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Part 1b of Linux; a replacement for Windows, or a joke?


Linux depends on the disgust of Microsoft

Linux was started by a student in 1991 and quickly became part of the “open source software” movement which promotes the free distribution of software and its source code.

Since about 1999 a lot of people have become interested in Linux simply due to their disgust of Microsoft and/or Windows, not because they want Linux or believe in open source software. This creates a problem for Linux because if the disgust of Microsoft diminishes, or if the disgust of Linux increases, Linux will lose a lot of those particular supporters. It is possible that interest in Linux drops so low that it never goes much beyond the server market.

Linux is not yet ready to compete with Windows. Nobody can predict whether it will be ready in six months or five years, but during this development time a lot can change. For example, Microsoft could release a Windows that people like, and the Linux community could continue to disappoint us. It is possible that in six months there will be more people disgusted with Linux than Windows.

Or, if the US government splits Microsoft into at least two pieces, and if the portion that produces Windows ends up with respectable management, it is conceivable that they impress people with new, high quality versions of Windows. In such a case, many people who are complaining about Microsoft will get back to their life and forget about Linux.

Or, Microsoft stockholders could demand a change in the management at Microsoft rather than suffer losses to Linux. As just mentioned, this improved management could reduce both the disgust of Microsoft and the interest in Linux.

Also, Solaris may soon have the necessary drivers and software to compete with both Linux and Windows. Also, FreeBSD can compete with Linux.

The two points I want to make are:

1) Not many of the businesses or people who support Linux actually want Linux; rather, they just want to get away from Microsoft. Many of these people have already lost interest in Linux.

2) If you are considering investing in Linux, developing software for it, or switching from Windows to Linux, you may want to wait to see if interest in Linux continues to drop. Next year you may find more interest in FreeBSD or some other system.


Microsoft's “Linux Horror Stories

Microsoft could create a “Linux Horror Stories” advertisement by collecting remarks from Linux enthusiasts who discuss their unpleasant experiences with Linux. As an example, consider the remark by a programmer who works at a company that believed the Linux hype and switched their Windows computers to Linux:
As a firm that has converted all of our desktops to Linux for stability reasons, it has been way too painful.
A better source of insults is Dennis E. Powell of because he is one of the few Linux fanatics who discusses the bad qualities of Linux:
December 27, 2000: 
Anyone who has ever used any other operating system ... knows that in the field of typeface handling, Linux is in last place.

I suspect that there's a substantial body of Linux users who have given up entirely on the idea of printing...

January 5, 2001:
Telling Windows users ... to just up and switch to Linux would be tantamount to encouraging them to rewire their television sets.

Executives of Linux companies certainly try to promote Linux, but even they become so annoyed that insults slip out of their mouths. Bob Russo, senior vice president and general manager of VA Linux's worldwide field operations called his vice presidents “junior kids”, according to a report.

Bob is just one many Linux enthusiasts who cannot control his frustration with the Linux community. How are the rest of us suppose to control our frustration?

Furthermore, the Linux newsgroups are full of insults and fights. Sometimes even some Linux enthusiasts complain that the fighting is giving Linux a bad name.

I was hoping that Linux would be a superior alternative to Windows and that the Linux community would be responsible and well behaved, but I am starting to wonder if the Linux people are worse than Microsoft. The Linux software on the market right now is worse overall than Windows, and when somebody complains to a Linux fanatic about a problem, he often gets insults rather than help.

If the Linux people continue to behave in this terrible manner, and if they continue to offer pre-beta Linux for sale to the public, there may soon be more people disgusted with Linux than with Microsoft. Many of us may soon be asking Bill Gates to accept our apologies for considering Linux.

Which is the lesser evil: Microsoft or Linux?

One of the reasons I want to get away from Microsoft is because I think their primary interest is extreme levels of profit rather than making a better world. For example, I think the reason Windows 95 and 98 are so full of bugs is because Microsoft is deliberately creating buggy software to entice businesses into purchasing the more expensive Windows NT and 2000. If Windows 95/98 functioned as well as Windows NT, many businesses would have purchased it rather than Windows NT.

By the way, if General Motors deliberately released a faulty car to the public while providing corporations with a higher quality car, it would be considered a crime. Microsoft should be accused of a crime for selling Windows 3.1, 95, 98, and ME to the public when they could have offered Windows NT/2000. Microsoft gets away with a lot of abuse. This shows one of the problems with electing government officials who have no interest or understanding of science or technology. Our government officials don't know or care what a computer is; rather, they just want to be the center of attention and pampering.

