Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Windows Is Free

This guy's got a pretty good point about why people pick Windows over Linux, even if they've heard of Linux:
One time, a friend called me with an offer. He would pay me 50 bucks to get his laptop working again. Specifically, what he wanted was to back up all his data, reformat his disk, re-install Windows, and then restore his data. I asked if he still had the original install disks for Windows. He stammered a bit, and asked if I might not simply have some on hand I could use. He didn't mind if it was a different version of Windows - subtle code for hoping for a more recent version. The fifty dollars was for my labor. He didn't see getting a copy of Windows as a cost-associated item. It was no big deal, either he had a copy of Windows or I did, or he figured I knew a friend who did.

I felt kind of uncomfortable about the proposition, so I said no. If he had asked me this more recently, I would have offered to put Linux on his computer. But he probably would have said no, because it would seem like a more expensive offer to him. He would have compared free, unfamiliar Linux to free, comfortable Windows. The cost of getting used to the new environment, as easy as it might be, is probably more tangible to him than the money he technically should be spending but won't.

A few years back I tried to install Linux several times but was stopped cold by hardware compatibility issues. Such problems have been getting better now, but now I'm stuck on Windows because I like to use Visual Studio and SharpDevelop for my programming work, neither of which work on Linux.

The different interface of Linux and the potential hardware issues are definitely problems. I never know how to install software on Linux if it's not available in the standard repository; I wouldn't know how to set up file sharing (it's hard enough getting it working on Windows!); Last time I used Linux, Firefox's interface looked ugly and different from all the other windows; my old webcam almost certainly wouldn't work; and even if my 3-in-1 laser printer has a Linux driver, there's no way it has all the features of the Windows version.

I can't stand that rift between the two Linux desktops, Gnome and KDE. Call me a conformist, but I hate to have programs that look and act differently running on the same computer, and as a programmer I don't want to have to pick which GUI libraries to target: that should be the end-user's choice. It's about time they put aside their differences and merged. Or for a meteor to hit one of the camps, leaving victory to the other guys by default.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What's with the U.S. government lately?

Obviously I haven't been blogging much lately, even though there's lots to blog about. Especially when it comes to U.S. government behavior. Those warrantless wiretapping programs, and the new spying powers given by bill S. 1927, which was somehow passed by a Democratic congress; the misplaced 190,000 guns in Iraq that were given to Iraq security forces without accounting or accountability (more guns than the record-high 162,000 soldier deployment there); the Mahar Arar case (background) which demonstrates not only a disregard for human rights, but the remarkable fact that the U.S. can, without laying charges, detain and deport a person who is only stopping in the U.S. to catch a connecting flight. Does it make sense to "deport" somebody who was just about to leave the country? Since all indications are that Arar is innocent, this could easily happen to others, and probably has: after all, the public didn't know about Arar until after he was released from Syria, and we might not know about the case if Arar hadn't fought to make it a public affair. And of course there's Guantanamo...

Meanwhile, lots of ordinary people like me are being affected by the dumb new U.S.-Canada border laws. Passports are required for travelling by air but not by car--because of course, terrorists don't bother to get passports, and they only come by air. Unfortunately I can't get my Canadian passport because I have to get a new copy of my citizenship card first, which they still haven't sent after over six months. I can't get my American passport without a full (non-learner's) driver's license, so I took driving lessons and passed my test, but I'm still waiting for the official license in the mail. I want to go to my brother's wedding in Milwaukee, but it looks very likely that I'll have to send 4 days driving there and back with some extended family, which means I'll lose almost $500 by taking three extra days off work. Thanks again, Bush and pals. You idiots.

Anyway, my blog may be empty, but I do digg stories occasionally. Click here to check out some of the stories I consider interesting or worthwhile.