The Tax

Thanks to a blogger we now know how much M$’s tax is. He chatted with Dell to insist on quotations for the same machine with and without that other OS. The bottom line?
“I have received a quotation for the Dell Vostro V13 and here are the numbers:
a) S$887.15 for the N-series
b) S$1045.79 for the same machine with ‘doze.
Hardware: Vostro V13 System Base (SU7300)Intel® Core?2 Duo Processor SU7300 (1.3GHz, 3M L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB) ULV, 13.3HDF Anti-glare LED LCD panel with camera, 4GB (1X4G) DDR3-1066MHz SDRAM, 1 DIMM500GB* Hard Drive, 7200 RPM, 6-cell Lithium Ion Sealed 30Whr Battery, Integrated Graphic CardIntel(R) Wireless Network Card 5100 (802.11a/g/n)Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth ModuleInternal Dell(TM) Keyboard (English).
So, the Windows-tax is S$158.64. Now you know.”

Shame on Dell for making a simple purchase complex. Give the customers what they want. Give them choice. Don’t promise choice but make them struggle to get it.

This is the kind of “partnership” that props up the Wintel monopoly. Wintel is not our friend. Wintel costs us money and we get lower performance from IT because of it. Insist on GNU/Linux and if your supplier makes you grovel, change your supplier. Hardware suppliers are hungry. They will deal with you fairly if Dell will not. It is insane to pay for something you do not need and then to pay sales taxes or other markups on it.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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25 Responses to The Tax

  1. In education we have two roles: teaching/learning and management.

    For teaching/learning, the usual desktop tools of GNU/Linux do everything we need done. When something unusual comes up I can usually find something that works in the Debian repositories and install it instantly.

    For the management of systems, GNU/Linux has a huge number of tools, my favourites being nmap and ssh.

    For management of students, teachers and resources, the usual tools plus databases and web applications cover it all. The web application I wrote for attendance this year allowed me to be done my attendance entries in my high school reports in short order for very little effort. I am usually the last to get that done by paperwork. This time I was first.

    The ability of ordinary folks to get it all done with a GNU/Linux distro like Debian GNU/Linux is amazing. The package management tools make it so easy.

  2. oe says:

    “All the spinning cubes in the world don’t make up for the fact (from my viewpoint of course) that you are stuck in the world of FOSS for desktop software.”

    A good point I will concede depending on what software your livelihoods and avocations require. Me I have been fortunate to find that a lot of the FOSS alternatives have suited my needs very well and much of the stuff I have use has been pleasantly high quality. Cases in point

    Octave –> has done very well at running m-files produced at work, Matlab has been ported to GNU/Linux and runs well on it but the license’s are pricey.

    OO_Writer –> so good and stable I just finished a 300 page technical doc dissertation on it, complete with equations, Figures, Tables, auto-indexing of all the above and auto chapters and live cross linking of reference’s (not to mention auto import). Oh and keeping all the old incremental versions around was a habit acquired from the crashiness of MSWord

    OO_Calc & Gnumeric – very good spreadsheet’s with macro programming capabilities. Definitely less polished than Excel bu more statistically rigorous for Gnumeric and more format stable.

    GIMP –> good enough to dump Photoshop for, though I realize I am NOT a graphics designer, but am advanced enough to use about a dozen on the GIMP plugins that make it readily extensible, like Firefox.

    GNUCash –> more than good enough to dump Quicken, and its seems a LOT more portable with its data formats.

    Actually a LOT of commercial stuff is showing up now in linux: Nero, Matlab, many FEA packages, VariCad, XPlane, Maple, Mathermatica, Opera, perhaps more visually polished than FOSS, but often not as “good under the hood”

  3. oldman says:

    “I wonder how much time users of that other OS get to actually run their applications with all the cycles and I/O counts lost to fighting malware?”

    While I know that this matters very much to you, the fact is that as long as such overhead remains a relatively small part of the system resources, it is just part of the cost of running the applications that one needs.

