[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Why to choose Linux

Random thoughts on getting people to switch to Linux:

I'll try taking up the challenge of why to switch to SEUL.  I think there has
to be a compelling reason why somebody would want to change from their 
present OS (for most people, this is a version of Windows), which they are
comfortable with and has some degree of support, to Linux.  Especially with
Windows users (because most are not computer-savvy), this will be
difficult.  Also, like Gunnar Stefansson said, the conversion path needs to
be obvious, and it also needs to be gradual.  To me this means that SEUL 
needs the ability to run DOS, Windows 3.x and 95 and NT, OS/2, and
Macintosh programs, and to easily incorporate data from these programs 
into Linux programs.  I once had to convert files from Apple to PC:  Oy, 
what a pain!  This MUST be easy or Linux will never catch on.  (I have 
years of work saved in DOS format.  It can't be easily converted all at 
once, but should always be available for easy conversion when I need it.)
Then, over the years, people will gradually switch entirely to Linux as they
experience the benefits and as they find applications to replace what they
are currently using.

I used an Apple II in the mid-eighties.  On PCs, I've used several versions
of DOS, DOS + Windows 3.x, Windows 95, and OS/2.  Although I have
not dealt with the OSs directly, I've also used computers running AIX and
Sun Unix.  Of this list, Windows is only better than the Apple II, although it
has a couple benefits over DOS.

The quality of changes made to DOS were hit-or-miss.  For example, DOS 
version 6.22 wouldn't erase a file without the OS asking you several times if
you really, really, really meant to do that.  That, and the deletion of 
important programs I frequently used (comp.exe for example) made me stay 
with lower versions.  I see this as a dumbing-down of the OS in an effort to
appeal only to novice users who make frequent mistakes and haven't
figured out yet to back up their work.  Windows seems to take the same 
tactic of leaving the experienced user frustrated but (perhaps) appealing to
people who have never used a computer before.  For example, I just made 
a copy of this file I am creating.  I then deleted it using Windows.  It took
me 15 steps and about a minute to erase it.  That does not appeal to me.  I
think some people will think about switching from Windows when they try 
to get large workloads done.  Others won't because, like questioning their
religious beliefs, it just won't ever occur to them to do so.  I think most
Windows users are not "power users" and so probably aren't too upset that
their computer work goes slow.

Why do I want to switch?  That is probably the best question to answer in
order to get other people to want to.  In a nutshell:  FREE, QUALITY
software running on a FREE, QUALITY OS.  Why not just stay with what I 
like now?  I prefer using OS/2 (which I used at my last job) running DOS 
programs because this is the combinations I've found that gets work done 
fastest.  Right now I use DOS for most things and Windows only for
internet access and personal financial software.  I'll be installing OS/2 here
at home soon also.  So, why switch?  As far as I can see, it's only for 
what's coming up that I would otherwise have to pay for or move to
Windows for.  Mostly, this means very high-quality scientific software 
(graphics and statistics) and voice-recognition/dictation/read-back
software.  Other than that, I have no interest in anything other than OS/2
running DOS programs and the odd Windows program.

I've made a non-exhaustive list of the the good and bad of the OSs I've 
used most.  Below is my list.

