After Hours

The only game in town?


I was just reading the blog posting of Mary Jo Foley, "Google is failing the Microsoft litmus test," and although she raises an interesting question, I think she may have overlooked a very important point: Why all the hatred toward Microsoft in the first place?

There are probably dozens if not hundreds of reasons for the angst that people direct toward Microsoft. However, I believe much of it stems from one single source. This source is that for all intents and purposes, Microsoft is believed to be a monopoly. Unlike Google, which does have competition in the form of Yahoo, Microsoft Live Search, DogPile, Ask, etc., Microsoft, in my opinion (and many others), has no real competition for the majority of its products.

Just to remind people what Monopoly is besides a board game: a monopoly is an economic phenomenon in which there is a persistent market situation of there being only one provider for a product or service. This situation is characterized by the following:

  • "Single Seller: For a pure monopoly to take place, only one company can be selling the good. A company can have a monopoly on certain goods and not on other goods.
  • Significant Barrier of Entry: In a monopoly, it is usually harder for other firms to get into the industry to provide the same goods or services as the company who is already the dominant firm of the industry.
  • No close substitutes: Monopoly is not merely the state of having a unique or recognizable product, but also that there are no close substitutes available for the function the good fills.
  • Price maker: Because a single firm controls the total supply in a pure monopoly, it is able to exert a significant degree of control over the price by changing the quantity supplied."

Most countries consider monopolies a bad thing and have written laws that are supposed to address them. The U.S. has the Sherman Act, the European Union has the Treaty of Rome, and Canada has the Competition Act.

Whether you or not you agree that Microsoft is a pure monopoly and should be dealt with more forcefully according to the Sherman Act, I think most will agree that per the market there are few if any real competitors to Microsoft.

I know from a negotiating standpoint that if I am negotiating a price on a database product I can use my ability to choose another product that is a close equivalent as a bargaining tool. I can choose Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, and even MySQL as a database depending on my needs and pit the vendors of these products against one another or use the fear of choosing a competing product to my advantage.

This doesn't work so well when negotiating with a monopoly. As a buyer, one starts out at a disadvantage in negotiations with a vendor who has a monopoly because they are the only game in town, so to speak. I might be able to whittle the price down somewhat based on volume, but at the end of the day -- the vendor knows they have you pretty much over a barrel. Being in this type of situation tends to tick people off.

People enjoy alternatives and they want competition to drive prices down for them. Not having these choices and having things "done" to them causes people to become angry if not furious!

Let's use desktop operating systems as an example. With the release of Vista, the clock has started on the life expectancy of XP. While you may put off the purchase for as long as you can, you will eventually be put into a situation where you will be "forced" into switching either to Vista or an alternative.

What's the alternative? If you say Linux or Mac OS, you are not talking about a real alternative for the mainstream user. Most of their software is designed to run on a Windows machine and some categories of software (such as games) have little if any presence in the Linux and Mac world.

If you are old enough to remember back to the DOS days, you might recall that Lotus 123 was quite the heavyweight when it came to spreadsheets and came at a significant price; at one point I remember it being around $500 a copy. However, it was not long before competition from Borland in the form of Quattro Pro and Excel from Microsoft drove the price down.

Unfortunately (in my opinion) Lotus came to the Windows dance a little too late and got shut out, more or less. By then, organizations had bought into the office concept, and at that time the Microsoft Office suite was a bit of a steal, compared to buying the products individually.

Fast forward to today and Office Professional will run you around $350 bucks. Your possible alternative is OpenOffice or StarOffice. They are significantly cheaper, yet I still say only possible alternatives because there are few organizations of significant size that one could walk into and announce, "Hey folks, in order to save significant dollars, we are going to take away MS Office starting next month or even in 6 months."

You would have a potential riot on your hands or a situation much like they had in Connecticut (where the State CIO was forced to resign), if you were a large enough organization. I don't see too many Fortune 500 companies boasting that they are running an Office alternative. For many of the potential buyers of Office, there IS no alternative available.

All this gets us back to the fact that historically in the U.S., we tend to dislike (even loathe) organizations which have a monopoly in a particular area. As a society, we value competition in our market system. Competition is a regulating force, along with the self-interest of the consumer in the economy. They work together to keep prices low, drive innovation, and bring new products to the market place.

If you go back to the late 60s and early 70s, you will find that people hated "Ma Bell". In the 1800s, it was the Railroads. So, I am not surprised that Microsoft is the focal point for a lot of animosity.

Going back to Mary Jo's question, "Do we have a double standard for Google and Microsoft?" I would say absolutely. Many see Google as a foil to Microsoft's dominance and will gladly overlook behavior from Google that Microsoft gets slammed for. Is that wrong? To me, that's the price of being a market leader, especially if that includes being so dominant as to warrant being called a monopoly. Google should enjoy its time as a public favorite because if the search market thins to the point that THEY are the only game in town, people will start to sing a different tune.

As an IT manager, I want as much flexibility in my product choices as possible and low prices. As we (IT) continue to get squeezed to do more with less, I need to be flexible and innovative. A monopoly in any area reduces/hampers my ability to do that. So in the long run, I am actually not really concerned if Microsoft or any other vendor is treated fairly or not in the press, other than the fact that I hate to see companies with superior products struggle or die. I know companies don't lose sleep over me, so I am not going to do so over them. That's what Microsoft's press/marketing people get paid for <g>.

