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Why Microsoft Wins

Their software is easier to install and use.  Why would I want to perform some archaic commands on my linux box when I can click next, next, next, finish and have a functional system in half the time.  If you Linux people don't figure out a way to make a painless trial for software on your platform, not Linux itself, third party apps; don't expect to be picking up much marketshare anytime soon.

I just read today that IBM is worried that Universities are starting to focus on MS products to the detriment of others.  IBM will give free software to Universities to compensate.  Will this stop help increase software diversity?  Probably not.  When a professor has to set up and environment for their class, do they want easy installs or  would they rather waste 4 days trying to get Webshpere rather than .NET running?

I am not a big MS fan, but the rest of the industry needs to get their act together.  I think I'll become a MS Bitch because they are probably going to win anyway.  For me it's no longer a religious or a technical superiorty issue.  I will support whatever software gives me a job and puts food on the table.

Formerly someone else
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

My Spider-Sense is Tingling...

I feel a major backlash coming from the Java / Unix / anti-Microsoft camp...

Quick Duck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Genx'er
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Good job Gen Xer! Now they will be too embarrassed to lash back...because you predicted they would!

name withheld out of cowardice
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The real difference is that the pretty installation programs are where all of the beauty ends.  In the Unix world, it takes a while to get everything installed, but subsequently everything runs reliably day in and day out.  Whereas, in the MS world, the installation may seem to be user-friendly, but you pay for that in the 'back-end' - or long run - with unreliability and constant troubleshooting, upgrading, security issues.

Until I built a Unix/Perl/Apache/MySQL app that runs and runs and runs, I thought all tools and systems (for PCs) were cumbersome and unreliable and inefficient.

Ieechema
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"Whereas, in the MS world, the installation may seem to be user-friendly, but you pay for that in the 'back-end' - or long run - with unreliability and constant troubleshooting, upgrading, security issues."

Or in other words, "job security" for security professionals.

Wisea**
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Ah, MySQL. That wonderfully reliable and robust database:

http://sql-info.de/mysql/gotchas.html

"if it's not supported, do the next best thing. Silently."

Anonymous by default
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"In the Unix world, it takes a while to get everything installed, but subsequently everything runs reliably day in and day out. "

If similar expertise is applied to a Windows XP/2000/NT installation, the end result is the same.  As a bonus with Windows, you don't need nearly infinite patience for frustrating minutia to get it installed in the first place.  The default Windows security or lack thereof needs some work but that will get fixed.

Doug
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Besides Ieechema, the OP's point was that MS software sucks, but people use it because they can install it...  so what did you add?

Steamrolla
Wednesday, July 21, 2004



I take it that you've never used or even heard of Knoppix.

It does exactly this.  You pop a cd into your drive, it loads Linux into your memory space (detects, but doesn't do anything to your harddrive) and you get a full blown Linux desktop with less hassle than anything I've ever seen.

But you are correct, usability is the single biggest deterant to many users picking things up.  This is why I installed Mozilla, Gimp, and OpenOffice on my wife's win98 box.  Once I do her next upgrade, I'll transition her completely over to Linux as she knows most of the software already.

KC
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

You know, I don't really see this to the degree the OP implies.  To install an application foo on Linux, it's typically a one liner:

rpm --install foo, or
apt-get install foo, or
emerge foo

depending on the distribution.

For more complex server type stuff, e.g. configuring a web server or database server, yes I think Windows might win as far as *initial* ease of setup.  But if you need fine-grained control over the details, I've found that Linux typically allows that in a more predictable manner (assuming you have some familiarity with general Linux standards and practices).  Not always, but generally not any worse than diving into the "Advanced" install options on a Windows install wizard.  And heaven forbid you need to get into editing the registry to activate or disable some particular feature.  The config files for unix applications are much more self-explanatory for that type of stuff in every case I've encountered.

Then there's removal -- in Linux, removing an application is generally just a matter of deleting its files.  In Windows, you need to "uninstall" it and still half the time it leaves bits and pieces of itself behind -- nonfunctioning start menu items, debris in the registry, etc.

AMS
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Debian is a good way to have access to a lot of software without a lot of hassle.

Of course, you'll want to step off the package list from time to time, and it's the same old thing then.

Matt Conrad
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Formerly, you are correct. The first exposure someone has to a program is installing it.

