Windows

Why your college uses Microsoft Windows for everything

How can a cheap license sometimes save more money than a free license? Chad Perrin explains why this is often true in educational environments.

Those of us who have been using open source Unix-like systems for a while do not need much convincing about the quality of such software. In general, we know that OSs like Debian GNU/Linux and FreeBSD, at least compared to MS Windows, tend to be:

  • customizable
  • efficient
  • open
  • secure
  • stable

One more big point, particularly when talking about businesses that are concerned with saving money and home users on tight budgets, is the fact that such open source operating systems can be had without paying a lot of licensing fees -- or any, in fact. Completely aside from the fact that most users of open source software consider what they use to be superior to closed source counterparts, it seems reasonable to expect people to choose to save money. Even if the software was only almost as good, being free should convince people to use that instead of the expensive alternative.

Dave Gutteridge put it succinctly and clearly:

Keep in mind that when you're saying that Windows is worth 200 dollars more than Linux, you're saying the differences are worth that much, not the whole thing.

Still, people continue to use MS Windows. It is not just people who need to share Excel spreadsheets at work, who play Starcraft II, or who need AutoCad software for work purposes who use it. People who do nothing but read email and surf the Web -- possibly even using Firefox, which works just as well (yes, with Flash) on this FreeBSD system as it does on MS Windows -- still stick with Microsoft's flagship OS, despite the cost. Why would they do so? What makes it worth $200 to use MS Windows instead of something free that does the same things?

Dave Gutteridge had something to say about that, too. His answer is simple: Windows Is Free. He does not mean that you can go to the store and get a complimentary copy to install on your computer. He does not mean you can go to microsoft.com and download an installer ISO to burn to CD. While people often do not see the price they pay for it when they get a new computer with Windows already installed, and that price is much lower than the MSRP $200 for a shrinkwrapped box from Best Buy, he is not talking about that either. As he put it:

The elephant in the room that no one is talking about is cracked software.

He makes a deeply compelling case for the fact that, for most intents and purposes, MS Windows really is free in the eyes of the home user. In No Really -- Windows Is Free, Dave even goes on to reinforce his argument more thoroughly and address the matter of pre-installed systems in more depth. The economic reality is that where artificial scarcity is imposed on a market built around a non-scarce "product," black markets answer demand. As a result, the practical price of MS Windows for many users is "free". Because Dave Gutteridge did such a thorough job of making the point, we need not spend any more time on it here.

One of Apple's early plans for expanding market penetration was to get its computers into schools in the United States. As a result of this, many who attended public school in the '80s clearly remember the Apple IIe, and probably recall nominally educational games like Lemonade Stand with some nostalgia. The idea was that capturing the hearts and minds of future computer users very early was a sure way to bolster sales down the road when those people became adults. The failure of the model was that there was no smooth path of progression from Lemonade Stand to more "serious" uses later on.

Microsoft has arguably done much better for itself by getting its software into schools later in the educational process, when students were likely to use a lot of the same software as adults with purchasing power. High school, and especially college, proved to be a great way to hook people on a given platform in a way that would keep them on the hook until it was time to buy computers for themselves. A number of discount programs have been used over the years to get a few of these computers into high schools and colleges where students could use them. As business use of Microsoft's software offerings grew, so too did the need for colleges to offer such software for students to learn to use as well, alongside the more traditional university platforms such as Unix and mainframe systems.

As mainframe systems fell by the wayside, offering less computing power than x86 systems per dollar spent, Microsoft gained more and more of a foothold. Ultimately, MS Windows became an inescapable part of the landscape in higher education. As familiarity with computers becomes a more important part of the curriculum for more and more degree fields and, more to the point, as access to a computer with some basic software offerings becomes a more important part of actually completing assignments even for classes that have nothing to do with computers, the number of computers a given college needs is growing. While the raw computing power you get from an x86 architecture system is relatively cheap, and getting cheaper all the time, the growth in the number of discrete systems needed is increasing the cost of maintaining computers significantly. MS Windows licensing is a nontrivial part of that cost.

Just as it seemed schools were giving up on Unix entirely, things began to turn around; the fact that open source Unix-like systems can be had with zero licensing costs makes it much more enticing for computer related degree programs to include Linux and Unix instruction in their curricula. In part as a result of this same licensing cost savings, big universities with strong research programs are using a lot of Unix-like systems in research projects and -- drawing on the expertise of students -- to run some of the school's administrative infrastructure.