75 comments
Fil0403
Fil0403

"Many see Google as a foil to Microsoft's dominance and will gladly overlook behavior from Google that Microsoft gets slammed for. Is that wrong? To me, that's the price of being a market leader, especially if that includes being so dominant as to warrant being called a monopoly." Monopoly: "a market in which there are many buyers but only one seller". Last time I checked, Microsoft wasn't the only seller in any of the markets it is present on.

tkrikau
tkrikau

Great article, Ramon! Thanks for posting. I say the game needs better players. Whether you like M$ or not, you have to agree (albeit grudgingly) that their software (MS Office in particular) is the most widely used because for the most part, it is easier to learn, widely accessible, and widely supported. My company went from using Outlook to Lotus Notes a few months ago. Talk about taking a step back. I hadn't used Notes in a long time, but I saw IBM's logo on the splash screen. After a week, I thought to myself, "I thought IBM's business solutions was supposed end this kind of software garbage!" I have to applaud my company for breaking away from being reliant on M$, but at the cost having to use inferior software? So where is the competition? Where is the software that give M$ a run for its money? Where is the software that is actually good and stable enough to really COMPETE with MS?

vmaatta
vmaatta

From TechRepublic Catalog a product ID of: TR0038.. And it seems be "This item is currently unavailable". A brief description below: "This presentation, entitled Standardizing On Windows XP Instead of MAC OS X, provides a prepackaged opinion piece for defending Windows XP against MAC OS X. You can use this debrief and defend to educate people about why you chose Windows XP rather than Mac for a desktop operating system. There..." Comes with a presentasion too o). Well.. I thought I'd never see something quite so hilarious.

Old Timer 8080
Old Timer 8080

Remember this? "Windows is a 32-bit extension to a 16-bit graphical shell for an 8-bit operating system originally coded for a 4-bit microprocessor by a 2-bit company that can't stand 1 bit of competition." Yep, we were making the same statements THEN as we are doing NOW... But *NIX wasn't as advanced as is is now. The GUI was a PITA to set up. We have the GUI problem nailed down. We have interoperability nailed down. ( SAMBA helps ) We have Open Office, so the basic needs are covered........but wait, there's more! My Kubuntu O/S has Multimedia capabilities too! Want to watch a movie? want to set up your music catalog? No problem on a 500MHz PIII machine in LINUX! That poor old ( obsolete by M$ standards )hardware works just fine with the NEW, LATEST and GREATEST O/S from the " enemy " of M$, LINUX.. So what does a US ( Not WORLDWIDE ) monopoly do? It makes it's software as incompatible as the law allows. It spreads FUD. Like a living organism, it fights back. The people that have jumped on the M$ bandwagon ( HP ) are starting to regret it.

erick.starren
erick.starren

I began programming (COBOL, dBASE) in 1984. So I've watched much of the industry develop. Microsoft had a decent BASIC interpreter (MBASIC) for CP/M, and a few other things. They got into the big time by riding the coattails of a giant. Since the U.S. business market wore blinders (IBM=business, business=IBM), the "PC" took over the business market (and later the home market), and M$ rode to fortune with it with all those free royalties for DOS for the PC clones and compatibles. In the early 90's I was thrilled to finally have a chance to really get to know M$'s stuff. I would have been glad to be "all M$" if they at least made good stuff. I would not have minded a monopoly of good software. But as I got acquainted with it, my enthusiasm turned to dismay and finally disgust as I saw, everywhere I looked, clear evidence of blatant, flagrant disregard for customers, quality, common sense and even law in software design, support, and business practices. I watched over the years as they lied, cheated, stole and bullied their way into monopoly. I read over and over about serious design flaws that anyone who knows anything about OS design knows you just don't do (if you want it to work well and be stable). If they had smart people, it didn't show in their reckless designs, sloppy coding, or constant avoidable failures. I watched as they set new lows for FUD, for using their own customers as unwitting beta testers, for sabotaging their own customers, and for trampling and cheating their "business partners" in their pursuit of market share. I know this is common in business, especially big business. What M$ really led the pack in was stooping lowest and doing it most aggressively. Microsoft got their widespread hatred the old-fashioned way: they earned it.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

Microsoft became a monopoly not just on the merits of it's products, but also by using unfair, (and since outlawed,) practices to shut out the competition. Google was the best search engine and also started giving away applets. If Google has done anything unfair or illegal, I missed that story in the press. M$ does try to give a good product, but it takes more than that to be on the consumer's side. I remember browser wars and word processor wars. When the browser competition died, M$ stopped improving IE. As soon as Firefox showed up they jumped back in with both feet. They didn't do it because they wanted me to have a better browsing experience, they did it because they can't stand to see someone else make a living. It was the same in the Word Processors. M$ always made themselves as incompatible as they could. Every time my preferred word processor, (or other app.) developed the ability to translate or open a M$ file, M$ "improved" their product by some increment to make it not compatible again. It always felt like they were out to get me. Now that for all practical purposes there are no other competitors in the market, MS keeps bloating its software in an attempt to justify selling us something new. Who ever needed more than Office 97 could do? Not many! But we had to get it at work to be compatible with our customers, who got it to be compatible with theirs, who got it bundled on a new PC... And just to make sure you switch, they stop supporting software that otherwise runs just fine. And of course, don't forget Windows Genuine Advantage! Automatic Update says there are critical updates for you. Then it says that it can't download the updates until you install Genuine Advantage. Then there are no more updates after that. Genuine Advantage WAS the critical update. And it was never critical to me, it was critical to M$. A fellow developed a nifty tool to uninstall Genuine advantage notification, since it did not provide an uninstall of its own. M$ sic'ed the Legal Dept. on him and he had to stop providing it in his website. That is some of what a Monopoly does, and that is why I can never trust M$. If this sounds one-sided, it is. But when Google does things like that to me, I will stop trusting them as well. *If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention! - (I forgot who to credit this quote to.) Michael

