Microsoft and the Windows brand have taken a public relations beating lately, whether it be justified or not. It seems as though Apple gained some major ground – I’m talking perception and ‘feel’; not necessarily interested in or discussing actual market share – and has been riding a major wave of positive vibes for the past few years. Linux and other open source applications have been getting a ton of press because since we’re all piling on top of Microsoft, why not tout the free operating systems that has made enormous strides in usability recently? Microsoft responded with its “Mojave Experiment” and “I am a PC” ad campaigns, so that got me to thinking – how is Microsoft doing in reality these days?
I personally paid my first real bit of attention to Apple when I was searching for a new music player. Ultimately, I purchased the newly released (at the time) 60gb 5th generation iPod. I think this was possibly in mid-2005 or so. Ok, so I had the iPod and thus was sent on my first real departure from anything Microsoft or what I considered mainstream. Without wasting space to set my frame of reference, I’ve always worked in IT and I had very little exposure to Apple products. And when I did, they were always the under-the-desk alternate system that someone used as a secondary machine to do their job – marketing and graphics type folks are all I can even remember.
At any rate, I began to realize what is fairly common knowledge today – Apple technologies almost ‘mandate’ that you change your computing behavior to match what they have in mind as evident by their designs. Understanding that the iPod was from Apple, a company who’s products and systems I was not familiar with, I chalked it up to just having to learn a new vocabulary, so to speak. All in all, after using iTunes for a for years now, I am comfortable that I can finally do what I want with the music player. Ok great, I’m still not getting an Apple PC because quite frankly, proprietary hardware and lack of any real application development – ie. OPTIONS – goes against my grain. I have no problem clipping a webcam to my Windows screen; while an integrated camera is nice, it doesn’t justify changing my 20 years of computing knowledge.
As a need to increase my professional arsenal of skills and knowledge, I began a deep dive into the Linux world. I’ve tinkered over the years with varying degrees of success, but nothing focused and purposeful. I got quite comfortable with several of the Red Hat flavors – CentOS, Fedora, and Ubuntu. At this point, I would say that I almost exclusively use Ubuntu due to its popularity – ie. OPTIONS – an incredible ease of installation and use. You can now even install Ubuntu as a Windows app in order to test it out (it installs to a new partition and boots entirely into Ubuntu, we are not talking about creating a virtual machine and sharing Windows resources).
With Linux installed, I worked through a few commercial and community guides to get up to speed and make use of my free new operating systems. I find that once I get a Linux machine up and running, connected to the network, accessing the Internet, and sharing files, I have very little interest or use for it. Maybe I am doing something wrong, but I can’t make a compelling argument to myself to stop using Windows in favor of Linux. I’ve been through countless, “Free alternatives to Windows!” articles aimed at showing me how I can do anything for free in Linux that I can do in Windows, but installing, updating, and configuring these things is more often than not a royal pain in the ass. Besides, my nature is to find free ways to do everything in Windows as it is, so aside from the $100 Windows charge, I’m not netting myself a major advantage. I admit that I was blown away by Linux’s nifty and pretty GUI when I installed one of the later versions, but that was before I had experience with Vista’s Aero. I found myself enjoying the experience with Aero for more than Linux’s still blocky and archaic looking GUI.
I am not discounting the merits of Apple, Linux, or any other OS out there, and I would surely lose any debate with someone that is a staunch supporter of any alternates to Windows, but as someone who has ventured out and really tried to explore the alternatives, I still prefer good old Microsoft to the free and/or more expensive and hip alternatives out there.
As with any device, brand, object, utility, etc, I encourage you to seek out and explore the alternatives for yourself. The fact that we are all individual in our needs, desires, and opinions makes every option the best for some and the worst for others. Have fun exploring these for yourself!