My experience with installing stuff from source code is that I have to track down several and sometimes dozens of dependent libraries. If I already have those libraries then I will find that the program depends on some other version. Many times the first few attempts will fail. In general, if I can't get it all working within a couple trials I just move on to something else because my time is better spent on other things. If a client is paying me, I am very aware of the cost to him of spending hours working on such things, tracking down bugs, making changes to the makefile and submitting the changes to the project's maintainer. In cases where the client is only using a few copies of the program, it is *always* cheaper to go with a commercial solution than to mess around with this. It only pays off when you are talking about a larlge corporate client that has hundreds or thousands of installations, such as google for example, and the time spent messing with it can be pro-rated across many machines. It's ironic that these programs are of little use to regular people and mainly serve to benefit large corporations, but if that is how the student and unemployable programmers who contribute to these projects want to spend their time, it is their right. I am sure it will be seen as unfair to label them as unemployable, but I would never hire someone unable to make a easy to use installer that works transparently on the machines my target market uses.

Dennis Atkins
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Steamrolla:  OP didn't say MS software sucks.  Rather:

"I am not a big MS fan, but the rest of the industry needs to get their act together.  I think I'll become a MS Bitch because they are probably going to win anyway. "

Sounds like OP is on his way toward embracing MS.

I can't believe that anyone would argue that MS software -is- easy to install, compared to others.  Ever install Apache?  PERL?  MySQL?  Linux?  My 8 year old could do it.

Ieechema
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"If similar expertise is applied to a Windows XP/2000/NT installation, the end result is the same.  As a bonus with Windows, you don't need nearly infinite patience for frustrating minutia to get it installed in the first place.  The default Windows security or lack thereof needs some work but that will get fixed."

Exactly.  Microsoft will be reliable and secure before Unix is easy to use.  Reliability is already good.  Security could use some work.  Ease of use will win the day over the Linux way.  Only masochistic teens will think Linux is cool.

"I take it that you've never used or even heard of Knoppix."

Why, yes I have .  It's easy as pie.  I'm not talking about home user pap.  Say you want to try Novell Groupwise or any other business app for Linux.  You are in for a pile of fun. 

Formerly someone else
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

rpm -i groupwise?

As Dennis said, instead of DLL hell Linux offers dependancy hell.  Yes if you stick with what comes with your distro installs are pretty easy.  It's when you need to step out of that fold and get something not included in the distro that you go through hell.

Formerly someone else
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

You know, it occurs to me that all this talk tells me that it still requires a certain level of competence to handle a computer.

Which also means that it's not a commodity.  Electricity is a commodity because anyone can flip a switch, or change a lightbulb.  True, it takes a qualified elictrician to wire a building, but once it's in place it's pretty much fire and forget.

We moght be moving to IT being a commodity, but we are not there.  Really not even close.

Aaron F Stanton
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

moght?

I hate typos.

Aaron F Stanton
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

I think that, like Web browsers, there's a winning strategy for Linux: it's called "Less is More".

Windows has a huge capital investment in its UI, and it's going to be difficult to duplicate it, KDE and GNOME notwithstanding.  I think there's a place for a much simpler system, which costs less and is easier to learn.

Not as good as Windows? You bet! That's the whole "disruptive technology" argument in a nutshell.

Portabella
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

This is the main reason why I'm likely to get an Apple Powerbook or G5 soon. There is some need for automation. But it's not incompatible with having a GUI interface.

Of course, I will have machines capable of mswindows, so it's no tradeoff.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

WRT to "Less is More": appliance computers have been tried and as far as I know never really succeeded.  WebTV, various email appliances, have not been successful outside of small niches.  I agree there ought to be a market for the "bulletproof, virusproof, web-browsing-and-email appliance" that is as reliable and easy to use as a television set, but for some reason it doesn't seem to have happened.

Aaron is right, computers, at least beyond the desktop, still require expertise to set up and operate.  I think the whole issue boils down to this: what you know (e.g. Windows) seems easy and intiutive, what you don't know (e.g. Linux) seems arcane and difficult.  Except for mainframes, which are just arcane and difficult no matter what. ;-)

AMS
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

> appliance computers have been tried and as far as I know never really succeeded

That's true.

I wonder, though, if it's an "essential" difficulty (ie, just a bad idea) or just an "accidental" one. The appliance computers that I saw in 2000 (I worked on an "appliance" project that year) were simply way over-priced -- for $500, why get an appliance?

If the numbers were a lot lower (say $50), the whole game would change. If the hardware's expensive, you probably want to run a "real" OS. If the hardware is cheap, then single-purpose computers, "media terminals" and the like are much more feasible.

Portabella
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

>>> We moght be moving to IT being a commodity, but we are not there.  Really not even close.

An insightful comment * from another discussion (  http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=165541  ):

The idea that IT is a commodity [referring to that HBR IT doesn't matter article and now book] is one of the more successful trolls of our time.  IT isn't a commodity when you're looking at the processes of an individual business - it has to be tailored to the business.  IT also isn't a commodity when you're looking at common processes like typing a letter, adding up columns of numbers because there's not enough of an interchangeable supply of goods: e.g only a few word processors to choose from.