jonf
jonf

That is the real key. If companies do in fact make superior products at a price point that people will jump on, the superior product will take over. You see this time and time again. All these companies that go under or suffer at the hands of Microsoft dominance sue Microsoft right and left but really the issue is weather or not the product is truly superior and at a price point people will accespt for a change of product. Microsoft is frequently (9 times out of 10) unfairly targetted due to their sheer dominace and size. There are companies out there competing with Microsoft and winning in certain enterprise markets. You can't always blame Microsoft's marketing for a failing competitors product. Often these competitors don;t have their act together and lack the experience to compete in any market. If you look at the business world, more than 50% of companies fail and go bankrupt. Microsoft is fingered as the cause of a lot of these companies that fail when the real cause is their lack of business savy.

apotheon
apotheon

I guess you decided to ignore the context of the rest of the blog post. It makes it much easier to refute something, I suppose, if you take it out of context and misconstrue the meaning of the statements so that they're easier to contradict.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

I liked Lotus Notes better before IBM bought it and started to turn it into IBM software. At least it isn't a virus distribution client like outlook.) It used to be better. (Certainly faster!) I honestly like gmail. Although that is for personal mail. It isn't suitable for a business.

vmaatta
vmaatta

I've never used Lotus Notes so I can't really say anything about that. But I agree it's a nice move from your company to try to brake free. As for MS Office. Yes it is most widely used. And yes it is widely "supported" in some senses. That word has a lot of meanings and one that it really IS NOT is OS support. It runs on Windows and a version of it is published for Mac at least a year after the Windows version. That's it. No other OS is supported. Anyways. How MS Office became the most widely used is just like you said. It WAS easier to learn and it actually WAS better than competitors. But we're talking about the 90's here. These days those arguments don't hold true anymore. So instead of making the software run better what is MS doing. Instead of using open standards (as in file formtats) they make changes to they're own as fast as possible just to keep others incompatible. But hey.. The others keep on coming (namely OpenOffice) and try to be compatible as best they can. Ok enough ranting. About those options. For Office replacements there is for example OpenOffice (as you prolly know). Works in Windows, Linux and others. For Mac there's a version of it called NeoOffice which in my own experience works quite nicely. Just the other day I watched a Powerpoint presentation on it and worked perfectly. At work I use OO on Linux and currently haven't received an MS Office document I couldn't have opened and used (I'm the only one in my team that uses Linux and OO). As for server side there's a whole lot of options to replace MS Exchange and friends. One good solution could be for example Zimbra Collaboration Suite. From their website: * Integrated email, calendar, documents, VoIP * Microsoft Outlook, Apple, and Linux desktop compatibility * "Over the air" sync to mobile devices * Effortless administration * Integrated Anti-spam / Anti-virus I'm not saying there's no problems or that these solutution would be perfect. But they are options. And personally I've had no trouble using them in an environment in which most people use MS products.

dogzilla
dogzilla

...of where we've been. Linux is like a time machine. It takes us back to a time before FUD and vaporware became the overwhelming tools of the trade. A time when it was exciting to see the next new innovation because it really was a new innovation. A solution to a problem. Problem solved. Or at least a significant step forward. Not simply a repackaged, icons scrambled around so it looks different, colors changed, industry standards purposely ignored same ole same old give us your money again so you can think you are keeping up with the Jones'. The latest throwaway fashion. Google has a product people genuinely want to use. A product people do use. And used not because of coersion or so many false claims. So far it simply works. Granted I don't like that they collect search info. Even if they are particular with whom they share that info with. They are collecting and that makes it available for abuse or misuse. So Google isn't perfect either. There are other search engines we can use if we wish. Finally there are other tools, other options, other OSs out there if we choose to try them. It's like being transported back into the '80s but without the costs of the past nor the potential risks of time travel. We are free to choose. And so many are truly free to try and use. Welcome to the beginning of the 21st century. The renaissance of business and personal computing. Let the dark ages of m$ dominance fade into the past.

roaming
roaming

That is what I have against them as well. It is actually more important for society for businesses to be moral than individuals as they have a much greater impact and set the tone for individual behaviour.

Quasar Kid
Quasar Kid

You seem quite knowledgeable about the computer industry. Why haven't YOU developed and marketed competing products? Postings in this very thread make it abundantly clear that "superior" products are available. Here in the US, nobody holds a gun to your head and forces you to write MS a check. It is very simple - if don't like MS products - don't buy them!

vmaatta
vmaatta

You couldn't have said it better.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

is the tool you are thinking of, and it completely does not matter that MS siced their leagal department on him as the tool is easily available on the net.

