked, I decided to make the salesman’s day by asking if we could get a discount for buying two of them at the same time. He was not expecting that – especially since the store was full of tire-kickers who all went home at dinnertime without buying anything.
It would be something of an understatement to say I’m pleased with Vista SP1. It looks more like KDE, with the laptop theme, than anything else. Maybe that’s why I haven’t wiped the drive yet and put Ubuntu onto it. My previous record for putting up with Windows was somewhere in the low single-digit hours .. but this one certainly sucks a whole lot less than past iterations. The media integration is spot-on. It’s missing some kickass apps that don’t seem to exist over here – or maybe I’m just not looking hard enough.
Thanks again JR for the space. :)