While the Linux community does not seem concerned with money, the sad fact is that we get better service from Microsoft. At least Microsoft products work. And Microsoft products are among the best available. And Microsoft has never released any software that is as unusable as Linux.

The Linux community portrays Microsoft as greedy and dishonest, and they portray themselves as angels. While I will agree that Microsoft is greedy and dishonest, I would describe the Linux community as naive, unrealistic, and disorganized. So far they have been giving us inferior service and inferior software. Trying to pick between Microsoft and the Linux community is like trying to select between George Bush and Al Gore in the presidential elections. In other words, I do not like either of the options.

No matter how I look at this Linux situation, I come to the conclusion that the Linux community is a group of incompetent people (perhaps most are students), and I fail to see how these nitwits (or naive kids) will give us better software or better service than Microsoft.

If, instead, we give our support to Sun and IBM, we support companies that take at least some responsibility for problems and treat us with decency. Furthermore, Sun and IBM also bring improvements to computer hardware.

Who is pushing for Linux, and why?

I would say there are three categories of people who want Linux.
1) People who want access to the source code
People want access to the source code for different reasons. Some people want to modify Linux to fit specialized applications.

Another group of people refers to themselves as the “open source” movement.

2) People who want a free ride

Many people want free software simply because they do not want to spend any money on it. These people simply want a free ride in life; ie, they want other people to work hard to provide them with food, software, and houses, but they do not want to contribute anything. 

3) People who want an alternative to Microsoft Windows

These people don't care if they have source code, and they don't care if they have to pay for their software. They simply want a good alternative. 


Why divide Linux people into groups?

What is the point of dividing Linux people into these three categories? I will summarize it by saying that the Linux movement is not a united movement. There are conflicting desires among the three groups of people who want Linux.

These three groups of people may be able to get along with each other, compromise, and develop Linux in such a manner that we all get at least some of what we want. But it is also possible that these groups will fight with each other to such an extent that Linux never amounts to much.

It is conceivable that the fighting will increase as sales of Linux increase. The desktop market is worth billions of dollars. What happens if Red Hat or SUSE decides to go after the money? What will the volunteer Linux people do if they see other Linux people becoming wealthy from their years of hard work

Linux attracts freeloaders

The open source movement is hurt by the people who want free software because they want a lot but they will not contribute anything. I have come to the conclusion that America is loaded with these people. I will not explain all my reasons, but consider that the USA is already 30% Africans, Mexicans, and Chinese because most white Americans want somebody else to do the hard work.

Americans seem more attracted to the word “free” than their relatives who remained in Europe, and they spend more time dreaming of becoming rich, having servants, and retiring early. In Europe there are lots of people who want to help Linux, but most Linux supporters in the USA seem to be parasites.

Does source code provide us with freedom?

A common argument among Linux supporters is that we will get freedom when we get source code to software. But from the point of view of most businesses, source code is undesirable more often than desirable.

For example, if an employee modifies Linux, he may provide the company with software that is better suited to them than the generic Linux. Initially it will appear as if the employee is doing the company a favor. However, the company will now have a non-standard Linux to deal with. This creates three different problems.

1) It will no longer be easy to update Linux. When new versions of Linux become available, the employees will have to spend time modifying the new version to provide it with those same, nonstandard features.

2) If the employee leaves the company, the remaining employees will have to understand what he did to Linux and then continue to make those changes in his absence.

3) The employee is on the payroll, so his modifications to Linux are at some high hourly rate. If he spends 12 hours on the project and if the company considers him to cost $30 per hour, the resulting Linux cost $360. (Microsoft is bringing this issue up in some advertisements; ie, they point out that some companies spend more money on labor to set up and maintain Linux compared to companies that purchase Windows.)

It is best to use “off-the-shelf” software. Source code does not provide businesses with freedom; rather, it allows their employees to create unique versions of software which, in the long run, wastes money and creates a maintenance nightmare.

This concept also applies to individuals who use their computer at home for word processing or games. Even they will find life is simpler and less expensive when they use off-the-shelf software.

Did you notice an increase in freedom lately?

During the past few years the source code to Netscape and many other programs were released to the public. Did you notice that you suddenly had more freedom? If source code provides freedom, we would have noticed that we have more freedom today.

The applications and operating systems of the 21st century are so complex that the source code, if printed on paper, would be hundreds of pages for the small applications, and thousands of pages for the more complex ones. Allowing employees to look through that quantity of information merely to make some trivial changes can be a waste of the company's time and money. Reading source code is much more difficult than reading a book.

