“Even forgetting all this, I still wouldn’t like Microsoft. Why? Because of our history. Like many others, I spent too many years in the trenches as a David fighting a powerful Goliath that used every weapon in its arsenal — FUD, patents, blackmail (legal and otherwise), anti-competitive tactics (also legal and otherwise) and more — with the intent of destroying open source in general and FOSS in particular. From where I sit, Microsoft is now embracing FOSS for the same reason that the world attempts to engage in meaningful dialog with the North Koreans. We couldn’t be defeated. The next move is to befriend us in order to manipulate us to serve the Redmond agenda.”
See Why I’m Unlikely to Ever Return Microsoft’s LoveClearly, I don’t love M$. Never have. I used their OS from the 1980s to 1999 and accepted their constant crashes (I remember crossing my fingers on every submission.) as normal. I knew IT did not have to be that way. I never saw so many problems with IBM’s mainframes or DEC’s minicomputers as a single PC running TOOS (That Other OS). It was just schlock software leveraged on the world by monopolists. There never was anything to love there. I just accepted it because that’s what was available. I’d heard of “Linux” and “UNIX” but didn’t consider them accessible.
Then PCs got into my classroom. A boat-load of Computers For Schools PCs arrived in my lab the year before I arrived and folks didn’t know what to do with them so they just piled the cardboard boxes up in corners. Wandering the strange (iMacs…) lab one day, I discovered the PCs and unboxed them. In each carton was a CRT monitor, a keyboard, a mouse and an ancient (Pentium Pro) PC with 72MB RAM and Lose ’95 (Remember “Start Me UP!” and people lining up in the street to buy it…). I discussed my discovery with teachers and found four who would take a PC for their classroom. One machine was DOA, so I had five to make a cluster in my classroom. I was “the high school”, so I was teaching multiple grades at multiple levels and needed a cluster to engage a small group of students in an educational activity whilst I managed the rest of the class.
That was my plan but in almost every teaching period one or another of the Lose ’95 PCs would freeze or crash… The old machines took minutes to reboot and this re-re-rebooting severely messed up my classes. Education is critical to the future well-being of students and I hated any interruption.
I had seen GNU/Linux once before in my life. At a previous school, the husband of one of the teachers installed it on a PC in my presence. He couldn’t get it working…. Still, I read that GNU/Linux did not crash. I needed that. I was willing to make the effort to download and install GNU/Linux if I could have only that. Our Internet connection was a few KB/s on dial-up… I spent two weekends and five evenings downloading an .iso CD-image with FileZilla or something on a Mac in the lab. I had never burned a CD before but tried once copying the file to the CD. That wouldn’t boot. I discovered CD imaging… So, on the second try, I had a CD that would boot on the machines. I first did one machine and it wouldn’t start X. Having never seen X before, this was a problem but it turned out all I needed was the scanning frequencies for the CRT in a configuration file. Google helped me find those for each of my five different kinds of monitors. Suddenly, the PCs were useful with GNU/Linux.
I needed a word-processor so I downloaded StarOffice from SUN and it worked perfectly. For a browser, I used NetScape. I tried to get the PCs to share files to help me set up lessons/educational material but I could not get NFS working… So, I ran from one to the other transfering files by floppy disc. That was slow but it worked. Printing worked right away to the HP Laserjet in the lab. I now had replaced the functionality of TOOS with a few hours of my labour and none of the machines crashed in the next six months! I’ve loved GNU/Linux ever since.
Lovers of TOOS argue that M$ has produced a better product over time but that does not soak in. Instead of producing a proper product all those years, they leveraged monopoly to ship crapware. I hate that. I discovered that governments tried to prosecute M$ for illegal activities but it barely affected M$. I read the exhibits in US DOJ v M$ and derision and FUD from M$ about the OS that I loved. Repeating lies that were obviously false certainly made TOOS a very “bad date”. Suing businesses using */Linux for infringement of “software patents” (total nonsense) was the icing on the cake of hate.
There’s no way I will ever forgive M$ for the harm they’ve done to humanity all these years. They are not necessary in my world of IT. I now use GNU/Linux fearlessly and proudly and I can even replace Intel with ARMed processors to rid my home of the last vestiges of Wintel. Amen.