Sunday, April 30, 2006

iTWire - Microsoft Office users ready to jump ship: poll

iTWire - Microsoft Office users ready to jump ship: poll

What, you thought maybe I was kidding?

By the way, for a list of "must have" free or low cost Windows software, download my Software List (PDF - 462K) today.

OpenOffice.org adoption: Microsoft does their part

If you haven't heard (and even if you have) Microsoft is adding MS Office to their Genuine Advantage program. As reported in Ars Technica, Microsoft is taking the "nagware" approach.

http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060427-6687.html

If the company thinks your copy of Office is pirated, you may receive balloon messages on your screen like this one:
This copy of Windows is not genuine.
You may be the victim of software counterfeiting
You'll also be blocked from updates and new releases. OK, fine, except that I remember the issues Microsoft had with their Windows Genuine Advantage initiative when it rolled out.
Surely I can't be the only one who remembers that they had to turn around and defeat the Genuine Advantage test because of false positives that locked out many paying customers!

I'm not sure I want to deal with that headache. In fact, I know I don't. If Microsoft were purposely trying to drive their users into the arms of their competitors, this would be a good way to go about it. As it stands, Office97 has been just fine for most of Microsoft's users since for the last 9 years. There hasn't been a reason to upgrade until now.

The question is, what will you upgrade to? Or, as Bill Gates used to say, "Where are you going today?" To the latest version of MS Office? Well, maybe, but even looking past the expensive price tag, you've got a bit of a steep learning curve ahead of you. Microsoft has been doing major surgery on the user interface, and not everybody likes the changes.

Fortunately I don't have to deal with that mishegoss because I'm one of the many who've switched to OpenOffice.org. It gives you all of the features you need... word processing, spreadsheet, drawing, presentation graphics, and databases. With no acquisition costs, no licensing hassles, and no Genuine "Advantage" headaches. It reads and writes Microsoft Office file formats, although I personally prefer using the accredited standard OpenDocument format files over the legacy MS Office proprietary formats.

One other nice thing about this is that, unlike Microsoft Office, OpenOffice.org runs on Windows, Linux, and on the Mac, so you've got no issues with cross-platform compatibility. Not only that, but OpenOffice's layout is more like your current office suite than Microsoft's "upgrade" is! Wow, easier to learn, cheaper to deploy, no legal hassles at all... what's not to like?

Download and install OpenOffice.org today.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Catching up on Blogs

I've been doing a little light reading lately. Here are a few headlines:

First, we learn that Microsoft will be offering their virtualization software for free. (virtualization allows you to run multiple servers on the same hardware at the same time.)

I found a couple of quotes interesting:
From Microsoft Makes Virtual Server R2 Free:
“We think that virtualization will eventually be just like having wheels on your car; it’s just going to be there.”
-- Zane Adam, director of product marketing
for the Windows Server division
And from Hey, Microsoft! Virtualize this!:
President of VMWare Diane Greene isn't a happy bunny: "I spend a great deal of time thinking about this part of the industry and there are two virtualization competitive struggles going on right now, whose outcome is going to profoundly affect users and vendors. First is the specification of the virtual machine format. Is it going to be a license-free industry standard? If it is not and one company owns the license, they will have a defining control point over virtualization ... The second area is the question of whether virtualization should be tightly integrated into the operating system or instead a separate wholly independent layer."
Personally, I see no reason why either of the statements I've italicized should be true. Virtualization should "just be there"? Why? If you don't need it, why have it? And why on Earth should it be "tightly integrated" into the OS? This begs the question, "which OS?," since part of the benefit of virtual servers is that you can run separate operating systems in their own respective virtual spaces. Better to make your OS play well inside a virtual server than to try to jam a virtual server into your OS.

For that matter, there's a boatload of things in your OS already that don't need to "just be there". I shudder to think of the impact on Windows. Running a server on Windows is an exercise in unnecessary bloat. Even with no monitor or keyboard attached you pay the "tax" of running a useless GUI. I can think of a lot better things to do with that memory and those CPU cycles. As it stands, Windows is like one of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters trying to cram too much foot into the glass slipper. Something's just got to come off. In Linux this isn't such a big deal... you can recompile your kernel to exclude features that aren't necessary and will just slow you down or eat memory. Let's face it, you should configure your server to run only those services that are necessary. If you do just that simple thing, many of the security vulnerabilities you read about simply disappear.

In related news, Forbe's reports in Gates' Microsoft Will Provide Support For Linux that Microsoft will be supporting Linux on Virtual Server 2005 R2, which will be released for free. That's good news, and I'm glad to hear it. Contrary to the impression that I may give here, I'm not against Microsoft on principle... XP is not bad, and I think they've got a highly underrated development system in Visual FoxPro. They may be beginning to "get it" where interoperability is concerned. On the other hand, not all is roses in Redmond. For example...

In The Tilted Software Piracy Debate, Jeremy Wagstaff neatly tears apart Microsoft's claims regarding software piracy. The core of his argument is that Microsoft's claims assume that everyone who pirates software would buy the software at full price if piracy were stamped out. Of course, this is a ridiculous claim. In his next post, Jeremy suggests that Microsoft should embrace the shareware model in locations (like Indonesia) where piracy is rampant. That's fine for Microsoft, but in practical terms it won't do much for consumers. As Jeremy points out, the average wage in some of these locales is around $2/day. I would argue that consumers today have other choices, and should be encouraged to exercise them by wholeheartedly embracing Linux, OpenOffice, and other Open Source alternatives to the software they couldn't otherwise afford. This would truly stimulate the local economies and stimulate innovation. It also completely undermines Microsoft's argument regarding "lost revenue" because low-cost computing can no longer be counted as pirated or lost sales.

Here at Cratchit.org we're doing our part by keeping VIC CRM Free and Easy. If you're running a Lotus Notes shop, check it out.