June 27, 2001, 11:31 AM — Last week I noted that the battle for open-source advocates is not one for the desktop. Be that as it may, Microsoft Corp. is obviously threatened by Linux on the desktop, as evidenced by the rash of articles in various Web and trade publications on this very topic, most of which proclaim that Linux will never make it in this category.
Allow me to punch a few holes in the conventional wisdom. Item No. 1: You shouldn't choose Linux just because you hate Microsoft.
Despite what the Microsoft toadies may say, hating Microsoft is an excellent reason to choose Linux. It wouldn't be if there weren't so many good reasons to hate Microsoft. But there are.
Let's start with how the company's lust for control over the market takes precedence over the well-being and security of its customers. For example, Microsoft is hard at work devising ways to lock you into a system where you pay on a continual basis to use a Microsoft application. Microsoft is not doing this because it is the best solution for its customers. Microsoft is simply running out of ways to entice you to pay for upgrades to its cash-cow applications. If that doesn't elicit a feeling of righteous indignation when you get your next blue screen of death or lose data to an e-mail Trojan horse, I don't know what will.
Better yet, look at Microsoft's despicable, standard modus operandi. Microsoft makes it standard practice to say whatever it must to gain the confidence of its prospective customers. But what Microsoft says is not what Microsoft does. For example, Microsoft pretends to promote standards such as Kerberos to convince its customers that Windows will interoperate well with other platforms. But Microsoft actually manipulates the Kerberos standard with proprietary extensions to retain control over the customers it captures.
The operative word here is confidence, which is where the expression con man comes from. Con men can only succeed if they gain the undeserved confidence of their prey. If that's the kind of company you want to defend and patronize, be my guest. But who then is the fool -- the Microsoft customer who continues to pay through the nose for crappy software or the satisfied Linux customer who chose Linux because he or she hates Microsoft?
Item No. 2: Linux is too complicated. Bzzt. KDE 2.1 is amazingly simple and yet is powerful and flexible. Granted, it is sometimes more difficult to administer a Linux box than a Windows box, but users shouldn't have to administer any box. And Linux makes that easier to enforce than do most versions of Windows. One reason Windows is difficult to administer is because users can easily screw it up. With Linux, I set up a box, create an account, and hand the box to the user. The user doesn't have to deal with the administration programs and doesn't even have enough privileges to use (or abuse) them. Shall I go on?