Microsoft's Self-Perpetuating Monopoly

March 5, 2006

Maybe this was already obvious to everyone else 5 years ago, and I problably sub-conciously new it as well, but during my recent attempts to switch to Ubuntu, I came to the following realization. Microsoft's monopoly on the desktop operating system is self-perpertuating. Anybody who makes anything that runs on or connects with a computer makes sure it works on/with Windows. Any other platforms are optional. Whether it's a bank web site, a digital camera, desktop software, or a mp3 player, all anyone cares about is "does it work on windows". Even Apple had to make their iPod work with windows. Due to Microsoft's OS market dominance, there is no economic incentive for software & hardware vendors to make their products work on anything but windows. So when XYZ company comes out with the latest-greatest thing, the day it hits the shelves, it works on windows and nothing else. If you want it to run on linux, the only way that is going to happen is if there are enough linux hackers out their that also want that product to run on/work with linux. If you're lucky, they get something out their fairly quickly, but no matter how fast they are, they are always playing catch up.

And in the web site department, there is not much linux developers can do. If some bank doesn't care that they make a requirement of using their site IE on Windows, the end user is screwed. They'll end up blaming linux, saying "my bank website doesn't work with linux", like it's linux's fault the developers of the bank web site don't know how to make standards compliant web sites. There are even government websites that require windows.

Because of this, it is very difficult for a normal end user to switch to linux, no matter how user-friendly linux developers make linux. Linux could very well be a better, more secure, more reliable, more user-friendly operating system than Windows, but the number one thing that will always stop people from switching is that "Yeah, but my XYZ won't work with/on windows" and in most cases is not the fault of the designers of linux, but the designers of XYZ.

To make it even worse, the issue of linux being free doesn't even help linux, because to most home users, Windows appears to be free. First of all, it is nearly impossible to buy a computer without windows installed on it, whether it be from dell.com or from a retail store. Secondly, most of the software that people use with windows (Office, for example), either comes with the computer as well, or can be easily be obtained for free. (example "Oh you need Office, I can get a copy of that for your from a friend of mine"). And I suggest that Microsoft continue to be lax on Office piracy. Most legitimate organizations (corporations, governments, etc.) pay tons of money for Office licenses. If users can easily get it for home, then they'll happily use it at home and continue to live in their Microsoft bubble. If they actually have to shell out $250 for office, users might start giving open office a try, which opens the door for ending the MS Office monopoly.

So, in conclusion, there is no end to this, there is no hope for linux. Linux users will be forced to dual-boot their machines so the can continue to use whatever they need windows for, because Linux will always be playing catch up. For example, right now, support for mp3 players in linux is abysmal (are there any portable mp3 players that work with linux?). I would imagine as time goes on, this will improve, and within a few years, my portable mp3 player that I could easily transfer songs to and from 3 years ago will be working with linux. But by then, the world will have moved on to something else, who knows, maybe cell phones that play mp3s, whatever. But whatever that is, it won't work with linux as early as it works with windows, I guarantee it. Until something drastically changes the landscape of computing, Linux will remain as the small, underground rebellion fighting a losing battle against the evil empire.

Posted in Technology | Tags Windows, Microsoft, Linux | 6 Comments

Ubuntu install woes

March 1, 2006

So, I tried installing Ubuntu, but didn't get very far. The good news is that once I Burn the ISO to a DVD (which was ridiculously easy with Nero, Burn from Disc Image), I restarted and it booted fine. Then, I noticed it was an install DVD as well as a Live DVD. So I figured I would check out the Live DVD. It boot fine, a little slwo, but what can you expect loading from a DVD. Once loaded, it seemed to be working great. Each app started slowly, but once it was running, it was pretty snappy. I sent an email via gmail in firefox and opened an Excel spreadsheet using open office, both worked great.

I tried to play an mp3, which didn't work with Totem Media Player (which was the default player) or Rhythm Box, didn't work in either one. I checked the help in Rhythm Box, didn't say anything about why MP3s might not work and how to get them to work. In fact, when I started Rhythm Box, it said something about how it "makes mp3s easy to play". I think the reason it doesn't work is that you have to explictly install some extra plug-in to get MP3s to work, due to licensing issues. I understand that, but the help for Rhythm Box should make it pretty clear what I need to do. Totem has associated to mp3s by default, yet it blew up when I tried to play an mp3 with an unhelpful message. It should it least have something saying "You must install XYZ in order to play MP3s".

Despite that, the Live DVD was exciting. This was the closest I seen to having a Linux install that "Just Works". But, I ran into some problems when trying to actually install Ubuntu on one of my extra hard drives. Rather than just give up, I posted a message to the Ubuntu mailing list, so this will be a good test to see how helpful the community is.

Posted in Technology | Tags Ubuntu, Linux | 0 Comments

Ubuntu

March 1, 2006

So I'm about to embark on my 538th attempt to really use Linux as a desktop. I've got an extra disk in my computer, so I figure I'll install Ubuntu on that and see how it goes. I like the fact that Ubuntu seems to have good documentation for stuff people actually use computers for. I always thought this was lacking with Redhat/Fedora, or any other Linux distro. The other thing I like about Ubuntu it's really free. Other distros I tried in the past (Redhat and Mandrake, I'm looking at you) were free to download and install, but it was a pain to get updates. You either had to be part of the Redhat Network or the Mandrake club. Ubuntu, not the case. So we'll see how this goes. I've download the DVD ISO, so step one is figuring out how to burn the ISO to a DVD in Windows.

Posted in Technology | Tags Ubuntu, Linux | 2 Comments