Smaller universities and community colleges tend to have the tightest budgets, and thus the greatest need to save money. At the same time, these schools also tend to be the most likely to use nothing but MS Windows for administrative infrastructure. These two facts seem entirely at odds with each other. What could be going on?

Such schools, like any of the bigger universities, effectively have to have MS Windows systems. Too many instructors rely on the assumption that MS Word is available to every student, and too many students in non-technical degree programs rely on the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the software they are likely to encounter in the working world, to simply eliminate MS Windows from the campus. Regardless of what is going on in administrative infrastructure, buying the licenses for all those computer lab and instructor office desktop systems at full retail price would be a monumental expense that no community college or state university is likely to be able to afford.

Microsoft offers discounts for schools, however. In fact, discounts are often so deep that licenses may effectively be free. In some cases, Microsoft will even subsidize hardware costs for schools.

The software giant is not doing this out of the goodness of CEO Steve Ballmer's heart, of course. The reasoning is not even entirely based on the desire to put MS Windows machines in front of every student, biasing them toward that OS over other alternatives before they head out to the working world, though that is a huge motivator. After all, the schools are in the position of needing to have a lot of MS Windows machines regardless of discounts -- so a lesser discount would suffice much of the time.

Microsoft makes deals with a lot of schools in exchange for these discounts. For instance, in exchange for reducing the cost of licenses for OS deployments the school would need anyway, Microsoft can ensure that some schools keep Linux-based systems and other non-Microsoft OSs out of the standard computer labs. In exchange for these licensing discounts, Microsoft can also encourage schools to pay for server licenses for administrative infrastructure -- Exchange for email, IIS for Websites, and SQL Server for databases, for example. Schools that would otherwise have opted for a free deployment of some open source OS for the mail, Web, and database servers, saving themselves a few thousand dollars in licensing solely on the servers, will instead get all those things while saving themselves tens of thousands of dollars in licensing between servers, desktop systems, and productivity software.

What it really boils down to is that Microsoft is using a ubiquitous need for some MS Windows systems in colleges as leverage to make MS Windows as much the only OS in such environments as it can manage. If you have ever wondered why your college seems to use MS Windows for everything and seems unwilling to introduce more open source Unix-like systems into the network, the reason may be license discounts.

It may seem counterintuitive that a discount on a license that costs money could actually end up cheaper than a completely free open source license. When large numbers of systems need to be deployed with that non-free license attached anyway, discounts can make all the difference in the world.

About

Chad Perrin is an IT consultant, developer, and freelance professional writer. He holds both Microsoft and CompTIA certifications and is a graduate of two IT industry trade schools.

62 comments
jfreedle2
jfreedle2

Maybe it could be that students would not want to attend a school that would have 30 year old software. The Unix-like operating environments have not improved in the last 30 years. I would not want to attend a school that would want me to downgrade to a Unix-like system.

kpdriscoll
kpdriscoll

The more universities take advantage of the FREE Google Apps for Education, the less "office" data is tied to the desktop and thus Microsoft. Google Apps can help free schools from complex lab PC's, Windows/Mac angst, and return to a centralized managed system by turning lab machines and staff desktops back into terminals. If people don't trust their data to Google, they can opt out, but at least the door is open for other means of working on defacto-standard doc and xls files.

muchenjeri
muchenjeri

Windows works better than the alternatives, which tend to be geek-centered. Preference for open source and the fanboy behavior that comes with it usually has nothing to do with how "better" that alternative is.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

You'll rarely see Coke and Pepsi products in the same establishment; both companies offer discounts that disappear of the competitive product is also sold. Your school Caf has a Coke machine - you'll need to fetch your Pepsi from the convenient store across the street (forgoing the ethical discussion of vendor sponsored shugarwater in schools). It's a dirty game that MS is not remotely above playing (nor many other businesses); use/sell only MS and you'll see deep discounts and vendor sponsorships. Early branding makes me think of Baby Gap; get 'em addicted and brand loyal as early as you can - Baby Gap to get the parents buying, Children's Gap and onward to affirm loyalty in the offspring. Yet another strategy that many businesses use including MS. "We've spent a hundred years perfecting factory worker training" (Robert Steele) I also see the school system as a big part of the problem. We have an industrial revolution system of education designed to produce factory workers. It's not about developing the ability to learn in students; it's about training good little worker bees. Even where educators primary goal is to teach learning skills; the system they have to work within focuses on teaching brand names and specific tools instead of general concepts. We also have an issue with lesson plans. The teacher has a nice pretty binder full of lesson plans they've been pimping for years. They don't need to produce there own lesson plans or learn anything new; just update with this years pop celebrity names and regurgitate. If you don't already have lesson plans for your MS lab, those are easy to come by. On the other side, I think I've only heard of the FSF trying to produce pre-packaged lesson plans for non-MS product. Unless you can hand the teacher a pretty binder and, someone, get them comfortable enough to present the material and exercises to a classroom, your out of luck. Teachers that really know technology are hard to come by also. It's not uncommon for a kinithetics graduate to be teaching art or shop instead of gym. One particular teacher was actually from an art background and very good art teacher but couldn't tech there way out of a wet paper bag and about five years behind the majority of students in the IT&Multimedia class. (we stopped suggesting correct fixes for broken lab computers due to "I'm the teacher and students know nothing" attitude.) So, in some cases, we end up with teachers infront of IT classes that are barely qualified to open Word after someone else booted the computer and logged them into a desktop with 50% of the screen taken up by a Word icon. (maybe I exaggerate a bit on this last one) "Traditional" would also be a nice way to word the politics in education. "Conservative" in terms of old and slow to change thinking as it where. Ironically, change is not welcome in education.

