[linux-elitists] [lma@valinux.com: Free software as a replacement for Microsoft]

Rick Moen rick@linuxmafia.com
Sat Sep 15 17:33:31 PDT 2001

[Karsten M. Self quoted Larry Augustin.]

Yes, Larry's said that sort of thing for a long time. 

> If the goal is to displace Microsoft....

Question-begging.  Is _my_ goal to displace Microsoft?  Is yours?

I don't know about you, but my goal is to participate in a
self-sustaining world of free-licensed software that doesn't suck
(or at least is moving towards not sucking).

> I recently switched my wife from Netscape on Linux to IE on Windows.

MSIE.  MS-Windows.  MS-Word.  MS-Outlook.  MS-Excel.  MS-Access.  

I am not going to concede ownership of common English words to Microsoft
Corporation, nor concede that they have the standard, defining word

> Any impartial analysis would tell you that IE is vastly superior to
> any other browser from a users point of view.

The last time I used MSIE for any significant length of time (probably
v. 5.0), I compiled a nice little rant about the many and sundry ways in
which it sucked, and posted it to Usenet.  I don't have a copy, but can 
recall a few of the items.

No other browser had a cached so poorly implemented that it crippled
disk performance.  None had a cookies implementation completely
uncontrollable by setting file permissions.  No others had the gall to
advertise themselves on every printout.  No others introduced ActiveX
holes in your system security.

> But many free software people I know argue for Netscape or Mozilla.
> Why are they advocating inferior technology?

Other than performance, I can't think of anything I'd want a browser to 
do that recent Mozilla and Konqueror versions don't do well.  Methinks
Larry picked a stunningly poor example.

(Well, I could wish that there were a built-in, user-configurable
content proxy with a number of example rulesets such as rewriting 
incoming Javascript to turn open-window events into regular hyperlinks,
for example.  But nothing else, off-hand.)

> They do things like disabling Java or Javascript.

Java is pointless and annoying; Javascript is all of that plus an
intolerable security risk.  If Larry doesn't know why free-software
people do that, then he hasn't been paying attention.

> I hate to tell you this, but my wife is like most people - she just
> wants to browse the Internet.  She doesn't know or care what Java is.
> She doesn't want to have to care.  All she cares is that when she goes
> to Yahoo Finance Vision that she can watch it.  She just wants to
> *use* it.  She doesn't care about the *how*.
> I'm not sure that free software people get that. 

Larry seems to be making a non-sequitur argument by implication:  The
mere fact that free-software people tend to turn off features that annoy
them or pose impermissible security risks in no way suggests they cannot
understand others leaving them turned on.

But getting back to the central matter, he's assuming without evidence
that the desires and priorities of such people must be of central
concern to "free software people".

> In order for free software to succeed,....

Question-begging.  Here, Larry rather polemically insists on his
definition of "succeed".  This, in turn, harks back to his deciding
without evidence that everyone has the same "goal".

> You want to displace Microsoft on the desktop? 

Frankly, I do not.  I want the "desktop market" to get consumed from 
below by heavily-locked-down computing-appliance machines at very low
price points.

I've met the "desktop" mindset, up-close and personal.  Frankly, they
piss me off.  Their self-centered irresponsibility annoys me.  The
way they throw tantrums when faced with the unfamiliar disgusts me. 
The way their perceptions are allowed to irrationally  distort
enterprise decisions about server-machine OSes and similar matters 
offends me.  But only distantly, because open-source puts some distance
between my computing environment and them.

So, when and if the "desktop market" gets dismembered and dies --
possibly after everyone unburrows from the current tech depression --
I'll cheer heartily.

I've listened to Larry try to convince this and other mailing lists that
MS-Word is a great piece of software.  From my perspective, it's quite
awful.  (By contrast, MS-Word 5.1a for MacOS was quite nice -- and still
is, when you run it on an X11/linux box under Ardi Executor.)   Yes, I'm
aware that other people think differently, and _boy_ am I glad I don't
have to care about them.

And I'm sure that pivot tables and mindlessly easy mail-merge are
_somewhere_ on my personal priorities list, but they're probably way,
way down there -- along with the mutant sort of flowchart that has
little pictographs of stock certificates and people sitting at desks.

Cheers,                              Linux: Good, fast, AND cheap.
Rick Moen

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