     No multitasking.
     FAT file system wastes space and is slow.
     16-bit processing, single thread.
     Quality internet software lacking.
     Small, fast, well-written OS & programs.
     Extremely stable.  Crashes extremely rare.
     Batch-file processing, & passing values to/from environment, makes it
            possible to run long series of programs without baby-sitting the
            computer. After all, a computer is supposed to SAVE human time.
     Very good system utilities available (e.g., Norton).
     Lots of quality programs available for almost all purposes.
     I already have the software I need.  (Many people will say this about
            Windows also.  I think the thing to stress about Linux is that
            future upgrades are always free, also.)
     GPFs !
     Multitasking is poor.  Single-threaded; cooperative instead of
            preemptive.  Windows does not control the multitasking well. I can
            sit and wait while only one program runs.  No ability to change
            priorities of individual programs.  Sometimes can't kill a single
            poorly-behaving program & continue with the rest.  Entire system
            sometimes comes to a crawl (about one keystroke/minute
     Cut/copy & paste limited in size.
     GPFs !
     Programs are supposed to have similar interfaces, but often don't.
     Batch-file processing not possible, so baby-sitting the computer is
            required.  This means people time.
     GPFs !
     Enormous, hairy .DLLs and .INI files & structures are a mess.
            Uninstalling a program is not actually possible, even using
            software made specifically for that purpose.  This makes erasing
            and reinstallation of Windows eventually required.
     Enormous, sloth-like programs require pentiums just to do simple tasks in
            a reasonable amount of time.
     GPFs !
     DOS programs run slow in DOS window.  Can't run OS/2 or UNIX
     Not much ability to tune system to run well under different types of
     GPFs !
     Type too fast in a DOS session and Windows completely disappears  
            out of memory, leaving you at the DOS prompt with all unsaved
            work gone.  You actually have to type slow or Windows won't keep
     Windows is a DOS program, and so requires the FAT file system.
     "Holds on" to memory and system resources after a program has been 
            shut down, and even after Windows has been shut down.
     GPFs !
     Can't switch to DOS session with Alt-Esc.
     Erasing a file takes many steps.  Using wildcards takes even more.
     GPFs !
     Creates hidden subdirectories with many files, on drives where Windows
            is not even supposed to exist.  Does so without even informing
            user.  Sprinkles files all over, in many directories of many drives.
            Again, without telling user.  These make erasure and
            reinstallation periodically necessary if software is ever
            uninstalled.  Problem-free reinstallation without erasure of
            application directories can not be assumed.
     Mouse acts erratically in DOS programs running in DOS window.
     GPFs !
     Programs keep popping to the foreground when not desired.
     I work alot faster using ten typing fingers than I can using one
            mouse-poking finger.  Many Windows functions cannot be easily
            done from the keyboard.
     GPFs !
     Multitasking, to a degree.
     Cut/copy & paste between programs.
     Somewhat similar interface for most programs.
     Lots of programs available for almost all purposes.
     Minesweeper !
     Pretty much all the same problems as DOS + Win 3.x, because it
             basically is DOS + Win 3.x.
     GPFs, by any other name, are just as irritating.
     DOS changed:  some tried and true batch files don't work.
     No tree command.
     Long file names are saved as aliases in 8.3 format.  This means it's
            basically impossible to work with subdirectories with confidence.
     Microsoft deliberately made it difficult to run DOS programs, in an
            attempt to force people to use all Win95 programs.
     Running just one 16-bit program in Win95 makes the entire OS run at
     No support for OS/2 or Unix or Mac programs.
     Pretty much all the same benefits as DOS + Win 3.x, because it    
              basically is DOS + Win 3.x.
OS/2 - BAD
     Prints slowly.
     It sometimes crashes, though usually not often.
     Windows programs run more slowly than under DOS.
     Desktop can disappear.
     Some DOS programs won't run.  (But see below.)
     Fast, fast, fast.
     Multiple sessions of the same program possible.  (For example,
            several dBASE sessions can be running different queries
     FAT (for compatibility with DOS and Windows) or HPFS.  HPFS is very 
             fast, resists fragmentation, and uses space efficiently.
     Good utilities available.
     Runs OS/2, DOS, and Windows 3.x programs simultaneously.  DOS
             programs run faster than under DOS.
     Stable, 32-bit, multithreaded, multitasking.
     Highly configurable, even on the fly, to maximize performance and give
            certain program priority, direct access to ports, etc.
     Programs can be easily uninstalled (as far as I know).
     Cut/copy & paste, even between OS/2 and Windows programs.
     Boot manager allows booting up to several OSs on the same computer.
     Can actually run a version of DOS in a virtual DOS machine, so that 
            those programs that don't run at OS/2's native DOS prompt can be
            run under an older version of DOS which is run under OS/2.
            Performance very good.

- Mike Banach
  Boise, ID