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

Infiltrate the schools and retail channels so people are brought up learning with it.

Tommy S.
Tommy S.

Damn... I was sure it was.

kama410
kama410

It sounds like a boat moving slowly through the water, perhaps under the power of a small electric motor, with a fishing line trailing behind it held in the hands of jfreedle2. Yes, I am certain that is what I am hearing.

apotheon
apotheon

> Maybe it could be that students would not want to attend a school that would have 30 year old software. The Unix-like operating environments have not improved in the last 30 years. Spoken just like someone who hasn't used Unix in 30 years. edit: . . . and you seem to have overlooked the fact that for every "improvement" made in MS Windows in the last twenty years, two things have been made worse.

apotheon
apotheon

This can also eventually lead to migration away from that "de facto standard", because when Web-based office productivity applications become the new "standard", people will gradually begin to adopt the standard file formats of these new tools, rather than the less open and accessible formats of the desktop applications designed with vendor lock-in as a driving motivation behind their creation.

cavehomme1
cavehomme1

I use XP, 7 and Linux and your comments are clearly based on lack of adequate experience, just empty words, same as your opinions on MS Office. For your info my main tool is MS Office 2010 on Win 7 for specific reasons but I do not denegrate Open Office or other alternatives because I realise that different types of users have different types of requirements for different tool sets.

osvath
osvath

I just converted a friend, who is no computer geek, and my mother, who certainly is not a wiz on the computer either to Ubuntu/Linux with a Windows theme and both of their families (total of 7 user between them) love it. They are also using FireFox now and OpenOffice, and I am am getting far fewer calls for help. They both have commented at how easy the adjustment was.

apotheon
apotheon

Where's your proof? All you say sounds like nothing but "fanboy" behavior without anything to back it up. In other words, saying it doesn't make it so.

kama410
kama410

Neon, are you aware that you are ridiculously intelligent? I've never read a post by you that wasn't well considered and intelligently constructed. I'm going to guess that you don't have children since you have time to do these posts.

nwallette
nwallette

I love Linux. It's essential to most of what I do for a living, and some of what I do for fun. That said, I spent pretty much the entire Sunday resolving dependencies and build orders to get my laptop's distro updated. I put it off for two years because pretty much everything worked, and if I upgraded anything... the house of cards would probably fall. I broke udev, X, and wireless. After maybe an hour, I could boot to my new kernel again, and my devices were available. Tonight, I'll concentrate on getting back into TWM. Maybe by the weekend, I can unplug the Ethernet cable. I wouldn't expect anyone sitting around me at work to be able to pull this off. Some of the fixes were at best a hunch ("maybe if I recompile glibc, then Expat, then run revdep-rebuild to look for references to libexpat.so.0..."), others were the result of a ton of Googling ("inotify support IS enabled in the kernel, why is it still broken?"), some of it was just persistence ("okay, let's try compiling python again"). When I took a Linux class in college, we downloaded a Red Hat ISO, and most of the class got it completely installed by the second night. We then learned how to pick between KDE and Gnome from a working login manager. If one library had been missing, no one, including the instructor, would have had a clue what to do next. Linux will never get over this learning curve. You really have to want to know it, thoroughly, to be able to use it. You think Windows maintenance is bad... At least everyone on the Internet is using pretty much the same base build of XP. (Same for Vista, and 7 of course.)

apotheon
apotheon

As far as most home users can tell, MS Windows itself is free. This is because even when home users pay for it (rather than getting it illegally), the costs are usually hidden.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

$200 for XP divided by 5 year life span divided by 12 months a year divided by 30 days a month equals 11 cents a day.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Microsoft Office Live, Live@edu...yes, the 800 lb gorilla has reached into the clouds. Part of their pitch for Office Live has been a more or less seemless interaction with documents, whether at your office/desktop or on the road. That means the same "de facto standard". (edited for title spelling)

apotheon
apotheon

What distribution are you using that's so broken?

