Thursday, 19 February 2009

Open Computing...?

There are many situations in life that we are able to open our eyes to the seemingly impossible. Revelations hit people when they least expect. Completely changing how they and we think about a certain issues and ways of life.

Archaeology tells us that human beings have always been inventive. Changing life for the better. From the invention of the wheel to the car. Much in the same way we have progressed from the invention of the microchip resulting in the construction of supercomputers capable of calculations far beyond the human brain.

Through this evolution in computing there have always been the key software players, Microsoft and Apple. In the beginning there, of course, were others. In the last ten years it has become easier to live without Microsoft products. Something that, in the 1990's, was unthinkable.

This is due to Apple's innovation of what we knew as an Operating System. Although Microsoft still holds a vast majority of the market share. Apple is denting it. By concentrating
on the mobile line rather than the desktop. Whenever I'm in Starbucks, I expect people to pull a Mac out of their bags. Not always the case but the damage has been done.

In the wake of Vista's arrival, dissatisfied PC customers were looking for an alternative. The obvious choice was Apple's new MacBook and MacBook Pro. The sexy looking polycarb shell, gleeming for all its worth on the shop floor, luring unsuspecting consumers to the largely unknown quantity. I can't of course begin to suggest that Apple's success is completely due to Microsoft's failings. Steve Job's marketing team did a fantastic job of negative campaigning against Microsoft's seemingly inferior product...

There is still a crowd of dissatisfied PC customers who retain the belief that Mac is not worthy of their time. I must admit I was one of them. People looking for an alternative without the need to buy premium hardware that both Vista and OSX required. So...

Is there something out there for all of us?

Realistically, it's difficult to say. A mathematician might offer that to each problem there is a solution. So given that, the Operating System that provides the 'Jack of all trades' option is the best for all of us. I would lean to agree with this opinion. However, there is more to the human brain than just solving problems. We are all susceptible to emotion. Individuality. I'm not sure how many things we own and can't change to how we want them to be. Computers appear to be one of them.

The Licences and product keys that Microsoft have become infamous for, has taken away our right to change the systems we have paid for, to suit us. We have to rely on others to decide what is good for us. Apple is no different in this respect.

Are our basic rights to possession being violated?

As well as Apple, there have been movements in the Open Source community. Mark Shuttleworth led Canonical, have done well in improving and marketing the Ubuntu Distribution of Gnu/Linux.

What I have found is that Linux allows us to reclaim our PCs. It's our machine, we paid for it, it should look and perform how we want it to. Not how the two Steves think it should. But of course,

Can Linux compete with the big boys?

Essentially, no. Currently, Linux is playing catchup. As long as Microsoft and Apple are innovating how we use computers, the Linux community will be trying to add more functionality to try and emulate the Windows and Mac prebuilt machines from PC World. Until the Linux community comes up with something revolutionary that will attract people away from their PCs and Macs, they can't possibly compete. Linux is very much an adolescent platform. The misunderstood teenager, trying to show their individuality through creativity, that isn't quite up to the same standard as the professionals, but is commendable none-the-less.

I mean not to quell enthusiasm surrounding Linux and the Open Source community. I, myself find it most exciting. But then I'm a computer scientist. I use Ubuntu Linux as my main platform. It does everything I need it for. It looks how I want it to look. It nearly performs how I want it to perform. But it lacks the polish of the other two. That's what I personally miss.

Ultimately, there's no reason why you shouldn't go and try it. It's an option available to all of us, it is free after all.

- David


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