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.

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The Politics of Modern Computer Software