For Whatever Reasons

bq.. New Windows updates, new anti-virus software, new ad-blocking software � regular people are starting to realize that the cycle never ends, that they are never going to successfully secure Windows, and that the easiest and best solution to the Windows security problem is not to use Windows at all.

The masses are restless.

>> “For Whatever Reasons”:http://daringfireball.net/2004/09/for_whatever_reasons

p. Windows is at a dead-end. For the majority of users these days their computers spend more time as paperweights or at a computer hospital than in use. _Most regular people don�t even realize that there exist any choices other than Windows. It�s not they haven�t heard of Apple or Linux, but that they don�t really understand what they are._


Macs are just to expensive, while windows doesn�t run so the best alternative one is left with is one of the many linux variants out there.

Ubuntu Linux and Fedora Core are both going to be releasing new versions by March/April 2005. For new users, both are very simple to use and provide a much better out of the box experience than windows. They match or beat Windows in just about every respect for typical home use – and if you take viruses and spyware into account there is just no competition. It�s amazing the amount of crap people are willing to put up with from their computers. Go stand outside any computer shop and observe the customers. They all have the same problems – windows keeps crashing or their brand new P4 is slower than the 286 they just replaced a month back. The computer shops are happy – after all they�re in demand and some charge money for reinstalling windows yet again.

bq. How big a problem is it on Windows? EarthLink offers a free program called Spy Audit which scans your PC for various forms of crapware; in March, they published a report showing that after scanning over one million PCs, Spy Audit had identified nearly 30 million instances of �spyware�, nearly 28 instances per PC scanned.

>> “Daring Fireball: Broken Windows”:http://daringfireball.net/2004/06/broken_windows

It�s no wonder that so many people don�t use their computers for anything besides email and web browsing – for tomorrow or the day after it�s going to act up anyways, and in the process their data might just die.

The ironic thing is, its the non-nerds of the world who can switch to Linux with the least amount of trouble. They�re not playing the latest games (ed: but Doom3 runs on Linux!) or using the latest hardware (though linux deals with that just fine also), or upgrading their computers every other month. They have fixed needs – email, word processing, perhaps some picture editing/organizing and instant messaging. Hell, if their pc didn�t crash more regularly than the electricity goes around here then they might just also use it for things like balancing the checkbook, maybe some online shopping, perhaps write a book or two even. Sadly, most people view their pc�s as a timebomb likely to go off at any time, and use it accordingly.

‘Computer stores’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2004_01/computer_shops_in_karachi.html in this city are a real horror story for the computer illiterate – I had to go to one today as the powersupply on my pc died a few days back, and while there I observed the people going in and out. They all had the same problems – spyware, spyware, and more spyware, along with a whole bunch of viruses thrown in for good measure. The sad part about the whole thing was that all of them had no clue as to what had hit them, and the computer shop people went out of their way to make sure they stayed uninformed. After long and bitter experience, they had learned that firewalls and anti-virus programs are essential but even then there they were, back again with the same old song and dance.

I know some people who�ve completely given up on their computers in disgust, sick and tired of incessant visits to the computer store or calls to nieces and nephews to sort out the latest problem. It�d make an interesting study to compare how many hours people are willing to put up fighting Windows against the time it would take them to learn Linux. For most people, I figure switching over to Fedora Core or Ubuntu and learning the basics would take about 10 to 15 minutes, and perhaps an hour more going through the included documentation to learn more about Linux than they ever did about Windows. The benefits are so many that it staggers the mind why people stick with Windows – it would make an interesting study for anthropologists down the road in their search to figure out why exactly is it that people worldwide stick with third class alternatives.

The above doesn�t really apply to those well versed in computers for Windows can be made secure – long as you put it behind a firewall running some other operating system! Though that is only a stop-gap measure – Microsoft is soon going to be blocking pirated copies of Windows from using windows update – which is going to sound the death kneel for millions of computers around the world, as the latest security patches pass them by. No one is safe, even those like me who have put their Windows pc behind a Linux based firewall:

At work, I was working on 4 spreadsheets, a word document and an email – I stepped out for a few minutes and lo and behold the damn pc restarted by itself! None of the documents were saved, and they all disappeared into oblivion, never to return. I�m not alone in this either, it�s happening all over the place:

bq. THANK YOU MICROSOFT! I didn�t need those hours of work anyway. I feel so much safer now because I don�t have to worry about evil crackers getting to my data because I can be certain that you will mess it up first. God. There goes my weekend.

