Why I Am Staying With Windows

If you actually follow my blog, you’ll know that I recently went through a phase of trying to claw my way out from under Microsoft products. I attempted to use 2 distributions of Linux on 2 laptops and I switched to OpenOffice.org 2.0 for 1 class project and I attempted to use OpenOffice.org at work before realizing that it just won’t support the format of my deliverables. I spent a lot of time thinking about and analyzing how best to go about a switch until my thinking came full circle and I settled into a quiet acceptance of Microsoft for now. This has not been an easy journey, but as extensive as my attempts and thoughts have been, I now feel almost at peace about it.

As an Information Technology student at the University of Phoenix, I have had classes on Analysis and Design. I have found that the process is not as simple as deciding to write a program to say, replace Microsoft Outlook and then start turning out code. In the case of a company capable of writing an Outlook replacement, this could take thousands of people. On a scale this large, the Systems Analysts and the programmers would be working on separate phases of the project, along with the testers and tech writers and anybody else that is required. Requirements have to be ironed out, design has to be completed, and only then can the specs be handed to the programmers to turn them loose. This is not only applicable to programming, but to entire systems. Often, an entire system will be designed through this process with software being only a small part. Software may even be purchased off the shelf to fit in with the requirements of the system.

And so as I worked on switching to Linux, my thinking became less of a struggle to leave Microsoft and more of an analysis of my own requirements and of which platform best fit them. The first thing that I learned about Linux this time is that the Linux kernel doesn’t yet support wireless natively. I believe that the next release of the Linux kernel will, but the kernel that shipped with SuSE Linux 10.1 does not. This is no problem. After playing with Linux for a couple of weeks, I am now able to put a fresh install on my laptop, take out my OEM CD’s, and install my wireless driver with ndiswrapper and begin surfing through my wireless network. Here I run into a problem. Windows XP will load my wireless driver on startup, and my wireless is tied to a hardware button above my keyboard. Linux did not support that hardware button, and although I could have changed a configuration file to modprobe ndiswrapper at startup, those few times when I DON’T want to run wireless madke me not want to write that file. With Windows, all I have to do is press the button to enable or disable wireless. Another problem that I came across with Linux was putting my laptop to sleep. With Windows XP, I hit FN-F5 and my laptop goes to sleep. This is nice because I can carry my laptop with me all day and pick up exactly where I left off. I don’t have to shut down all of my programs and save my work and on the other end bring everything back up. I wasn’t able to do this with Linux easily; at least I didn’t figure out how to.

Then I began to think about other requirements that I have based on the configuration of my home network. I need to be able to share files with my other computers and with my wife’s laptop. If I put Linux on my desktop system, would Linux support my WinTV and Orb? Some of you would probably tell me that "yes, Linux will support all of that", but now let us talk about the time investment.

I work a full time job. Thanks to software such as Log Me In, I can connect to my computers at home which is something that I love. I was not able to configure remote access to either laptop while they were running Linux. I’m sure this can be done, but the task was over my head at the time I stopped. Aside from my full time job, I am married, going to school, active in church, and I have 2 small boys, ages 1 and 2 respectively. The time investment that would be required to learn how to make Linux do what I require Linux to do is just not worth the commitment at this time. My wife is still angry at me for the 2-4 weeks that I was actively working on switching to Linux rather than spending time with her and our boys and of course helping out around the house. The "mission critical" argument might buy me a night or two, but not 2 weeks.

There is a term in economics called opportunity cost. This encompasses all of the other factors involved in price aside from money, and all of the other economic costs. For instance, my wife recently switched us to cloth diapers because she said we would only have to buy them once. OK, financially, we’ll never have to buy another diaper (which is not true because we didn’t buy enough originally, and they only fit our 2 year old so we had to buy more of a smaller size for the baby, and we need more hemp inserts for nighttime…), but there are other costs involved. We go through a LOT more wipes now. I used to just bundle the wipes up in the old diaper which I used as a wipe also. Now I put a wipe on the carpet to place all of the other wipes in. We’re doing laundry EVERY SINGLE DAY, which will raise our gas and electricity bills. The house now has a funny smell from the cloth diapers, which sometimes don’t come out of the wash smelling Snuggle fresh no matter how much vinegar and baking soda we add. If my wife waits too late at night to start washing the diapers, I have to put a disposable on our 2 year old when I put him to bed anyway. You see, cost isn’t the only factor. Linux may be free-as-in-speech and free-as-in-beer, but there is also a learning curve and an investment in time to customize Linux to your own system and your own needs. For $99 (approximately, prices vary) I can pick up Windows XP Home and expect Windows to do most of the configuration and customization work for me. Yes, Windows isn’t as powerful (although Windows XP actually is fairly reliable and powerful in many ways), yes, Windows isn’t as cool as Linux or as scriptable, but Windows does work, and for now Windows is what I will use.

At least you cannot say that I am making this decision mindlessly. I have done extensive analysis in making this decision. I also realize that the proper name is GNU/Linux, but honestly I don’t care. The proper names of other products are Microsoft Windows and Apple Macintosh, but we don’t see people as picky with those names as with GNU/Linux.

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