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

In business, it's the IT department rather than users who have to maintain the systems so "it's hard for the user to maintain" has no relevance. For home use, there are distributions focused on that use which make maintenance easy to keep up with. Red Hat is great for servers but I wouldn't be telling a new user to install it if not as a classroom project. Question though, what distribution are you using on your machine? dependencies and builds sounds like LSF or some such thing. It doesn't sound like a Debian box unless you've some odd hardware that you have to build your own kernel mods for. (edit) ---------------------------- Ha, I didn't realize that was a reply to my comment so I'll add more. I've read about some fantastic school setups; one was a central server providing remote terminals to the students. Each student could break there session all they like without affecting other students; restore the user home directory and it's fixed. User management at start and end of each semester was simply and centralized as was general maintenance. Hardware costs where down since old computers easily provided terminals for the students. Software licenses.. no a problem.

apotheon
apotheon

Don't forget malware protection. What's the going rate these days -- $5 per day? How many times a year does your average end user get Geek Squad to "fix" a computer, at a minimum of about $150 each time? Two? Three? How much does it cost for MS Office these days? What's the going rate now for Nero or Roxio? What if someone's slightly more knowledgeable, and wants a compiler? How much does it cost a non-student to get a copy of Visual Studio 2010? Calling it eleven cents a day is simplistic.

apotheon
apotheon

In the long run, a proliferation of online tools might lead to a standardization in file formats. In fact, I'd say that any wresting of things from the hands of a single corporation's offerings like MS Office, is likely to lead to a standardization in file formats for maximum portability.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Competition keeps all the players on their toes. I'm not sure the world is quite ready to go full-on web based, "cloud", services yet. Maybe the best we, putting on our "user" caps, can hope for is low levels of collateral damage in the battles over document formats. It would be a source of aggravation to be using company A's cloud service, then someone decides that company B is a better alternative, and with little or no advance preparation makes the switch, only to find those documents you need are no longer formatted the same, they don't print the same, or other problems.

apotheon
apotheon

MS Office is not a "de facto standard" on the Web. Its Web-based office suite offers almost nothing that cannot be had in other Web-based office suites; for the full "power user" experience it claims as its sole province with MS Office, one needs the desktop application. As a result, there is real competition online, and people are in general more inclined to use Google Docs than Microsoft's Web-based offerings unless they are just looking for a way to extend their desktop-based productivity software. Thus, the Web is proving to offer a complete competing market that will likely siphon a lot of market dominance away from Microsoft, opening the way for people to eventually abandon reliance on Microsoft-specific document formats. In fact, Microsoft itself will probably have to start supporting other formats just to remain competitive in the Web application space. The availability of Microsoft tools is not a guarantee that Microsoft will own the "de facto standard" in the future. The fact that Microsoft has felt pressured into offering Web-based tools, in fact, serves as evidence that the corporation's dominance in office productivity software is already faltering.

apotheon
apotheon

Thanks for retroactively affirming the consequent, there. That solves everything!

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I believe LFS is more of a book explaining how to build a Linux based distribution than it is a distribution at all. It'd be the next step beyond Gentoo and maximizing understanding and the hands on imperative. For me needs, I want to know generally how things are working under the hood but not to the point of creating my own packages or favoring tarball source over distro native binaries. Currently, Debian fits my needs by providing a healthy balance between dependency relationships and a massive repository to draw from. The only thing I'd suggest for your needs is a full install distro rather than a shrinkwrapped liveCD distro; look at Debian, Mandriva Free and similar rather than Ubuntu, Mandriva One and similar.

nwallette
nwallette

It's how I introduced myself to Linux. I tried Slackware and Red Hat, but once I got it installed, I was stuck at "Now what?" With Gentoo, nothing worked until I got it working, so I was forced to immerse myself in it. The only disservice this has done me is the comfort level (or lack thereof, actually) I have with Enterprise distros. I just feel like there are things going on that I don't see. YAST drives me nuts. I never know what actually happens under the hood. I've been meaning to dive into BSD for a while just for the exposure. I've done Solaris already. Once you get the Unix paradigm, it's just a matter of learning the commands and where the configs are.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