CodeBubba
CodeBubba

>> And of course, don't forget Windows Genuine Advantage! Automatic Update says there are critical updates for you. Then it says that it can't download the updates until you install Genuine Advantage. Then there are no more updates after that. Genuine Advantage WAS the critical update. And it was never critical to me, it was critical to M$.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

to "that is the real key. If companies do in fact make superior products at a price point that people will jump on" is that rarely is the superior product priced to be "jumped on". VHS/BetaMax? Many times, price is not a direct reflection of quality at all, but is mistakenly used as an indicator of quality. And while there is a corrolation between price and quality, it is sheer foolishness to assume they are equal in all cases. (Jaguar? Buy two, so you can drive while one is in the shop...thank Ford for turning them reliable...) Market research has shown time and time again, people will buy whatever is "good enough at the lowest price" for their needs. People want a bargin, to save money. There are minorities of the population who have to have "the best, the latest and greatest" but they are overshadowed by the "average" "affordable" "good enough" people.

apotheon
apotheon

See, the problem here is that you're not getting the problem with people choosing to switch to other OSes (or failing to make that choice). Because Microsoft uses monopolistic business practices, it [b]makes it more difficult for people to choose an alternative[/b]. What you say about superior products at better prices would be true in a market economy without dominating monopolistic corporations running the show, but under current circumstances Microsoft has enough clout to make it very, very difficult for anyone to cut into its market share. . . . so difficult that, barring a lot of hard work, time, and luck, it's effectively impossible. So, yeah -- there may well be superior options that cost less [b]right now[/b], but they may not make serious inroads to Microsoft's market share for ten or twenty years. During that time, Microsoft may even find a way to buy or destroy them, using its infamous unethical monopolistic business practices.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

Let him have delusions that anyone is really paying attention to the silly post! I do not think many would see it as a real post anyway, just an MS fanboy with no sense.

vmaatta
vmaatta

.. allmost like poetry :)

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

Sometimes you are forced to buy them if you do business with someone who uses them. If you want customer A, but A uses M$ software, then even if you despise M$ and its software, you have to buy it. Company A uses that software because there is nothing else. That is a monopoly and that is where it is at today. Take games; most titles used to be published for several PC OSs and several consoles. (Myst for instance,) Now, it is only Windoze and XBox 360 for many titles and they will never be ported to other platforms. Why? Because M$ won't allow it. They are forgoing "X" amount of sales today to force everyone to give in and go M$ tomorrow and M$ gets 'n' times "X" because we had no reasonable alternative. That is the power of a monopoly. I am learning Linux because I am not a willing victim. It might be a feeble effort, but I am going to do it anyway. Wish me luck, I'm going in! By the way, have you seen the mess that Vista is? They can charge as much as they want. I don't want it. M$ has officially jumped the shark. It is a slow but inevitable decline from here. Last year was M$'s golden age. Someday I am going to retire to Florida, get a pair of pants that comes up to my chest, Velcro sneakers, and listen to my friends tell stories about how M$ used to be, back in the old days before 2007 and the great Vista debacle. Michael

vmaatta
vmaatta

What is it with this "Why haven't YOU developed and marketed competing products?". The ARE competing product which are in many ways better than MS products. As to holding a gun to someone's head... According to a recent study 60% of americans do NOT "believe" in evolution. My point is that a whole lot of your-average-Joe users quite literally do not know about these competing products. And if they do know they excist there's usually a lot of ignorance about what they are and what they can do. Just a while back I talked with a CEO of an IT retailer and he had never concidered using a Mac because "None of the peripherals support it" and "it is difficult to use... you have to edit all kinds of text files in terminal to get anything working". Those are just so wrong preconceptions. And that was a CEO in the IT sector.

erick.starren
erick.starren

Thank you, Quasar Kid, for your comment. You are correct. But there are two caveats. 1) Successfully developing and marketing a competing product is far beyond the means of most of us. Just making a living and raising a family is the best we can manage. 2) My son and I are moving to Linux & Mac as much as possible. But employees (which includes most of us) are stuck with the employer's choices. With very large employers, there is no chance of changing that. P.S., You may recall though, that Linux was secreted into many server rooms over the years by tech's who wanted its reliability over their struggles with M$ servers. Management never knew because the servers were never down. In any case, my comment was aimed at the whole situation, not just myself.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

Yes, it is the tool I was referring too, and yes, it is available on the web. It works fine, too. Thank you. The point is that he wrote a free utility allowing individuals to uninstall an unnecessary program from their own PCs of their own free will, and M$ will not allow him to distribute it on his own website because M$ wants everyone's PC to report back to home base, (what we, the customers, want didn't matter to M$.) He cannot fight M$ in court. No one has that kind of money. Being in the right doesn't matter. That is the power of a monopoly. I am fighting back the only way I can. I am learning Linux. PS Did you notice that after months of absence, the WGA Notifications program is back in the critical updates list again?

