Thursday, February 16, 2006

Changes on the Horizon? Part 2

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As I said in Part 1, The industry has been ‘driven’ by Microsoft to provide bigger, faster, better hardware just to support Windows. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Yes, Windows has created a ready market for hardware and software. However, the problem that most folk do not see is the lack of Downward Compatibility that I also mentioned. It is not just with Windows either. Case in point is Word for Windows. Part of the Office suite, Word has become a virtual standard for clean and efficient operation while providing the writer with a rich set of tools for productive writing. I doubt there is much argument with that. However, do not bother trying to edit a document written with Word 95 with Word 2002. It cannot do it in the .DOC format. In fact, you may not be able to do it at all. Therefore, if you have a lot of documentation written with an older version of Word, you may have lost all that work. Microsoft has you over a barrel since they do not support very many older versions. If you want to keep Microsoft support, you need to buy the newer, if not newest release of MS Office at $550 a pop.

Software is another area that causes a problem when upgrading Windows. Most software written for windows use Microsoft libraries to provide functionality the developer does not have to build from scratch. Unfortunately, these libraries are specific to a particular version of Windows. That means a software written for Windows 3.1 or 95 will not run or at least not run correctly on Windows XP or 2003 or even Vista! 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. Not the best solution, but it is cheaper than trying to find and then purchase replacement software. It is no wonder that I spend a lot of time searching for freeware or shareware solutions. Fortunately, there is a huge array of software that fit the bill.

Other solutions to the difficulty are readily available free or a small fraction of the cost. I know what you are saying and you are right. Linux is one such solution and a good one as well. However, I want to give you a ‘case study’ to watch.

This scenario is taking place in Spain right now. I am not making this up, it is really happening.

In Merida, Spain, Luis Millan Vazquez de Miguel, a college professor turned politician, is succeeding where multibillion-dollar, multinational corporations have failed. He is managing to unseat Microsoft Corp. as the dominant player in the software industry, at least in his little part of the world.

Vazquez de Miguel is the minister of education, science and technology in a western region of Spain called Extremadura, a mostly rural expanse of olive trees and tiny towns with 1.1 million inhabitants. In April, the government launched an unorthodox campaign to convert all the area's computer systems, in government offices, businesses and homes, from the Windows operating system to Linux, a free alternative.

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

It has not been easy, and there have been a few glitches, but so far, there has been over 10,000 systems converted. In addition, there are 70 proposals and laws in twenty-four countries that will allow the use of Open Source solutions instead of Windows or Microsoft software.

Microsoft Spain is not handling the movement at all 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.

Part 3, a few comparisons between Linux and Windows.