    “When we switched to GNU/Linux users experienced the pleasure of raw power.”

    Raw power is useless if the system doesn’t do what you want it to, Pog.

  4. Richard Chapman says:

    I don’t leave my system alone. I just don’t need to perform the gymnastics you do. I set my firewall, use BleachBit and periodically launch Wireshark to see what’s actually going in and out of my system (I also use Spam Assassin). I update my system almost daily. I suppose calling them “security patches” sounds more official but it’s all the same and I do other things while it’s going on. I say “essentially nothing” because it’s so easy and requires little thought or effort. None of those activities throttle my CPU. I’m typing this comment and listening to an audio stream and my CPU is averaging about 8%. That’s a 2.8Gh, hyper-threaded Intel CPU I purchased in Nov. 2003 along with the rest of my system’s hardware.

    You continue to misinterpret what I say. No system is 100% secure, not yours, not mine, not Roberts. OK! And it just might be that your Windows system is more secure than my GNU/Linux system. But at what cost? You’ve had one infection in 8 years, I’ve had none in 7 years. Does that mean my system is more secure than yours? How could that possibly be determined with out including all the different parameters. And there are more parameters than just “No system is 100% secure”. I suspect that Microsoft’s OS is the most attacked software due to its ubiquity. But those attacks don’t create security holes, Microsoft does. Microsoft would like to cover up its poor security by saying it’s the most popular system in use and people like you try to reinforce that notion. Microsoft’s security is poor because it’s poor. Making excuses for it only prolongs the agony it causes.

  5. oldman wrote, “My Linux and Windows systems are SAFER because of I assume that NEITHER is secure and as a result leave NEITHER of them alone. The fact that I have had exactly 1 infection in the past 8 years is to me proof that I am on the right track”

    I wonder how much time users of that other OS get to actually run their applications with all the cycles and I/O counts lost to fighting malware?

    They system we were using where I work sniffed every file before passing it on to the application, sucking out performance. It also sniffed every application on start, delaying start seriously. It also sniffed every packet and file downloaded, seriously slowing web access. People hated the anti-malware more than the malware because they never got like-new performance from the protected system. When we switched to GNU/Linux users experienced the pleasure of raw power.

  6. oldman says:

    “You, however would like us to believe that all systems are equally secure or equally not secure. That’s total nonsense.”

    Actually, Mr/ Chapman, Its a dictum of IT security that NO system is secure. I adhere to this dictum because ANY breach of ANY system can have profound legal consequences if the data that is stored on the enterprise class systems that I assist in supporting is compromised. In my world every system has to be evaluated for its risks and any risks mitigated before it goes into production. I simply carry that posture over to my personal desktops and the results have

    “Your Windows is only safe because you make it safe. My GNU/Linux is safe because I essentially left it alone. ”

    My Linux and Windows systems are SAFER because of I assume that NEITHER is secure and as a result leave NEITHER of them alone. The fact that I have had exactly 1 infection in the past 8 years is to me proof that I am on the right track

    By the way Mr. Chapman, I hope you really don’t leave your system alone. You do apply security patches and standard Linux security procedures to your Linux system, eh?

    “You have either drunk the Microsoft koolaid or you are the Microsoft koolaid.”

    Actually I have drunk the MakeMusic Koolaid, The Garritan Koolaid, The East-West Koolaid – In short I have drunk the Koolaid of all of the applications that I use that Have either no equivalents or have no good equivalents supported on Linux.

    The fact that I run a microsoft desktop is an accident of he fact that Apples hardware is simply too expensive for my taste.

    Remember Mr. Chapman, People run applications, not Operating systems.

  7. Richard Chapman says:

    “I can’t believe that you would suggest that Linux is a completely secure system, now would you Mr. Chapman?”