>> “Photomatt: Bizarre Windows Behavior”:http://photomatt.net/2004/10/15/bizarre-windows-behavior/

Sometimes I wonder what all those supersmart people over at Microsoft are thinking… maybe they need to hire some not-so-smart people?

bq. Windows update is getting dangerously close to the definition of a computer virus: _A program or piece of code that is loaded onto your computer without your knowledge and runs against your wishes._

That’s not the half of it… perhaps Microsoft was just practicing for how best to disable pirated copies of windows – one of the pc’s never booted back up after this ‘update’.

Have I even mentioned yet that linux is ‘free software’:http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html? For example, look at ‘Ubuntus philisophy’:http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ubuntu/philosophy/document_view:

bq. 1. Every computer user should have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, share, change and improve their software for any purpose, without paying licencing fees.

2. Every computer user should be able to use their software in the language of their choice.

3. Every computer user should be given every opportunity to use software, even if they work under a disability.

*Does Windows even have a philisophy?* _(besides making money?)_ Back in the days Bill Gates used to have a vision of a computer on every desk, but somewhere along the line that vision turned into every person paying a yearly subscription to Microsoft.

For those stuck with Windows, good luck battling with the *hundreds of thousands* of spyware/viruses out there – you’re going to need it. The more adventurous out there can try out one of the many Linux distributions over at Distrowatch and rest secure in the knowledge that their computers aren’t going to mysteriously crash on them.

h4. Links:

* ‘Daring Fireball: For Whatever Reasons’:http://daringfireball.net/2004/09/for_whatever_reasons

* ‘Daring Fireball: Broken Windows’:http://daringfireball.net/2004/06/broken_windows

* ‘Computer stores in Pakistan’:http://ko.offroadpakistan.com/pakistan/2004_01/computer_shops_in_karachi.html

* ‘Photomatt: Bizarre Windows Behavior’:http://photomatt.net/2004/10/15/bizarre-windows-behavior/

* ‘GNU: Free Software’:http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html

* ‘Ubuntu Linux Philosophy’:http://www.ubuntulinux.org/ubuntu/philosophy/document_view

* ‘Distrowatch’:http://www.distrowatch.com

* ‘Linux – Youve Come A Long Ways Baby!’:http://www.w-3productions.com/cvcs/weblog/archives/2005/02/linux_youve_com.html

_originally published in ‘Spider Magazine’:http://spider.tm sometime near the end of 2004._

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8 Comments

  1. Which flavour of Linux are you running?

    Looks like Microsoft has heard your call. They are offering a free spyware removal tool: http://www.microsoft.com/athome/security/spyware/software/default.mspx. Also try this link: http://it.slashdot.org/it/05/02/16/1529213.shtml?tid=109&tid=172&tid=201

    Which version of Office are you running? The newer versions try their hand at document recovery in case of crash/power failure. It’s not 100% fool proof but it works alot of the time.

    When the computer reboots without warning does Windows ask you to send an error report? If so, I’d recommend sending it, Microsoft have online crash analysis (http://oca.microsoft.com) that looks at the report in realtime to figure out why the failure might have happened and tries to give you links to solutions.

    Hope that helps.

  2. I ran Fedora Core 3 for quite a while, than Ubuntu, but now I don’t have a pc. Am waiting for Fedora Core 4 to be released. ‘OS X.4’:http://www.apple.com/macosx/tiger/ is looking really good though…

    I’ve never had a spyware/virus on my windows pc yet, so I’m not really the target audience for this antispyware program. The problem is that normal users are not going to download this program – it needs to be integrated into windows. I’m running Office 2003 – and the document recovery procedure doesn’t work all to well.

    As to the specific problem I had, it was due to a windows update which forced a reboot – it wasn’t due to a crash.

  3. > The problem is that normal users are not going to

    > download this program it needs to be integrated into windows.

    Exactaly! It’s in beta right now, so I’m not sure if they plan to integrate it into Windows or distribute it via Windows Update. They need to do this carefully because of the monopoly issue, there will be a lot of unhappy anti-(spyware/virus) companies if they do go down that road. Though, it is cut and clear that everyone wants and needs this feature. I think in a couple of years all OSes will have anti-virus/spyware packaged in the box, pretty much like chkdsk/scandisk, defrag and firewall are standard features now days. Even if you have rock solid OS security, you really need to protect not-so-smart users from running trojaned / spyware binaries.

  4. Parsing through your site, you come across as yet another young rambler who doesn’t understand the significance of the OS’s that you bash. I understand the significance of Open Source and its community, but I also understand the stabilities required within key industries that are more forward thinking in competition than any Open Source application would allow.

    The reasons that Windows, for example, still has the highest share in the market for home end user, business, and scientific, is due to its abilities to cope with the demands of updated hardware and software when it’s released. Linux and Apple, unfortunately, have always been two steps behind in the race, although Apple does do well in certain areas where the majority of their markets are concerned.