Imagine if, when you bought an automobile, you were provided with a stack of blueprints for every part on the automobile, and you also get a CD containing the source code to the software in the car's microprocessors. Imagine also that your refrigerator, stove, and washing machine also came with a stack of blueprints for each of their components. Would that information provide you with freedom

And imagine if employees were allowed to modify the blueprints for their company's automobiles, fax machines, and laser printers in order to provide their company with products that better suit their particular needs.

Having blueprints to our home can be useful, and creating unique homes is acceptable, but that is because we do not have to update our houses with new versions every few years.

The Linux people who want to make unique variations to software are naive. If we all followed their advice and made special changes to all of our software, we would not have more freedom than we have today. Rather, we would put a burden on ourselves.

Some open source supporters claim that we need source code so that if a company behaves badly (eg, Microsoft) then we have the ability to fix the software. This is as silly as saying we need the blueprints to our automobiles and refrigerators in case the companies that build them do a lousy job.

If General Motors produces lousy cars, the solution is either to buy cars from a different company, or to give General Motors better management.

Likewise, if a software company produces lousy software, the solution is to either buy software elsewhere, or to give that company better management. We should not waste our time fixing the flaws in their products.

What is the “Open Source” movement?

Here is the first paragraph describing the concept of open source from a web site of a person named Eric Raymond.

“The basic idea behind open source is very simple. When programmers on the Internet can read, redistribute, and modify the source for a piece of software, it evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional software development, seems astonishing.”

The open source people remind me of the “flower children” of the 1960's who proposed everybody share everything with one another and love each other. Consider that Raymond's remark could be said about any issue:

“The basic idea behind open source is very simple. When engineers on the Internet can read, redistribute, and modify the design for a microprocessor, it evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix bugs. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional microprocessor development, seems astonishing.”

Architects could share plans for houses, automobile engineers could share auto technology, and musicians could share their music:

“The basic idea behind open source is very simple. When architects on the Internet can read, redistribute, and modify a house plan, it evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix it. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional house plan development, seems astonishing.”

“The basic idea behind open source is very simple. When musicians on the Internet can read, redistribute, and modify a song, it evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix crummy sections. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional song development, seems astonishing.”


How do you pay your bills with Open Source?

Cisco is often mentioned as an example of how a company can benefit from open source software. However, Cisco's income comes from the sale of hardware, not software. Cisco can afford to give away small amounts of software, especially if it promotes the sale of their hardware.

By comparison, companies such as Borland do not sell hardware, so how do they make an income if they give their software away for free? Nobody in the open source movement bothers to explain this. As with religion, we are simply suppose to have faith that the concept works.

The open source movement requires all software developers set up a symbiotic relationship with either hardware developers or somebody else who has an income. Sure, this is working right now for a small number of computer programmers, but it gives us software that is specific to that hardware. How will CAD programs, scientific software, or any non-hardware specific software develop in this scenario?

How much of the open source movement is hypocrisy?

Andy Hertzfeld, Mike Boich, and some other promoters of the open source concept made a lot of money from free enterprise. Now that they are wealthy capitalists, they are promoting the concept that we share our software for free. What about them sharing their money? Or at least funding the Linux developers? If you or I were to travel through the city they live in, and if we needed a place to stay for the night, would any of them share their house with us?

I don't know Andy or Mike so it is possible that both are generous people who help fund the Linux movement and do lots of other useful things for the world. But they may also be the computer geek versions of TV evangelists who preach sharing while they practice hoarding. Or perhaps they consider all people to be equal, but they consider themselves to be a bit more equal than the rest of us.

If the USA taxed people to the extent as some European nations, Andy and Mike would not be so wealthy. In fact, they might have to work for a living. Would they believe in open source if they had to make a living from programming?

The communist movement suffered from this same hypocrisy; the wealthy and pampered leaders would live like kings while telling the rest of nation to share.

Karl Marx and Utopia

In an ideal world, the open source concept would work fine. In fact, the open source concept would work for hardware engineers also. In this ideal world, all engineers, scientists, and computer programmers would share their technology with one another. In this ideal world the blueprints for automobiles, electric motors, and telephones would be out in the open for all to see and improve upon. In this ideal world there would be no fighting between the engineers or scientists. Everybody would share what they have, improve upon the work of others, and make a better world for us all. The farmers would share food with us, the carpenters would build homes for us, and nobody would have any need for money.

There are many things that work in a fantasy world, but in the real world the primary activity of most people is feeding themselves, fighting with one another, and reproducing in an uncontrollable manner. In other words, human behavior suggests that we are nothing but intelligent animals.

The open source movement is similar to the proposal by Karl Marx in which all people love one another and share their talents. Communism would have worked if human beings were as ideal as we wish they were. Also, both communists and the open source people believe they are fighting for “freedom”.