The fact that it's not "flip the switch /  turn the key" easy to use is another reason.

(* of course it's my comment)

Ward
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"I can't believe that anyone would argue that MS software -is- easy to install, compared to others.  Ever install Apache?  PERL?  MySQL?  Linux?  My 8 year old could do it."

Most Linux software nowadays do have excellent installation routines that basically distill an incredibly complex operation into a single command line call (often downloading necessary files, building, setting up scripts and daemons, etc).

Having said that, it's from that point forward that the usability of most Unix style software (or most non-MS software for that matter) and Windows software is readily apparent -- Windows software usually have the things you need to do after getting the initial install readily apparent in obvious steps forward on your journey -- there are simple road markers at each intersection telling you which way to go to do certain activities (and the road signs themselves are educational in that the destinations might not have been previously considered). Unix software, on the other hand, basically dumps a map of North America at every intersection.

Dennis Forbes
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Normally you install everything from the distro, and installing a Linux distro is much easier than installing Windows and all the programs.

Whatever the difficulties with Linux they are not these. It looks like the poster has not even bothered to install a Linux distro since 1998.

Possibly he's tried to install some particular piece of third party software, but to complain about Linux is like saying Windows sucks because Real Player is much worse than iTunes.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"installing a Linux distro is much easier than installing Windows"

It's true that installing windows is hard. You got to tear out that whole area around the opening and pull up the still. The worst are the windows with the counterweights that go in a slot in the wall. Making that stuff look right after you put it back is really difficult. But you gotta do it cause after 20 years, condensation gets in between the panes on your double plated windows and the only fix really is to replace them.

Dennis Atkins
Thursday, July 22, 2004

"Their software is easier to install and use.  Why would I want to perform some archaic commands on my linux box when I can click next, next, next, finish and have a functional system in half the time."

If this was true then the Mac would own the market!

(You mean you have to actually install software to use it?)

Nate Silva
Thursday, July 22, 2004

Partially true but on the upside these lads are working on it: http://autopackage.org/

They are at 0.6 and won't be adding features, just bug -fixing untill after 1.0.  Hope that helps.

a cynic writes...
Thursday, July 22, 2004

"Whatever the difficulties with Linux they are not these. It looks like the poster has not even bothered to install a Linux distro since 1998."

Stephen.  I'm not talking about a core Linux distro install.  Yes Apache and all "included" apps are easy to install.  Step out of those bounds and get a third party non-bundled app and you dive into a world of missing dependancies,  googling for documentation that has been scattered to the four winds, etc.  This is very much a problem of Linux/UNIX/*nix.

For the last time I understand installing a particular distro is EASY.

Formerly someone else
Thursday, July 22, 2004

May I humbly suggest that the real answer should be "installing something you know is easy"?

The SharePoint install is fairly straightforward, but I've had a lot of people struggle with it, because it's new and different. The issue is when the installer asks you questions that you have to know the answer to before you can answer.

Last time I installed linux (a few years ago), it asked me about the file system setup. Of course it offered a default, but the way it asked made me feel like it was a question I should understand before proceeding. That was frustrating.

I don't think this is an issue of MS vs. OSS - it's an issue of human factors engineering in writing the installer, and understanding your audience (which can often be difficult, esp. in universal applications like an OS).

I think we can agree that for general usage, anything more than next-next-next-finish is probably doomed. :-/

Philo

Philo
Thursday, July 22, 2004

I think part of the problem with ease of use on linux is expectations.  Like it or not, people expect to have to know something about computers in order to use linux. 

Even requiring them to type rpm -i <package> is *something*  If I told my mother to do that, she'd say "where do I type that?  what's RPM?  the package was on my desktop, but where is it on the hard drive?" etc etc etc.  These things may be common knowledge for any geek, but to Mom it's completely unintuitive.  And telling her she needs Libraries X, Y and Z to install Application Q (even with a GUI installer) is just going to make things worse...

Windows, by comparison, is the OS of the masses.  It's generally expected that Windows users know diddly squat about their system.  Therefore, we assume they are imbeciles and give them next-yes-next-no-finish.  Many apps even put their shortcuts right on the desktop, just in case the user can't figure out how to drill down through the start menu.

So the disconnect is that Linux supporters want Linux to be the OS of the masses, but they don't seem willing to dumb it down enough for the masses to comprehend.

Of course that all ignores Apple and OS X which is a perfect example of a user-friendly *nix system...but why Apple isn't the #1 platform is a completely separate discussion.

Joe
Thursday, July 22, 2004

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