Even if only for that same sense of accomplishment of having done a more source based distribution; perhaps a stepping stone toward a Linux From Scratch in a VM. You wouldn't go wrong dropping virtualbox on your machine and doing some other distributions. I personally prefer the full distribution installs like Mandrive Free or Debian versus liveCD installs like Ubuntu that come with a fully pre-selected list of installed packages. I've done a custom package selection since my Red Hat days so the habit is hard to break. For me, pre-packaged liveCD distributions are bootable tools rather than HDD install sources. Backtrack is probably the only exception as I tend to stamp the liveCD image into a VM for regular use.

apotheon
apotheon

There's rarely, if ever, an actual "inside joke" involved. Most of the time, he's making implications in the most circumspect way possible without really employing any inside joke. Sometimes, he's making very obscure references -- which are either public (if not widely known) knowledge or references to something said before that the intended target doesn't even remember (and thus not much of an inside joke because even the "insiders" don't know about it).

nwallette
nwallette

I feel like I'm missing out on some kind of inside joke. Like in Slashdot, if you forget to expand a down-rated post between two others, and you read a 2nd-generation reply and think "how did we get here?" I guess I just don't get your sense of humor. :-)

nwallette
nwallette

Thanks for putting me in my place everyone. I appreciate the experience reports. I'll make a point of trying some of these new-fangled Linux distros out, just so I'm not looking at the whole of it from a slanted viewpoint. Still, for some reason -- and I can't vouch for my sanity -- I just can't help but feel a sense of accomplishment when I can actually play video files in KDE on a laptop over WiFi. ;-) (BTW, Neon: Yes, Gentoo is almost entirely source-based, but they do have packages that are distributed in binary form. Some -- like Chrome -- have a source package, and a -bindist variant for the binary version. In most cases like this, the binary release has some additional features that aren't obtainable as open source due to licensing.)

apotheon
apotheon

I'm woefully ignorant of the relative character of different brands and styles of condom. I have pretty much just used the Microsoft of the condom market.

pinjoh541
pinjoh541

To address your question about older relatives being switched to Linux, how about this? My 80 year old father has been running Ubuntu since 2006 (Dapper Drake LTS release). It was upgraded successfully to Hardy Heron (8.04 LTS) and the upgrade to to the current LTS will be happening soon. While it's true that he didn't do the LTS upgrade, he could have, there were no issues. All of the regular security updates were done by them and they haven't had any problems. In the four years that they've used Ubuntu, I've had very few support calls, unlike when they were running Microsoft Windows. The support calls that I do get aren't about the OS, they're more of the "how do I crop a picture from the digital camera?" variety. As to your comment about library dependencies, with most of the "friendly" distros (such as Ubuntu), the update manager will keep everything nicely synchronized. The only way to have a problem is if you install stuff without using the built-in package managers or software center applications.

apotheon
apotheon

Gentoo is its own animal entirely. A running gag regarding Gentoo is "KDE is broken this week." Don't take experience with it as any indication of experience with other Linux-based OSes. Using Stable branch Debian distribution is a much different experience, and no, you don't get that kind of breakage 2.5 years later with Debian Stable. Even with Debian Testing, which changes pretty much daily as package version updates are made regularly, you tend to run into dependency breakage only during the last days before a freeze in preparation for a new Stable release. When choosing a Linux distribution, Debian is one of the key choices for stability, decent system configurability, high package availability, sysadmin friendliness, and sane, relatively lightweight defaults. Gentoo is nowhere near the same thing, and as a comparison with other distributions it is not the choice for system stability. Just sayin' . . . For my money, if the desire is for the lower-level control offered by Gentoo without sacrificing other benefits of an open source Unix-like system, pick FreeBSD. If you want a challenge, pick Linux From Scratch or build your own OpenBSD installer (there are instructions out there for how to do it).