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

I don't have a problem with M$ protecting it's interests. But to use your own banking analogy: How would you feel if the bank frisked you, and your grandmother, and your feeble aunt Kay, all on the way into the front door to do legitimate banking, because someone else was robbing them through the back door? (And then again on the next visit, even if it is only 5 minutes later, because that is what Windows Update and Office Update do.) WGA doesn't even begin to stop hackers and pirates, but it checks up on you and me constantly. They can't catch the crooks, so they are putting security guards on the honest customers. I have a problem with that. (And Steve Jobs already proved with iTunes that if you charge a reasonable price, people are less likely to steal it. M$ is practically giving away software overseas to build up their Monopoly over there, while gouging us here. A few years ago, M$ was selling Windows XP Pro for $39 overseas, but it was almost $200 here. Thanks for supporting your existing customer base, NOT!)

boguscomputer
boguscomputer

Good point. The original article seems to support your comment about abuse of monopoly, even to the point of his statement that there is no viable alternative. It's clear to MANY geeks what the better software is, and the better price! Microsoft does do some things very well. Unfortunately, I'd list making money as their top accomplishment, not making the best software or hardware solutions. I use MS software frequently. However, I tend to use OpenSource, multi-platform software whenever I can. Most Linux geeks know Windows AND Linux. When they see what's possible in software, and compare it with the Microsoft offerings, they tend to develop more dislike of MS. I've spoken with MS employees who use a different OS at home, because they consider it a better alternative...even if they can't say that publicly, or at work.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]I am assumeing that by best you mean functional and customizable with minimal hair pulling. I have to assume this is what you mean, as Debian has NEVER had the prettyest installer, and I think I know how you think enough by now to realize pretty just isn't enough in an OS for you. And if so, then I have to agree with you about Debian. I have not installed freeBSD yet, so can't comment. Debian's installer is far from pretty, but it does the job well.[/i]" That's exactly right. I don't care whether buttons have beveled edges when I'm installing something -- I care about whether it's easy, straightforward, fast, and allows me to do exactly what I want.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

decided to delete libatk and libgtk on his Ubuntu box, no, do not ask me why...apparently is has some thing to do with it was 2am and he had 2 cookies at Starbucks or some such crap. Anyway, his Gnome interface was completely, completely borked (suprise suprise). I used this as an opportunity to get him to buy a new hard drive and install Debian Etch. He has used Ubuntu for a little over a year now, so he is familiar enough with linux to manage pretty well in any debian based system. I would imagine an rpm based system would confuse him until he gor his head wraped around the package management. I installed a Ubuntu 6.06 box and set up all the software etc how I wanted it. Then did a distro upgrade to 6.10. I had to re install my video drivers. Then I did a distro upgrade to 7.04. This time it installed video drivers for the kernel, but it seems to have broken beryl and VMWare. I spent a few hours trying to make VMWare work, but it kept throwing up kernel errors, even after using the kernel patch for Feisty. I likes my VMWare, its one of my required apps, no matter the platform I am running. (As for beryl, there is a complete repository for Feisty, s I didn't bother fixing it, as it would have jsut been amatter of reinstalling the right versions from the right trees.) So, the Ubuntu box is going away. I may look into LFS this weekend, but realisticly, I don't have the energy for that crap anymore. I speend 6 to 8 hours a day in fromt of random computers, when I get home, I just wnt it to work, and show me nice video, and sound half way decent. "FreeBSD and Debian have the best install processes I've seen on free unices." I am assumeing that by best you mean functional and customizable with minimal hair pulling. I have to assume this is what you mean, as Debian has NEVER had the prettyest installer, and I think I know how you think enough by now to realize pretty just isn't enough in an OS for you. And if so, then I have to agree with you about Debian. I have not installed freeBSD yet, so can't comment. Debian's installer is far from pretty, but it does the job well.

apotheon
apotheon

"[i]I still think people should try a stage 1 gentoo install or old slackware install, just to see how far linux has come in the user friendly department in the last few years.[/i]" No kidding! I recently worked with someone on a Slackware install. Ultimately, it was abandoned in favor of Debian -- in part because the installer almost isn't an installer at all. Slackware is unacceptably close to LFS in convenience, and unacceptably close to Ubuntu in customizability of the install process. Screw that. FreeBSD and Debian have the best install processes I've seen on free unices.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

"Ricer" Hmm...I should have got that. Over all your replay was well written and made sense. I will have to note that I haven't had a working Gentoo system in 2 years, as aI got tired of fixing the da*n thing. But, as my first real linux install, I learned a ton about command line usage and file system layout. I still default to the command line for most tasks. I will have to look in to LFS again. I did a few years ago, but for some reason never went that route. "likely get a lot more out of LFS or FreeBSD than from Gentoo." These words are very true. As much as I want to like Gentoo, it is very unstable (I compare it to Win 98). If you actually want to get work done, and not just play, even Fedora would be a better choice. But, all that beinf said, I still think people should try a stage 1 gentoo install or old slackware install, just to see how far linux has come in the user friendly department in the last few years.