    UNIX and Linux platforms, although highly powerful, still lack an elegant base for ‘industry standard’ cross-compatibilities. Even with integrations such as Wine, and all the spin-off code that has been produced as a result for Linux Open Source, still leaves most applications buggy at their best, in turn raising impracticalities in their use due to the cause and effect of lower productivity in any attempt to weed-out bugs.

    Businesses, scientists, and home-users will always go for the least resistance in possibilities of errors when it comes to their productivity.

    In my mind, there is only one true competitor to the Windows market in the long run – Sun Microsystems.

    How do I ‘know’ these things? Simple. I’m all of those people in a nutshell.

    Nice browsing your ranty and uninformed site. I love to read things like this at times – when I’m bored, and procrastinating time away.

  5. _but I also understand the stabilities required within key industries that are more forward thinking in competition than any Open Source application would allow._

    _The reasons that Windows, for example, still has the highest share in the market for home end user, business, and scientific, is due to its abilities to cope with the demands of updated hardware and software when it’s released._

    You’re way behind the times, old chap. Wake up and smell the roses. Perhaps you might have heard of this recent invention called the “supercomputer”:http://www.forbes.com/home/enterprisetech/2005/03/15/cz_dl_0315linux.html.

    bq.. The homegrown Linux operating system has come a long way from its origins as a college kid’s pet project and computer hobbyist favorite. Refined in recent years by professional computer programmers at IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Novell and Red Hat, Linux now has become so technically powerful that it lays claim to a prestigious title–it runs more of the world’s top supercomputers than any other operating system.

    A group that keeps track of the top 500 supercomputers in the world estimates that *Linux powers 60%* of those machines, displacing Unix, which used to be the most popular operating system for high-performance computing.

    p. Supercomputers *are* by ‘definition’:http://www.answers.com/supercomputer running on the newest hardware and running the most demanding applications known to man.

    bq. Whether manufactured by Japan’s NEC, U.S. super players SGI, IBM, or HP, the bulk of the leading systems are Linux-based clusters or systems. Four of the latest list’s top five super systems run on Linux, either in cluster or other form.

    _The reasons that Windows, for example, still has the highest share in the market for home end user, business, and scientific, is due to its abilities to cope with the demands of updated hardware and software when it�s released._

    Linux runs on over 20 different hardware architectures – exactly how many does windows run on? Microsoft is still struggling to support AMD64 bit processors, while a number of linux distros have released 64 bit versions ages back. Windows has over 90% of the market due to it’s sheer inertia, not because of any technological advantages.

    _UNIX and Linux platforms, although highly powerful, still lack an elegant base for industry standard cross-compatibilities. Even with integrations such as Wine, and all the spin-off code that has been produced as a result for Linux Open Source, still leaves most applications buggy at their best, in turn raising impracticalities in their use due to the cause and effect of lower productivity in any attempt to weed-out bugs._

    Wine is buggy, but Linux has been proven to have fewer bugs and security holes than windows. Your point is? Wine is just a stop gap measure. There exist open source alternatives, in many cases far superior to equivalent propreitary software. Look at Microsoft’s ‘XP Starter edition’:http://it.slashdot.org/it/05/03/17/2252235.shtml?tid=201&tid=98&tid=218 as a fine example. Even Linux as it was a couple of years ago is many times more capable than this crippled offspring MS if offering to developing countries. It’s more of an insult than an operating system.

    _In my mind, there is only one true competitor to the Windows market in the long run – Sun Microsystems._

    Sun doesn’t sell consumer pcs. How does it compare to Linux? apples and oranges. There is also the small matter that Sun is not doing too well these days.

    p. At the end of the day, it’s not just about cost and features. “Some food for thought”:http://linux.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/03/18/1337226&from=rss:

    bq. “MIT’s Media Lab has written to the Brazillian government (who is looking into a method to get its citizens cheap, high quality PCs) and has urged them to use Linux. From the article: *’Free software is far better on the dimensions of cost, power and quality…if the source code is proprietary, it is hidden from the general population. This robs them of a tremendous source for learning.’*”

    I don’t know if you can understand this, but this is the power of open source – it empowers people while propreitary software puts up artificial arbitary restrictions.

  6. If you would like to have more people read your articles you should not make them so long. Some people have to read some of your articles for research or anything they need it for but if you would like them to actually be interested in it than you should not make it so long and so boring. This is just my opinion.

  7. I liked our article. I learned a lot of things that I did not know before. I hope that you keep writing these articles because I enjoy reading them and I also enjoy learning things that I didn’t even know before.

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    Josh Heitmeyer

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