The Politics of Modern Computer Software II: Why did I go back to Windows?

This article has turned out to be a sequel to my previous article entitled “The Politics of Modern Computer Software”, which you may have found by clicking the link “Why did I go for Linux”.

As the article suggests, having been using Linux recently, I’ve made the decision to go back to Windows. Now you may well be reading this thinking, “so you’ve had Linux for about 3 weeks, and you’ve suddenly decided you don’t like it, that’s not very committed is it?” And, if you’re thinking that, you’d be right. But let me talk a little more about my choice.

I love using Linux, really I do, and I’ve found very many practical applications for it in our home. It uses minimal memory, doesn’t need drivers, it’s good-looking, often giving the feel of a poor mans Apple, and it’s free. It integrates very well with our other home computers, with my younger sister’s using it daily for work and entertainment. And comparing that to Windows Vista, with its high memory consumption, much complication, slow and expensiveness, the Penguin had a lot going for it.

So why have I moved back away from the Penguin? Despite the complications, despite the need to spend a long long time looking for drivers, and searching for software to do simple day-to-day jobs, once the PC is working, it feels a lot more able. And that’s why I own a computer, because it is useful. Of the three currently supported Microsoft operating systems right now on the market, I have returned however not back to Vista, but to Windows XP. Windows XP will be supported through until 2014, although if things continue as they are, it could go for longer. It is clean, simple, well presented and reliable. All of the software I use is still available for it, and it works quickly with without error. One of the things Linux couldn’t match was iTunes. Ubuntu 11.04 can, through the Banshee Media Player, synchronise music to an iPod, although it is a slow, unreliable process. Right now, Windows XP can still give me exactly what I want. As much as I would love to move over to Windows 7, I see no need to go upgrading components and then purchasing a pricey licence.

Knowing which operating system or computer to use can sometimes feel like you’re in the middle of a gun fight. Most people are still PC users, and they’re generally happy with them, but there’s an increasing number of people buying MacBooks, and then paving the way to bring their social circle over to Apple computers too. Then there’s John the I.T. know-it-all who says Linux is far superior to all, yet nobody knows what he’s on about.

So to all intents and purposes, there are three competitors right now on the operating system market: Microsoft, Apple and Linux. Apple tell us that Microsoft is horrible, complicated, full of viruses, and that the solution is to spend twice the money on a Mac which can do everything, a promise which in my opinion is generally fulfilled. Microsoft tell us that a PC can do a lot more than anything on the market at the moment, it’s a lot cheaper, and generally reliable. Linux’ selling point is that it’s free, secure, highly customisable and has a good user experience. I would say that all of the above statements are true, and therefore the decision for what to use can really only be based on what you want.

For me, I want functionality, and as much as I am enthusiastic for computers, I want my functionality before I’ve learnt to program Linux. I also don’t want to have to sell my limbs to afford the thing. I don’t actually mind putting in the leg work to get my computer set up, so I can have the optimal computer experience and so Windows wins every time. Yes it’s owned by capitalists who sometimes resort to underhand tactics to get my money, but its cheap, and it works.

My purpose in writing this, has been to speak some words in favour of Microsoft and their software products. Because I think they are largely criticised and underrated on the grounds of negative user experiences that come from people not fully understanding their computers. Apple hand-pick the components for their systems, and write their software expressly for those systems. Microsoft develops a platform that will work, generally, with whatever tatty components people decide to build into a computer, and best of all, they do it for about half the price. That is the reason why computers need drivers, software patches, bits chopping and changing every now and then. Without a doubt, Linux is a brilliant package, one that I am still learning more about, but it’s good to have back my old friend: Windows XP.

Related Posts:

The Politics of Modern Computer Software

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The Politics of Modern Computer Software

A few years ago, a handful of capitalists got together and invented Software licencing. Their meeting resulted in some of the largest monopolies of all time. The effects of their restrictions on intellectual property brought us regionalised DVD’s, terrible software drivers, and Windows Vista.

But while Goliath was there, hurling threats at the Isrealites, along came David, with his slingshot. So when little Jimmy had the idea to make a program that, regardless of the incompatibility that was built in to his disc drive, could play the data on a DVD from all over the world, Goliath had been slain, forever.

