Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Devil We Know

I recently got the chance to read a very interesting post on entitled Goodbye Ubuntu. The gist of the post was that gentlemen returned to Windows XP after a 15 month stint with Ubuntu. Despite his claims that his intent was not to start a flame war with open source advocates, his tempered post did just that. Coupled with the quick attack style responses to equally angered comments of his post, I tend to think that his intentions were aimed directly at angering Ubuntu loyalists and those in the open source community in general. As I started to gather my thoughts to post my own comments, I realized that my words began running longer than a typical comment and decided to share my opinions in my own forum.

The dirty little thing about this is that the owner of the post is entitled to his opinion. While freedom of speech is enjoyed in my country, the spoils of this freedom is not always enjoyed by the person that made the speech. My point is that you can say what you want, to a certain degree, but you must reap the consequences of your words because they are sure not going to be enjoyed by all. In this case, posting open source hate speech in an open source forum is sure to garner heated reaction. This brings me back to my original thought that his intention was to pick a fight despite his product of choice controlling the largest percentage of the market share worldwide. Rather than focusing on his intentions, I really wanted to examine his arguments as to why Ubuntu and or open source was inferior.

Let's face it, Ubuntu has been around for only a few short years. I'm not making excuses but I just want to put that into perspective when comparing to a company like Microsoft that has been around more than twenty years. I'd like to also point out that hardware driver support for the Windows product lines is the standard while very, very few manufacturers provide any support for Linux. It's also no secret that the greatest amount of commercial software is written for use with the Windows operating system as well. Despite these handicaps, Ubuntu is notorious for working out of the box with most hardware schemes and provides an abundance of free open source software that provide ample alternatives to commercial based Windows software programs. The fact of the matter is that a greater number of users will be searching for Windows driver discs for their hardware while the device support already exists on Linux in general. That in itself requires far less interaction with the operating system and limits the risk of media misplacement of all that is important related to your personal computer. Do you know where your Windows restore discs are? Not that I'm keeping count but I'd think that to be a strike in the favor of Ubuntu that your hardware is going to be recognized above the searching around to find all of your driver discs.

This brings me to the point of the average computer user. Can't we all agree that I think Mr. Roos is overstating the average computer user in general . I'm not trying to be rude but most users don't know how to change their wallpaper let alone change their screen resolution. If the icon didn't exist on their desktop, they would think that the program doesn't exist on their computer. Most users are so use to seeing Internet Explorer open to the msn page that if it opened to anything else they might think the internet is down. My workplace is a Netscape browser house and the greatest number of users don't realize that they can access the internet with Netscape because it's not Internet Explorer. That brings me to the point that users in a workplace tend to be even less intelligent about an operating system because we have the wonderful support of our IT team to fix all of our woes. I find it more about being simply the devil you know. As much of you that might not admit it, Microsoft Windows is not a choice. Microsoft Windows is what consumers are forced to buy and or use. I honestly think that given the true choice, alternatives to the Windows product line would only strengthen. And when I say choice, I don't mean the lackluster Linspire push in Walmart chains or only one box set of Suse Linux on the bottom shelf at Best Buy retailers across America.

What I found interesting is that the blogger even threw in a few political shots as well while trashing open source. Let me just say that I am a Republican and I love Ben and Jerry's ice cream. You see, if I kept tabs on stupid to me things like the Ben and Jerry ice cream political views, I wouldn't eat their ice cream. I love their ice cream too much to be riddled with their views on trees and the ozone. If you love trees and the ozone, good for you but how has operating systems become tied to political views. If we are really going to be counting, there are many more liberals in congress lobbying for Microsoft than allowing free alternatives like open document format that could contribute just a little piece to lower the deficit. Come on, we all know the Microsoft Office is not cheap and when was the last time that our Congressman needed to do anything more in Excel besides add to cells together or type simple letters in Word? If we really start politicizing everything, sooner or later I won't be able to eat or buy anything. And me as a Republican am thinking how can I stretch my dollar farther especially since my tax dollars are going to fuel Microsoft special interests that no other choice would be better for me than free open source software. I'm still not officially counting but the count is still in the favor of Ubuntu.

The insecurities in Windows are real. Even will all the anti-virus, firewall, and anti-spyware programs in the world you have exploitable holes in the core code. Coupled with the increasing amount of zero day attacks, anti-virus isn't going to help either. I found it amusing that the gentlemen bashes FOSS and then professes how he has free programs on his computer protecting him from virus and spyware attacks. Once again, I'm going to jump back to the devil you know. The average user does not know free alternatives exist for anti-virus, firewall, or anti-spyware. Your average user is probably paying forty dollars a piece for this software and still getting infected with something that is going to require a hundred and fifty dollar Geek Squad house call within a few months. Last time I checked, there was one somewhat confirmed virus in the wild that affected Linux. If I remember correctly, the virus basically laid dormant on the one and only affected system ever discovered because it couldn't do anything anyway. I'm still not keeping count.

Prior to becoming a quasi computer ninja, I had virus and spyware ridden machines. I sold a laptop one time thinking it was junk. Looking back with my eyes now, I know that a fresh install would've saved the day. I'm not an average computer user. I don't look at a computer with the same eyes that the average and or casual user does. The reality is that most users will get a virus, not know how to install a program, and or never install Windows updates on their computer. I can't tell you how many people I've come across that had expired anti-virus for several months and opened Microsoft Word that second before the computer crashed. These users tell me that they don't know why the computer crashed when they were only trying to open Word. It's funny how they never noticed for several months the system tray warnings from Microsoft that the anti-virus has expired. I think it's great that Brent has never had a virus and has had complete smooth sailing with Windows but that is not the reality of most users.

Rather than drag this out doing a blow by blow comparative against Brent Roos' blog, I'd like to stress on the word alternative. I say this because Ubuntu has professed that they are not even trying to take on Red Hat let alone Windows. The Windows desktop will remain secure for some time to come regardless of the efforts of many quality Linux and BSD distributions. If your average user doesn't even know about free anti-virus solutions, the chances of them knowing anything about a free operating system is even more slim especially one that can run off a CD that doesn't even have to touch your hard drive. Most users would rather pay two hundred plus dollars to have a pretty Word icon on their desktop rather than even know that OpenOffice can read and save Word format for free. Regardless of whether Windows is more unstable, virus ridden, and expensive than Ubuntu, the masses will still line up like sheep to upgrade to Vista on their dinosaur machine and call me asking why it won't work or spend thousands of dollars to get the most cutting edge hardware to do casual internet surfing. The problem will always be in educating the end user. I don't doubt that Brent is an intelligent man. I only wish that more users were informed enough to make their own choices. Given the choice, I'm sure Ubuntu would be a much stronger force in the market.