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

I mean, for using Gentoo as a personal distro; respect. But, it is just not comparable to a general purpose new user distribution. I was seriously guessing at Linux From Scratch. Personally, I'm a Debian user; previously Mandriva. After years with Mandrake/Mandriva, I had to look into why people who like Debian, like it a lot. I can't knock your choice of distro but I gotta point out, by choosing Gentoo, you have to accept what your getting into. In terms of dependencies, I think your going about it the hard way. No, deps are managed very nicely with other dependencies. App A requiring lib B has not been an issue since 2000 with Mandriva and 2008 with Debian Stable. Package management deals with that thanks to the good graces of the package maintainers. (Gentoo was also the one distro hit with the IRC server bug; thanks Gentoo package maintainers for that one.) Actually, Red Hat was the first install that I could work with. Even then, I downloaded .src.rpm specifically to confirm that dependencies where in place. If I couldn't build .rpm from the .src.rpm then I knew deps where missing. Mandrake/Mandriva fixed that with "urpmi" and related rpm wrappers. I've not experienced dependency hell since then. For wireless support, I'm currently golden. Debian 5 did need a bit extra to get the wireless firmware setup for a Lenovo R61 but the X201 and Debian 6 "just worked". Gentoo really should have the firmware support in place; even if by an extra scripted step. With Linux based distributions, time does pass faster. 2.5 years ago is multiple generations; like talking about how your great-great-grandma had to do things versus how the current generation does it. "In my day, ice was delivered daily by horse and buggy; and we liked it that way." No one talks about Aunt Edna using a 2.5 year old non-new-user distro because that's like talking about Aunt Edna using Win95. Now, my understanding is that Gentoo, while having a package system, is much more focused on compiling from source for your specific hardware. I don't know how that plays into including closed-source code such as wifi firmware tends to be. On the up side, you'll get code compiled for your specific proc and related hardware. If that's your primary goal then have at it. You probably wouldn't hurt from trying Debian on spare hardware or a VM though. But, if Gentoo is your thing; run with it. Just don't mistake it for being representative of many other Linux based distributions. I put Gentoo closer to Linux From Scratch and similar distributions than the average (Debian) or the new user friendly like Canonical's builds.

nwallette
nwallette

Gentoo. ;-) I know I know, it's definitely not Ubuntu, but I do feel that if you're going to use Linux, you may as well understand it. Now, while my experience is probably considerably more complicated than most people's, some of the breakage is stuff I don't see any distribution really getting around: GDBM changed internal formats from the old version to the current. DHCPCD changed to UIDs as host identification, rather than using the MAC address. X.Org changed the driver ABI, and the way config files are written/used. KDE.. well.. that went from 3.5 to 4.5. Also, while I admit I could be way off my rocker, as I haven't used many of the "friendly" distros lately, but wouldn't library dependencies still be an issue? If you only update a handful of packages, but not everything all at once, don't you still have an issue with App-A requiring Lib-0.1 even though you've since upgraded to Lib-0.2? Unless of course EVERY binary is compiled with all its required libraries built-in. I think my wireless is having trouble with the firmware package actually. We'll see. Is Ubuntu any less fragile in this respect? (I have an Intel 2200 chipset.) It seems that when people talk about how their grandmothers have been switched to Linux, it's always a recent migration. No one talks about how Aunt Edna has been using Linux installed 2.5 years ago, and has managed to keep it updated and running ever since. Can anyone attest to its long-term stability in the hands of a neophyte? I do agree with your edited point, though.. for a server OS, Linux is the best thing since sliced LUNs. I hate to see Windows on a DMZ. Something about everything from printing to networking to bitmaps of poker chips being in the same .EXE file. My Linux servers tend to have the kernel, shell, basic management tools, and the services necessary for production. That's it.

apotheon
apotheon

$5 a day does indeed seem like far too much money for AV software. That must have been a typo. Of course, it was a while ago, so I don't remember the number I actually meant to offer there. > How many times do they call geek squad? I don't know. Do you? Do you have any reliable, independent figures on that? Are you suggesting we should treat home computer users' maintenance costs as if they do not exist just because all we have is estimates, rather than the results of rigorous studies? > MS Office costs what MS Office costs. What's your point, and what does it have to do with the cost of Windows? The cost of software that is installed on home users' systems is included in the cost of using them. What's your point? > In any case, many of those same applications are available for Windows. . . . except that people have already paid for what's on their computers. Worse still, there are not actually a lot of the same CD and DVD burning applications available on MS Windows as on open source OSes. The niche of applications that can be used to create and burn ISOs, among other uses, is actually one area that suffers a surprisingly small number of options on MS Windows. > What if someone wants a compiler? You seem to have confused terms here. The compiler from Visual Studio is included in the .Net framework, and is free. Last I checked, the compiler was not included with any end-user library framework. If you have a link to evidence to the contrary, please share it. > The options you would use on Linux (Eclipse or Netbeans) are again available on Windows. I was talking about compilers, not IDEs -- and last I checked, the compiler used with Visual Studio came with Visual Studio. I wouldn't use Eclipse or Netbeans for a compiler. See above about links to evidence that compilers come with Microsoft end-user library frameworks.

