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The Microsoft Dilemma

Just one of the reasons Microsoft bothers me and I’m glad to be using linux.

I’ve still not seen Vista in the flesh, and I’ve neglected to write up a ‘linux one year review’ (it’s been over a year since I switched), but I thought I’d chime in briefly on one aspect of Microsoft’s OS that always bothered me and is among the things I love about linux.

Powertoys. These were little applications that made it easy to tweak or customize the behavior of the operating system to provide alternatives. For the most part (speaking specifically of TweakUI) they just modified existing Registry keys, but it’s always nice to have that up front and center in a nice application.

And here’s the twist: I always felt like the developers at Microsoft did that in their ‘spare time’ as it were. That they felt like these were things they wanted and went out of their way to get it approved and posted for the rest of us to use. I felt like there’s this creative spirit that still lives in the hearts of Microsoft Employees, but that they are not free (like the Googlians are) to harness and express it… at least not directly.

That’s one of the amazing thing about Free Software. There’s probably been something like 1/256th (really I have no idea what fraction) the code of the whole of Free Software written that never made it. That’s a shame, but it was when individuals had a tweak or patch they wanted, but upstream said ‘no thanks.’ But for every 1/256th that got dunked there’s probably at least another 15/256 that got added.

The heart of Free Software is people that want a function or want an application or want a library, and they go to it. And then they put it up somewhere and say “this is here if you want it get it, if you change it tell me so if it’s good I can add it to mine.” With Microsoft not do they not want you to do that with their software, they don’t want themselves to play either. It’s far too rigid.

If Microsoft had more of the powertoys extensibility in mind and built in to their operating systems and software I think the world would be a lot mellower and sharing place.

And with all that wind let out, bookStack is nigh. It’s probably actually in the state it’ll be in when I ship it, but I’m still thinking about some of the quirks I’d like smoothed and features that I have in limbo for the moment. So if I don’t decide anything in a week it’ll be out.

Those Closed Source Fools…

Microsoft quotes two people as saying the same exact thing. Some thoughts about their scorn for linux.

Today digg showed me a story about a Microsoft page in Canada called ‘Get The Facts.’ You can see that here.

The funny thing is, there is the exact same statement from two different people on that page:

screenshot of

And what of the Capital Engineering experience with Linux and Microsoft? Here’s a quote from the case study:

“Even though the Linux platform appeared to be the cheaper option, it was our impression that it is expensive to configure and maintain,” says Ed Castillo, Information Technology Team Lead, Capital Engineering. “If you look at it from an ROI perspective, Microsoft might cost more as an initial payment, but as an overall long-term investment we believe that Microsoft-based technology provides more value for our money.”

What that vendor doesn’t say is you pay over and over again with Microsoft. You pay for the product, you pay for support, you pay for the upgrade, you pay for support on the upgrade. You pay for new hardware.

With linux you have the option of not paying. You can run it on cheaper hardware, you upgrade for free. There are always things to configure, but you have options of how to configure them. You have options about who and how you get your support.

You have access to a community that helps each other because they are enthusiastic about the software. You can actually talk to the developers and maintainers.

Here’s another quote. It’s from this article and again is from the other half of our duo of duplication shown in the picture:

“We were wasting too much time. That was the main issue,” said Kaddoura. “I had to convince my boss to switch to Microsoft because of the cost. But Open Office is not free because we have to spend time dealing with documents. There are certain costs.”

This time the ‘case against open source’ is clear: proprietary formats used by the market leader are preventing fair competition. That article tells both sides and points that out, but we of course can’t expect Microsoft to do the same.

Indeed anyone who has followed the push for open document format standards knows that Microsoft wants to strong arm their own ‘open’ format which will include countless special cases for handling their old documents. That would be fine if there was a specification for them, but in many cases Microsoft itself has no specification due to their shoddy software development standards.

While I have to give Microsoft credit for treating its customers like a bunch of rubes, they themselves are so inept as to make one feel pity. I’d love to see Microsoft fix their issues with their image and more importantly their software.

The problem is that for a company like that, one that grew out of that business model and has that culture, it’s more likely they will spontaneously combust than make that shift.