May 16, 2005

Brad goes Windows as Darth is born

Is it a coincidence that in this, the week Darth becomes Darth, I wiped my older GX100 at home and installed XP sp2? I was already running XP on my newer eMachines. This makes my basement a de facto Windows-only zone. My wife's iMac remains our email/surfing/iPhoto mainstay upstairs.

My old Dell has been a Linux/FreeBSD testbed for years, running everything from Red Hat to SuSE to Gentoo to Mandriva, but Friday night I finally decided to focus on what I/we actually use to get stuff done.

I am not against Linux. If all I wanted were Apache web services, MySQL or PostgreSQL or Oracle, and/or Samba file services, I'd pick FreeBSD or a major Linux (RH or SuSE) in a heartbeat. These are safe, reliable, cheap, run fast on affordable hardware, and for those server apps are very proven.

They do not, however, hold a candle to Microsoft or Apple on the desktop, particularly in games, nonlinear video editing, and Office productivity tools. Even Openffice looks and works better on Windows and OS X than on Linux. Most of my time is spent using or supporting desktops, so it makes more sense to build a deeper understanding of Windows and OS X.

Solaris I have to know because our web servers run it. We also run FreeBSD, but just for Samba and Amanda, and these require little daily support. I need to keep up to date on basic Solaris and FreeBSD skills,and on Apache and related technologies, but most of my time goes elsewhere.

From a technical perspective I much favor OS X. It's cleaner, safer, and more attractive than Windows. Most of the software on my Mac mini just works, and I never have to worry much about viruses and spyware. "Tiger" remains my main work environment, and I support a small OS X Server for local DHCP, Netboot, and possible (in time) FMPro Server services.

Windows by contrast demands babysitting. That's a blessing and curse. Despite many efforts by Microsoft to improve Windows security and reliability to the point that XP sp2 is adequate for most users - iff patches plus anti-virus and anti-spyware software are maintained - there is still enough support required to keep me employed for years to come.

If ever I start a "real" company, I may make it all-Mac. The labor I'd save with a Netboot environment and XServers at the core, not to mention free client licensing, would far outweigh the up-front hardware costs and limited software availability. No need for a full-time IT staff.

But as long as I have a mortgage I'll probably rely indirectly on Microsoft to pay bills. Apple may be the Maytag of PCs, but who wants to be that repairman? If not for Windows, what would I do all day? I also happen to love games, and whatever Microsoft's failings, they make it easy to build great apps. See an earlier posting for more about games and nonlinear video editing.

For all these reasons I might as well accept the sad fact that I'm a Microsoftie. Resistance was futile; Dark Side was strong; pick your analogy. Job security, my desire and ability to tinker with registries, and games and videos matter more to me than the elegance or security of the platform.

Sorry Linux, but if my experience is any indication you're doomed to remain even more niche than Apple on the desktop. Look at the metric system - better does not necessarily guarantee acceptance. People get entrenched. I may be retired long before Windows (inevitably) loses its dominant position.

Posted by tapli005 at May 16, 2005 10:44 AM