apotheon
apotheon

Obviously, I'm exaggerating a bit with the title of this post. "[i]'Gentoo is for ricers.' I don't eben know what this means.[/i]" It's a reference to people who buy econo-box cars and "rice" them out -- put stickers and ground effect lights on them, add giant ugly aluminum spoilers and flimsy plastic air dams, replace engine parts to add more color and shininess (and maybe add half a horsepower or so), and attach gigantic coffee-can tailpipes to increase the sound the engine makes when revving it. It's a play on the term "raced out", which refers to using after-market parts, tuning, and modifications to increase vehicle performance. "Riced out" refers to silly crap people do that make them feel like they have fast cars when, in fact, they're still kind of slow and pathetic. The use of the term "rice", of course, refers to the fact that the econo-box cars people use for this sort of thing (because they can't afford actual performance automobiles, or are too dumb to know you can do more with a Viper than a Civic) are almost always from Asian automakers. There was a hilarious website about the subject at http://funroll-loops.org a while back, but the guy who maintained it seems to have let the domain registration lapse. I was going to link to it. Too bad. Anyway . . . there are people who use Gentoo and don't fit the "ricer kiddie" stereotype, of course. There are actually some very good technical reasons to use Gentoo. There just aren't many such reasons, considering that whatever your biggest reason for it, chances are pretty good that the same reason applies even more so to some other OS (as I suggested with my earlier comments about choosing FreeBSD over Gentoo for purposes of an OS that works well compiling from source). "[i]Hard to disagree with, as many times "patches" in the Gentoo tree will be broken depending on the current flags and packages you have. I had log in systems get hosed after an update once.[/i]" I've known people who always went with default configurations using Gentoo, and [b]still[/b] had stability issues with upgrade. The running gag is "KDE is broken this week." "[i]Never noticed this problem, but then again, I do not do any major number crunching.[/i]" You don't [b]have[/b] to do heavy number crunching for that to be a problem, though you might not notice right away. Floating-point operations are inherently inaccurate on the computers you use every day, but programmers who know what they're doing know how to account for that, especially within the limits of very specific accuracy requirements. When you compile software using compilation flags that specifically screw with the floating-point accuracy the programmer expected, though, it can introduce instability and unexpected program behavior. While Gentoo software sometimes has stability problems for other reasons, some of those compile flags that are so popular for Gentoo users can make things even worse. "[i]Well I can agree with the linux from scratch, but if you set up a stage 1 Gentoo system, it is much like a linux from scratch system.[/i]" Gentoo compilation is a completely different animal from compilation on other systems. There are specialized procedures and layers of tools provided that automate a lot of the process. There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself -- in fact, it's good that Gentoo provides specialized tools to make things work more smoothly for its users -- but it insulates the user from the way software compilation works elsewhere. It's kinda like the difference between learning to program by studying languages like Perl and Java, then working for a company that does a lot of development in those languages and collaborates with other companies on various projects, and learning to "program" by getting hired by a corporation that has its own really crappy proprietary language that it uses in a vacuum and never trades code with any other companies. Compaq, years ago, preferred hiring people with zero experience (and even less knowledge) as its technicians, then training them on Compaq systems specifically. Because of Compaq's proprietary, nonstandard system configurations and technician procedures at the time, its technicians tended to have a very difficult time getting jobs anywhere else. This made it relatively easy for Compaq to keep employees -- they wouldn't leave very often, because they couldn't get jobs with Compaq's competitors. While this obviously (one would hope, anyway) isn't the reason for Gentoo handling compilation differently from the norm, a similar effect occurs: learning to compile things with Gentoo is almost like not learning to compile things at all. "[i]But, that being said, its a good way to see how the linux system is put together.[/i]" It's a much better way to learn these things than, say, doing everything with GUI tools in Ubuntu or (worse yet) Linspire, but there are better ways to learn about the system. That was my point -- that, if you want to learn about how a unixlike OS is put together, you'd likely get a lot more out of LFS or FreeBSD than from Gentoo.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

"Gentoo is for ricers." I don't eben know what this means. "It's more stable (not saying much to say it's more stable than Gentoo --" Hard to disagree with, as many times "patches" in the Gentoo tree will be broken depending on the current flags and packages you have. I had log in systems get hosed after an update once. "culture that encourages people to use C-flags that improve execution speed at the expense of making all floating-point operations come out severely wrong." Never noticed this problem, but then again, I do not do any major number crunching. "If you want to learn about compilation, you're better off learning with the ports tree of a BSD-based OS than with Gentoo, or with Linux From Scratch if you want to stick with Linux. Gentoo is for ricers." Well I can agree with the linux from scratch, but if you set up a stage 1 Gentoo system, it is much like a linux from scratch system. If Gentoo was a car, it would be a 1988 Jaguar. Looks good, moves fast, needs tons and tons of tinkering. Gentoo can be made to be very stable, but it requires a deal of patience and good knowledge of your system files and package versions, as well as flag usage. In reality, in most peoples hands, you end up with a flaky system. But, that being said, its a good way to see how the linux system is put together. And since the compiles are done for you, you really do not learn that much about compileing programs for linux, that part "just happens". If you have a spare box and some time, its worth setting up, as its clearly documented, educational, and fun to do. But it is not good for a reliable system.

apotheon
apotheon

I used to say "If I wanted to use Gentoo, I'd use FreeBSD instead." Now, I'm using FreeBSD. Guess what? It's a lot better than Gentoo. It's more stable (not saying much to say it's more stable than Gentoo -- but it's more stable even than Debian and Slackware), and it's not infected with a ricer culture that encourages people to use C-flags that improve execution speed at the expense of making all floating-point operations come out severely wrong. If you want to learn about compilation, you're better off learning with the ports tree of a BSD-based OS than with Gentoo, or with Linux From Scratch if you want to stick with Linux. Gentoo is for ricers.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

Man, that sounds so cool! I only wish I know what you were talking about. I'll get there, but I am still crawling.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

is a good choice. I played with it for an afternoon, and would have kept it if I had not already spent a week rounding out a Ubuntu install. Down the road, I deffinately reccomend a Gentoo install for you (not your mom), its a load of fun, and setting all the compile flags really, really does make a difference in speed. I managed to get a Gentoo 2006.1 to complie on a 450Mhz Pentium (2 or 3)with 256 MB of ram. The base system took 9 hours, and KDE took about 30 hours to compile, but, it booted into KDE 3.4 in about 1 min 12 sec (from cold start). Programs such as Open Office opened slow, but ran fine once open. I deffinately could not do to much multi tasking, but it ran at a functional level (better then Office 2000 on Win2k on an 800Mhz Celeron with 256Mb ram) and was stable. I was very sad when that box finally gave up the ghost and died.

