Microsoft Clambake vs. Ubuntu Zesty Zebra

Last night, before going to bed, I was reading the latest story on King Research's survey of IT professionals regarding their stand on Vista. Ninety percent of the 961 surveyed claim to have serious concerns about migration to Vista, and over half have no plans to make the migration at all. I started to think, as I dozed off, that we are observing the process of niche differentiation happing at an accelerated pace facilitated, in part, by cross-platform software.. But boy, was I sleepy. I had the strangest dream....

.... "The concerns about Vista specified by participants were overwhelmingly related to stability. Stability in general was frequently cited, as well as compatibility with the business software that would need to run on Vista," said Diane Hagglund of King Research "Cost was also cited as a concern by some respondents."

Earlier, Forrest Analyst Benjamin Gray noted that "Thirtytwo percent of the companies ... surveyed said they would start Vista deployments by the end of next year ... "

Many companies strongly prefer to stick with Windows XP because they've got it working and do not see the benefits of migrating to Vista.....

Wow, where did I find this old copy of Computer World... it must have been stuck under the bed with those old documents and books I've never read ...

What is happening here, in this dream, (and I kind of know I'm having a dream, but it kinda feels real so I'll go with it...) is that Microsoft has somehow managed to unhitch a large number of the cars on the Microsoft gravy train. When you produce software that is always inadequate, but at the same time that software becomes a kind of de facto standard, people not only have to upgrade but they are in fact happy when you free them from the technological bonds of the earlier, crappy product and allow them to move on to yet another new version of inadequacy.

But the train has speed up a little and hit somewhat of a curve. From a marketing perspective, changing packaging is often a good thing. Updating and modernizing, even leading the way in what defines the modern "look" to which you are modernizing, keeps people buying the product even when they don't need it. But computers have become part of day to day life to the extent that it is no longer the case that every one is intimidated by every computer they sit in front of. Some time after XP first came out, it became true that most people using XP probably were pretty good at using their Windows 2000 computers, and were mildly annoyed at the changes in look and feel with XP but accepted it because there were also improvements. Vista seemed to carry with it all the annoyances and no clear benefits, and that is why far fewer people upgraded to it.

On top of this, the cost of upgrading has gone up with every iteration of Microsoft's system. Even though computers are still getting faster, more memory-rich, and staying at the same cost or cheaper, the truth is that starting about 2005, out of the box computers were far, far better than they needed to be. Most people sitting there with an older computer have no reason whatsoever to upgrade, with respect to each and every piece of software they are using.

Except the new Microsoft System. The new system, no matter what it is called, always costs more, demands a hardware upgrade, is a major change in look and feel, and has enormous technological problems. All new systems ever released by Microsoft had all of these problems to some extent. But ever since Vista, Microsoft has gone too far each and every time.

One can only speculate why Microsoft seems bound to do what it has always done: Leaving more and more of its customers behind at every curve while the rest of the computer world gets more interactive, more inter-operable, and more cross-platform. Do you know that I have data files stored in Microsoft Access that I can't use without setting up a Windows 95 computer and running Access 1.1 on? The way to translate these files is to run this archaic computer, and translate the data to another version of Access, which can then be translated into another .... (Spooky ... this dream is staring to act like a nightmare. By the way, what I eventually did, years ago, was to put the data in an open source text based format for guaranteed long term accessibility.)

With Microsoft, sometimes you cannot stay on the train, but you are punished if you get off the train.

But, you get off the train anyway and what do you find? A nice, progressive, smart and friendly town that you would not have ever noticed had you not rolled into the ditch.

The people in this town are not using the same systems or software you are using, necessarily, but some are. Everyone is using XP, Linux, Darwin, or a Mac, and long ago they have figured out how to seamlessly exchange data and work together. Meanwhile, the Microsoft Train is thundering off to a different universe. You as a Microsoft user can no longer exchange data with other Microsoft users, but you can exchange data with Linux users and Mac users.

Then one day the shit hits the fan. You accidentally turn on the "automatic upgrade" feature on your XP SR3 box, and one morning you wake up, turn on your computer, and a bubble pops up saying "Click Here to Upgrade to Microsoft Clambake" (Clambake is the name of the new Microsoft system. And Microsoft is suing all the VFW's for use of the term.)

It appears that nothing will happen on your computer until you press the Upgrade To Clambake button. You investigate using the computer at the library and you find out that the overnight upgrade on your computer fatally disabled your six year old Windows XP SR3 installation. Your data have been isolated into the MSSTORE proprietary format (which is actually, you later find out, a tarball).

But your best friend's nine year old comes to the rescue. He comes over with his Damn Small Linux Live Distribution ... it is stored on a cosmetic freckle that he keeps attached to the back of his left hand .... boots up your computer and runs a rescue utility that's been around for a couple of years. Finally, the option becomes available ... but only if you want it and in a very polite manner ... to install a Linux system, optionally as a second choice in a dual boot system, or as the only system, from the live -freckle Damn Small Linux that is currently running. In fact, you are given the choice of which Linux distribution to install, anything from the edgy Gentoo to the Grandmother Friendly Ubuntu Zesty Zebra.

You think about it. You consider the fact that whenever you need to exchange files with a Clambake user, you have to send the files first to a conversion service on a web site that charges you one Euroa (oh, did I mention, we are using Euros in the US now?) to translate it. That was annoying, but after all, a cup of coffee at Starbucks is thirty Euros, so what's the big deal? But the inconvenience is, well, inconvenient.

You realize that everyone else you know, who is running a Linux, a Mac, or an old XP, is exchanging files with no problem. You always knew this, but you never really thought about it before, because you didn't have to. No, that's not really the explanation. You didn't think about this kind of thing because you are a little afraid to. In fact, ever time you think about it you get a pain in the back of your neck that is kind of scary.

But this time the pain is very dull, not sharp like it used to be. In fact, the pain has been getting less and less severe every time it happens, almost like it was a machine with a battery that was running down....

Gently, with a sense of nostalgia, rubbing the back of your neck, you turn to the nine year old and say "Why don't you just wipe the XP and put in the Zesty Zebra...."

And one last time the pain in the back of your neck flares. But after that, you never, ever feel it again.

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Catharsis of Fairy Tale.

It's a beautiful tale, but seems (to me anyway) to preach to the choir. I may have to run it past a few people to see if it rings any chords. It certainly rang true to me, and beautifully I might add. ;-)

Greg, I'm sure you're nothing like a 9 year-old computer whizkid, and nor am I.

Can you direct me to a website written by a 9 yr old who can tell me in simple terms what I can do to dump Microsoft?

I bought an Acer laptop in Spain last year, and asked that they alter the XP to English, which they did. Now I'm on an island in the Philippines, and MS tell me that my version of XP is pirated. Somehow they know where I am, because they ask me to pay up in Philippine pesos.

They get all sniffy about refusing to give me updates when I ask for them, but still sneak into my computer in the dead of night and update things I don't know about.

I've got plenty of vistas and clambakes around here without Mr Gates's.

Please assist

regards

Richard

Richard,

Back up your data and Install Ubuntu Linux. Then you'll bee all set. No kidding.

Greg, how you post so prolifically and maintain a day job I'll never know, but it's really great to see someone on ScienceBlogs talking about Linux and the fraud that uSoft has committed on its millions of customers. (The fraud being that uSoft is actually providing something of special value for its products.)

Ubuntu has done some great work (and Debian on which Ubuntu is based). I hope more people become aware of it. There just isn't any case (business case or otherwise) that can be made anymore for running a box with Windows. And there is plently of help available (both paid and free) for people willing to make the switch to Linux.