dtjuk
dtjuk

$5 per day? That's $1825 a year on anti-virus and malware protection - you need to change your supplier my friend. How many times do they call geek squad? I don't know. Do you? Do you have any reliable, independent figures on that? MS Office costs what MS Office costs. What's your point, and what does it have to do with the cost of Windows? Same again with Nero/Roxio. Your argument seems to be that because there is a wealth of free applications for Linux that this somehow makes the operating system better. It doesn't. In any case, many of those same applications are available for Windows. What if someone wants a compiler? You seem to have confused terms here. The compiler from Visual Studio is included in the .Net framework, and is free. Visual Studio is an IDE. Visual Studio Express is a free edition of the IDE. The options you would use on Linux (Eclipse or Netbeans) are again available on Windows.

Neon Samurai
Neon Samurai

.. I still remember my boss thankful for Windows since we got to re-visit the customer regularly on billable time.

apotheon
apotheon

wizard57m: Why are you even replying if you can't follow the discussion? rickk: You've missed the point, apparently -- which is that the market hasn't even had a chance to decide it's worth $1 a day, since for most users it doesn't cost $1 a day, or even 11 cents a day, or anything at all. The market has, to a significant degree, decided that MS Windows is free, which means there's little point for them to spend the time investigating the truth or falsehood of the FUD peddled by people like you. Even when it costs something for organizations like university IT departments, deep discounts in exchange for exclusivity lead to savings overall when there is a minimum requirement for some MS Windows systems (which you'd probably remember if you bothered to read the article very closely). What the market has really decided is that it's worth something more like a penny a day or less to save the time it might take to investigate the matter of whether an alternative would be a better choice overall. Save a little now at the risk of losing more later.

apotheon
apotheon

When working for a small consultancy in Florida, I had small business clients who needed help with OS issues almost monthly.

Lazarus439
Lazarus439

If someone needs the Geek squad that often, odds are they could break anything, regardless of how exalted its open source pedigree. I help out a number of friends and several small businesses and they need some sort of help far less often that even once a year. At that, the help they need is more related to outside factors - printers, ISP issues, etc. - that are unrelated to the software on the PCs.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

Because the market has spoken. You can use all the excuses you want, good or bad, monoply or not, but the market has decided overwhelmingly that a PC is worth a $1 a day. Most people drink more coffee a day than that.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Are you trying to say alternative software does not exist for OSes other than "open source"? Don't tell anyone they can't use Firefox on Windows. No Open Office. No free antimalware. You wrote this piece of commentary based upon a 2 year old blog opinion. While the original author may have a valid argument, you have been bouncing back and forth on the subject. If the license cost for Windows is essentially "free" when you factor in discounts and subsidies, which is what YOU stated, then why must the user install only the more costly additional software for productivity, malware protection or entertainment? Why does the cost for Windows automatically increase if a user decides to choose free alternatives? Argue against Dave G if you want, but do so in your blog post above.

apotheon
apotheon

> You're attributing someone else's statement to me. No, I'm not. Read it again. I never said you claimed it only cost eleven cents a day. > As to avoiding your point, your point is what exactly? My point is simple, and I can't fathom how you missed it: Calling it eleven cents a day is simplistic. What part of that didn't you understand? > You beat around the bush, but haven't came out and said it. Yes, I have. I'll say it again, just in case you missed it: Calling it eleven cents a day is simplistic. That was my point. Nothing you said disputes that, especially given that your counterarguments were also simplistic. > As for my family...guess they are lucky, but I know a lot of others that do similar tasks for family and friends, and not just for Windows, so what is your point there? Isn't it obvious? The point in this case is that not everybody has a family expert willing and able to provide free services at all times. In fact, I'd say that a majority of people do not have that kind of help. Oh, sure, they might have a friend who can help with the little things -- a "power user" who can't fix real problems worth a damn -- but even those "power users" often have to get outside help. > If your point is "calling it 11 cents a day is simplistic", I don't need to defend that statement since I didn't make it. Why, then, did you try to defend it? I never said you had to defend it, anyway. > I used Win95 for ten years, following a $50 upgrade from Win31...that breaks down to $5 per year, about 42 cents per month, or about 1.4 cents per day. You're trying to counter my counterargument in response to rickk et cetera, where discussion had set up the conditions for argument to involve typical home end users without much in the way of technical skills. You are not a typical home end user, what you describe is something a typical home end user would not have done, and you're acting like I came out of nowhere to claim you made some specific statements about eleven cents a day and were the only person involved in discussion here. How typical do you think it is for a home end user to have a fifteen year old operating system with a fringe commercial browser, productivity software for an eighteen year old browser, and antivirus that does not come with the computer? Sounds pretty rare to me -- and, thus, completely irrelevant to my response to rickk. edit: TR formatting broken again

j-mart
j-mart

Is a much more versatile document processor. Being frame based, handles page layout of graphics and text much better. It works well as a page based Desktop Publisher as well,with the advantage of outputting to pdf. Using MS Word to produce operating and maintenance is a dog. The same work done using Open Office Writer is a breeze, placement of text, graphics, diagrams and photos exactly as you want them, then with one mouse-click output as a pdf document, complete with working hyperlinks to websites or whatever.

