‘To describe writing as ” Orwellian ” means that it expresses a pessimistic view of a dull, uniform world where every aspect of life is controlled and organized by the State.’1 This is certainly an accurate description of my writing on the subject of Microsoft (and corporate culture in general). I consider myself a desktop revolutionary, a guerilla sysadmin, a software freedom fighter. I’m one of a growing number of PC techs for whom the phrase “Format C:” (or, more likely, fdisk /dev/sda) is the answer to the many “How do I fix my Windows PC?” questions we get. Microsoft wants to control every aspect of your desktop, server and online experience. They have failed miserably with the latter two, but have completely dominated – through marketing and unfair business practices, rather than technical superiority – the desktop.Why don’t more people use Linux? It’s more powerful, more secure, infinitely customizable… and it’s free. What’s the problem?
Slackware was my first Linux, back in 1995. It was the Linux distro in those days, largely because of an easier menu-driven installation process. I think installation is even easier than Windows now. But there are two areas that are always an obstacle for less experienced users: partitioning and drivers. These areas are difficult not because of any inherent flaw in Linux, but because of the Microsoft stranglehold on the desktop.
If you are installing Linux on a box of it’s own, partitioning isn’t any different than a Windows installation: it happens without user intervention. It’s only because many users are installing on a Windows box and wish to dual-boot, that the Linux installer has to shrink the existing NTFS or VFAT partition and create other partitions for itself. This is usually done flawlessly, provided the user has some idea of what is going on. I would suggest that anyone who thinks this is a defect of Linux try to install Windows in a dual-boot config on a PC where Linux is already installed and see how well Microsoft handles that.
The second issue, driver availability, is due to the lack of response of hardware manufactures to demands from the Linux community for support. Let’s face it, it takes time and money to develop drivers and most companies can’t justify investing in a driver for less than two percent of the desktop market, especially if they will be pressured to release the code as open source. As Linux desktop usage grows, this will change. Indeed, it has already begun. Check out the rivalry between nVidia and ATI for producing the best driver support for Linux users (especially the hardcore gaming crowd).
Unfortunately, businesses are notoriously slow to adopt “new” technology, even when it will save them time, money and the hassle of the Microsoft malware machine. So, those of us who support Windows users must use Windows as well. That is why I no longer support Microsoft products. I will offer help in migrating to a superior platform, be it GNU/Linux, BSD, Mac OS/X, or Solaris. But I will no longer waste my time and effort supporting a system of the clueless, by the clueless, and for the clueless. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
1. ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ – George Orwell, first published by Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., 1949
This introduction by Gwyneth Roberts, © Longman Group Limited, 1983