vmaatta
vmaatta

I've never heard of PCLinuxOS but I'm sure it's ok. Anyways there's some things that are, while not the same, but similar in the distros. For example they usually have some sort of a package manager (for installing and managing all software). By far it's the best way to install and remove software. And each distro has it at least as a terminal version. But most have it as a GUI version too. For Ubuntu the GUI version is Synaptic and apt for command line (like other Debian based distros). Yum is my choice of command line tool for installing software and I use it on Ubuntu. ... Ok I just took a look at the PCLinuxOS site and it seems it uses Apt and Synaptic for package management :). ...

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

Thanks! I don't get a lot of compliments, especially when I am shooting my mouth off. And thanks for the advice as well. I am currently trying PCLinuxOS. I don't know about security, stability, etc... It booted up on an old Dell Laptop, PIII 700MHz, 512 MB, and so far it is able to browse and play embedded files, and of course it has OpenOffice. I did hang Firefox a few times, but honestly, I was trying. I had way too much opened at once. Of the few I tried, it is really the only one I have been able to get this far without help. (My feeling is, for a windows replacement, if I need help, it ain't ready for my mother to use.) Now I need to learn some basics, like installing 3rd party software, system maintenance, security, secure remote connections, etc... When I am comfortable with that, I will dive into the command line use. I want to learn enough that I could set up a linux domain controller & file/print server without a GUI. That is my short term goal. To be able to setup and support clients and servers.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

"Someday I am going to retire to Florida, get a pair of pants that comes up to my chest, Velcro sneakers, and listen to my friends tell stories about how M$ used to be, back in the old days before 2007 and the great Vista debacle." You just may be my new hero. "I am learning Linux because I am not a willing victim. It might be a feeble effort, but I am going to do it anyway. Wish me luck, I'm going in!" As for learning linux, it sounds like you have a good background and history, it shoud not be that hard for you to learn. I would suggest trying out several distros untill you find one the "seems right" and stick with that one for a while. Several different distros but start up scripts and tools in different locations, causing no end of cross-distro confusion. If you just want simple, clean, gui linux, the ubuntu flavors are hard to beat, and Xubuntu is the easiest on old hardware while maintaining a "full" gui. PCLinux is also a good choice here. For plain stability Debian is good, as is any of the BSDs. If you like to tinker, I can not recomend Gentoo enough, its the most customizable distro I know, and it will teach you alot about linux systems in the install process. Just my 2 cents on linux.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

I used a mainframe terminal, (specifically, a teletype like you see in old B&W horror movies. Clackity, clackity, ding, 'formfeed", rip!) back in 9th grade. that was in '75. (This is really funny. It used a dedicated phone line for communication. The head of the math dept. would dial in on a regular telephone, and then push the handset down onto a device that had two suction cups for the ear and mouth pieces. It would stay like that all day. That was hot stuff for a high school back then.) I went into the family business after high school, food service, and and didn't start poking at computers again about '85. Then it was DOS. I went back to school and the local college had 386's. I couldn't ever remember the syntax. It drove me crazy. Then I discovered my first MAC. It was love. I bought a MAC Classic II and used it for years too long. Then I really got tired of food service. I wanted a job in computers. I couldn't land a MAC job to save my life, so I switched to the 'dark side.' I have now been at my first IT job for almost 6 years. The more I learn, the more I know I need to learn Linux! As for retirement, I'll never be able to retire. (Although, the pants up to my chest is inevitable.) When gas goes up some more, commuting to work will be a losing situation. Cars cost as much as my house, and the price of food has gone up so much, its cheaper to eat money. What a frightening world to raise a family in! Anyone know where I can get a quarter kilo of Soilent Green?

vmaatta
vmaatta

.. On that linux learning. I use Ubuntu at work and I'm writing this on a Mac at home. Believe me you'll never look back. Oh btw.. Good luck on that retirement plan ;).

dogzilla
dogzilla

"Sometimes you are forced to buy them..." Doesn't that pretty much say it there? By contrast Google isn't forcing anyone to use their product(s). Still, all these corporations that spout all the latest acronyms and tout how "with it" and powerful and in control they are crack me up when I think that they were all "forced" to hop in bed with m$ all these past years. These were choices. Mostly ill-informed choices but choices they made nevertheless. If your clients or business partners want to "upgrade" to the next version of anything that's just fine. But it is really up to them to maintain compatibility with you. They are making the change. That does not force you to do anything. It reminds me of the sage childhood advice, "If your friends are going to run and jump off a cliff does that mean you must too?" I thought the maturity we supposedly acquire in adulthood made peer pressure near obsolete. Maybe that is a pretty good indicator of who grew up and who didn't. Who remained vulnerable to the FUD and vaporware of a "soft" marketing company and who grew out of it. For anyone interested to see, the writing was appearing on the wall with Win95 if not sooner. M$ was showing it's stripes. The amazing thing to me is that so many seemingly intelligent, educated and experienced business persons so easily and quickly became m$ junkies after that. It wasn't because they had the best OS or the best application software. It was because they were the best marketer and b.s.'er. While other companies in the business regarded integrity a high priority, m$ was busy tunneling under them. Taking the low road. And it's paid off handsomely for them no doubt. But only because so many kept the blinders on and refused to take them off. Reeks of a cult or some religion. Software is a tool. The OS is a tool. Little more. Tools to get a job done. But there is a marketing company that repeatedly sold a bill of goods significantly bigger than what they ever delivered. It's time to see that company for what it is. Or was. If you want good tools there are choices. M$ is not the only game in town. That is, unless you let their marketing gurus talk you into believing otherwise. Still, that's your choice!