    Calm down oldman. There’s no need to believe I suggested that, because I didn’t suggest that. What part of “no system is 100% secure” did *you* not see? You, however would like us to believe that all systems are equally secure or equally not secure. That’s total nonsense. You have either drunk the Microsoft koolaid or you are the Microsoft koolaid. I will say that the most in-use OS will be the most challenged. But challenges don’t create security holes, they only exploit the ones put there by the vendor. Your Windows is only safe because you make it safe. My GNU/Linux is safe because I essentially left it alone. Will I need to put more effort in to keep my GNU/Linux safe as it becomes more “popular”? No doubt I will but it won’t become as complex and involved as Windows is right now.

  8. oldman says:

    “bloat, architecture and fragile layers on that other OS.”

    As an aside…

    Pog:

    You have made statements like this many times. I am curious, Have you reviewed the technical papers on the architecture of windows 7 on TechNet? I would be interested in the references behind your statements.

  9. Oldman says:

    Pog

    You may not have ever encountered an exploit in Linux, but I have seen many Linux systems that have been pwned in my day.

    Even if one were to concede your contention that it is easier to break windows, it does not automatically follow from this that the optimal solution is to move to a Linux based desktop.

    If use run software that doesn’t run on Linux, Linux isn’t an alternative. If you don’t want to be bothered with the hassle of changing software packages, Linux isn’t an option.

    What is an option is risk mitigation. Risk mitigation techniques such as those that I have outlined in previous posts go along way towards keeping out malware. And are far easier and less disruptive to implement and maintain that it would be for someone to perform a forklift upgrade from a windows desktop to a Linux desktop.
    Leaving aside the issues of

  10. There is already some malware for GNU/Linux but the malware artists tend to exploit the weak points in IT. When that other OS was having most users run as admin with no firewall intrusion was a piece of cake. Now malware artists need to combine two or three exploits to get in. It’s still easier to break that other OS than GNU/Linux in general because there are so many different builds, distros, and versions. Finding the right combination of vulnerabilities on a GNU/Linux system is very difficult in comparison to that other OS that mostly has two or three kernels on millions of machines. Security measures on that other OS have certainly strengthened that other OS over the last decade but the malware artists are cranking out thousands of new malwares daily because of the bloat, architecture and fragile layers on that other OS. A lot of vulnerabilities have been found in GNU/Linux but they are much harder to exploit in most cases. I have never encountered one single exploit of GNU/Linux but I have seen thousands of that other OS.

  11. Ray says:

    “Thank you oldman, that’s the stupidest arrangement of defective logic there is.”

    Richard, you do realize that oldman didn’t say that, it was me. Please don’t quote the wrong person next time.

    And no, that wasn’t what I meant by how popularity effects the number of malware written for them. The point of malware is to infect as much computer as it can before it dies out. It just happens that Windows has the most amount of people using it. And most of them are less protective when it comes to malware. So it makes more sense to make malware for Windows than other OSes.

  12. oldman says:

    “Besides, if Linux became popular, malware writers would rear their ugly heads, and write malware for linux.”

    “Thank you oldman, that’s the stupidest arrangement of defective logic there is. Please, tell us oldman, what security holes will the malware writers exploit in GNU/Linux?”

    Mr. Chapman:

    I think you need Glasses. The poster named Ray is the one who made the above comment.

    As far as the relative security of systems is concerned, the position that no system is secure is standard security postion in IT, and is a dictum that I live by.

    I can’t believe that you would suggest that Linux is a completely secure system, now would you Mr. Chapman?

  13. Richard Chapman says:

    “Besides, if Linux became popular, malware writers would rear their ugly heads, and write malware for linux.”

    Thank you oldman, that’s the stupidest arrangement of defective logic there is. Please, tell us oldman, what security holes will the malware writers exploit in GNU/Linux? Do all operating systems have an equal amount of security holes just waiting to be exploited? Do malware writers create security holes when needed? Do security holes pop into existence after the software has been released? Is it just possible that the number of security holes per thousand lines of code is completely independent on the number of units in use? That popularity nonsense is very convenient for Microsoft but it’s utter nonsense. Do yourself a favor, you wouldn’t want to be associated with that regurgitate in a post Microsoft world.