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

You're attributing someone else's statement to me. As to avoiding your point, your point is what exactly? You beat around the bush, but haven't came out and said it. As for my family...guess they are lucky, but I know a lot of others that do similar tasks for family and friends, and not just for Windows, so what is your point there? Sometimes it seems to me you're looking for an argument, though I may be reading more into your statements than is intended, if so, then I apologize. If your point is "calling it 11 cents a day is simplistic", I don't need to defend that statement since I didn't make it. In my personal experience, 11 cents a day is too high! I used Win95 for ten years, following a $50 upgrade from Win31...that breaks down to $5 per year, about 42 cents per month, or about 1.4 cents per day. I didn't purchase any version of MS Office, used some free software for documents and spreadsheets leftover from Win31 days, AVG was free at the time, didn't use a compiler much but had friends with VB3, about the only programs I purchased were games, oh, and Opera web browser (had both 16 bit and 32 bit registered versions), so I guess I need to go back and add the cost of those. However, since I still have all of them, and the old box they ran on, the depreciation hasn't ended yet!

muchenjeri
muchenjeri

We could debate browsers and even operating systems, but unless you use your word processor as a glorified typewriter, there is no alternative for MS Office - there are just other products. The gap between what they offer is just too huge to call them alternatives at all. Personally I use MS Office because it helps me do what I want to so (and what I didn't even know would be cool to do), better and more enjoyably than others.

apotheon
apotheon

Why would I compare it to a fridge? Why not compare it to alternative software, and notice someone's spending $365 extra per year?

apotheon
apotheon

Malware protection...MSE, Avira etc are available for typical home use for free. The typical home user either uses whatever AV software came with the computer or nothing. What usually comes with it? Wouldn't that be Norton or MacAfee? No statistics exist to prove or disprove the Geek Squad statement, but just in my family it is rare that anyone needs external assistance, they usually call me...for gratis. Do typical end users have a free "you" with the computer -- or is your family less common in that regard? MS Works has been included for free, Open Office is another. These are not typical for the end user, however. Most end up using MS Office -- in large part because that's what both Microsoft and the major PC vendors want them to use.. Roxio CD/DVD software is also many times included for free, it was on my Dell. It's not free. It's subsidized by Dell, who passes the cost on to you. I'll give you compilers also, BUT, how many typical home users have need of one. Again, there are open source free ones, maybe not as slick as Visual Studio, but for typical home user, much more than MS Small Basic is overkill. Here, you've stopped responding to what I actually said, which did not in this case pertain to the "typical home user". I asked "What if someone's slightly more knowledgeable, and wants a compiler?" The "cost" of Windows to most PC purchasers is not a concern because that cost is subsidized by the OEMs and their affiliates. . . . who pass their costs on to the consumer, so while it "is not a concern" in the minds of the consumers, since they think it's "free", it still ends up costing them more than the bare metal. In all of this, you're nitpicking at details and avoiding my point: Calling it eleven cents a day is simplistic.

rkuhn040172
rkuhn040172

Let him throw all that in there and redo the math. A home PC cost maybe a $1 a day. Compare that to your TV, fridge, car, etc. Considering what we can do and what we get out of our PC's and it's a great deal!

wizard57m-cnet
wizard57m-cnet

Malware protection...MSE, Avira etc are available for typical home use for free. No statistics exist to prove or disprove the Geek Squad statement, but just in my family it is rare that anyone needs external assistance, they usually call me...for gratis. MS Office...maybe, but there are discounts available not to mention free alternatives, for example MS Works has been included for free, Open Office is another. Roxio CD/DVD software is also many times included for free, it was on my Dell. I'll give you compilers also, BUT, how many typical home users have need of one. Again, there are open source free ones, maybe not as slick as Visual Studio, but for typical home user, much more than MS Small Basic is overkill. The "cost" of Windows to most PC purchasers is not a concern because that cost is subsidized by the OEMs and their affiliates.

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