A Techy Whinge

A computer needs an operating system. You buy a PC and about 90% of the time it comes with Windows installed (about 8% of the remaining are Apple OS).1  A significant part of the cost of the PC goes on the operating system. Not a problem, Microsoft spends a lot of money developing their software, they deserve to paid for their work (just like I hope to paid for my writing).

The problem arises when you try and choose another operating system. What if you don’t want Windows?

Okay, I don’t do politics on this blog. If you want to know my politics, read my books. Better yet, buy me a pint at a convention and I’ll bore you with them as long as the beer keeps coming.

However, I’m taking a brief break from that rule this week. This might seem a boring techy whinge, and I suppose it is, but it’s important.

I’ve installed Ubuntu Linux, my preferred operating system, on three Windows 8 machines this week. It’s been a tremendous pain, something that was once a very easy job has become a nuisance because Windows does not want to let go of the machine. This is not just a Linux issue, my technicians at work are having trouble installing Windows 7 on new Windows 8 machines.

A lot of people have been rude about Microsoft in the past, sometimes unfairly in my opinion. But I’m about to join their ranks.

Why shouldn’t I install whatever operating system I choose on a PC? I bought the machine, it belongs to me and not to Microsoft, no matter what the pre-installed software seems to think. That’s like the estate agent saying I’m not allowed to choose the carpets or wallpaper for my new house. Or the bank saying that I have to have PPI when I take out a loan (and that didn’t work out so well for the banks here in the UK… )

I feel that we’re at crossroads. So many people are asking me to install Linux on their machines because they’re fed up of the dog’s dinner that is Windows 8. However, the process of installation of another OS hasn’t been this difficult in years. That’s why I’ve logged my experience so far here on my tech blog for anyone who might find it useful.

As I said earlier, this may seem like a boring techy whinge, but there are other issues at stake. For example, here in the UK, Microsoft allows schools to use Office 365 for free. Okay, Microsoft benefits by getting kids used to its way of doing things, but education benefits because even if Office 365 were not that good (and it’s excellent), schools are free to spend the money saved on other things.

Good for Microsoft.  Or so I thought. A few weeks ago at BETT (an educational trade fair) I was told that schools in Malaysia had to pay for Office 365.

Let’s just think about that. Countries who probably need the money more for their children’s education don’t get the free software.

Free, open source software has the potential to make people’s lives better. It helps to level the playing field when it comes to education. That’s just one, minor reason why I use Linux, and one reason why you should. If you’re using it, you’re helping to develop the software (read how here) so that other people can use it.

That’s one of the reasons why I blog occasionally about Linux. That’s why I’ll be making an effort to transfer more Linux notes across to my tech blog Tony Ballantyne Tech in the coming weeks.

I use Ubuntu Linux, there are many other flavours available. Why not give it a try? If you know someone who uses it, ask them what to do, they’d probably be delighted, if not downright evangelical about its benefits.

In the meantime, you can find out more about Ubuntu here.