    PS I almost forgot: No software is 100% secure. True. All software is equally insecure. Not true.

  14. oldman says:

    “Today it out-Mac’s the Mac even, and as our teen discovered Compiz is some real heavy eyecandy, docks, bouncing cubes and all that makes the Apple diehards envious. ”

    All the spinning cubes in the world don’t make up for the fact (from my viewpoint of course) that you are stuck in the world of FOSS for desktop software. Its not just the big things like lack of commercial products like Finale, The Garritan Software Band and Orchestra libraries, Symphonic Choirs, but its the little things like the browser plugin for firefox that allows my wife to print coupons for which there is no Linux equivalent. Or the inability to easily install a version of a program that is not in your repository.

    As far as utility is concerned, I cant speak for grandma but my daughter got her computing done just fine in a restricted account under windows. I took care of the installation of any software she needed, which was minimal. And the extra work needed for software installs were minimal.

    Registry rot… A non issue if you resist the temptation to install every piece of software in sight.

    DRM… A non issue since I have no problem conforming with the requirements of the person selling me what I want to have.

    The end result was that a dell 4550 was recently retired in my house after running for 7+ years on the original install.

    And all of this from the perspective of some who is part of a team that manages over 250 Linux servers running commercial enterprise line of business applications.

    Bottom line:

    I use linux extensively as a server platform.
    It is useless to me as a desktop.

    Its not that hard.

  15. Ray says:

    @oe

    Well, this isn’t always the case. Some of the time, there’s always that one application that would refuse to work on Linux, and there wouldn’t be any alternatives. Others, find that their notebook can’t be configured to get their wireless running (I can’t 🙁 ) Besides, if Linux became popular, malware writers would rear their ugly heads, and write malware for linux.

  16. Richard Chapman says:

    What definition of “just works” did you intend oldman? You must have been thinking of the GNU/Linux definition which happens to be the generally accepted one too. The Microsoft definition of “just works” includes money, time and energy spent keeping the poor thing working as good as it was when first turned on. And it certainly works for the people making millions of dollars by infecting Microsoft computers. Then there are the people on the other side of the security equation, they’re making billions. Yes, Microsoft’s OS just works, it just works for everyone except the customer.

  17. oe says:

    In the mid-90’s the GNU/Linux skill set required to run it was rather high, one needed to be a little willing to delve into C code and tweaking with vi if one had nonstandard hardware. By 2005 when I came back to it, those days were clearly gone and that brought me home. Today it out-Mac’s the Mac even, and as our teen discovered Compiz is some real heavy eyecandy, docks, bouncing cubes and all that makes the Apple diehards envious. (I had only read about that stuff and thought “cool” and continued to enjoy the spare, simple desktop defaults of most distros.)
    This GNU/Linux is 5-year old kid proof, 80-year old granny friendly, and a boon for the gal/guy in the family and neighborhood that gets the “can-you-see-what’s-wrong-with-the-computer” request. Even if it is never updated from the day it is put on a fresh install has a good change to chug along 5-10 years without tweaks (We have two Dapper Drake machines still going fine) than anything from the other OS’es, except if you pull the modem and/or LAN out and even there registry rot or the fruity DRM probably will degrade it by the 5 year mark…

  18. oldman says:

    “And then they load your PC with crapware.”

    Which you then spend 20-30 minutes removing as I did on my dell portable.

    It isnt that hard.

  19. oldman says:

    “It remains true that even for customers who want an OS along with the PC that an OEM can install GNU/Linux for less money and the consumer will have less trouble with it. I am essentially the OEM for my school and find that fact inescapable.”