What I’m talking about here is the positive contribution that open source software has actually made to computer users across the world. Let me give an example. I live in a family, with 4 sisters, aged between 8 and 19. Each one of them has a computer available to them. When I returned from serving a mission for my Church, I found that all of them were broken. One of them had aquired too much junk on its hard disk and couldn’t boot anymore. Another had been attacked by a Trojan, my parents computer was having a civil war between Microsoft and Dell’s software, to decide which would manage the system resources, and the last one had forgotten it had Wireless capability.

Not being the most excited to start repairing them all, I decided to try an experiment, to see how well the machines (and the family) would cope using Ubuntu. I loaded Ubuntu 10.04 on the family computer, and when I had finished, I left it and walked away. I returned a few hours later, to find that my 11 year old sister, had used it to write and print her homework. And this was before I had even set up a printer. Upon deeper examination, I found that it could scan, use bluetooth, and connect to some wireless networks, all before calling upon 3rd party drivers.

We know that Linux doesn’t yet have full support for all motherboards, or parents, but using open source software within Windows XP brought equally impressive results.

For the first time in the last few weeks, I have actually seen bill board advertisements for Microsoft Internet Explorer. Unfortunately, Microsoft could have probably got better value for their money by burning it, because even my fuddy duddy parents now have a better browsing experience using Firefox. As with all Open Source software, it is clean, efficiently designed, with no protectionistic functions sneakily built in.

And this is what said it all for me: a simple HP All in One Printer, which can be installed on Ubuntu by simply plugging it in, required a 50mb download, and a 20 minute install before it would work in Windows – the platform it was primarily designed for.

Why is it then, that the more money you pay, the less common sense is applied?

HP, Microsoft, Dell, and whoever else have two adgendas: to produce the goods, and make money. Jimmy the open source programmer, only has the one. As so as a result, the big manufactures work carefully to make sure that they’re in sufficent control to, at some point down the line, get some more money out of you. If they didn’t, they’d never get any more business.

The open source communities on the other hand, have large resources of people, working for the common good, making valuable contributions to many projects, resulting now in incredibly simple, useable, functional computer systems. This is the first time that communism has ever worked.

What this means, is that if you are getting tired of using Windows, and maybe don’t want to fork out for Windows 7, or a Mac, there is another viable option for you. You can probably install a Linux distribution, with a large range of software, actually fully compatible with your Microsoft Office files. You can look at your email, browse your facebook, play videos and all mannor of other things.

Right now, I’m sold. I’m going to continue to upload my experiences using Linux, and hope that others can benefit from them too.

Related Links:

Ubuntu Home Page

Having problems with your Asus X58C laptop, getting the Windows XP drivers to work?

I am writing this post, with the intention of getting the attention of any, who may be in the same boat as I have been this evening. Having dealt with a most frustrating problem, I now present the solution, I hope that it will he helpful to others.

My sister owns an Asus X58C series laptop computer, which up until now was running Windows Vista, all be it, not very well. This evening, my mission was to downgrade to Windows XP, to free up some system resources, and restore common sense to her computing environment.

So, I see you skim-readers asking, what was the matter? Well, let me tell you:

I tried to install the Wireless Drivers, which was a complicated process to begin with, having myself jumped straight to the wireless driver, listed on Asus’ website, I then needed to install the Wireless Console, and to get that to work, a handful of other packages dotted around the list. When I finally had crossed this bridge, I could install the wireless drivers.

First of all, I tried just installing the drivers, since I’d prefer to have less software bloating across the hard drive, but that didn’t work. Neither did installing the whole package, or any other package listed on the official drivers page. After about an hour of messing, I decided to turn the machine over, and actually examine the wireless card.

To you skim readers again: here’s the solution:

I saw a little label on the back, saying “WLAN Mini Card Module: AW-NE771”, this contrasts with the supplied driver, that being an AW-NE770. This was in fact the wrong driver. I found the correct driver over on Softpedia, and a few minutes later it worked.

So, if you have an X58C, and Windows isn’t even recognising your card, this is quite possibly why. Why then that Asus don’t supply, or even drop hint that this is the correct driver, I think we will never know.

Related Links:

Asus B50A AW-NE771 Driver for Windows XP via Softpedia