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Microsoft and the common man

"That really p*sses me off !!" said my friend, "I really hate it when people slag-off Microsoft, they have bought computing to the common man", he added, taking a swig from his pint "I can just plug in a CD Writer and install the software without having to call you lot in !!". He had a point.

We had been discussing the merits of Open-source software like Linux versus Windows and he seemed to be winning the argument. "Those other companies are just jealous of Microsoft's success, if those other software companies were any good, why haven't they beaten Microsoft with better products ?", (he was getting a full head of steam now), "Can you honestly tell me I could just put in one of those Linux CDs and install Linux as easily as Windows XP ??", he said, hoping that would finish me off. I saw my chance, "Yes !!", I said, "I have already done it many times - I had to".

In mid 2003 I was having serious problems with Win98. I would be working on something and just as I was about to save it, I got the infamous BSoD (Blue Screen of Death). Each time that happened, Win98 would take a bite from some file, thus increasing the chances that BSoDs would happen again.

I had the answer. I had bought a copy of WinXP for a customer, who decided they didn't want it so I thought I would give it a try. All was well for a while until my PC suddenly re-booted its self loosing yet more work. This went on for a while, getting worse and worse. It got so bad there was little point in turning my PC on at all.

I had rescued an old P400 a while back and had put Mandrake Linux on it. I decided to swap the two PCs over. I spent some time learning how to setup KMail, Mozilla and OpenOffice with the settings from the Windows PC. Much of my software was written in a platform-independent language so porting it didn't take that long.

Almost one year later, I'm still using Mandrake Linux on that old P400 for all my serious work. The other PC had WinXP wiped and now runs FreeBSD-5.1 which, strangely enough, doesn't crash anymore - this will be my main PC again in due course. I still use Windows, but not for anything serious. These days, I can surf the web and read emails with almost care free abandon, unlike many of my Windows customers.

Back in the pub my friend and I were finishing off our discussion with a view to calling it a draw, "Windows has done a lot for the common man," I conceded, "but it now getting to a point where all those common men (& women) are going to have to be secuirty experts !" My friend realised I had a point. Barely a day goes past without some virus, worm, trojan or other nasty making the news.

Last year, I made a stark prediction to my co-directors: Any business that can't keep its systems secure and operational is either going out of business or going back to the 19th century.

I actually believe that Microsoft will release a secure version of Windows, but it is going to take a while and there will be a few casualties along the way.

In the meantime you can read [ Keeping Windows Secure ]

(C) 2004 Peter Blue

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