Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Microsoft-free life is over for me?

When I was younger I always hated it when older folks could not remember when thinks happened. They would pause in a middle of a story and start "well, can't remember if it was '65 or '67...". I always thought that I would never do that, I always remember when things happened - or well, I used to.

So I had to go back to some old files on my old computer to find out when was it that I actually started my life without Microsoft. It was around the end of 2003 when the operating system on my ThinkPad crashed and did not boot anymore. Luckily I had a Mandrake distro installed on a separate partition, so I was able to access my files and go on working.

That incident gave me a good kick to keep experimenting with Linux on a desktop. It was quite a struggle in the beginning, as I refuse to use the command line and want to manage everything using a GUI. Installing new software was always a struggle, some dependencies were always missing, and I could never even get the installing thing working in Ubuntu. Yack.

Anyway, the point of the experiment was to know if an average Bob or Mary could use Linux on a desktop. At the time I was writing a lot in EUN about the use of open source software in education (see some reports here, I still like this one). I truly think they could. Especially when in many schools teachers and pupils cannot even have admin rights to the computer that they use, non of the installing issues would come up for the end-user. Using OO, Firefox and such is all jeu d'enfant.

Back to the title: a week ago I installed MS Office on my Mac. That's it, they won, after all these years! That's more than 4 years without Microsoft (i.e. Linux and Mac), which has been a real source of joy for me. I cannot articulate all points why I so dislike Microsoft, I think deep down it's the idea having one big guy on the playground (especially if it's not me ;).

Anyway, I'm giving it a try for a short while and see if it enhances my PhD writing. Maybe, now that I'll have all the fancy words in the Thesaurus (must admit OO's not the best), and I can start sounding much more intelligent and I'll get my PhD just with a little spin!

So far I'm not too thrilled. It crashes all the time, at least 5 to 10 times a day. It also uses all my RAM (I have 2 Gb now) and I cannot have all my usual apps open at the same time with Word and Excell without running real slowly. Oh yeah, and the user interface is god dam busy, I much prefer the serenity of OO.

The reason I gave up was that my OO, after the OS X upgrade, did not work properly anymore. I did not recognise the changes in the virtual keyboard (I switch between the Fi and Us all the time), and the spreadsheet did not recognise the control click (right click). Oh, and it was slow tooo! I later heard that my study-buddy has no problems with NeoOffice, but that'll be next on my list.

In Three Fearless Predictions (The Economist) talks nicely about "openness" in 2008 in terms of open source software on desktops (linux), iPhone being forced to open up in Germany and about how SCO seems to be gone ,once for all, with their silly lawsuits against companies developing Linux software. Maybe I'll get some of that openness too...

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