    It also remains true that Should a new computer user actually decide to start by saving a small amount of money by installing Linux and FOSS, they will be at the mercy of a community who has zero understanding of or interest in providing the kind of appliance computing experience that the current computer user wants. It has been my experience that the average newbie computer user wants an appliance, and the Linux desktop, as far as it has come, simply isnt it.

    Pog, You may be performing OEM tasks for your school, but that doesnt make you an OEM. Were you truly an OEM for your school and others, you would be dealing with customers who want certain specifications met and are willing to pay for getting them met. These people dont give a rats patootie about your bias towards Linux and FOSS and will demand that you meet their needs or they would take their business elsewhere. An OEM who tries to be a purist as you are is rapidly out of business.

    “The smart-thingies do not have that problem because every ISP and every cell-phone provider makes an instant channel bypassing retail.”

    The smart thingies that you seem to be counting on perform a very different function from the desktop. As a Mobile device user, I can assure you that it is torture to take notes even on the average smartphone, and doing things such as reviewing spreadsheets or pdf’s isnt much better. This factor along with the high cost of the real smart phones ($200.00 with a plan $500.00 without) most likely will keep the smart phone firmly at the 20% of the world market that it now enjoys for quite a while.

    The other fly in the ointment, I suspect, will come from the ISP’s themselves, who have shown neither the inclination nor the expertise to become, in evvect Computer vendors. It has taken he likes of Dell over 25 years to get the sales of full function computers (Desktops and laptops) right. Do you really believe that the mobile ISP’s will get it right in 2 years. I am dubious.

  20. Ray says:

    And then they load your PC with crapware.

  21. It remains true that even for customers who want an OS along with the PC that an OEM can install GNU/Linux for less money and the consumer will have less trouble with it. I am essentially the OEM for my school and find that fact inescapable. Our machines do not slow down. Nor do they pick up malware.

    OEMs could double their sales if they sold small cheap computers because an extra billion or so people could afford them. The OEMs cannot switch instantly because the channels have to be developed. The smart-thingies do not have that problem because every ISP and every cell-phone provider makes an instant channel bypassing retail.

  22. Oldman says:

    if the desktop computer market was composed of people with our skill sets,I might agree with you. Unfortunately,the computer market is now made up of people who expect appliance cmputers that just work. The only way for an oem, especially a Dell, is to sell to the market as it stands is to male sure that what they sell is fully integrated, because that is what is expected today

    The fact is that nobody forced these oems to sell windows based computers – Microsoft was the best bet they had, and has continued to be. No vendor is going to do any more than what dell has done,because they don’t see anything mo than a niche market.

    I ask again Pog. Do you really believe that they are going to market to a group of people who at best will buy the cheapest system possible and then dnt come back for a decade?

  23. Two points, oldman,

    1)OEMs do not need to provide software support for those who install their own OS.

    2)OEMs make a tiny margin, just a few %, on their sales. If they chop $150 off the price for that other OS, they lose only a few dollars. They could put back $50 and double their margin.

    The reason OEMs stick with M$ is that M$ forced them into that pattern years ago and the OEMs are afraid the gravy train will be interrupted. They operate on the assumption that if they stop selling 90% that other OS that they will lose a huge chunk of sales. That could happen if other OEMs do not break ranks at the same time. OEMs feel they have to change gradually to reduce risk. Dell’s screwy operation is their way to minimize risk. They are also minimizing opportunity.

  24. oldman says:

    Pog

    The mainstream hardware suppliers may indeed be hungry, but the mainstream hardware vendors have long since gotten out of the business of supporting naked software installs. People like yourself are simply not a large enough market.

    You have to make it worth their while Pog, and buying the cheapest system available an keeping it for 10 years does not make you worth their while.

  25. oe says:

    That’s funny that the other OS maker values their system at $150.00. I see it as more like worth -$30.00, because of the time I have to put in to refuse the EULA and put an OS of my choice instead; that value-added option was denied to me by a market collusion.

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