Changes on the horizon?, Part 2

Dennis Faas's picture

Continued from Part 1.

As I stated previously, one could argue (to a degree) that Microsoft has created a marketplace for new computer hardware. And it's not necessarily a bad thing.

However, one must also consider the scope of Downward Compatibility as a result of upgrading. And it's not just isolated to just MS Windows: it encompasses nearly every operation related to upgrading a computer -- including Third Party software.

Case in point: most software written for windows use Microsoft libraries to provide functionality that the software developer would otherwise have to build from scratch. Unfortunately, these libraries (.DLLs) are specific to nearly every version of Windows. In other words: software written for Windows 3.1 or 95 will most likely not run on Windows XP or 2003 or even Vista!

And have you ever tried to use an MS Word 2002 document on MS Word 95? It's not possible (unless you've manage to locate a third-party application to convert it). And even then, you'll probably still lose out on some formatting.

I, myself, have a large library of Windows 95 software that I cannot run on my system. My solution? I have a second system setup with Windows 98 Second Edition that *will* run that software. It's not the best solution, but it is cheaper than trying to locate replacement software (and having to learn it all over again).

It is no wonder that I spend a lot of time searching for freeware or shareware solutions. There is a huge array of software that fit the bill; but even then, I run into portability and compatibility issues if I decide to take my project with me on the go.

But that's another story.

The good news is that there are solutions other than Microsoft, and they're readily available free (or at a fraction of the cost). Linux is one such solution, and a good one at that.

Consider this "case study", which is happening in Spain right now:

Luis Vazquez de Miguel is the minister of education, science and technology in a western region of Spain called Extremadura (a mostly rural expanse of tiny towns with 1.1 million inhabitants). And he's managing to unseat Microsoft Corporation as the dominant player in the software industry -- at least in his little part of the world.

In April, the government launched an unorthodox campaign to convert all the area's computer systems from the Windows operating system to Linux, a free alternative.

"We are the future," Luis said. "If Microsoft doesn't become more open and generous with its code, people will stop using it and it will disappear."

And it hasn't been easy.

As expected, there have been glitches -- but so far, over 10,000 systems have been converted. In addition, there are now 70 proposals and laws in twenty-four countries that will allow the use of Open Source solutions instead of Windows or Microsoft software.

To say the least, Microsoft Spain is not handling the movement well.

The biggest problem the Spanish government is facing with this is the incompatibility of documents created on Windows systems being printed out by Linux systems. Nevertheless, with the use of such software as Open Office, that hurdle is being easily bypassed.

... continued tomorrow.

In my final article of this 3 part series: a few comparisons between Linux and Windows.

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