Pic of the day: Young people may be interested in tinkering with their computers, but I am past that age.
Not to all of the world's problems, admittedly, but to the "to buy or not to buy" a dual-core computer before Windows Vista strikes. Surely I must have mentioned this before? Today I simply ordered a box of Windows XP. It is more expensive than the OEM version that comes with a new machine when you buy it. But it is far less expensive than a whole new machine. Basically I am paying to hedge my bets: If Vista is OK after all, I can buy a PC with Vista and only have lost a couple hundred dollars for the XP box. If it sucks as much as it looks like by now, I can buy a PC without an operating system and install the XP. In fact, I could buy a PC with Vista and still install XP if it really is as much faster as it looks now. I am not sure it will be, though. I think drivers will be optimized for Vista in the same way as they now are for XP, and the difference will be far less, especially if you turn down the fancy window effects.
North Corporation, for all their faults, are willing to build you a PC without Windows if you nag them. They did with the super cheap Linux PC which still hums away at work. Though they are not exactly Dell cheap, of course. Hand building PCs in Norway could not possibly be. On the other hand, I might be able to re-use parts like keyboard and mouse, even video card, and concentrate on the critical parts. Which in the case of Sims2 is the processor. Yes, you should have more than a minimum of RAM, and of course a few gigabytes of free hard disk. But mostly it is all about the processor. It is hard to buy a mass produced PC, or even a Dell, with a super fast processor and as little as possible else. And most notably, you cannot buy them without Windows, even if you already have Windows, or Linux for that matter.
My gut reflex as a consumer is to suspect arm-twisting from Microsoft: "Sell all your PCs with Windows or you won't get to buy Windows at all!" There are always stories of such things, but I doubt they could do it to the world's leading PC producer. A more prosaic but also more realistic version is that if Dell let people buy a PC without Windows, lots of customers would choose away Windows to get the PC cheaper, then call and complain that it didn't work when they turned it on. Because, let us face it, humans are stupid. Humans are really stupid. Almost all humans are shockingly stupid and only survive because they are not all stupid in the same way. Very few businessmen have ever lost money on the assumption that humans are stupid, as long as they don't in any way make it explicit that this is what they think.
But at some point - and it comes closer every 6 months - Linux will be good enough that the computer works with it even if you don't have teenagers in the house. When that happens, there is a very good chance that you can get a couple hundred bucks off your Dell by choosing Linux over Windows.
Why "every 6 months" in the preceding paragraph? Because that is how often there is a new version of Ubuntu Linux. I would say that this free operating system is now good enough for grandmothers (and many other mothers as well), and it is definitely good enough for teen boys, but it is still not good enough for those inbetween. Those who don't like to tinker with their operating system but who still want to use it for more than e-mail, reading the newspapers online, chatting and writing the Great American Novel. (And playing Tetris-like games when no one is looking.) If Ubuntu Linux improves at its current speed, it will catch up with Windows in user-friendliness in a few years. And it does not really need to catch up entirely before people start preferring a free program over an expensive one.
There are some who claim that Linux is already popular in developing and barely industrialized countries, where people have less money. This is probably true to a very small extent. For the most part, people there use pirated Windows. There is a reason why these countries are less developed than ours. Despite the insistence of "scientists" that it depends on geography, the sad truth is that it comes almost entirely from lack of lawfulness. When some land-locked country is dirt poor, it is because of a lack of ocean trade; but Switzerland is not only utterly landlocked but situated in the mountains, and filthy rich. No, it is the rule of law that decides the wealth of nations, not harbors or steel and germs.
But this is of no concern to me as long as I can play with my computers, right?
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.