apotheon
apotheon

TR user michaellashinsky makes good points -- points I'm glad were made. I forgot all about Mike Rowe's problem with MS until michaellashinsky mentioned him again.

jfowler
jfowler

No you don't ("Talk too much"). Everything you said is only too true, and needs saying as much as possible. Personally, I couldn't agree more.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

You are right. Another thing is that if you did come up with a product that could possible compete, MS would swamp you in lawsuits and legal fees. One thing very wrong with this country is that M$ (or anyone else, in all fairness,) doesn't have to be right to win. They only have to have more disposable funds than you to destroy you. M$ could spend millions, even billions if it was worth it without having to sell anything off to raise the funds. Spending a few million in legal fees to squash a competitor is standard practice and not even visible on their financial graphs. I teenager by the name of Mike Rowe was into computers and had his own part time consulting business. He called his website "www.MikeRoweSoft.com". It's his own damn name, but M$ slammed him with legal orders out the ass! They accused him of name squating, even though he had a real working website for his own consulting business. He was forced to shut it down because he could not even begin filing the paperwork and paying the filing fees to fight it. Forget about the actual lawyer fees. When the media got wind of it, 'ole Bill himself gave him a scholarship and door prizes to kill the bad publicity, so the kid was OK, but it doesn't make it right. What if it were you,and you were a 40 something, slightly overweight, balding, pale skinned because you spend all your time working, perspires too much, barely making ends meet guy? No press, no sympathy, no, scholarship, no door prize, no chance in hell of winning. Go ahead, try to write and sell your own software, no one is stopping you, no gun to your head. Just don't get in M$'s way. You don't believe me? Try it yourself. PS I do wish I had the knowledge and skills to write my own OS. I want less features, not more. The OS is not supposed to be the end product. The OS is supposed to start your PC and let you load your programs. Renaming, moving, copying, and deleting files is good too. (Hey, I just described DR-DOS! Oh yeah, M$ put them out of business too. Bummer.)

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

http://windowssecrets.com/comp/070607#story1 Its a really good read, and very timely too! Just a day after my own post. Can anyone tell me what "You have reached your maximum message level." means, and why it seems to be random? Is it by sub-branch? Is there a written policy about it? It doesn't even show up when I search for it. It is easier to follow rules when I know what they are.

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

not so sure about the EULA. Even if MS can not "prove their case" in court, they can afford to break my bank with little or no effort on their part. But the EULA reading is scary.

michaellashinsky
michaellashinsky

They want you to think that. I am sure that was slapped down in court, but I do not remember enough to spout off about it. I am pretty sure that we own our copy of the OS. I beleive that is why there is so much confusion as to when you can use your OEM copy or not. If we replace a motherboard, is it a new PC? The hard drive? I know M$ keeps changing the rules, partly to confuse, partly because they had to. If we were renting it, M$ would be asking for yearly license fees. (In addition to the purchase price of the client OS, the purchase price of the server OS, and the Client Access license which gives you permission to let your two licensed OSs talk to each other over your own wires. Is it any wonder I don't like or trust M$?) Have you noticed you just about cannot buy a pre-built PC without an OEM Windoze OS? It reminds me of a short story about consumerism, (I think it was named "The Subliminal Man", but it was a long time ago.) This guy was talked into trading in his car for a new one instead of repairing it. Soon he gets his oil changed, signs a ton of papers, and as he is driving away he realizes the mechanic just sold him a new car instead of an oil change. Every time we buy a PC, M$ has us buying a new OS because they say we cannot use the last copy on this PC, even when it is the same exact version. It doesn't surprise me they do it, but it kills me that 99% of us just accept it! What is wrong with the people in this country? How many millions of people bought PCs in the last decade with the OEM OS, and didn't even get the OS disks? (Some got a restore partition instead, which didn't do them any good when the whole drive failed.) It sure isn't because M$ and the PC Manufacturer couldn't afford the price of the CD. It's because they can charge you for the OEM OS, (or use it to give the illusion of value to a new PC,) and also because they can literally force the acceptance of the latest OS this way. M$ and the OEMs cannot discontinue support of the last OS until they have a "critical mass" of the new flavor in use. Most of us don't want Vista, but they can force the critical mass to occur by forcing consumers to get it with their new PC. They did it with Windoze ME, and they are doing it again with Vista. Wake up America! We are a global laughing stock! Europe is fighting this stuff. China and other poor nations get around it by pirating instead of paying, but we continue to pay through the nose, (or bleed though it.)

Dumphrey
Dumphrey

and it bugs me to no end. Its by no means critical. Its just MS spyware. But, according to the MS eula, they have every leagal right to use wga, as we at best rent the use of the OS from them.

apotheon
apotheon

Most of us understood what you meant, and didn't think what you said warranted flames. DRM like WGA is just a tax on the honest to make members of the board of directors feel like something's being done to line their pockets.

Editor's Picks