Microsoft’s Monopoly… Is It Worth It? Linux Operating System Distros


Microsoft has long held a fairly strong monopoly on the operating system used in today’s home & business computers.  And for a long time, I’ve not been too disappointed with this control.

But recently, as I’ve been studying the upcoming new version of Windows, dubbed “Vista”, it seems that I need to rethink my position.  Most people will continue to be locked into the Microsoft platform for several good reasons:

1. Microsoft Windows works without a person needing to understand how it works.
2. Too many people are locked in to software that is designed to run on Windows.
3. Many people simply have no choice - they use what their company provides.
4. People are lazy - it takes work to learn a new system.  And granted, Windows is easy to work with…

For these reasons, most people don’t have a choice in their operating system.  But I’ve been playing around with computers since the days of the Timex Sinclair, VIC20, and Commodore 64/128… so I understand enough to make my way through the morass of a different operating system.

The major operating system other than Windows is Linux.  And although most people aren’t too familiar with it - it’s all around you.  Most ATM machines, for example, run on Linux.  Morgan Stanley, Sony, Google, IBM, Boeing, Merrill Lynch, Remax, People Soft, Byte, Cisco and Credit Suisse are just a few of the many companies that have switched to Linux from Windows.

A few years ago, I ran around and collected a number of “Distros” (Distributions - a ‘flavor’ of Linux), and tried to set up my home computer.  I had a rather disastrous experience - fighting for several weeks to get Mandrake to run.  Granted, I was using Raid 0, and at that time, most Linux distros could not handle that ‘right out of the box’.  But the support was lacking, and I dropped it… swearing never to go back to Mandrake.

I’ve recently started looking into Linux again, because of the monopoly that Microsoft is enforcing.  Did you know that their upcoming EULA will forbid you from benchmarking their operating system and publishing the results?  Seems to me, that when someone is so ashamed of their product that they can’t invite comparisons - then it’s time to move on.  For awhile, it looked like they were toying with the idea of not allowing you to move your Vista to more than one additional computer - although I believe that they’ve changed their minds on that one - due to the outrage from the computer community.

So I hit the Linux section at the local Barnes & Noble, and was surprised to see half a dozen books on a distro that I’d never heard of - “Ubuntu Linux”.  So I hit the net, and started looking around.  Found out that it was developed in 2004 - and in the short period of time, has become the number one most popular Linux ‘flavor’ out there.

Well, far be it for me to fight the tide… so I purchased one of the books that came with a DVD, and tried firing it up on my home computer.  Shock!!!  It works perfectly right out of the box, and installed faster than Windows ever did!

I don’t have much experience with it yet… I’m setting up a new computer, and I plan to “Dual-boot” both Windows and Ubuntu … so I can take my time moving over to the new platform.  Many, if not most Windows programs can be made to work under Linux - and there are already thousands of programs available for Linux… and the good part of it is, they’re free!

In fact, most Linux Distros are free as well - although if you don’t want to spend hours or days on a slow connection downloading them - you can spend money (and not much at that) and get them on CD.  Even the most expensive distros - that come on half a dozen CD’s with thousands of programs and hardbound manual will be under $100.  Or you could skip the manual, and pick up most Linux distros for under $10.  Try for example - (I’ve never bought anything from them, I merely Googled them to check some prices.)

By the way, Ubuntu Linux is so proud of their work, that they will mail you a CD for free!  No shipping costs, no nothing… I suppose that there is a catch, however, since from what I’ve seen on the net, it may take up to two months for you to get it.  But for a free operating system, I guess you can’t have everything.

Now, from my previous experience with Linux - the one thing that I absolutely insist on is a good forum.  There’s nothing (other than a Linux Guru standing over your shoulder) that’s better than an active forum where people can help you with your problems - and where you can search out what other people already did in your situation.

So I checked out the Ubuntu Forums - and discovered that in the ‘x86 64-bit Users Forum’ - there are currently over 5,300 posts!  Considering that I just purchased an AMD64 Dual-Core 4200, I’m going to be very interested in that particular forum…

I even found a fascinating website dedicated to those who are trying to install Ubuntu for the first time -  So it seems that it’s time to move away from Windows, and stop making Bill Gates a richer man.  I realize that this is a poor decision for most people… but for those who can - Linux is finally getting to the point where it can start to pick up more than just computer geeks.