Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Microsoft Quit Date

I think I need to set a quit date. I've been talking about doing it for some time now. Eventually, the time for talk will be over, and it will be time for action.

As I previously mentioned, I may be in the market for another computer in the near future. This could happen anytime between now and 2009. I want to set up a server. That may involve setting up a Linux box. It could involve using this PC as the server, which means I'll put Linux on this PC and who knows what on the new computer.

I currently use Windows XP Professional. Overall, I don't mind using Windows XP. First, I'm familiar with it, so my opinion of it is somewhat biased. Second, I recall how often Windows Millennium would crash, and I realize that in comparison, Windows XP is far superior.

What concerns me is DRM. It's a joke. I've read the articles and the arguments and how there is one group of people who use "freedom" as their argument against DRM, and I've read arguments from those who use the word "ownership" in their arguments in support of DRM.

I agree with the point that those who make investments in a creative work with their time, energy, sweat, blood, and tears should be able to receive compensation for their efforts. However, Microsoft doesn't care about that. They may claim they do, but that's just marketing. The reason for "caring" so much is for consumer lock in. Microsoft is not performing a selfless act when they implement encryption algorithms that force us to use Windows Media Player. I can see right through that. DRM is merely a smoke screen -- a cover -- for a technical monopoly.

There are other ways to ensure consumer freedoms while also ensuring that consumers are free to use whatever media they choose. Microsoft hires some of the smartest people in the world. Why didn't they invent a method for ensuring that encrypted music could be played on a variety of platforms?

I'll save the details of what they could have done for a later post, for now, let's stick to the topic: The Quit Date.

Eventually, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows XP. At this time, I will have two choices. (1) Upgrade to Windows Vista, or (2) upgrade to a Linux distribution. Both choices will involve learning a new operating system, both will involve dealing with issues of backward compatibility, and both will involve some form of trade-off.

I think the best thing to do to prepare for a Microsoft Windows XP quit date is to migrate to software that will run on all three operating systems. This will ensure that, when the time comes to make the decision, I will be able to make a decision that won't be based on the difficulty of switching from one operating system to another. I'll have the freedom to choose Linux, stick with XP, or if I happen to go temporarily insane -- I can choose Vista! Of course, I've heard a lot of positive remarks about the Mac book Pro, so I just might go that direction as well.

Below are just some of the things we can do to prepare for the time when this decision must be made:

- Use Firefox

Firefox is compatible with Linux, Windows, and the Mac. So any tools I've become comfortable with will be available no matter what operating system I use.

- Use OpenOffice

OpenOffice is not as good as the newest version of Microsoft Office 2007, but there is a trade off. Using MS Office, you effectively lock yourself in to their technology. If you can get by using OpenOffice, I would highly recommend it, as it works on Macs, Windows machines, and Linux.

- Use Mozilla Thunderbird

Currently, I still use Microsoft Outlook. Why? Because I used it in college with the Microsoft Exchange server that their IT department installed. I was "locked-in". Unlocking myself will involve moving all data in Outlook to another client. But with
some advance notice, I think I can move this data to Thunderbird by my quit date. Why use Thunderbird, you ask? Same reason I'm using Firefox. Cross-platform compatibility!

I could keep adding items to the list, but I'm not. Instead of being exhaustive, I'll reduce the list to two items that summarize simplifying the migration process:

- Use software that is compatible with multiple operating systems.
- Buy hardware that works on both Linux and Windows

With a desktop PC, I think this is an easier feat. I've never had problems with Ethernet and Linux; however, I have never been able to connect to my network through a wireless network card using Linux. I haven't tried in about 8 months so perhaps this isn't a problem anymore, but I'm sure there are other types of hardware the Linux community has not yet been able to reverse-engineer in order to develop a driver.

I'm thinking I'll give myself six months to switch everything over and become less dependent on my current operating system. So, by the first day of Spring, I'll be able to make my decision.