NASA follows the Open Source concept

The open source concepts can be seen in action right now with NASA, although NASA does not refer to it as “open source”. NASA develops a lot of technology and provides it free (but with so many restrictions that is  worthless to most companies). The reason NASA can give away technology is because NASA scientists do not have sell their technology; rather, taxpayers provide them with an income.

There are certainly ways to design a society in which computer programmers are provided with an income, and in return those programmers provide society with software with source code. But that is not the world we live in. Our nation supports lotteries and weapons developers, but not many computer programmers. And consider Hollywood. If people were willing to pour money into engineering and computer programming to the same extreme that they pour money into Hollywood, then we would have tremendous progress in engineering and software.

If the open source people are serious about making a better world, they must improve our society. They should quit telling us to work for free; I have bills to pay. They should run candidates for government office, for example, and they should propose legislation to improve society.

Of course, even if they did put intelligent, responsible candidates in the political races, most voters would continue to select people like Al Gore or George Bush. And if the issue of open source software came up during an election, most people would switch the conversation to abortion, taxes, and Saddam Hussein. In other words, most people are hopeless.

Give up on utopia!

I would assume that after so many people failed to bring utopia into existence that all people would finally realize it is simply never going to happen. But even today we find supposedly intelligent people pushing for it.

What if the world adopted the open source concept?

Linux was released in 1991, so it has been in development for almost 10 years. Is progress slow with Linux? Or is Linux simply so advanced that it requires a lot of time? Or do open source people simply not have much time to work because they must spend much of their time begging for donations?

Most of the people who work on Linux and Linux related software do not provide much information on their lives, but there are a couple of Web sites where some of the developers are interviewed. At the KDE site some people describe whether or not they are paid for their work and how much work they do. Here is what I found:

Not paid:
Jing-Jong Shyue, Gregory Mokhin, Wolfram Diestel, Rinse de Vries, Stefan Taferner, Tink Bastian, Luigi Genoni, Lars Knoll, Sandy Meier, Rik Hemsley, Claudiu Costin, Cristian Tibirna, Lauri Watts

Some pay:
Matthias Elter, Chris Schlaeger

Confused answers:
Reginald Stadlbauer, Stephan Kulow

Full time pay:
David Faure, Waldo Bastian, Matthias Ettrich

Not everybody at KDE has been interviewed yet, but so far it appears as if KDE has more volunteers than employees. Here are some of their remarks that I found interesting:

Question: How much time do you spend on KDE?

Rinse de Vries: I try to limit the time to 1 hour a day.
Stefan Taferner: approx. 4 hours a week or so
Luigi Genoni: 2/3 hours per day at home at night
Matthias Elter: between 0 and 12 hours a day.
Rik Hemsley: Probably between 20-40 hours a week
Reginald Stadlbauer: the last half year I had nearly no time for it
Wolfram Diestel: Some days several hours, other days none.
Question: Are you being paid to work for KDE and if yes by who?
Wolfram Diestel: No, at the moment I only get money from my wife for caring for my daughter
Rik Hemsley: Unfortunately not. ... I'm looking for a 'real' job now.

I find it amusing to visualize an IBM Engineering Laboratory where most engineers work only an hour or two a day, most are volunteers, and many are students. This laboratory would be empty most of the day. Occasionally a volunteer engineer would come in to do perhaps an hour of work. Then he would rush home to baby-sit his daughter or rush off to college. Some engineers would go months without entering the laboratory because they would be too busy with other things, such as their school work and their part-time job at a fast-food restaurant. Some of the engineers would not have a part-time job; their only source of income would be from baby-sitting their daughter while their wife works. Some engineers would bring the newspaper to work so they could look through the classified advertisements for jobs.

I can imagine what the conversations might be like:

“Hey Joe, why are you looking so serious?”

“Oh, I was wondering if I should ask my wife for more money. She pays me only $7 per hour for baby-sitting our daughter.”

“And you're complaining? That is more than I make at McDonald's! I'd be happy to switch places with you.”

“But you get a free meal, don't you? My wife charges me rent, and I have to pay half of the utility bill.”


Would open source improve the world?

Imagine an extreme example. Imagine the entire world decides to use only free, open source software, and imagine we all stop purchasing software from Sun, IBM, and other conventional software developers. What would be the effect?
First, our economic systems do not support open source software, so the conventional software developers would go bankrupt.

Second, we would have to provide grants or donations to programmers in order for them to make a living. Without financial assistance, the programmers would have to work in their spare time or ask their wives for money.

