Saturday, June 28, 2008

Still in disguise

A friend of mine brought the why MS XP in a window question to me. He never gave me time to answer, so I had time to think about it. My purpose is to access the MS Internet Explorer only web sites that are the rage with government and charity groups. I could have used Wine or similar emulation software. Being a techie/user I do need to keep a finger on what other folks are using, gotta keep my skills up. But in these tough and tight times, let me paint a little picture so you can know what's behind my thinking. First are those people who insist that a Mac is better and easier than MS on a PC. Well, which is better, a Cadillac or a Lexus (where's my consumer's report)?? For the price of either I can buy two smaller, not bad looking, fully decked, fuel efficient Toyotas or other cars. Now, is it status, prestige or other ego driven values that say you must have the high price car. Now, I just can't see stiffing Mr. Gates to pay Mr. Jobs only to be locked into a different but similar deal. OK, in any case you've already invested in MS or Apple, and have to live with it, right? I bought an HP desktop. Included in the package was MS XP with MS Works productivity suite. This Works is incompatible with regular MS Office files and formats. I could not afford or justify buying MS Office for my occasional use. Many, many users I know would shrug shoulders and say, I will use this until I can afford to buy, borrow or steal (secretly) MS Office. The open source movement has provided a free office suite called It will produce documents that can be saved in MS Office compatible files and formats. If you only use it occasionally, like most home PC users, it is more than adequate for you to acquire and use. Your first reaction (typical), "It's not Microsoft, Microsoft is what everybody else is using." The truth is, the only thing that matters is the file format. As long as the software makes a .doc file, that is all that's necessary. Business users might have a tussle if you are prone to using macros and using Microsoft propriety programming, but you, the average home user have the liberty to have your needs met at no expense. There is a web site, which has a long list of softwares that are open source and free and run on MS PC's. Please don't give me that MS/Mac quality of software argument, you are biased by familiarity. Don't think that today's open source and free software developers aren't also former, present or future, MS/Apple employees. That side of the world is more than you know. And would you hire a guy/gal who made shoddy software before they came to you for work?
Well, many of these open source softwares run on Linux and MS Windows, a few on Mac. Linux offers a stable platform and virtual machines allow MS Windows to run on the same machine at the same time. Linux has a reputation of being complicated and user unfriendly. Reputations "never" keep up with the present reality if it has indeed changed. I would even say Linux is as easy if not easier to use than using a Mac. Mac is a closer cousin to Linux than most will admit, at least a better looking one some will say. We are so swayed by desktop placements, arrangements and all that stuff. Once we get used to one desktop, it's hard to change or consider another. So, if you are committed to living with your MS desktop and your budget is strained and yet need adequate software, look into to free and open source applications. Save your stimulus package money for a hardware upgrade or a new Lexus.

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