Third, hardware companies that sell software, such as IBM, would find their income decrease, which in turn means they either raise prices or cut something out of their operation.

I do not like the free enterprise systems in use today; I think these systems were more appropriate when most people were self employed farmers. But until the world is willing to improve our economic systems we cannot give much support to open source software because it will cause software development to diminish.

The open source movement is an anti-free enterprise movement; it cannot truly exist in a free enterprise world. Instead, it exists only if conventional companies provide financial assistance. And they can provide assistance only by raising prices of their hardware or services. Therefore, we could describe the open source people as parasites who suck money from companies while pretending to be working for free. Without those open source parasites, the company would either lower prices or have more money to spend on other things.

Who among us is happy with the software we have? Most of us want better software. I dictated this document with IBM's ViaVoice software, but many people complain that voice recognition software is so crummy that they cannot use it. I had to spend a lot of time editing its goofs. 

We all want better voice recognition software, and we want better CAD software, and we want all other software to become better. This requires a lot of work by a lot of people, which means a lot of people need financial support. But open source does not provide financial support.

Until the world modifies its free enterprise systems to support open source, we should continue to purchase software from the companies that produce good software at reasonable prices. Deny sales only to companies that produce lousy software or high prices.

How many school teachers have an understanding of the real world?

Many school teachers support the open source movement. However, teachers often have tenure, which means that they are paid a salary by society (and, at the college level, a high salary) even if they cannot perform properly at their job.

If computer programmers were provided with tenure — even if we could not do our jobs — many of us would be willing to support the open source movement.

Many school teachers went directly from being a student to being a teacher with no period in between during which they had to earn a living for themselves. How are students suppose to learn how to function in a free enterprise economy when they are being taught by teachers who do not understand that most of us have to sell some product or service in order to provide ourselves with food? The majority of us do not have tenure. Furthermore, the majority of us can lose our jobs if we do not perform properly.

School teachers who tell us to work for free are like the kings and queens of the Middle Ages who were pampered by society but who told everybody else to work harder, and for less money. How do these teachers think we can provide them with a salary if we work for free?

I suggest we stop the tenure policy. Also, I think it would help considerably if people who want to become teachers first spend at least 10 years earning a living for themselves.

Why don't teachers practice what they preach?

Many teachers write textbooks and reference books, and they receive royalties from the sales of those books. Why don't teachers provide textbooks to the world for free? Why should software be free, while teachers are permitted to profit from the sale of knowledge? Why don't teachers believe in open source textbooks? As Eric Raymond would explain it:
“The basic idea behind open source is very simple. When teachers on the Internet can read, redistribute, and modify a textbook, it evolves. People improve it, people adapt it, people fix confused sections. And this can happen at a speed that, if one is used to the slow pace of conventional textbook development, seems astonishing.”

If teachers are going to complain about the price of software, why can't the rest of us complain about the price of textbooks? Why not insist that writing textbooks is part of their job; that writing textbooks is the least these people could do for the salary they are provided.

Is writing a textbook more difficult than writing computer software? I doubt it. How many textbooks have required teams of teachers working full time for several years? Teachers could easily write textbooks on the Internet and provide everybody with free access to them.

Actually, why should we pay teachers any salary? If computer programmers can do computer programming for free, why can't teachers teach for free? Let them baby-sit their daughter if they need money. Also, teachers can beg for donations and sell T-shirts.

In a free enterprise economy, the spending of money is equivalent to voting

When consumers spend money, they are voting for one company at the expense of another. By changing their spending habits, consumers can change society. For example, if everybody stopped supporting Hollywood and gambling, and if instead people spent that same amount of money on software, then Hollywood and gambling would disappear while software businesses would grow. Or if people were as willing to spend as much money on software as they are on the bombing of Iraq, we may already have voice recognition software that works as good as we all wish.

Students should be taught to analyze companies and ask themselves which ones will make a better world, and then purchase products only from those companies. College graduates should be analyzing businesses and providing reports on TV, newspapers, and magazines that discuss their opinions on which businesses deserve to be supported. This would encourage a discussion of these issues. But instead we find college teachers with no understanding of the free enterprise system, and who are promoting the philosophy that free software will save us from Microsoft.

One reason that the free enterprise system has been successful for so many centuries and in so many nations is that the concept is incredibly simple. Not much training, intelligence, or education is needed to grasp the concept. Even children have been successful as entrepreneurs. So why are so many college teachers having trouble with it?

This Linux issue is helping me understand why many Americans are complaining that teachers should be given competency examinations. Teachers should be able to teach the concepts I mentioned in this document; I should not have to explain them to our teachers. Our teachers need a spanking as much as the kids do.